I’ve written previously about finding ways to have better conversations about Heartland startups in 2018. Now I’d like to make one of my own goals public in the hopes that others will join me: Let’s stop thinking of tech ecosystems as trying to be “the next Silicon Valley.”
Above: St. Louis, Missouri Building a startup in Silicon Valley has its advantages: close proximity to investors, availability of talent, and an appetite for — and history of — innovation.
Happy Holidays! Given that it’s a slow news week, I’m going to take this week’s newsletter to highlight some of my favorite stories we’ve published in the Heartland Tech section this year, in addition to some of the best stories we published this week.
The two questions I get asked most frequently when I tell people that I report on tech startups across Middle America are: Which startups outside of Silicon Valley are getting the most traction? And which cities are home to the most interesting tech activity?
Above: A space shuttle in Huntsville, Alabama In the U.S., the Southeast’s tech ecosystem is traditionally strong in a few defined sectors: Fintech, SaaS, and health IT are among the industries thriving in terms of successful exits, high-growth companies, and venture dollars.
I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 11 years before spending another three in London. My wife and I grew up in Midwest, which meant annual trips home for the holidays. Our nights were usually packed with family events or reconnecting with old friends. However, our days were not as busy or as interesting. In fact, getting out of my parents’ house would have done me some good (everyone has his or her breaking point). Grabbing coffee with a startup founder, local tech investor or just going downtown would have provided me with both a necessary escape and…
Above: Gene Munster, founding partner of Loup VenturesMany VC firms pride themselves on being based in Silicon Valley, where the action is. The region may attract top talent and create an undeniably powerful network effect, but the Heartland has its fair share of innovative startups and funding.
In 2017, there seemed to be an uptick in tech companies looking to connect with the Heartland. Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, “coastal elites” were left wondering why their perspective on the issues facing America was so different from that of the rest of the country. It wasn’t surprising that tech leaders in Silicon Valley were among those taking a hard look in the mirror, or that they decided it was time to work on bridging that divide.
A few months after moving to the suburbs of St. Louis, I read a profile of one of the region’s most successful entrepreneurs in the St. Louis Business Journal. I wanted to get to know him, so I sent an email introducing myself — assuming I would never hear back from someone so accomplished (and busy). I was wrong. I received a reply the next day.
If you’re like me, stories dissecting the highlights of 2017 and predicting top trends for 2018 have started taking over your News Feed. I know some readers and writers find them too formulaic (why does everything have to be a top 10 list?). But I find that taking stock of what we talked about in 2017 is helpful to understand what we didn’t talk about — and should talk about —  in 2018.

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