Geoff's Blog: Introducing 'Clay & Milk'

Every Wednesday Geoff publishes "The Pull", a digest of the top news for the Iowa innovation community that week. The following is the introduction to Issue #178.

When I moved back to Des Moines from out-of-state in mid-2009, the idea of a "startup community" in Iowa was pretty new. We had always had people building scalable companies here and many of the supportive elements of the community (funding, mentorship, events, business assistance, social scene, etc.) already existed or were in the early stages of developing. However, something was missing.

No one was telling the story of individual local startups or the Iowa startup community.

I started writing about local startups that summer for selfish reasons. We'd moved to Des Moines for something specific (so my wife could go to law school) but my plans were pretty fuzzy. All that I knew is that I wanted to work on the team of a small startup company and I just assumed that I would find a good fit in Des Moines. I enjoyed writing and early on I figured out that it was pretty easy to get to know a company by asking the founder if I could interview them for a post about what they were building. So I did (a lot). Those posts were published on Silicon Prairie News and allowed what had been an Omaha-only publication to become a regional one.

As SPN's coverage grew (and greatly improved after I moved over to the business side and we hired real journalists) we saw The Des Moines Register hire a technology and innovation reporter and start regular coverage of this community. Then we saw The Gazette establish a branded publication to cover these topics in Eastern Iowa and the Des Moines Business Record started writing fairly regularly about how Iowa-based entrepreneurial ventures impact their readership, as well.

In 2013, I left SPN and founded the company that became Gravitate. Because of the nature of this newsletter, I've spent a lot of time over the past 178 weeks tracking which publications are continuing to tell the story of our local startups and the broader startup community. One by one, I've watched those publications reduce and/or discontinue their coverage of the community. They all have valid reasons for making those decisions but, through the lens of someone working to grow this community, its a big concern. And it's one that is shared by many community leaders across the state. That concern grew to peak levels a few weeks ago when Matt Patane—the last full-time reporter standing on this beat—left The Register.

Around that time Dwolla founder Ben Milne asked me to grab coffee. He'd had the same concern. We reminisced about an early (fairly terribly written) story that I'd done on Dwolla for SPN in 2009 and how it was one of the first publications to write about what they were building. It may seem odd now because Dwolla has probably been written about by more publications world-wide than any other early stage company in Iowa but that coverage had to start somewhere. Ben was concerned that the next Dwolla—some company starting somewhere in our state with a crazy idea—won't get their chance to become something bigger because there's no one left to tell their story.

Ben also wanted to do something about it and he recruited Matt and I to join him in a new venture. Today, we're excited to announce a new publication: Clay & Milk. It's going to cover stories related to technology, entrepreneurship and policy, primarily in Iowa but also in other parts of "the middle"—the land between the East and West coasts—when it's important and interesting to Iowans. Matt is the publication's managing editor, primary reporter and will have editorial control over all content. He's full-time on the project, while Ben and I obviously have full-time commitments elsewhere. Since all three of us are part of the community that Clay & Milk will cover, we'll be clear and honest with disclosures at all times.

Clay & Milk will start publishing in early January but we're looking for tips now. If you have a story that needs to be told, want to write a guest post, contribute in a freelance capacity or financial support this endeavor, let us know!