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Venture Capital

To Thrive in Midwest, Investors Shouldn’t Copy Silicon Valley

As a venture capitalist investing in applications of artificial intelligence for the future of work, especially the automation of offices, factories and farms, I try to regularly visit different places and work settings. Recently, I had the opportunity to return to the Midwest on a “Comeback Cities Tour” with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and a dozen venture capitalists.

The Midwest, of course, isn’t a monolith. Some places are thriving even as others struggle. Still, I imagined we would encounter rundown factories, empty farms, old-style buildings and a sense of mistrust from people who fear their jobs being squeezed out by technology. But the Midwest we were shown was quite the opposite: exposed brick walls, single-origin coffee, modern furniture and designer hoodies. In short, it looked a whole lot like San Francisco. A local clothing entrepreneur told me, “That’s what I’m going after.”

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It seems appropriate for outside investors to question whether they are inflicting the wounds of pattern-matching on the Midwest.