This is What the United Nations of Startups Looks Like

Thousands of entrepreneurs, founders, investors and community builders gathered at the Startup Grind Global Conference and Director Retreat in Silicon Valley, to forge connections and bring players in the global startup community closer to one another.

As Startup Grind Muscatine Director, I had the honor and privilege to represent Muscatine, Iowa to the world during this global entrepreneurial community gathering. Derek Andersen, founder and CEO of Startup Grind recognized the Muscatine Chapter as ‘Rookie of the Year’ in part because we are a very small community in comparison to the other 200+ cities in the world with a Startup Grind Chapter; and also because we have held an event every month since we began ‘grinding’.

Startup Grind Muscatine launched last September and for its third local event we hosted an international Skype conference with entrepreneurs from Brazil, Jordan, Pakistan and Indonesia.

In March, Startup Grind Muscatine will host Daniel Wang, co-founder of China Windows Group and investors in the Merrill Hotel being built in downtown Muscatine. Wang recently brought the world-renowned China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra for a free concert to Muscatine to promote Chinese culture to the United States.

Home Sweet Muscatine

Muscatine, Iowa is a city of 22,000 people nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River on the eastern border of the state. The city sports an eclectic entrepreneurial mix of retail, video gaming, food & beverage, and business service startups.

Despite its size, Muscatine, Iowa is home to such global industrial giants as HON and Allsteel office furniture makers; Kent Corporation; Bandag, a division of Bridgestone Americas Inc.; Carver Pump; Gerdau Steel; MUSCO Sports Lighting; Monsanto; and nearly 10 percent of the world’s Heinz ketchup is bottled in Muscatine. This small Midwest U.S. city has deep entrepreneurial roots and now certainly plays on the global stage. HON, Kent Corporation, Bandag, Carver Pump and MUSCO were also all founded in Muscatine. Startup Grind helps to serve as a conduit for Muscatine startups to both the local and global entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Small World After All

It was incredible to connect with all the Startup Grind Directors from all over the world, feeling a lot like a United Nations General Assembly, just for founders, with delegations from Aukland, Cape Town, Dublin, London, Melbourne, New York, Nairobi, Sau Paulo, and more, all to share ideas about building our local and global startup community.

But the incredible smallness of our 21st-century world became so clear when I met Uranik Begu, Startup Grind Director in Pristina, Kosovo.  We talked about how Muscatine has strong ties to Kosovo having had a number of students attend our high school and the college where I teach.  A couple of days into the conference, Uranik introduced me to a fellow countryman now living in Silicon Valley. I mentioned a couple of former students and pulled up a Facebook profile on my mobile. The young man from Kosovo now living in California having a conversation with a guy from Iowa says: “oh sure, I know that girl!” 

Another example of how close-knit this global startup community really is came during the Farewell Party held for Startup Grind Directors - really, the startup delegates - held at Galvanize by Google for Entrepreneurs. In a conversation with Maks Lysak, Startup Grind Director for Lviv, Ukraine, I mentioned I have a friend in Muscatine who frequently travels to Ukraine. I sent a text message to my friend Walter and received the reply: “Tell Maks my cousins lives in Drohobych.”  

“Drohobych! That’s near my city Lviv. I know the Mayor of Drohobych!” cheered Maks.  

Another global and local connection created - and really, that's what we're all about: inspiring, educating, connecting entrepreneurs.