I miss Iowa

Paul Singh and his partner Dana Duncan live full-time in this Airstream Travel Trailer and travel across the country looking for the best entrepreneurs. They visited Des Moines earlier this month.

I’ve spent the last year driving nearly 40,000 miles and visiting 51 cities over the past 59 weeks — and that includes Des Moines. Twice.

My goal is to invest my own money in the best entrepreneurs regardless of where they live and do it all with Dana, my better half and my business partner, as we live full-time in our Airstream travel trailer. (In case you’re curious, we tend to invest in entrepreneurs that are focused on their customers. It really is that simple.)

As Dana and I wrapped up our latest visit– where Geoff was kind enough to let us park our Airstream in front of his new Gravitate location in Valley Junction – I had a couple of thoughts rolling through my head:

  • Everyone should have a friend in Iowa. It seems to me that there are a lot of other Midwestern cities that are trying to position themselves as the next startup hub. (Seriously, when’s the last time the phrase “you know, I’m not going to start something because I’m not in [insert wannabe startup hub]!” stopped an entrepreneur from building something great?) Iowans don’t seem to care where they’re located, they just get shit done… and they’re incredibly nice about it in the process.
  • If you can’t build a company in Iowa, you can’t build it anywhere. Building a company is hard regardless of location. One of the most common myths is that starting in Silicon Valley or NYC would make it easier but that’s just not true. The fact of the matter is that your business’ break-even point is much, much, much higher on the coasts — you’re better off staying in the Midwest.
  • There are so many resources to start a company, but few resources to grow a company. This is something Geoff and I have talked about for a while and it’s true everywhere across the Midwest. 99% of the information you need to start a business is simply a Google search away from you. Once you’ve started, it’s an entirely different ballgame unless you have an entrepreneurial circle of friends or are a member of your local coworking space. If you’re building your own company — regardless of whether it’s your side hustle or your full time gig — the best thing you can do for yourself is to curate your network.
  • Ambition and talent is equally distributed around the country. If I had a magic wand (read: unlimited budget), I’d bring more Iowa-based entrepreneurs with me along the tour so they could see that they’re just as smart and talented as their peers across the country. And so that their peers could see the same thing too.

We’re going to keep driving around for the rest of 2017 and you’re more than welcome to come with us to see if all for yourself. Whether you’re reading this from your cubicle or a smartphone in your truck, you’re an entrepreneur now — whether you like it or not.

Paul Singh is a a dad, entrepreneur, speaker, investor and Airstreamer. Previously he was the Managing Director at 1776, the Founder of DisruptionCorp (acquired by 1776), a Partner at 500Startups, and the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at USCIS / DHS. You can find him on Twitter and AngelList.