Milne: With Workiva, Iowa got a unicorn

It’s startup hyperbole and a label that the management at Workiva probably doesn’t covet or think about. Nonetheless, this is an important milestone for the community, let alone for Workiva.

A unicorn is a startup company valued at over a billion dollars. Some people probably wouldn’t call Workiva a startup but I’m going to for the sake of making my point. Also, someone else might say you have to be a private company to be a unicorn. I’m going to ignore that opinion too.

There will be no shortage of people discounting the importance of this milestone but I will not be one of them.

Let’s take a second and just appreciate this for a moment. We have a $1B company that was started, funded and built here in Iowa. Then, it went public here. This week Workiva passed the $1B market cap mark. A threshold that’s more psychological than it should be.

Now that we’ve taken that moment let’s take a few extra moments and think about what this means for founders locally.

  • Every time someone says you can’t build a $1B business in Iowa. You can disprove that instantly.
  • Every time someone says you can’t build a leadership team that builds scale in Iowa. No longer an argument that’s valid.
  • Every time someone says there isn’t enough tech talent to handle scaling cloud applications in Iowa. Well…Workiva.
  • Every time someone says the only way to make a business defensible in Iowa is to build its revenue base past $50M+ annually and that’s really hard to do. You can say… Yeah, I know but that’s actually how we build businesses in Iowa.
  • Every time you say “I want to build a company that goes public”, your so much less insane than you were yesterday. You’re still nuts but just slightly less so.

Workiva has dispelled so many myths about what it means to build a company in Iowa. They’ve changed the entire narrative around recruiting and fundraising for a generation of founders. What makes this valuation even better is that it’s not superfluous. It’s public market recognition of a strong business and growing revenue. It’s based on sound fundamentals that make a business actually worth a billion dollars. Our unicorn earned it even if you want to argue with whether or not that label is correctly applied.

Workiva’s market cap passing $1B doesn’t really matter financially to a large group of people but the psychological impact of breaking the barrier does.

Thanks Workiva. You’ve just made so many things so much easier. I appreciate you for it.

Also, congratulations.

Ben Milne is the founder of Dwolla and a co-founder of Clay & Milk.