Note: People reach out to me on a regular basis with questions about getting involved in the Des Moines startup community. I love meeting people in person and usually ask them to join me for coffee. The discussion almost always winds up covering the following recommendations, so I thought it’d be a decent post.
So you’ve arrived in Des Moines for a short stay or you’ve unpacked your moving van for the long haul, and now you want to engage or join our growing startup community. You ask yourself, “Where do I start?” but you’re not sure. This post is for you.
1. Grab coffee at Amici Espresso
The very first thing you should do is get coffee at Amici Espresso at the corner of 6th Street and Mulberry Avenue. Amici is on the ground floor of the Midland Building (206 6th Avenue), home to several startups and its the lone coffee shop along the "Silicon Sixth" startup district downtown. Although activity has waned slightly in recent months as activity has spread out across the city, it's still the easiest place in the area to serendipitously run into others working on the innovative ideas.
For more on Amici and its role in the startup community, see this post I wrote for Silicon Prairie News back in the day.
2. Add “1 Million Cups” to your calendar, Wednesday at 9 a.m.
“What would happen if the entrepreneurs in a community gathered for one million (more) cups a coffee?” The Kauffman Foundation uses this question as the inspiration for this popular event. Each week a different entrepreneur pitches their company for 6 minutes followed by 20 minutes of feedback and questions from the audience. For the entrepreneur it serves as an ad hoc board meeting where every assumption is challenged and the business is analyzed from several new and different perspectives. For the audience, it serves as an introduction to new startups in the community and as a chance to support your fellow entrepreneurs. In some ways, it’s the modern startup community’s take on the traditional “coffee groups” and breakfast clubs that are popular in small-town America. Join us at Green Grounds Cafe in Valley Junction (117 5th St, West Des Moines).
3. Check out a monthly meetup group or two
From agenda-free gatherings like TechBrew and Startup Drinks to very focused sessions like Design+Tech and the Iowa Ruby Brigade, every week features multiple opportunities to meet and get to know the startup and tech community. Almost all groups are open to newcomers and don't have fees.
To get a handle on what’s available, check out the “Welcome to Des Moines” launch page.
4. Need a place to work? Saddle up at Startup City
Ever since it opened its doors in October 2011, Startup City Des Moines (317 6th Avenue, 5th Floor) has cemented itself as major factor in the Des Moines startup scene. In addition to its official billing as an incubator, Startup City serves the role of event space and “town commons” for the startup community.
They recently added a low-cost coworking option and it’s free to cowork each Thursday.
5. Tune in for the Welch Avenue Show
Either online or in person, you’re officially invited to check out our weekly web show, The Welch Avenue Show. I co-host with Chris New of Quadrant5.tv and we're joined by a diverse group of entrepreneurs and other members of the Iowa startup community. The live show features a running chat where everyone can interact with us as well as others enjoying the show. We record each week following 1 Million Cups so stick around join others the in-studio audience.
Bonus: Get involved online
Join the Startup Iowa Facebook group, follow Iowa startups on Twitter, subscribe to the Welch Avenue Weekly, read and comment on the local tech press: Des Moines Business Record, the Des Moines Register and Silicon Prairie News.
Photo via BarbaraLN on Flickr