As I was wrapping up 2023 and preparing for 2024 last week, I read through Diana Wright’s final Startup Iowa Hot List newsletter of the year. She included a story in her introduction reflecting on expanding entrepreneurial communities through one of her experiences participating in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program. Read more below.

— Sarah Diehn, digital news editor

“A year ago, I was sitting in a lecture listening to the director of MIT’s entrepreneurship center, Bill Aulet. He had an easel stand and a pad of paper at the front of the room, as he wrote down these four phrases:

A) Celebrate (meaning to inspire)

B) Educate (meaning to provide knowledge)

C) Nurture (meaning more capability)

D) Network (meaning community)

He then asked the question: Which one of these do you think is the most important to growing the number of entrepreneurs in your community?

All four ingredients written on the easel are critical to a healthy and supportive entrepreneurial community. Pick one of the four, and you can be right in your own respect. Which one do you choose?

Here’s what Bill shared as his answer:

‘If we don’t celebrate and inspire first, the entrepreneur won’t talk about their idea. They won’t sign up to take the entrepreneurship course or program. They won’t know that there is a world where there are other kindred spirits taking the risk again and again.’

As we move into 2024, this question still haunts me. In the Midwest, we are often too humble to share our successes. It is one of our region’s biggest weaknesses.

One of my collaborators from the Iowa startup community and one who was also sitting in the same room, Nadilia Gomez, said it best:

‘We tend to downplay success stories and ascribe them to luck, failing to recognize the intentionality, sacrifice, effort and skill that goes into making great things happen. We are frugal and resourceful, an advantage in times of need. However, when we have compelling success stories to tell, we shy away from attention and fanfare. As a result, our region’s strengths are visible only to those who boldly venture into the hotbeds of entrepreneurial activity. Once there, they often remark that the region is a “hidden gem” but interestingly keep it to themselves.’”

Read the full Startup Iowa Hot List newsletter