Future of Tech StartUp – Sioux Falls

I had the opportunity last night to sit on a open panel discussion in Sioux Falls, SD focused on the future of tech startups. It was a great night, with lots of energy, and lots of ideas shared about how to take Sioux Falls to the next level.

For reference the panelist were:

  • Michael MacFadden: Chief Technology Officer of Solute, Inc.
  • Ryan Sougstad: Associate professor at Augustana University and co-founder of SystemMeasure Inc.
  • Korena Keys: Owner and CEO of KeyMedia Solutions
  • William Bushee: Author of Wired For Coding, Co-founder of Code Bootcamp of South Dakota
  • Austin Hanson: Director of Engineering at Myriad Mobile

The panel was moderated by Clint Brown, of “The Bakery” fame.

The entire experience was a bit surreal. Having only been in Sioux Falls for about six months, I was definitely the “outsider” in the room. It was interesting to hear some of the questions an opinion from the audience. The range of emotions included everything pride, frustration, excitement, curiosity, and fear.  I don’t think any of those are actually bad in anyway.  If anyone has ever started or run a business, we all feel all of those all the time.

I think my biggest take away from the night was that the conversation consistently turned back towards people, education, behavior, and community.  There was not a lot of focus on investment, infrastructure, business legislation etc.  Most people wanted to talk about building a sense of community, regional awareness, education, and the breaking down of mental barriers. I think there is a real desire for the community to start connecting the dots. There are a lot of great people, resources, and businesses in Sioux Falls, but the word isn’t quite getting out enough yet.

Main Takeaways

  1. Build a more supportive culture where responsible failure is tolerated and even celebrated.
  2. Aggressively communicate every startup success in the community to help attract top talent and investment capital to the Sioux Falls region.
  3. Develop a networked approach to community building, ensuring successful and hardworking people are more aware of what each other are doing.
  4. Focus on developing a “cool vibe” around start up participation in Sioux Falls.
  5. Build ties to other communities in the region.
  6. Invest in focused education to develop entrepreneurial spirit in tech students.

One other interesting observation was that a lot of the energy in the room was coming from several groups of students who showed up. A few groups of students stayed after to network and have follow up conversations with the panelists. It was pretty motivating interacting with a bunch of go-getter millennials.

I hope events like these become more common. The longer I am in Sioux Falls the more I am convinced that this is more going on here than most people realize.