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Des Moines, Iowa


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SuperCars in Indy

Geoff Wood

It's a bit of disappointing that Indianapolis is hosting the Super Bowl this year and we no longer live there (simply owning a house doesn't count). As a loyal Vikings fan, born after their four Super Bowl appearances, my favorite Super Bowl to date was when the local Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. It was the closest that I got to ever getting on the Colts band wagon and it was a lot of fun to live in a city so excited about the game leading up to it. And, that game was in Miami.

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RIP Dan Wheldon

Geoff Wood

The professional sports world lost a good one today in IZOD IndyCar Driver Dan Wheldon. Dan died from unrecoverable injuries sustained in the worst crash I’ve seen since we started following IndyCar about seven years ago. In a race that was supposed to feature a dual for the championship between rivals Dario Franchitti and Will Power along with a second storyline of Wheldon with a unique chance to compete for a prize of $5M.

Hope and I met Dan briefly a few days before the 2009 Indianapolis 500. He was funny and charming. We watched him win the race Iowa Corn 250 the year before, on his 30th birthday and joked with him that we were there to celebrate Hope’s 30th, as well.

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Where exactly is the Silicon Prairie?

Geoff Wood

Chet Culver's idea of the Silicon Prairie

There is a weird buzz going on around the term “silicon prairie”. I’m particularly attuned to it because I work with the organization Silicon Prairie News, an online news publication promoting the activities of high tech, high growth and innovative companies in Des Moines, Omaha, and the surrounding areas.

The term derives from an obvious a play on the idea that there is a both a technical foundation and a technical future in the areas of this country that were at one time occupied by nothing more than grassland. It’s catchy and it makes folks familiar with the renowned “Silicon Valley” region of California smile a bit when they take the time to look at the thousands of miles of American in between the two coasts.

However, it has no inherent boundaries and for that reason it seems that everyone who is trying to find a clever reference to their locale is claiming it.

As far as I know, it started smartly with some good folks in northwest Iowa (and later across the border in South Dakota) who built a small and then-successful computer hardware company called Gateway 2000. They had a cow-skinned box for their hardware and advertising that noted they were “on the Silicon Prairie”. It was cute and it worked (so much so that I remember it 15 years later).

Wikipedia cites four regions (Dallas, Chicago/Champaign, Wyoming, and the Des Moines/Omaha/SPN area)(1), while a current Google News search shows three (the SPN area, Dallas, and Indianapolis). It’s the last mention that inspired me to write this post. I received multiple emails last week pointing to a story from MediaPost where a director at ExactTarget, an email marketing giant headquartered in Indianapolis, claimed the name for the Circle City. The post is about the marketing technology cluster of businesses that have developed in Indianapolis including firms like Aprimo, ExactTarget, and Compendium Blogware.

The writer of the post, David Goetzl, goes on to say this:

It's unclear whether the successor term to Silicon Valley and New York's copycat Silicon Alley is just a casual one, but Central Indiana has a moniker for its thriving digital marketing community. MediaPost has covered the expansion, which continues to help the economy.(Omaha also claims the nickname.)(2)

The emails were sent to me for several reasons, such as my relationship with Silicon Prairie News and the fact that from 2004-2009, I was part of the technology community in Central Indiana. I have friends working at several of the companies that make up said cluster not to mention that almost exactly a year ago several MBA classmates and I wrote a research paper on this exact topic. We called it the “marketing automation” cluster, but to each his own.

I suppose that Indianapolis, though late to the game, has the same right as the rest of us to use the “silicon prairie” nomenclature though I have a hard time considering anything in the Eastern Time zone to be part of “the prairie”.

Also, someone should probably tell Ben Nelson and Chet Culver.

(1)I've contributed to the Wikipedia entry for "Silicon Prairie" (2) Emphasis is mine and "ha!"

63rd Annual Indiana University Business Conference

Geoff Wood

Cross posted with the Kelley School of Business "BizBlog"

I had the pleasure of attending the 63rd Annual Indiana University Business Conference put on by our very own Kelley School. This was my second time attending the conference and I was a little concerned that this year's event wouldn't live up to my expectations after last year's great event that featured presentations by the CEO's of FedEx Corporation, Simon Property Management, The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Langham Logistics as well as Indiana University President Michael McRobbie and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels - but it did.

At first blush, this year's speakers didn't jump out at me as the same level of "household names" as before. However, that doesn't mean that they (and their companies) weren't impressive or didn't provide equal or greater value to those of us in attendance - they certainly did.

These year's lineup included Susan Dentzer, Editor-in-Chief of Health Affairs, Bill McKibben, Environmentalist, Amory Lovins, Co-founder and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, Michael Evans, Founder and President of AIT Laboratories, Douglas Lattner, Chairman and CEO of Deloitte Consulting and Michael Rippey, President of ArcelorMittal USA.

The moderator and keynote speaker was New York Times Columnist David Brooks (who is a household name, despite what I mentioned earlier) was amusing, informative and insightful in his discussion of political leadership in the midst of this economic crisis. He offered behind-the-scenes stories and personal impressions of both President Obama and the second President Bush that put into perspective how I view those in power.

As good as Mr. Brooks keynote was, my favorite presentation was actually by Mr. Lovins, whose physical appearance matches his title of "Chief Scientist" but his communication skills do not. His presentation was quite understandable for the non-technical 50,000 foot decision makers in the room as well as compelling in its arguments (such as the value in automotive and aviation companies switching from steel to carbon fiber for construction materials).

In a first for me, I attempted to keep a running Twitter account of the goings on throughout the day and was joined in by others hailing from the Bloomington and IU East campuses (click here for the archive at #kelleyconf).

I would strongly recommend that any Kelley student, especially those of us evening MBA candidates who have lost our continuing education budgets in our full time jobs, take full advantage of the no-cost or low-cost opportunities provided for learning of this kind. The next one is coming up quickly - register now for the IU Entrepreneurial Connection event in Bloomington on March 27th.

Click below for posts on Social Media Fanatic about the event: