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Jason Feifer on what makes a successful entrepreneur

Jason Feifer, Editor and Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, was in Des Moines today sharing his thoughts on what makes a successful entrepreneur.

Feifer spoke about what the most important qualities are for today’s entrepreneurs. Here’s what he had to say:

Overcome your resistance to change

Being constantly open to new ideas is an important trait for any entrepreneur.

“When the bicycle was first introduced in the 1800s, it freaked everybody out. People were scared of the bicycle. Not just because it seemed like something people would fall off of, but because it created change,” Feifer said. “People don’t like change. The history of innovation is a new thing coming along and people resisting it.”

Ask uncomfortable questions

Feifer stressed the importance of entrepreneurs constantly asking themselves uncomfortable questions.

“The goal is to get to a place where you’re comfortable being uncomfortable. It just becomes the norm and you’re able to challenge yoursel in ways the hadn’t thought of before,” Fiefer said. “Here’s an uncomfortable question for example: ‘why am I doing this?’ And if the answer is, ‘because that’s the way its always been done,’ well that’s a terrible answer.”

Play the long game, especially when it hurts

Only looking at things in short-term can be detrimental to a business, Feifer told the crowd.

He brought up Blockbuster as an example of a company that failed to view long-term trends by ignoring the popularity of streaming video and remained tethered to their business plan.

“The story of Blockbuster is that they didn’t see it coming and that Netflix came along and totally ate their lunch,” Fiefer said. “I don’t think that’s true. I think they did see it coming and they weren’t able to change fast enough. Could you imagine if Blockbuster when they saw this coming decided to shut down stores and transition into a completely different business model? That company would still be around now.”

Discard what worked yesterday

Companies that are able to throw out previous methods that brought them success are more likely to be ahead of the curve and see long-term success.

“This is very difficult to do,” Feifer said. “We all find something that works and want to hang onto it. And then if something changes, we want to try to convince people to buy what we’re already doing.”

Jason Feifer on what makes a successful entrepreneur | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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