The room is starting to grow with energy as people trickle in, and the organizers who are working hard to prepare would each take a few minutes here and there to personally meet everyone who walks in the front door. The location and atmosphere is lively and diverse, with ideas and coffee being the center of attention.
Does that sound a lot like 1 Million Cups? It sure does.
1MC is my routine on Wednesday mornings at around 9am in Grand Forks.
In the case of June 21, it was also my routine in Portland, Oregon.
1 Million Cups Portland was the scene: an intimate group of thinkers, dreamers, makers, and creators who were energized by the ideas and work being accomplished by those around them. The 15+ engaged minds filed into the dynamic presentation space of NXT Industries, an open, collaborative coworking space with a "let's get it done" attitude. We were about to have a conversation with Jelani Memory (pictured below), the founder of Circle with Disney and creator of the pause button for the internet.
Before we got started I was chatting with Dave, an organizer for 1MC Portland (pictured in header image). He and other organizers noted that North Dakota has a strong reputation for entrepreneurship - continually setting, then shattering records for 1 Million Cups around the nation, and rethinking the approach to networking and connecting.
With some of the attendees I spoke with, North Dakota is quickly becoming a destination for those searching for opportunities to start or grow their business in a supportive, friendly environment. Our reputation within the national 1 Million Cups community is just one indicator that we take the future economy seriously.
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Gone are the days when the cult classic Fargo (1996) and "Is that the place with Mount Rushmore?" are the only two questions you get in a large city. Yes, people still ask about the wood chipper (which is on display in Fargo), and you have to insist that South Dakota is where you go to find the big heads. However, the conversation no longer ends there, as now people are starting to ask "do you know anything about drones" or "what are entrepreneurs working on in your state?"
Not everyone knows what we're up to here. Not everyone will ask those questions. It is increasingly clear, however, that the growing popularity of the tech and UAS sectors are starting to make waves in entrepreneurial communities outside of the Midwest.
Why is that?
We champion the importance of relationships, and we work to cultivate connections that are meaningful. To the surprise of many outside of our region, we know that our competitors are not our adversaries. In the sprightly communities we live in, our competitors are our neighbors, friends, and even coworkers. It is a concept that is fundamental to our approach in crafting our entrepreneurial ecosystems.
When we connect makers, doers, creators, and the like, we are connecting people who may have the same or similar goals. We do this not for the purpose of introducing two people that will view one another as an adversary, but with the idea that it is rediculous to write off an individual because they share similar goals and desired outcomes. The result of a connection may be as little as knowing who else is in your industry. The often notable outcomes are that relationships are developed, knowledge is shared, referrals are made, confidence is gained, firendships are sparked, and sometimes business partners are found.
It is an awesome experience to visit a large metro and be recognized for this quality, and that's a huge accolade to our entrepreneurial culture in North Dakota.