Geoff's Blog: Young people are critical to building a startup hub

Every Wednesday Geoff publishes "The Pull", a digest of the top news for the Iowa innovation community that week. The following is the introduction to Issue #148.

Des Moines recently started working on the next phase of our community-wide vision plan called Capital Crossroads 2.0 and I was invited to participate in a few meetings with the consultants, yesterday, to help represent the view of the entrepreneurial community. It was a lot of fun—I'm never shy about sharing ideas and I kind of nerd out on things like this going back to my undergrad days in the Community and Regional Planning program at Iowa State.

Several times in the discussion I found myself pointing out ideas from Paul Graham's recent post: How to make Pittsburgh a startup hub. Paul covers a lot of interesting ground there and it all supports his comments on the need to attract young people to a community:

When I was a kid, this was a place young people left. Now it's a place that attracts them. What does that have to do with startups? Because startups are made of people, and the average age of the people in a typical startup is right in that 25 to 29 bracket.

He quantifies his observation by pointing out that 7.6% of Pittsburgh residents are ages 25-29 so they have a leg up on the rest of the country since the national average for that bracket is only 6.8%. In case you're curious (I was) in Polk County we're slightly ahead of that with 7.77% of our population between the ages of 25-29, according to the most recent data available on (2014).

The bulk of his post is how Pittsburgh can attract more young people to support its startup community. Each of those topics is relevant anywhere in Iowa, and worth exploring by anyone on this list, even though they might, at first blush, seem tangential to developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem: continuing to foment their youth-driven food revolution, encouraging walkability and public transit, focusing on historic preservation, staying "socially liberal" and properly utilizing a world-class research university, etc.

I'd love to know your thoughts on Paul's ideas and how they could impact startup communities in Iowa. Check out the post and then leave a comment below with your take.