Wood: 5 questions for Gov. Reynolds on Iowa’s entrepreneurial community

Earlier this week the organizers behind 1 Million Cups Des Moines—a showcase/pitch event that meets each Wednesday morning—announced that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds would take their stage on March 14th to deliver a presentation on “the state of entrepreneurship in Iowa,” then take questions in a fireside chat-style interview from 1 Million Cups organizer Ben McDougal.

McDougal asked the community to suggest questions for that interview on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #1MCDSM.

I do a fair amount of thinking about how all sorts of players—including the State of Iowa—can help improve our startup community, so I was happy to oblige. Since Gov. Reynolds won’t be taking direct questions from the attendees at 1 Million Cups, I thought it would be good to get the discussion started ahead of time.

This is a real opportunity for the Iowa startup community to talk about what’s going well in Iowa and what needs to be improved for new and emerging businesses. There’s so much work to be done and I applaud Gov. Reynolds for her willingness to meet with us.

Here are my five questions for Gov. Reynolds:

  • The need to pay down student loan debt is one of the biggest things hindering Iowans from starting companies, how do we solve that? Isn’t the rising tuitions at our regents universities compounding this problem?
  • As carriers have left the healthcare exchange available to Iowans, prices have risen dramatically while options have simultaneously decreased. How do we ensure that affordable coverage is available to everyone and eliminate the barrier of would-be entrepreneurs staying “job-locked” into their positions at established companies?
  • How long can the critical state-backed funding programs for early stage tech companies (Proof of Commercial Relevance, Demonstration Fund, Iowa Acceleration Fund, etc.) survive with the state budgeting shortfalls we’ve been experiencing over the last two years?
  • We can all agree that we need more people in Iowa. We have tremendously low unemployment, that leads to a tremendous number of job openings and makes it harder for startups to compete with established companies for talent. How do we make Iowa a more attractive and inviting place to all types of new people? (Specifically I’m thinking about the LGBTQ community, immigrants, communities of color, refugees and people from other parts of the country who don’t have family ties to Iowa)
  • Iowa certainly understands how to attract data center projects but how do we attract software development teams from the same big tech companies to locate here? These are the type of employees/jobs with potential to spin out/create new startups.

Quick note, these questions were intended to be non-partisan and (hopefully) non-political. They all speak to issues that exist for entrepreneurs in Iowa today and are all things that the State—under Gov. Reynolds’ leadership—can help solve.

Geoff Wood is the co-founder of Clay & Milk and the founder of Gravitate, a coworking community and entrepreneurial support organization in Des Moines. He’s been telling the story of the Iowa startup community since 2009.