Where do the entrepreneurs hang out? In Des Moines, it’s at Amici.
The front door to Amici Espresso, in the Midland Building at 6th & Mulberry. Photo by Geoff Wood.
A mentor or professor from my past — I don't even remember who at this point — mentioned to me that upon moving to a new city the first thing he did was seek out the coffee shops where the local tech entrepreneurs hang out. That, in his opinion, was the best way to get the vibe of the startup community and to find the people who were building companies.
After I moved back to Des Moines nearly two years ago, I set out to do just that. I asked the various entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts I met the simple question of which coffee shops are the best for running into entrepreneurs, and, unfortunately, there just wasn't a great answer.
The best I heard was probably Mars Cafe near Drake University, and it's a favorite of mine. However, it doesn't have the exact "entrepreneur hangout" feel that I was looking for — it's more of an eclectic mix of artists, students and the Drake community.
The other thing I heard consistently was "Panera U," the Panera at University and 68th in West Des Moines, was the place where bloggers hang out. This reputation had been well earned through the Central Iowa Bloggers meetup that takes place there each month, but again, not quite what I was after.
I've traced it back to Dwolla choosing to locate their office in the Midland Building about that time. Dwolla, as one of the fastest growing startups in Des Moines, draws a lot of interest. That interest turns into meetings, and those meetings often take place at Amici. Even when the meetings aren't at Amici, people stop down before or after to grab their coffee and check their email or Twitter.
I was camping out at an empty desk in the Dwolla office about that time and kept noticing how often I'd run into members of the startup community when I stopped in for coffee. When it was time to set up our Silicon Prairie News office, I didn't look anywhere but the Midland Building.
I'm in Amici every day that I'm in Des Moines, and it's unusual to not run into someone of note. Typically, I see three or four people that I need to chat with or who want to give me a heads up on what's new with their project. It's actually been upwards of ten or more a few times.
It's startup founders and their teams. It's mentors and advisors. And it's the service providers to the community, too. Ben Milne, Mike Colwell, Dan Shipton, Shane Reiser, Christian Gurney, Zach Cox, Drew Larson and Charise Flynn are all frequent visitors.
Christian Renaud refers to Amici simply as "Conference Room A".
The establishment of Amici as a social hub for the startup community is just one sign that our entrepreneurial ecosystem is evolving in a positive way. It actually speaks to one of the "Six Tenets of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem", having a Vibrant Social Scene.
"a social scene where Valley-like serendipitous moments can happen. (You know, stuff like: Oh, hey! I haven't seen you in forever! You're starting a company? OMG I know an angel investor who's really into that space! etc)"
If I had to name one place in Des Moines that where that can happen today, it's Amici.
As we continue to evolve, I'm confident that more social hubs will emerge and that can help foster serendipity like Amici.
Note: This isn't a paid advertisement for Amici Espresso. In fact, rather than them paying Silicon Prairie News, I pay them about $2 per day for coffee. I'm truly excited for what Amici has become and have been thinking about how to write this post for a few weeks. That said, if Amici (or anyone else, for that matter) wants to sponsor Silicon Prairie News, we're ready.