Startup community helps land Des Moines on Fortune list of "up-and-coming"

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A recent Fortune.com video includes Des Moines on a list of "5 cities with up-and-coming downtowns" and cites the startup community as one reasons they put it there.

Click here to watch the video

"There's a growing hub of startups, venture capitalists and internet incubators," says Fortune Assistant Managing Editor Leigh Gallagher while the video shows an image of a huge open office with several large Apple monitors followed by another image with a man working at an open table with couches, a wingback chair and some British red telephone boxes behind him.

I struggle with the criteria of most internet/magazine lists (and downright mock anything published on Movoto.com) and this post is no exception. However, I usually move past it quickly recognizing that Des Moines and Iowa landing on so many lists has to be good for economic development overall. In the big picture, I imagine that it is better to be on positive lists like this rather than left off of them (less important is whether they accurate or not).

Don't get me wrong — I love seeing national publications praise our startup community — but something about this video seemed off as I watched it. Going back to those two images, I couldn't place them. Des Moines' startup community is small enough that I've physically visited almost every 'startup, venture capitalist and internet incubator [sic]' and neither image looked familiar.

The first image (screen cap'd below) is of a pretty good sized office. Maybe it's from Workiva's (formerly WebFilings) new space in the Iowa State University Research Park and the story just merged Ames into "downtown Des Moines"? Maybe its a design studio or something cool I've never seen at Meredith or an agency somewhere in town?

The second image (screen cap'd below) was just as unfamiliar but I noticed the laptop sticker for 1776, a startup hub and coworking space in Washington, D.C. created last year by some of the folks that formerly lead the Startup America initiative.

With that starting point, I did a little internet sleuthing (read: Google's reverse image search and the Getty Images site) and it took me all of five minutes to determine that neither photo was actually of something in our community.

The first image is actually a Getty stock image of an unnamed startup Palo Alto, California and was taken back in 2011. The second image is also licensed from Getty and was taken at 1776 this past February.

I'm not sure why Fortune would mix in stock images from both coasts to represent elements of our community, especially since they used images of the skyline, East Village and 80/35's website that are real, as well as a real (albeit somewhat dated) video of Court Avenue.

It could always be worse, though. In the segment of the video where they tout Kansas City's Google Fiber as a reason for their "up-and-coming" downtown they show an image that clearly says "Provo" on the speaker's podium (as in Provo, Utah, the third city to get Google Fiber after KC and Austin, Texas).

Here's another view of that same moment from Engadget. You'll probably notice some very un-Kansas City like mountains in the background.


Geoff Wood has been helping tell the story of the Iowa startup community since 2009. In addition to writing here daily, he hosts a weekly podcast, speaks at conferences and organizes several events in the community.

Photo Credit: screen captures from Fortune.com