While our residents have been creating companies here for generations, there is most definitely an entrepreneurial renaissance taking place in the region. This movement is fostered by a community willing to be inclusive and collaborative to support startups.
The book “Startup Communities” by Brad Feld helped get the wheels in motion on our local startup movement. Greg Tehven invited several community-minded folks to join in a study about developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The book encourages leaders to instigate opportunities that get the startups out and about networking with one another.
Shortly thereafter, Emerging Prairie was established and joined forces with Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. to begin planning for Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event where developers, designers and other startup enthusiasts form teams to turn ideas into potential startups. Startup Weekends give people the courage to dig deeper into creating a business and build great collaborative relationships. Startup Weekend was an initial spark that has ignited new events, personal connections, collaborations and companies.
If Startup Weekend was the spark, then the Kauffman Foundation supported 1 Million Cups was the gasoline to fuel the flames. 1MC is based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a cup of coffee, so imagine the impact after a collective million cups of coffee. Attendees meet weekly to have coffee, listen to entrepreneurial speakers and assist the speakers through a Q&A session.
What locally started as a six-week trial with 40 attendees has grown into an event that is consistently one of the largest in the nation, with some weeks surpassing 300. Often referred to by locals as “church for entrepreneurs,” 1MC has become the weekly epicenter of entrepreneurial support, community connectedness and just a general, all-around good vibe.
There is a magic in what’s going on with our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Other communities are reaching out and making trips to Fargo to see if they can figure out how to bottle what we have. There are a number of ingredients in our recipe. The easy to see are the top-notch events that are often fun, friendly, informative, comfortable and art-infused. Our metro is also just the right size. It’s small enough to network easily and effectively and large enough to offer adequate density and diversity of talent along with a place you want to live, work and create.
The key ingredient in the entrepreneurial movement is our people. Events like 1 Million Cups are bringing out droves of people who not only want to see others succeed, but they genuinely want to play a part in helping in the success. And the people are finding that it is fun, feels good and is building city pride. I would call it #ilovefargo fever, and it is contagious!
John Machacek is the senior vice president of finance and entrepreneurial development for the Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC.