In this blog, I share some life learning about what it’s like to grow up 2,000 miles away from one of my biggest passions and the heart of technology, Silicon Valley.

Once people realize that I’m from the Midwest, I tend to get some interesting questions, which has led me to think about the crazy world of Technology, these are just a start of some questions.

Are there even people out there?

Yes, you may not believe it, but I’ve been asked this question more than once when I say that I am from the Midwest, more specifically Minnesota/North Dakota. (No they aren’t two states. I’ve been asked that too… which is scary. But I grew up with each of them.) There are plenty of people in Minnesota/North Dakota and they are both growing, which is great. 

Do you guys have Technology?

At this point of the conversation, I’m usually becoming a little intrigued at how this person thinks I landed in San Francisco. But I oblige. Yes, we do, but it’s completely different. Let me explain…

The technology that we hear about more in the Midwest is that of agriculture and manufacturing. Not computer manufacturing but industrial and line manufacturing. While incredibly innovative for the Midwest it surely isn’t the same as the technology I have lived, and breathed in, in San Francisco. We don’t talk about robots, voice-user interface, AI, social media, chatbots, or venture capital/funding rounds. Those are all fairly foreign terms. Not that we don’t care, but the massive population doesn’t see it as directly affecting them yet, so they don’t feel a need to be involved in the topic. 

This tweet provides a background for how many startups in the Midwest towards success. A constant balance with tradition.

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We grew up on the back of the industrial revolution and agriculture and that’s our bread and butter. The factory line and looking down perfectly straight corn fields for miles is what’s important, not Siri. While personally, I love Siri that’s just not the technology that encompasses our lives there.

But how did you get here? (Here = Silicon Valley)

I got here because the technology that was the talking points in the Midwest only mildly spurred my interest. What really got me invigorated was all those things happening and going on in Silicon Valley Tech. The Robots, voice-user interface, AI, social media, chatbots, and all those crazy aspects of venture capital and funding rounds is what kept me up at night. I literally mean that. Just as a New Yorker, naturally grows up with information and insight about pizza, People in the Valley naturally grow up with information about all these different topics. It’s almost like natural osmosis of knowledge/talking points. That’s something I didn’t get to grow up with. I didn’t get it in my elementary ages, my friend’s parents didn’t work at a technology company, and it wasn’t and information that was plentifully available in the natural progress of a Midwest-raised child. So, that meant I needed to pivot since that was where my passion was. 

This pivot started in high school, I begin reading and looking for information about all these different technology trends. “What is a social media network?” “How does it work?” and most importantly “Why” was some of my top search results in those years. Why something works still is one of my top search results to this day. I began searching and reading these new sites; TechCrunch, Hacker News, Mashable (Back when it primarily focused on Tech), Product Hunt, Cnet, and so many others just to encompass myself in the world that was MILES away. In early high-school days, I’d stay up late at night on my iPod Touch scouring these sites learning as much as I could. Not because I wanted a career in technology (which I later realized made complete sense) but because I wanted to learn as much as I could about all things Valley Tech related it was important to me. 

As time passed my thirst for information turned into understanding the many aspects of marketing and how they play influential roles from consumer needs to product market fit and go-to-market strategies, those are the things that kept and still keep me up at night always looking and learning for more.

So, is the Midwest behind the times?

I love this question, because the answer is easy and simple, No. The Midwest isn’t behind the times. While they may be closer to the Late Majority and Laggards when it comes to Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovation Theory that’s just because the technology they care more about, you probably don’t even think about. Automated Farming innovations, agricultural inspecting drones, amazing changes in high-quality seeds production, and experimental watershed management are just the tip of truly amazing innovations in the Midwest tech world. 

But the thing is, the tech worlds are just a little different and they both allow for a ton of creativity and innovation! You just have to find what you are passionate about.


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- Austin