PODCAST SUMMARY: Ecosystems and Rural Entrepreneurship

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Episode 2 of the Iowa innovation podcast is here! This is where I, Dr. Jennifer Murphy, and Not-A-Doctor, Rob Merritt talk to leaders in innovation, education, and entrepreneurship. Our guest was Mo Collins, and it was tough, not fangirling all over her! Thank goodness I had Rob there to keep me cool.

In the studio: Mo Collins smiles as Dr. Jennifer Murphy shares an anecdote.
(L to R) Rob Merritt, Mo Collins, Jennifer Murphy in the LAS Media Group Studios in Czech Village, Cedar Rapids, IA.

Mo is currently a nationally recognized speaker she is a facilitator, and she does quite a bit of writing and advocating out in the entrepreneurial space. But that isn’t where we started.

Mo was the inaugural Director of Technology Transfer at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). As Mo shared, “[T]echnology transfer and commercialization is all about finding really innovative pieces of intellectual property innovation, that occur on campuses, and then figuring out a way to move those innovations into the marketplace. And it’s different from regular ecosystem building. Because these are typically very complex, patented, protected types of innovation. And it takes a lot of people and a lot of talent to figure out a market space to put them in.” She went on to talk about that process and the benefit of making it a success. To include a throwable robot that would detect Anthrax. You must listen to the episode to learn more! You can also learn more about UNI and its programs and research at https://uni.edu/.  

“The beauty of ecosystem building is that people come in from everywhere, with different intentions with different passions with different expertise.”

And Mo knows what she is talking about, she was literally one of the first people looking at this in a deliberate way in our state.  This naturally led us to ask about rural entrepreneurship. With a large portion of our state being rural, and NewBoCo having a strategic focus on developing entrepreneurship across the state, we wanted to know what Mo thought! She spoke to the characteristics that make rural communities and urban centers like Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Iowa City, or Quad Cities style cities different. Chief among those differences: resources.

We also opened the can of worms that is the diversity of business types in entrepreneurship. Tech businesses open people’s eyes and wallets. Lifestyle businesses do not. Women are more likely to start a lifestyle business. So, we have some inequity in opportunity right from the beginning and an ecosystem that is figuring out how to be inclusive and encourage belonging for all businesses.

“Can we talk about women for a minute?”

The pandemic and the last two years have had a smothering impact on all businesses. But for women, in particular, it’s been really horrible. We lost 3 million women in the workforce, 2 million of them will come back. And part of it is the inflexibility of our workplaces. Part of it is a lack of quality, affordable childcare. Part of it is women are done. We’re just done with not being able to succeed with hitting the glass ceiling over and over. Last Summer Mo and I partnered on a talk at the Startup Champions Network event in Des Moines. We talked about entrepreneurship as the ticket out for women for many reasons. In fact, Fearless, a Des Moines Register effort just published research on this topic of women in the workplace, and it hits on some of this exact information.

And Other Topics…

Silly Putty, Cascading Chaos, the beginnings of EntreFEST, and challenging our community for more programs for women of all colors, ages, and identities to grow as entrepreneurs. You must listen to the conversation in episode 2 of the Iowa Innovation podcast to truly experience all the insight Mo shared with us. And go visit mocollins.com to learn more about Mo!