Update on our progress in bringing 100 entrepreneurs to 100 rural towns

Two weeks ago, I launched an initiative to bring 100 urban entrepreneurs to 100 rural towns in America. Read more about the “why and how” here. Since then, this kernel of an idea has not only received great interest (even a tweet from Kara Swisher of Recode), but also we’ve identified the first three locations of the events. They will take place in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota in January and February. Specific details will be announced next week — stay tuned for updates.

Additionally, I’ve had the fortune of collaborating with some spectactular minds to refine and advance my thinking. In true start-up fashion, here is how our concept has evolved:

  1. Our timeline is now more realistic. Its good to have big, hairy goals, but hitting 100 locations by Inauguration Day wasn’t realistic. Instead, this effort will run the full course of 2017, and our goal remains the same — 100 founders to 100 small towns with populations under 10k.
  2. Two-way dialogue and sharing is important. My initial hypothesis was that Silicon Valley had a lot to teach rural America. This POV was short-sighted. Rural America has a lot to teach urban and coastal entrepreneurs too. For that reason, the agenda for each one-day visit will include a tour of local businesses, a roundtable discussion with 10–15 local entrepreneurs and a public, large-scale event featuring the stories of both out-of-town and in-town entrepreneurs.
  3. To promote two-way dialogue, the hometown host role will be formalized to ensure deep engagement. Local partners will be necessary. Potential partners include local co-working spaces or coding schools, economic development councils, high school business associations and government agencies. There is a lot of up-side to partnering with these folks, so I am going to continue working those avenues before officially pairing founders with specific locations. As a result, rural visits will not kick-off until late January.
  4. All urban, coastal entrepreneurs are invited to share their story! Initially I hoped to take technology entrepreneurs who identified as a minority (women, people of color, Muslims, LGBT, etc.) to small rural towns to make a cultural impact. I’ve learned that rural entrepreneurs are interested in all stories, including those from non-tech founders as well as those from non-minorities. 27 founders have volunteered and we are looking for more. Sign up here!

In terms of next steps, there is now a leadership team to chart the course of this initiaive forward. Please reach out to startingupamerica@gmail.com if you are interested in joining us a leader. We are also looking for sponsors, financial contributions and airline mile donations if you cannot donate your time.

Thanks for your ongoing support. More to come and follow us at @startingupamer on Twitter for frequent updates.