Case, Heiferman Stress Importance of "Connective Tissue" at Startup Iowa Town Hall

By Sarah Binder, Reporter

CORALVILLE, Iowa - "Community" is one of the most overused, misused words in the dialogue around startups. It is also one of the most vital, fundamental necessities for a thriving economy.

So said Scott Case and Scott Heiferman Wednesday night, during the Startup Iowa Town Hall. The Town Hall was part of the UP America Summit, a national conference on entrepreneurial community building hosted in the Corridor this week.

"It's really about the richness of the network," Case said. As CEO of the Startup America Partnership (now part of UP Global), Case has traveled around the country for the past three years, studying startup hubs in inconspicuous locales like ours.

Heiferman echoed the sentiment. His company, Meetup.com, facilitates millions of offline gatherings around the world each day.

"I so firmly believe in the power of that connective tissue, and what it can do to spark a startup industry, and really solve so many problems in people's lives, in the world," he said.

"When people talk to each other, and tell their story of 'me' to each other, what emerges is a story of 'we.'"

Heiferman also stressed the importance of making the community diverse and inclusive. After one audience member had asked about how to make startups fun and several others had shouted, "beer," Heiferman cautioned against a "bro culture" in tech communities.

"Of course, beer can be important, I'm not preaching against that. But the energy, and the spirit, and the purpose comes from the excitement of what's being built," he said. "Really ask yourselves, for the community you're building, is it inclusive of the diversity that will make it that much more awesome?"

Heiferman, a University of Iowa graduate, said he felt like he had to move to the coast after graduation to find the work he wanted to do. Twenty years later, he said he sees that idea shifting.

"Today, you could stay in Iowa and do almost anything," he said. "It's so much more possible to create companies, and do almost anything from anywhere now."
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