Minimum Viable Podcast—Episode 1

Topics discussed: Iowa Venture Capital Association, autonomous vehicles in Iowa City, coding curriculum across the state

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Matt Patane, technology and innovation reporter for the Des Moines Register and Geoff Wood, community builder at Gravitate, sit down for an indepth discussion of the companies, events and ideas making news in the Iowa innovation community.

Feedback, thoughts or suggestions? Hit us up on Twitter, email the show at mvp@gravitatedsm.com or leave a comment below.

Transcript:

Geoff Wood:    Welcome to the first edition of a new show here on the Gravitate podcast channel. I'm Geoff Wood. I'm a community builder at Gravitate. I am joined by Matt Patane, technology and innovation reporter at the Des Moines Register. Is that the right title?

Matt Patane:    Yeah, that would be the most accurate.

Geoff Wood:    The most accurate one? Each week, we're going to take an in-depth look at the companies, events, and ideas that are making news here in Iowa and share it with you all. We're going to call it Minimum Viable Podcast. I don't know that you knew that yet, did you, Matt?

Matt Patane:    I did. I figured when I saw the Facebook poll. It was far and above the favorite, it seemed like. 

Geoff Wood:    What do you think of that name?

Matt Patane:    I like it a lot, because ever since I've started covering the tech scene here, I hear MVP over and over again, which I think is for good reason. I think there's a lot of startups here that are using that kind of model. Get to a certain point, get that product out there, then build off of that. I'm a little ashamed that no one seemed to like my journalism terms, though.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah, I liked them. I thought they were good, but they did not get a lot of votes.

Matt Patane:    Yeah. That's okay. I don't have anything against people for that.

Geoff Wood:    I tried specifically not to explain things, just hint in that poll of where things were going. I put it in the poll newsletter yesterday, as well, and it once again was very high.

Matt Patane:    No, I think it's a good title, just because I think it probably resonates well enough with the entrepreneur community everywhere, not just here.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. My leading suggestion was Address Bar. Nobody voted for that, either.

Matt Patane:    Yeah. I liked it, but I wasn't exactly sure what we were going for.

Geoff Wood:    Me, either. All right. We are still figuring out the show, so if you have thoughts, ideas, suggestions for the show, please let us know. You can find either of us on Twitter. @MattPatane, @GeoffWood are the places to do that. Sorry, Matt or Matthew?

Matt Patane:    Yeah. It's @MattPatane on Twitter, or you could email me at mpatane@dmreg.com, which might be better occasionally than Twitter. No, yeah. We're still trying to figure this out, but I think we want it to be top stories of Iowa and a little bit of nationwide news where that applies here. Yeah, if you have any ideas, shoot them our way.

Geoff Wood:    It is fitting that we're calling this Minimum Viable Podcast, because we don't really have an intro or music or anything. It is the Minimum Viable Podcast. 

Matt Patane:    We'll get there. I'm sure we'll get there.

Geoff Wood:    We'll get there. All right. Let's take a look at one of the big stories this week. Investor group looks to bring more money to Iowa. This was written by you on October 25th in the Register. Last week marked the fifth annual Iowa Innovation Expo, where startups gathered in Coralville to pitch investors, share the progress they've made. 

    It was the first meeting of the state's newest investment group, the Iowa Venture Capital Association. Formed earlier this year, the group has already signed eighteen Iowa investment groups or funds of all sizes and investment levels. Ultimately, the group hopes to increase the flow of capital from investors to Iowa companies. "For us, it was connectivity ensuring everyone got to know each other so that we can swap deals amongst one another. If not syndicated money, at least we can syndicate knowledge as well," said Built By Iowa co-founder Ravi Patel. That's a [inaudible 00:02:58] recap of the story. Were you actually at the meeting?

Matt Patane:    I wasn't actually at the meeting. Last week, there was the fifth Iowa Innovation Expo, which, for those that don't know, is this huge gathering. I think organizers told me they had seven hundred people signed up. It was some different pitch competitions, different presentations, just a general community gathering. 

    Then the Iowa Venture Capital Association had their first meeting, or official meeting. They plan to have two a year. It's basically just a gathering, it sounds like, or a gathering space for the investors that are in Iowa specifically. They are hopefully going to get together. It's got the smaller funds like Built By Iowa, which is a lot of fifty to maybe a hundred and fifty thousand level funds, so that seed stage, to Next Level Ventures, which is taking advantage of this tax credit program in the state, but usually funds upwards of two million, usually two to four. They just had an eight million round, though, that they signed on with some other people for.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. It wasn't exclusively them. They had other people in the deal.

Matt Patane:    Yeah. It was them and St. Martin Land, which is an investment company out in Cedar Rapids [inaudible 00:04:09].

Geoff Wood:    I am not aware of them at all, other than reading about them.

Matt Patane:    St. Martin Land, it sounds like, doesn't do a lot of startup investment right now. They do a lot of, I guess, more traditional investing. 

Geoff Wood:    Like real estate? Is that where the "Land" comes from?

Matt Patane:    A little bit of real estate. I don't want to misdescribe ...

Geoff Wood:    You're the expert. That's why you're here.

Matt Patane:    It's been a while since I wrote about them. Yeah. They wouldn't be the traditional tech investor, but I think they saw in MetaCommunications, which is the Iowa City company, they saw a company that had been around for a long time that they wanted to help boost a little bit more. They joined on with Next Level for that.

Geoff Wood:    In addition to Next Level, Built By Iowa, who else do you know that's involved in the IVCA? CVA? IVCA?

Matt Patane:    Yeah, IVCA.

Geoff Wood:    I think I wrote it backwards a couple times this week.

Matt Patane:    There are a couple of smaller seed funds that are involved. I actually have the list, so I can name them off. Built By Iowa. The Ames Seed Capital Fund, which is the Story County exclusive fund. 

Geoff Wood:    That's the one that has, what, three or four IPOs to its credit? It has to be one of the most successful ... 

Matt Patane:    I think so, yeah.

Geoff Wood:    ... seed funds in the [crosstalk 00:05:13].

Matt Patane:    Including NewLink Genetics and a couple others.

Geoff Wood:    Workiva.

Matt Patane:    Yeah, Workiva's is on there. Ames Seed Capital has a lot of companies in the Iowa State University Research Park. They've had a pretty good track record so far. Dallas Venture Partners is part of it, which I don't think is based in Iowa. I think they have an office here, though.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah, Trip Edwards. I think he offices out of SmartyPig's office in West Des Moines, which is not an investment of Dallas Venture Partners, but some of the same people that fund Dallas Venture Partners fund SmartyPig. If you haven't met Trip, he's a good dude. I've enjoyed getting to know him.

Matt Patane:    Yeah, a couple other names that people might recognize are Next Level Ventures, Plains Angels, which is the group connected with Greater Des Moines Partnership, Summit Equity, which [inaudible 00:05:57], and then Veridian Credit Union, which was the first or at least one of the early investors in Dwolla.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah, that first one-million-dollar round, it was Veridian. I think it's the Veridian Group, is their investment arm, different from the credit union. Then The Members Group was the other part of that round. Cool. All those people were involved in the meeting. I think there was a quote, didn't make our recap, but from Craig from Next Level saying, "Five years ago, this wouldn't be possible to have this many people brought together." That's exciting.

Matt Patane:    I think the sense when I sat down with Craig and Ravi to talk about this was Iowa is finally at a point where deals may not be happening every day or every week, but there's enough funds and enough interest from the investor side that they feel that they can really come together now and at least share information. Then for the investors, there's also some side benefit, because they could potentially talk about, if Built By Iowa wants to get in on something but they don't have enough money, they could partner with Next Level, hypothetically, to raise even more money. Then I think long-term goals are to bring in more funds, hopefully get more interest in building more or different Iowa funds, and then maybe getting some other Midwest-area investment funds to talk things over. Making connections regionally.

Geoff Wood:    I remember there was a group that met a year ago, because it was demo day or launch day for ISA, met earlier that day of investors. I wonder if this group is the outgrowth of that first meeting.

Matt Patane:    That's my thinking. I don't know if there's that official timeline connection, but I know it was a lot of the same people that met right before launch day last year in Cedar Rapids for the Iowa Startup Accelerator. At the time, there was the same conversation happening, again from Robbie, Craig, and a couple others, that they really wanted to create this statewide group to at least have discussions going on all the time, or at least consistently. It's been in the works for a while, I think.

Geoff Wood:    You weren't actually at the meeting, but were you at the Innovation Expo?

Matt Patane:    I was at the Innovation Expo.

Geoff Wood:    What did you see there?

Matt Patane:    There was a couple different pitch competitions. Technology Association of Iowa had their Pitch & Grow. There's this huge Pitch & Grow event. They whittled it down to I think five finalists, if I'm remembering correctly. Then the Venture Cap Association hosted the seed and capital forum, which again I think is the right term. That was for some more advanced companies that they got up. They weren't actually technically asking for investment, but they got up and pitched their company, pitched their progress. 

Geoff Wood:    They were.

Matt Patane:    Dwight Stewart from Igor was there.

Geoff Wood:    "Not." 

Matt Patane:    Right, they had to ...

Geoff Wood:    In quotes, "not" looking for investment.

Matt Patane:    They had to make a disclosure at the very beginning that they were not asking for any investment, because it was a public event. It definitely put some of these startups on display to the investors on the panel.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. This event I believe is organized by the EDC, the Entrepreneurial Development Center of Cedar Rapids. If I remember history correctly, I think this started after the state entrepreneur conference and venture capital conference ended in Des Moines, which was probably about five years ago. Then this group picked up the torch for that. I haven't ever made it over to this one. I need to do that at some point. Sounds like it was a good event. A couple members of Gravitate went. I know Jon Thompson was there. I think the Goquets folks came down from Cedar Rapids.

Matt Patane:    Yeah, Goquets was there. John was there. A lot of people from the Iowa Startup Accelerator were there. Iowa BIG, which is this education ... project's not the right term, but this education organization up in northern Iowa trying to come up with ...

Geoff Wood:    It's in Cedar Rapids.

Matt Patane:    In Cedar Rapids, sorry.

Geoff Wood:    Because they actually meet at Vault, yeah.

Matt Patane:    They had some students there. One of their cool projects was there was one student. Basically, he took a Microsoft Kinect, and they had just this box of sand. The way they set up the code somehow it just read it to make basically a virtual landscape that would alter in real time as you changed the sand. Then it mapped it out on a computer screen. It was pretty cool. My guess is the application of that would be anything to do with landscaping or city planning, pipelines. It was just a cool project to see. 

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. If you don't know Iowa BIG, check it out. Troy Miller, who's affiliated with that group, has written a little bit on the Gravitate blog about changes in education. Eric Engelmann from the Iowa Startup Accelerator, I saw him post today on Facebook, "There's an eight-foot long kayak drone with a programmable Arduino in our training lab built by high schoolers. Just another day at Iowa BIG," with a photo there. That's the type of stuff those high school kids are working on. A little different than what I [crosstalk 00:10:46].

Matt Patane:    A lot of project, a lot of tech-based STEM projects. STEM is the favorite word or term for a lot of people now.

Geoff Wood:    Absolutely. Cool. The second story this week ... Unless you had anything else to talk about with that? Okay. Automated driving technology brings advantages and questions. This one was written by B.A. Morelli in The Cedar Rapids Gazette, also on the 25th. While automated driving technology is more prevalent than ever, some still have reservations about driverless cars coming to Iowa roads. 

    The Gazette got behind the wheel with Daniel McGehee, director of the Transportation and Vehicle Safety Research Division at the University of Iowa's Public Policy Center ... that's quite a name there ... to get an idea of some of the advantages as well as some of the challenges would be ahead for automated driving in Iowa. For example, the Iowa DOT is focusing, when it comes to automated ... Their focus, when it comes to automated vehicles, is roadway paint markings to ensure fresh, clear, crisp paint stripes and high-definition mapping of the road system to support the needs of automated vehicles, according to the Gazette. 

    Eastern Iowa and automated vehicles have been a thing here for a while. I know your colleague at The Press-Citizen wrote about a runway that they're using for testing last week. What do you think about all of this automated vehicle stuff?

Matt Patane:    To put it into more perspective, it seems like Iowa City, because they have the University of Iowa over there and this driving simulator at the university, they're pushing pretty hard to make eastern Iowa a friendly place for driverless vehicles, or at least [that 00:12:14] research there. Marco Santana, who, if people listening don't know, was the past tech reporter before I took over ...

Geoff Wood:    He's the old Matt.

Matt Patane:    He's the old Matt, or I'm the new Marco. Let's go with the old Matt. He wrote about a year and a half ago talking with Iowa City's economic development director that it's really a jobs thing. If we can attract these companies to test out their cars, develop their cars here, do the research here, it could be a big economic driver for the city. At the same time, Iowa City's competing with California, Austin, Detroit, all these other cities where the companies already are that are developing these things. It seems like they're trying to set it up to be a very friendly environment for this type of research.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. Is that Mark Nolte? Is that who you talked with?

Matt Patane:    Yeah.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. I've seen Mark talk a lot about this online and the desire to bring this there. They passed, what, several ordinances at the city and county level to ...

Matt Patane:    The county passed an ordinance basically making it okay to have driverless vehicles on the road. It seems like now it's a matter of getting those vehicles actually on Iowa's roads. I think the director of the Iowa Department of Transportation has made some comments in support of this, or least investigating what Iowa can do to be friendly to this. Again, another jobs factor, trying to bring in this type of research.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah, which is interesting, because the Iowa DOT is one of the few state offices not in Des Moines. It's actually in Ames. It grew out of the civil engineering group at Iowa State way back in the day. Hopefully there's some collaboration between Iowa City University of Iowa folks and Ames Iowa State folks with this. I haven't heard much out of Ames on this. A lot of it's been driven by [crosstalk 00:13:51].

Matt Patane:    A lot of the driverless car stuff itself seems to be coming out of the university and out of Iowa City, at least in terms of research or trying to get that momentum built up. The DOT has, unrelated to driverless cars, they have a little bit of a streak of trying to be innovative. Geoff, I know you've been fascinated in this mobile driver's license app.

Geoff Wood:    I wouldn't say I've been fascinated by it. I just [crosstalk 00:14:15] ...

Matt Patane:    Curious about?

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. Did you write that story?

Matt Patane:    There was a recent one that I wrote that they're finally in testing phases for DOT employees.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah, because they came out with a big splash a year or more ago saying that they were going to have that.

Matt Patane:    Yeah, there was a budget hearing that a colleague of mine was at. I think it was the director of the DOT at the time came out and said, "We're going to start testing basically mobile driver's licenses." It wouldn't eliminate the physical driver's license that people have, but in other words, if you don't have it on you, you forgot your wallet, you could take it up on your phone. There's a lot of security concerns, I think, or privacy concerns. That's one of the things they were trying to test with.

Geoff Wood:    If you get pulled over on suspicion of something and you hand your phone to the officer, can they search the phone? Is that now, that type of stuff.

Matt Patane:    I think it's one of the things that the city needs to figure out, or how the police officer should even handle it. Should they accept the phone? Because if you go to the airport and you have your boarding pass on your phone, the TSA doesn't take your phone. You just hold it yourself. I think that's one of the things they have to test out. There was some ...

Geoff Wood:    It's been a while since I've been pulled over, knock on wood, but they take your license back to the car and call it in. It's different than the TSA.

Matt Patane:    Yeah. Then there was some discussion about a year ago that in order for this to happen, the police officer would need to invest in new technology that was either in their cars to scan the phone or if they would have a mobile piece of technology they could take to your car so they wouldn't have to take your phone away. That's unrelated to driverless cars [crosstalk 00:15:45].

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. It is interesting to see us being technology forward at this. I don't think a lot of people, us being Iowans, necessarily think of Iowa that way.

Matt Patane:    I have seen a couple comments that it's interesting that it's coming out of Iowa and not elsewhere. I think Delaware is also trying to work on this, but Iowa is pulling to be first, at least in mobile driver's licenses if not driverless cars.

Geoff Wood:    First in the nation in caucuses, driver's license, and your heart. That's Iowa. Couple other things I found funny in this story. The Gazette reporter actually got a chance to ride in an autonomous vehicle.

Matt Patane:    I will say, I'm extremely jealous, because I've been wanting to drive in a driverless car, especially because Google just had a big press event I think out in California where a bunch of reporters to go out. I saw that, and then I saw this. I still haven't gotten a chance, but I'm going to try and set that up.

Geoff Wood:    I'm sure if you reach out to Mark Nolte, he would love the chance to put another reporter in a car [because that seems good 00:16:35]. Did you see what the license plate was of the car?

Matt Patane:    I did. It was "AU2M8," A-U-2-M-8?

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. 

Matt Patane:    Which is fairly clever.

Geoff Wood:    That makes me smile. Yeah.

Matt Patane:    The description of it in the Gazette story, which I would encourage people to read, is really fascinating, about what the car does. It gets a little bit into it can be a little bit jarring when all the sudden, you take your hands off the wheel and just the car takes over. Because Tesla just put out a software update on their cars to let some of them become their own ...

Geoff Wood:    New firmware for the car?

Matt Patane:    New firmware for their cars. There were a couple of stories at the time ... that happened a couple weeks ago ... just about some people doing it. Tesla was at the time like, "Slow down a little bit. Take your hands off the wheel maybe, but be careful, because the car just takes over and keeps going."

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. Couple other things I liked in the story. Did you see the mycardoeswhat.org website?

Matt Patane:    I saw it in the story. I haven't checked the website out, but I did hear about the DOT getting into this, trying to advise people on [crosstalk 00:17:43].

Geoff Wood:    It's a UI something, maybe DOT, as well, but if it says Public Policy Center or what. It's pretty cheesy. It's funny, though, because ... Actually, I just got a new car not too long ago. First time I've had push-button start instead of a key, which is really weird, if you switch to that. There's a three-minute video on having push-button car. It was cheesy, but I was like, "Oh, I didn't know that I could just touch [crosstalk 00:18:07] like that." 

Matt Patane:    The FAA, they've done something similar with drones. I don't remember exactly what they call. They've got no-fly zones, and they have an educational website basically to let people know what they can and can't do with their drones, which right now is a huge deal, because I think there's fifteen hundred authorizations that they've given out for people to start flying around. There's ...

Geoff Wood:    Probably way more people that aren't authorized.

Matt Patane:    Right. There's definitely plenty more people that are flying around, whether it's the tiny quadcopters or something bigger. I will say, at least the government's trying to do something to educate people on what they can and can't do, because there's definitely some problems that can come with new technology.

Geoff Wood:    Three minutes on push-button start seems like a long video to me, but they're all staged with this man Rick and his dog Scout. He's talking to his dog. They're pretty cheesy but funny, too. The name of the push-button start one was, "Your finger is the key," is the name of the video. 

Matt Patane:    That's appropriate. 

Geoff Wood:    It is appropriate. It ends with a "Who Let the Dogs Out" Baha Men joke. I encourage you all to check out mycardoeswhat.org. There's thirty videos on there. I only watched a couple. One other thing on that. Do you ever listen to the podcast 99% Invisible? Are you familiar with that one?

Matt Patane:    I have not.

Geoff Wood:    It's after Minimum Viable Podcast. Probably one of the best ...

Matt Patane:    You got to put MVP up there first.

Geoff Wood:    Yes, yes. Probably one of the best podcasts out there. I've been listening to it for years. There was an episode called Johnny Cab, which was ... Do you know where that comes from?

Matt Patane:    Is that from The Fifth Element?

Geoff Wood:    No, Total Recall. Close.

Matt Patane:    Total Recall. Oh, right, right. Okay.

Geoff Wood:    It's the driverless car in the movie Total Recall. "Welcome to Johnny Cab." They talk about this a lot. They talk with the people that are designing these cars, and how long until they think they'll be ready, and different things like that. It starts to get into city planning aspects of driverless cars and different things that ... Because I'm ready for driverless cars today. I like cars. I was in Ames this morning, so that's twenty-five minutes up, twenty-five minutes back. If I could be ...

Matt Patane:    How fast are you driving to Ames?

Geoff Wood:    [Crosstalk 00:20:09].

Matt Patane:    Forty minutes is probably more accurate.

Geoff Wood:    I would love to be working during that time and not just driving, so if I could just get in the car and go. I am ready for that today. They talk about there's some negatives to that. I'd encourage you to check out that episode, Johnny Cab, The Automation Paradox, I think is the subtitle of that episode.

Matt Patane:    That's interesting, too, because I think, and I'm not as familiar with this, but I think Michigan, it was a couple months ago now, there was some talk about basically building a city in Michigan that wouldn't be populated but just to test out technology like driverless cars. They would set up the town and then test these vehicles out to figure out the best practices for city planning with this new technology. I think that's really interesting, because in Des Moines right now, there's a lot of talk about walkability, which is I think becoming a huge deal in a lot of different places. How do you balance walkability with traditional travel, and then with new ways of traveling, too?

Geoff Wood:    I think that Johnny Cab episode was talking about cars, having access to vehicles, enabled suburbanization and all of that that we have, especially in the middle part of the country now. If we have driverless cars, that may even be worse for rural America, because we'll go even farther out, because instead of having to deal with that forty-five-minute drive to Ames, Minneapolis could be my meeting this morning. I could live in Des Moines and ... because basically my work day, half the day is in the car, that type of thing. It may be more pollutants. It may be more taking over rural area, that type of stuff that I hadn't necessarily thought about when I was ready for driverless cars. 

Matt Patane:    Right. Part of that planning, I think, and this is a little bit with driverless cars but more with just electric vehicles, and whether you have enough charging stations, because Teslas can go pretty far, but some of the other vehicles can't go as far. In Iowa, there aren't that many places to charge, unless you're charging at home or at work.

Geoff Wood:    Somebody's farm in eastern Iowa, right? Did you do that story?

Matt Patane:    I didn't do that story specifically, but I did a quick look just at how many there were. I think there were sixty-four charging stations.

Geoff Wood:    Oh, okay. That's more than I thought.

Matt Patane:    Yeah, and they're all spread out. A lot of them are definitely in central Iowa. There's a couple on the I guess the coasts of the state, or the east and west side of the state. 

Geoff Wood:    No coast.

Matt Patane:    Right. We have the rivers. That's like a coast. That's how I'm going to describe it. There aren't a ton of these things. If you have everyone that wants to drive electric vehicles, but you can't charge at home because you have an apartment, what do you do to take care of that car?

Geoff Wood:    I think I may have seen some at ACT's campus in Iowa City.

Matt Patane:    I know there's a Hy-Vee out in West Des Moines that has one. I know a couple companies have them, as well, in their own parking garages. Again, that's different from public access.

Geoff Wood:    Maybe not somewhere you can just stop if you're running low on a charge. Alrighty. Third story this week. Coding viewed as key to Iowa's future. Another story from The Gazette, this time George Ford. This week, the Gazette took a look at the key to Iowa's future, coding and technological education. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nine hundred and thirteen thousand computer programmer jobs in 2010, and that number is expected to jump thirty percent by 2020. 

    With events like TAI's Experience Iowa Technology to expose college students to real-life technology careers and a program at the Workforce Learning Connection at Kirkwood Community College that allows high students access to job shadowing, Iowa organizations are doing all they can to ensure the next generation of tech professionals stays in Iowa after they graduate. Have you written much on educational technology stuff?

Matt Patane:    I've written a little bit on coding. I've talked with different people, including at the Technology Association, Brian Waller over there I think is a big fan of getting computer science more involved in schools. Back in June, to plug my own work, I wrote a story about the Governor's STEM Council trying to, or at least debating whether or not they should suggest that computer science be a requirement for kids to graduate high school in Iowa. 

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. That seems a little crazy to me that they're debating if they can suggest that this should happen.

Matt Patane:    Right. What happened in June is the STEM Council had a meeting of all their members, and they had all these working groups. One of the working groups was on computer science, and that working group said, "Our recommendation is yes, we should tell this to the governor that this should be a requirement," because then what they do is they make these recommendations to the governor, he decides what happens next. It's a council of educators and STEM professionals and other people involved in this sector. 

    I think there's arguments for both sides. If you're going to require computer science, there's probably an argument that that's really helpful, because you can get kids interested earlier. You can get them prepared for what they need. When I was going through school, I never had to take any coding classes. I wish I had, just to at least be familiar with the concepts. At the same time, schools are dealing with tight budgets already, time constraints, maybe not having all of their teachers ready to teach that stuff offhand. Do we really add more onto their plate when they already have a full schedule? 

    I think it's one of those topics, because the STEM Council and others have commented a lot about how we need more of these tech professionals. It's not just necessarily coding, but that's a big part of it. A lot of companies just need general IT work now.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah, like sysadmin type stuff. I had a short career as an IT director at a company. Not because I had an interest in it. More because I was a management [kid 00:25:53], and that was the next slot open. One thing I figured out real quick is IT is a thing that no one thinks about when it works and everyone bags on when it doesn't. The internet's always supposed to be up. Nothing's supposed to crash. It's a real thankless job, and I think that's one of the reasons why it's not of interest as much to people. Plus, we've proliferated IT, what had been traditional IT, like programming and UX design. That's just gone out into other jobs, too. People can do that stuff but within the context of something else. That's probably been ten years ago that we were talking about that.

Matt Patane:    I think now the dynamic is similar, but it's also completely different, because now everything touches ... At one point or another, in pretty much every industry, you touch the internet at some point in your job. For us in journalism, we have content management systems. If you know how to code and there's something wrong with your story, that might help you a little bit, or even just knowing how the workflow works or comes out. I think now it's more pervasive for every industry, that people should at least be familiar with some of these concepts.

Geoff Wood:    Just going to be more so, right?

Matt Patane:    Right. Yeah. We've got to talk about Internet of Things. We're talking about driverless cars. If you want to have a driverless car, you should probably know a little bit about how the technology works. Not necessarily that you need to know how to code that, but it would probably help if you didn't need to watch a three-minute video necessarily ...

Geoff Wood:    With a guy and his dog?

Matt Patane:    ... on a certain ... Right, right. Again, I think there's a good argument to both sides of whether we require [some of this 00:27:30] to be a requirement in schools. At the same time, there are a lot of classes or extracurricular classes and camps ... CoderDojo in the Gazette story is one of them ... that do a lot of these coding boot camps, for lack of a better term. They take kids through them. They take high school kids through them. It's anything from basic skills to more advanced coding, I guess.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah. Tech Journey is another one that I think you've covered in the past that they do here in Des Moines. Then HyperStream, obviously, a club thing. It does feel very disorganized to me. There's no curriculum. There's no standards. Maybe the STEM Council is trying to change that at the high school level. You have all these pockets of people doing one or another thing, but it's not necessarily integrated like even foreign languages and some of these things into our educational system. 

    There's a story in the Ames Trib today, too, that I caught just before we started. I think Aaron Horn tweeted it out, that Ames High, so the high school in Ames, is now considering its first computer science course, maybe for next fall. In 2016, they might be doing it. That's a big school in a very technology-progressive community, so it's amazing, which I think was Aaron's tweet, like, "Ames is just thinking about this now?" When you read the reactions from the teachers, they're like, "This is something we're obviously past due on."

Matt Patane:    Yeah. That's the dynamic. When I wrote the story back in June, I called different schools and different school organizations, and I called the state education department. It was something that some people had thought about, but again, it's that issue of, what do you balance during the school day? Because if you add a computer science class, do you have to take out a math class or take out an art class? Not necessarily remove it from the school, but for the individual student, do they then have to choose in their six to seven hours during the day whether they go to computer science, or whether they go to art, or whether they go to English? I think it's important that they have those options, but there's still a lot to be worked out on what the schools take on, I think.

Geoff Wood:    I would agree. Scary stuff, for me with a six-year-old son. We'll see what his life is like educationally. Those are our three stories this week. I did ask online today if anybody had questions for us. I got one question, from [Nick Berry 00:29:53]. How many startups are jumping the shark before they find their audience, and how can they avoid it?

Matt Patane:    How many startups are jumping the shark? I don't know if that's a question I have the expertise to answer.

Geoff Wood:    I'm not sure jumping the shark is exactly used in the right context there. I think he's saying, how many people give up on their startup idea before they find their audience?

Matt Patane:    I'll be honest. I don't know. I'm probably going to say that a lot on this podcast. I think it's an interesting point, because one of the things I've heard just from talking to different people in Iowa is that if you're starting a company, it'll take a little bit longer here, partially because you have other commitments, you have a job, you're probably not going to leave ... Most people aren't going to leave their job in Iowa to start a brand-new company in Iowa, unless they have a bunch of funding right off the bat, which is very rare, or they've done it before. 

    One thing I have heard is everything takes a little bit longer. Maybe that means after two years, the death rate might be ... I don't necessarily want to say higher, but at least a little more common. If you're at something for two years and you're not getting the traction, because you're also balancing this other stuff, and you should be, because you have a family or other commitments, maybe you just don't have the time to focus on those things. 

    I think there's some programs that are trying to help with that, or at least the community, from what I've seen, is trying to support that. Ben McDougal over at 1 Million Cups, [to give him a shout-out 00:31:24], always says "Keep building" at the end. No, it's an interesting point. How long do you go before you move on, or pivot, or do whatever else?

Geoff Wood:    I think concepts like Lean Startup that teach more of the validation process, or Venture School, what the University of Iowa is doing with all those programs, that are helping people maybe not give up too early, but figure out if there even is an audience for that idea. Maybe not dragging it out too long and giving up, because they're focusing the way that you validate what's out there. Those are also things that weren't around five years ago. The concepts were there, but they weren't in the vernacular that we have in the startup community, and they weren't things that people are regularly doing. Giving up is not bad. Shutting down companies does not necessarily mean that you failed. It just means that the idea wasn't validated. 

    We both know John Jackovin, who, after Bawte, he tried a company, Hopnoggins, where he went out. I thought it was a really interesting idea. It had to do with beer, and it was a cool thing. Made a bunch of stickers, went around and was doing customer validation I think at the Iowa Craft Beer Festival. Didn't work out. Really, at that point, all he was out was a couple weeks of time and the money he's paid for the stickers. He figured out that it wasn't worth pursuing. That sure saved him a lot of time and energy and money, versus going two years of trying to prove that and then giving up on it. 

    Cool. Thanks, Nick, for your question. Other people want to ask us questions, I'd like to talk about things like this. The sports guys always do these Q&A things, so I like the idea.

Matt Patane:    I would say that'd be fantastic if people want us to talk about stuff, and you can hear me say, "I don't know," or "I'll figure it out later," which is part of my job being a journalist. You ask me a question, and I'll try and figure out the answer to it.

Geoff Wood:    Let's talk a little bit about the week ahead. There's a big event going on in Cedar Rapids. Iowa Startup Accelerator Cohort 2's launch day on Thursday the 5th. I'm taking the bus over and joining that. Are you going to take the bus? 

Matt Patane:    I don't know if I'm going to take the bus yet. I got to figure that out. I will definitely be there, partially because it's a huge event and a lot of people are going to be there, or I would expect a lot of people are going to be there. I think last year was seven hundred, eight hundred, from what the organizer said.

Geoff Wood:    I think I've seen it listed anywhere from seven hundred to a thousand people in the room. Maybe not quite a thousand.

Matt Patane:    They filled up this giant conference room. Last year, there was a lot of excitement around it, because it was the first cohort, it was the first accelerator in Iowa. We now have two. Three, I guess, depending on how you want to argue for one of the programs. Two of the traditional accelerator models, I'll say that. 

    This year, I think what Eric Engelmann and David Tominsky tried to do, from when I talked to them before the cohort started, is they were looking at companies that were a little bit more advanced, either already had a product on board or had some idea, had some customers. It'll be interesting to see in the last three months where those companies have gone, who's pivoted, who actually has come out with a product and they didn't have a product before, or even just slight changes or evolutions, I guess, for some of these companies. Yeah. It should be a big event, I would think.

Geoff Wood:    Yeah, I'm excited for it. The bus from Des Moines is leaving from Gravitate on Friday. There's another bus from Cedar Falls coming down. If you can make it on your own, make it on your own. Otherwise, jump on one of those buses. I think we have a small charge here for ours [inaudible 00:34:48] maybe some drinks. There's the one in Cedar Falls might be free, even. Go check that out. Any other [inaudible 00:34:54] going to cover this next week? Any other coverage [crosstalk 00:34:56] tease?

Matt Patane:    Yeah, I'm planning to be there. Next week is [stone 00:35:01] development for my calendar, I'll say that much. Yeah, there are some stories I'm working on that I'm not sure I want to announce yet, but they should be interesting when they come out. If we're wrapping up, I want to end with something. I would ask people, since this is our first go-around, if you have critiques or suggestions on what you would want to hear, definitely send them our way. This is a new thing for me. I know Geoff has done podcasts before, but I would definitely appreciate some good criticism if need be, or questions or stuff you want us to talk about, or if you want us to bring on guests, or other suggestions for formats, shoot them our way.

Geoff Wood:    Sounds awesome. Thanks for your time today and willingness to do this. I'm excited to see this forward. I guess that's it for this edition of the Minimum Viable Podcast. We'll be back next week. Thanks, Matt.

Matt Patane:    Thanks, Geoff.