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Frontline: Incubators Help Startups to Grow and Succeed



Startup fever is exploding across America, as a slow-growth economy, corporate job cutbacks, and the work ethos and expectations of the burgeoning millennial generation reshape the business landscape. Cities, states, universities, and private interests are all scrambling to provide these lean startups with petri dishes in the form of incubators and other programs that help them succeed, keep them happy — and begin to derive economic development benefits out of the relationships.

Interestingly, many of the incubators that have opened to meet the needs of startups are situated in places not traditionally associated with entrepreneurial fervor. While it’s no surprise to see incubator spaces and small-company networking centers thriving in tech centers such as Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; and the Research Triangle of North Carolina, the latest generation of incubator fever is taking root in places such as Des Moines; Kansas City; Gainesville, Fla.; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In the capital of Iowa, for example, Geoff Wood opened Gravitate in an old bank building in 2014, hoping to establish “an entrepreneurial center of gravity in downtown Des Moines.” Gravitate offers 15 office spaces beginning at $450 a month and “memberships” to sole practitioners beginning at $150 a month.

Matt Rizai, CEO of business-software company Workiva based in nearby Ames, Iowa, swears by the importance of a place like Gravitate, which his company has sponsored. “Every corner of the world has lots of smart and ambitious people,” he says. “With incubation, you get experience that you wouldn’t get otherwise, and places like Des Moines don’t become so unlikely.”

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