Dear Midwest: Stop trying to compete with Silicon Valley

Dear Midwest: Stop trying to compete with Silicon Valley

When it comes to launching the next on-demand, social, consumer-focused app — your Facebooks, Instagrams, and Snapchats of the world — Silicon Valley has no equal. But mankind cannot live on social media alone, and no one is more familiar with that truth than those of us in the Midwest, where technology is less about sharing pictures of your lunch and more about growing the very ingredients on your plate.

While the Valley boasts more than 300 venture capitalists and, in 2015, nearly 800 companies received funding to the tune of more than $21 billion, the path forward for the burgeoning Midwest tech scene is not to directly compete with Silicon Valley. Rather, we need to focus on our own strengths — deep subject expertise in areas of agriculture, farming, animal health, to name a few — and compete where the Valley and coasts simply cannot. If we do this, we can create the initial spark that attracts more venture capital, research funding, and the necessary infrastructure to create a flourishing technological ecosystem in the Midwest.

Beyond the Valley

Just as talent exists everywhere, so too do the elements for entrepreneurial success. Building a technology ecosystem requires not just talent, but that initial spark, a cultural open-mindedness to entrepreneurship, research institutions, and the infrastructure to help build businesses — from accelerators, mentorship programs, and coworking spaces to the investments that fuel it all.

A 2016 study by Livability on the best cities for entrepreneurs, for example, shows that a plethora of cities between the coasts offer all the necessary ingredients for success. Seven of the top 20 on this list call the Midwest home, with many more non-coastal cities comprising the full list of 50 cities as published in Entrepreneur Magazine. A similar article in Forbes includes cities such as Omaha, Minneapolis, and Oklahoma. Outside of the coastal hotspots of New York, Silicon Valley, and Texas, the majority of Fortune 500 businesses, in fact, dwell in the Midwest.

So what do these entrepreneurial hubs have in common?

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