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Heartland Tech Weekly: Midwest startup communities still struggle to welcome outsiders


Included in this week’s “Beyond VB” section is a blog post that got a decent amount of pickup in my Twitter feed this week. In it, Jeffrey Carter, cofounder of Chicago’s Hyde Park Angels and West Loop Ventures, gives his theory on why Chicago lost out on Amazon HQ2. His belief: Chicago is too much of a closed network — the same people are always working on the same entrepreneurship and business initiatives:

Our tech scene is infinitely better today than it was in 2007. When we started HPA, we were seen as interlopers. Outsiders. No one knew us. We were the nobodies nobody sent.

However, our tech scene can be awfully closed minded and tough to navigate from the outside. It’s a closed network. When politicians are giving away awards at awards ceremonies, you have a problem.

We lose entrepreneurs to the coasts because of this attitude. Outlier ideas are very unsettling. But those are the ones that can become blow out ideas. Uber should have started in Chicago. But, I bet if the Uber guy tried to raise a seed round here people would have looked at him like he had four eyes. Black car service on your phone? Random? Come on.

I don’t think Chicago’s closed network directly led Amazon to not choose Chicago — I think that Amazon settled on New York City and D.C. very quickly — but perhaps Chicago’s closed network has held it back from achieving larger startup milestones.

Anecdotally speaking, I’ve spoken with quite a few startup founders and ecosystem builders over the past several years who know that their startup community needs to be more inclusive to newcomers. But I’m curious to hear if you’ve actually see meaningful progress on this issue in your startup community. What’s worked and what hasn’t? This is an issue I plan to explore in future articles, so send me your thoughts and feedback via email.

Thanks for reading,

Anna Hensel
Heartland Tech Reporter

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