Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Country's middle becoming hotspot for start-up technology companies

A technology scene is growing in the middle of the country, with dozens of new ventures starting every year, investors committing hundreds of millions of dollars, and state governments partnering with private organizations to promote it all. "They are calling it the Silicon Prairie," reports John Eligon of The New York Times. The region contains just 5.7 percent of U.S. tech-investment deals, but it's just one of two places that experienced increased investment from the beginning of 2011, according to a joint report by the Angel Resources Institute, Silicon Valley Bank and CB Insights. (NYT Photo by Mark Kegans: Employees of an Iowa technology company)

About 15 to 20 technology start-ups are started every year in eastern Nebraska, a more than three times increase from five years ago, according to the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Over the past seven months, about 60 start-ups have presented ideas in Missouri, and 160 start-ups in Iowa applied in 2010 with Startup City Des Moines, an incubator financed with $700,000 in public and private money, including a quarter-million dollars from the state.

"Traditionally, you’d say, 'Hey, if I want the safe lifestyle, I’ll stay here and I’ll do what generations before have done,'" said Jeff Slobotski, Omaha native and founder of Silicon Prairie News, a site covering the region’s tech scene. "Now, there is a newer potential in terms of what can take place here and not having to hop on the first plane out of here, saying, 'Hey, I’m going to set up shop in the Midwest and make a go at it here.'" Many people credit Silicon Prairie News for the region's start-up growth, Eligon reports, because other than writing about start-up news, the site organizes conventions to connect entrepreneurs with investors.

The region's tech entrepreneurs say the nature of their businesses is unique to the Midwest. Companies that have started in the last year include Ag Local, which provides an online marketplace to trade meat, and Tikly, which allows bands to sell concert tickets. There are also start-ups outside the information technology field that focus on biotechnology, manufacturing and medical devices. (Read more)

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