Though Monetery aims to be a mix of seminars, networking and investing opportunities, the secret to maintaining the Midwest tech conference’s value-positive vibe is its intimacy, said Steph Atkin.
“We want to make sure that there is an opportunity for all our startups, all our venture capitalists, and our speakers, to meet and connect,” continued Atkin, Dwolla marketing vice president, noting organizers hope to cap the May 21-22 Monetery event in Des Moines at 250 attendees.
“There is a flood of people who want to invest in the Midwest,” she added.
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Dwolla, an Iowa e-commerce startup, is the driving force behind Monetery, an annual tech summit fast becoming one of the hottest Midwestern destinations for startups and venture capitalists alike, Atkin said. The two-day event is set to feature “hundreds of CEOs, founders, investors and inventors.”
Day 1 includes Sherri Davidoff, CEO of LMG Security and BrightWise, Inc.; Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare; and Andrew Yang, 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and founder of Venture for America.
“We’ll also have a panel about growing and building an inclusive startup, what it takes, and measurements of success,” Atkins said.
Day 2 is expected to feature a Monetery speciality: one-on-one venture capitalist and entrepreneur meetings.
Click here for a Q&A about the event, including why it’s called “Monetery.”
“As a part of trying to give back and lifting up our ecosystem, we are actually [letting Monetery take] over the entire Dwolla office to facilitate investor one-on-one meetings,” said Ryan Bratvold, Dwolla events manager. “So it’s not like a pitch competition where you stand in front of a crowd. We have eight different meeting blocks throughout the day, half an hour apiece.”
About 20 venture capitalists signed up for Monterey 2019, Bratvold said.
“That’s something we’re doing at no charge — there is no benefit to us. We are simply trying to help these companies get in front of the VC firms and people who might not otherwise be accessible to them,” he said. “And vice versa, for our VC partners — we want to shine a light on these exciting startups from the Midwest that they might not have on their radar. So it’s mutually beneficial to both groups. We see this as a value added, that we can bring those two groups together while we have them here in Des Moines.”
And the community value-added approach is at the center of Monterey’s mission, in more ways than one. At Monterey 2018, Dwolla raised more than $10,000 for Pi515, an after-school program that educates Iowa’s underserved population — mainly refugee 7th- through 12th-grade students — on basic computer coding.
“We use Monetery as a funding engine to support underrepresented groups in technology,” Atkin said. “We are building an inclusive tech ecosystem, and you can’t be inclusive unless you are intentionally inviting diverse perspectives, ideas and people to have a seat at the table. That’s important to us.”
To Aktin, those kind of outcomes point to a driving force behind the Midwestern startup scene: togetherness.
“We are hard-working, dedicated smart people, and we are all in it to raise each other up,” Atkin said. “It isn’t cutthroat. We are here to say, ‘Hey, Dwolla is here, but there are also 150 other startups in our vicinity that we want to shine light on, too.’ We are looking for more startups, because it makes our ecosystem much healthier.”