Ben Milne’s TECNA keynote focuses on building strong communities

Last week, the Technology Association of Iowa hosted the TECNA 2018 Summer Conference in Des Moines. To kickoff the event, Ben Milne, founder and CEO of Dwolla, delivered the keynote speech on Wednesday morning. He talked about his history as an entrepreneur, starting Dwolla and the important aspects of building communities. Here are some of the highlights from Milne’s speech:

Consider how communities function & interact with families

Milne: I think its important that as you build communities, you actually consider how they function and how they interact with families.

Because in the tech world, there’s a lot of places you can go where raising families is really fucking hard. It’s expensive. You’ve got to send your kids to private school. You actually got to politic just to get your kids into private school. And in a lot of the communities around here, you can actually just get your kids into a normal school that’s two miles away. It’s actually really good. There are really good school systems here.

Creativity is crucial to building good communities. 

Milne: Creativity manifests itself in surprising ways. Sometimes in ways that may not be clear or are clearly connected to the technical community. I’m going to give you an example that’s a little bit uncomfortable. This is an installation that my wife did of a bunch of hanging balloons. And the number of balloons represents the number of kids who were shot in school between the first of the year and when the installation went up.

An art installation by Jami Milne in response to the recent school shootings in the United States.

Milne: This has nothing to do with technology. But it does have a lot to do with considering what type of community we want to build. Because things like this, that seem totally abstract, actually start conversations and help us think not only about our technology community, but our school systems and how we think about security. And how we think about security and how we think about protecting one another and how to respect one another has a lot to do with where we choose to live.

And I assure you, where people choose to live in the technology community has a lot to do with where they’re going to be empowered. And that empowerment comes from the ability to create. And for people like me, creation is oxygen. We just have to do it. It’s not a choice for us, we have to do it. You take it way, we leave. So the more we can do it, the more we stay, the more we create, the more we build, the more we hire, the more we express ourselves. Sometimes in uncomfortable ways, like with balloons.

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