Cedar Valley: Introducing an emerging startup ecosystem to Paul Singh

Paul Singh Paul Singh and a group of investors travel across the country in this Airstream Travel Trailer to meet with entrepreneurs of companies at any stage. He's visiting Cedar Falls next week. Photo courtesy of Paul Singh

The Cedar Valley startup community is partnering with Paul Singh and the North American Tech Tour to bring it to Northeast Iowa next week.

In each of the last two years, Singh—an entrepreneur and investor based in Washington D.C—travels with a group of venture capitalists called the Results Junkies across the country to meet with entrepreneurs in startup communities that aren’t based on the East or West coast. He’s known for his Airstream Travel Trailer. Singh will bring a group of venture capitalists with him who all participate in meetings with entrepreneurs and host community events to share technical expertise.

Singh and the North American Tech Tour will take part in a kickoff event on April 3 at Mill Race Coworking, the coworking space in Cedar Falls. The evening will be the launch of Red Cedar, the nonprofit organization involved in developing Mill Race Coworking.

Mill Race director Danny Laudick said Singh has worked with organizers to come up with events for the week that focus on what startups and entrepreneurs in the region need.

“Part of this tour is trying to find companies they can invest in as well and have a chance to see what’s going on around the country,” Laudick explains. “And then while they are there, they are really trying to support the communities and grow the entrepreneurial communities.”

The Cedar Valley Tech Tour will include office hours, discussions with local innovators, investor dinners, workshops and pitch sessions.

Third time in Iowa

Singh has visited Des Moines in each of the last two summers. Last summer he split the week between Iowa City—speaking at EntreFest—then coming to Des Moines.

Geoff Wood, founder of Gravitate, was an organizer last year when Singh visited Des Moines. He said Singh and “four or five” investors met with a bunch of companies, held educational sessions and offered their perspectives in a variety of ways.

Wood said he believes Iowa communities are galvanized around new visitors and events like the North American Tech Tour not only attract more people but energize them.

“There’s also a new set of ideas and experiences,” Wood says. “Especially in a town like Cedar Falls or Des Moines, where for the most part we don’t get people from the coasts to spend time in our ecosystems. So sharing some of those ideas and getting people to understand what investors are looking for, there’s value in all of that.”

Wood said with as many places as Singh has visited, he may have a connection that could help someone.

“He’s kind of a human router himself of connecting people all over the country,” Wood said.

Growing the Cedar Valley ecosystem

Along with the expertise Singh can provide for entrepreneurs, it’s the opportunity to gather the stakeholders in the Cedar Valley startup community that Laudick sees as a real opportunity.

“It was a good chance to bring together those stakeholder groups with Paul and the others he brings with him to really get their advice and input so we can drive the conversation forward,” Laudick says. “Really we can use it as a beneficial kickoff to everything we’ve been putting together.”

What has been put together is Red Cedar, the nonprofit organization behind Mill Race Coworking, which launched on Jan. 1.

Laudick said, “things are going well” at the coworking space and some of the initial seed fund pieces should be closing soon.

“The most surprising thing has been the amount of support and understanding in the community for what we’re doing,” Laudick says. “They generally understand the importance of that network and relationships.”

Laudick says that those same people are volunteering to serve as mentors and he’s surprised at the type of connections that have already been made.

“You start talking to people and see who is working on what, there’s an amazing network of relationships not only in the Midwest but across the globe with people here,” Laudick says. “It’s been amazing to see the amount of support, buy-in and bringing those connections together.”

Editors Note: Geoff Wood is a co-founder of ClayandMilk.com

Previous Coverage

Singh: I miss Iowa – May 23, 2017