Startup Sioux Falls is about 6 weeks into its operations and I thought it would be a good time to give an update on what we’ve accomplished so far with the brand and what we’re hoping to do moving forward.
Prefer to read instead of watch? Here’s a rough script I used for this video.
Startup Sioux Falls is about 6 weeks into its operations and I thought it would be a good time to give an update on what we’ve accomplished so far with the brand and what we’re hoping to do moving forward. The idea to launch this website really came on March 6th when we had our five year anniversary party for 1 Million Cups. Andy Traub from Take Permission marketing came back to SIoux Falls to speak at our event and said something along the lines of, “Sioux Falls is a great city. You have a great community. You have great entrepreneurs. You have great resources for entrepreneurs. Be proud of it. Celebrate what you have.”
After that, I started making a list of all of the different state agencies, NGOs, venture capital firms and community groups that make up the startup ecosystem. By the time I was done, I had more than 30 different groups on my list and thought, “there’s probably not a person in Sioux Falls that could identify all of these organizations and what they do to help entrepreneurs.” So, I set out to create a digital hub for people that are starting businesses or are interested in starting businesses. The idea was to simply promote all of the great resources we have for entrepreneurs, give people an opportunity to be inspired by the stories of the people that have made it and give entrepreneurs a chance to connect with each other, because entrepreneurship can be a very lonely game.
Since I initially launched the site, my goal has been to build a team and build systems so that the website would be a sustainable operation that can continue to grow and create new content regardless of how much time I put into it personally. I brought on Becky Squyer that manages the events calendar on the website. She also does the Monday newsletter that we send out. I also brought on Andrea Van Essen to go out and interview all of the different organizations and community groups that make up the startup ecosystem. She’s been doing a great job with that. And I’ve partnered with Josh Sopko to create two new seasons of the Sioux Falls Startup stories podcast and have them hosted on Startup Sioux Falls. I know that if I were in charge of doing all of these things, I’d get busy and flake out on it, so by having this team in place, we’ll make sure the site is always current and up-to-date with content.
I’m also a big believer in partnerships. I launched the website as a partnership between my company (MarketBeat), the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship, the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation. We’ve lined it up so that all of the chamber, development foundation and Zeal websites link to Startup Sioux Falls as the primary digital resource for information on starting businesses in our city. The Chamber and Development foundation also wrote some very nice stories about Startup Sioux Falls in their monthly newsletters and magazine. We’ve also developed a partnership with the Argus Leader where they’re syndicating our stories about organizations that make up the Startup Ecosystem in the Sioux Falls Business Journal, which has been great for the awareness of Startup Sioux Falls and for the organizations that we are writing about each week.
Since we launched the website, we’ve had about 5,000 unique people visit the website. This is about what I would expect given the number of people looking to launch a new business at any given time might only be a few thousand people in the Sioux Falls Metro area. We’ve also seen some nice growth in our Facebook community. We were at about 5,800 members prior to the website launch and we’ve grown that up to 6,100 members since then. We’ve grown our email list to about 1,000 people as well. Obviously these aren’t earth shattering numbers compared to my other businesses, but I don’t expect them to be. This is a niche website for a certain type of person in the Sioux Falls community. I don’t expect it to serve tens of thousands of people, but I do hope it will serve the several thousand business owners in our community quite well.
Moving forward, my plan is to continue to run Startup Sioux Falls as a primarily digital resource and community for about the next year. I’m not planning on trying to become a true ecosystem organization like Emerging Prairie is. The unfortunately reality is that I’ve got a real business to run that has employees and bills to pay, so Startup Sioux Falls necessarily has to remain a side project as long as I’m the caretaker of it. Ultimately, I’d like Startup Sioux Falls to become the platform that launches a true ecosystem organization, but I can’t be the person to run an ecosystem organization like Emerging Prairie. That’s not my skill set and I’m not sure it’s my interest either.
What I do hope will happen is that Zeal will continue to move in the direction of programming and events and community and sometime in the next few years I can gift Startup Sioux Falls over to Zeal once they have the resources and team to manage it. I’m optimistic we’ll be able to get there, but we’ve got a lot of house keeping and resource gathering at Zeal to do before we can get there. If for some reason Zeal ends up not being able to move in that direction and continues to primarily be a co-working space and and an office space for startup companies, I would probably try to turn it into a proper non-profit and find a new leader for it at that point. If I can’t ultimately merge Startup Sioux Falls into Zeal, I think there might be an opportunity to develop a proper non-profit that incorporates Startup Sioux Falls, 1 Million Cups and our annual events like Hey Sioux Falls and TedX. It’s really too early to tell where it’ll end up though.
So, that’s the update. We’ve made some pretty good progress. We’ve got a great team in place. We’re going to continue to create content and foster community through our Facebook group and the events that our community members put together and that’s the plan for at least the rest of this year. I’d very much love to hear your feedback about Startup Sioux Falls, so if you’ve got ideas to improve the site, the community or if you see big holes in our startup community that need to be fixed, feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you.