Why you should consider the Des Moines Silicon Prairie

Why you should consider the Des Moines Silicon Prairie

By Mike Colwell

You’re an entrepreneur, or maybe you are looking to become one. You have a great idea, but you need connections – for mentors, business partners, potential funders and potential customers. You’ve heard that the coasts are where all the startup activity happens, but you’ve struggled to gain traction. Maybe you don’t even know where to begin.

In Silicon Valley, you likely can’t just call up any high-growth tech company and schedule coffee with their CEO. How great would it be to move to a community where you can set up coffee with almost any CEO in town?

Welcome to the Silicon Prairie of Des Moines, a community that embraces hard-working local entrepreneurs. The community itself is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the entire country. That growth is leading to an influx of activity in the startup scene. In fact, Des Moines has been named a top 10 place to start a business by CNBC and a top 10 city for business and careers by Forbes.

Consider some recent successes for Greater Des Moines-based startups.

  • Impakt Athletics, an early-stage sports technology company, won the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2017 Startup Competition and Trade Show.
  • Certintell, a patient-centered virtual care application, received a $75,000 investment from Village Capital, the result of a peer-selected award following a three-month investment readiness program run by Village Capital and The Kresge Foundation.
  • iEmergent was selected as one of the 100 most innovative companies in housing by HousingWire Magazine.
  • Agren Inc. has formed a partnership with the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN business unit to become the first company to deliver precision conservation tools and services to farmers across the United States. The list could go on.

There is something special about Des Moines — a “secret sauce” that makes the community grow. The ingredients of that secret sauce are simple, but combine to make a delectable dish for entrepreneurs.

Corporate Leadership

The corporate community is very supportive of startup companies. Many of our largest companies have invested in accelerator programs.

The corporate community is very supportive of startup companies. Many of our largest companies have invested in accelerator programs.

Public-Private Partnerships

The public sector is supportive of entrepreneurs as well. Seed funding is available for startups through the Iowa Economic Development Authority.


You may have heard of the phrase “Iowa Nice.” It is real. Iowans want to help each other be successful, and collaboration in Greater Des Moines crosses city lines. Whether you build your company in any of a number of cities within the metro, you will have access to the same resources.

Community Visioning

Greater Des Moines is a region that plans for success. In the community’s most recent vision plans, building the entrepreneurial scene is a high priority.

All of this has led to tremendous momentum in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

This year, the Global Insurance Accelerator in Des Moines has welcomed its third cohort of six startup companies. The Global Insurance Accelerator is a mentor-driven business accelerator designed to foster innovation in the insurance industry. As home to more than 80 insurance companies, Des Moines is a global insurance hub.

The Global Insurance Accelerator has had support from some of the most well-known insurance companies in the region. It has welcomed startup companies from around the world, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Serbia, Ireland, and Brazil.

Accelerate DSM Event

The concept has been so successful that in 2016, the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator launched to follow the same model for companies in the agtech space. That accelerator will welcome its first class in 2017 and has also garnered heavy support from well-known companies in agtech. Both accelerators are an example of our region capitalizing on a key industry to support startup growth.

It’s not only companies in insurance and agtech that benefit from the Greater Des Moines ecosystem. Square One DSM, an initiative of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, offers an accelerator as well as mentoring services to entrepreneurs. Square One DSM has assisted clients with early stage capital raises more than $18 million to date. Entrepreneurs who aren’t looking to go through an accelerator but want to feed off the energy of other entrepreneurs will find many like-minded people at the co-working space, Gravitate.

Entrepreneurs can find access to capital. A group of Iowa-based Midwest angel investors known as Plains Angels meets on a regular basis to hear pitches from local startups.

All of this adds up to an environment where startups can succeed in Silicon Prairie. Article “I Raised in Iowa” shares about successful startup companies. SquareOneDSM.com is a good point of reference for starting a business in Greater Des Moines.

About the Author

Mike ColwellMike Colwell is the Executive Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives of Greater Des Moines Partnership. As executive director of the entrepreneurial initiatives of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Mike is directly responsible for Square One DSM and Plains Angels. Mike also has had a key role in the formation of the Global Insurance Accelerator and the agricultural technology accelerator. He is also an angel investor.

About The Author

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