Flashing Blue Light Specials Don’t Work to Build Community

Midwesterners are great people.  We are nice.  We are helpful.  But, for so long we have been the butt of lots of jokes, we sort of have a chip on our shoulder about it.

Cow country.  Fly over country.  Corn country. The midwest is so flat that when you are on a date, make sure that you drive past the horizon line with your girl so her father can’t see you making out with her.

Yup.  We have agriculture and other non sexy industries here.  Of course, one of the largest sex toy distributors is in Wisconsin.

People make fun of the weather.  They think every day is 1967 and the “frozen tundra” of Green Bay vs Dallas in the NFC championship game.  Wooly mammoths walk the earth and your breath is perpetually visible.  As if it doesn’t get cold anywhere else in the US.  Other places have their own natural challenges.

At least in the midwest, when it gets cold we set up a community! Midwesterners know how to overcome the elements and have fun with them.  We are positive and optimistic.

As the startup community builds in the midwest, it’s important not to sell it to the outside world as a flashing blue light special. One of the features we constantly sell is that it is cheaper to be here than anywhere else.

When a company competes strictly on price, they never win.

Once price becomes the lead talk in the discussion, everything else becomes commoditized.  It’s an easy objection to overcome.  When I was working for 3M ($MMM) I always had the most expensive products.   But, I also had the best stuff and the best support for them.

Ecosystems are like that.  This is why it’s critically important not to try and be “Silicon” anything when building the culture for your local startup community.  Look at the assets around the community and build off of them.  Use them as a strength.

California, New York and Boston will always be significantly more expensive when it comes to costs than places like Chicago, St. Louis, Madison, Detroit or Minneapolis.

There are some very good reasons that people live in the places that they live.  As a community, we need to sell those reasons and not worry about the rest.  At the same time, we need to build in the kinds of physical resources entrepreneurs need to survive when they fail.    It’s easy to help them when they succeed.

If we can develop the resources, the rest will take care of itself.

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