Reed: Eastern Iowa needs to take more risks in venture investments

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Eastern Iowa has the pieces it needs to be successful as a region, we just need to pick it up a notch, said Daniel Reed, University of Iowa's vice president for research and economic development.

Our biggest obstacle is ourselves, continued Reed, delivering the keynote address at the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet on Thursday evening.

Reed came to Iowa in fall 2012 after working as a Microsoft Corp. executive, bringing a background in research, innovation and how society responds to the rapid pace of technological advancements.  He offered several observations about what is happening and what could happen in eastern Iowa.

A key theme in his presentation is that our region must up the ante in our willingness to take risks both personally and collectively.

"You need to turn the dial just a little bit more," he said.

Risk capital is money to invest in ideas that may or may not pan out, but if they do pan out they have a high return on investment. Eastern Iowa needs to build a bigger bank and greater tolerance to invest in this manner if our region is to thrive, he said.

The idea of embracing risk applies individually as well, he said. Here's his advice for young and old innovators:

  • Embrace people unlike yourself so as to challenge your beliefs and assumptions.
  • Take a stab at something difficult.
  • Figure out what you do well and partner with others who've done something similar to accomplish things you couldn't alone.
  • Be willing to make "new and original mistakes."

"It will stretch your imagination and capabilities," he said. "Even failing gloriously is a badge of honor."

A final takeaway is that stakeholders in our region need to focus less on who gets credit or who gains in the short term because what is good for the region ultimately benefits the rest of the stakeholders.

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