Part of the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program is having regions from around the world interact and learn from one another. The program recently hosted a workshop in Western Australia, one of the regions participating in the current cohort along with Central Iowa and other Midwest regions.

A few members of the Central Iowa cohort who went on the trip shared via email what they learned that could be applied to Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Kevin Kimle, Rastetter chair of agricultural entrepreneurship, Iowa State University

Our group was in Perth, which is in Western Australia. When Dutch explorers became the first Europeans to visit what is now Perth in 1697, they saw something previously thought to not exist. Black swans. In what is now called the Swan River there were many black swans. But up to that point, naturalists believed there were only white swans because … well, that’s the only color of swans anyone had ever seen. Just as black swans were a surprise, so is the search for innovation. As we worked on strategies for our Central Iowa entrepreneurial ecosystem in Perth, and as we continue to work on them, we need to make sure that the ecosystem has the resources, support mechanisms, and cultural acceptance for the surprises that entrepreneurs bring into the world.

Anne McMahon, statewide SBIR/STTR program coordinator, BioConnect Iowa

A series of workshops were conducted as part of the MIT Regional Entrepreneur Acceleration Program (REAP) in Perth, Australia, 11,000 miles away from Iowa, for a group of about 90 participants from five different countries. It is fascinating to watch the framework play out in different ways across the world. Specifically from Perth, I noticed their corporate stakeholder involvement and how it has assisted them in advancing the needle. The Des Moines/Ames team is looking forward to continuing to bring together corporate stakeholders and having valuable conversations.

Geoff Wood, founder, Gravitate Coworking

The Perth trip was obviously a one-of-its-kind cultural experience. From that cultural perspective, I think the biggest thing that stood out was how firmly baked-in and ubiquitous the “acknowledgement of country” is into the business community in Western Australia. It feels like a low-stakes but meaningful act towards reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of the area and certainly something that we can learn from as ever-divided Americans.

I think my biggest realization directly from the program is that we don’t often give ourselves enough credit for how experienced and sophisticated Des Moines and Central Iowa are as an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Many of the case studies and ideas discussed throughout REAP are things that our community has already implemented or attempted to implement. If anything that makes our work as a team harder since we’ve already sorted through all the low-hanging fruit.