A Recap of the 2016 Columbus Chamber Annual Meeting Keynote Address by Mark Kvamme

By Amy Franko

Midwest nice.*

The Midwest is full of nice, well-intentioned, and welcoming people. It’s why I love being from the Midwest, from Ohio, and making Columbus my home.

But does this mindset hold us back? Make us less willing to take a risk? Does it make us less of an entrepreneurial region?

These were the questions we grappled with this morning during the Columbus Chamber’s annual meeting. Mark Kvamme of Drive Capital shared his insights on risk and how we can move forward as a city, region, and state.

This post shares some of my key takeaways from his talk.

  • “Do you view risk and failure as a badge of honor or a scarlet letter?” Mark’s perspective is that areas of the country like Silicon Valley view risk and failure as a badge of honor, something to talk about openly and with confidence. Whereas, here in the Midwest, it’s often seen as the scarlet letter, something to be feared and avoided.
  • What makes the Midwest, and specifically Columbus, unique? One of our gems is that our well-known community business leaders willingly and excitedly invest their time in talking with, mentoring, and cheering for our region’s up-and-comers. That’s almost unheard of anywhere else, and truly representative of what makes this a supportive environment in which to succeed.
  • Believe. You have to believe that deep down, you’re in the perfect place, that you live in the greatest part of the country in which to do business. Mark shared that Columbus is within one car drive of 60 percent of the country’s GDP.
  • Our degrees of connection are even closer that we think. We now have only 3.5 degrees of separation from practically any person on the planet. The barriers to connectivity are lower than ever, and we can leverage that connectivity for the greater good.

And finally, one point that I see from a different perspective.

It was mentioned that Columbus is often seen or labeled as the next “Silicon Valley.” From my perspective, while I want for Columbus, and Ohio, to thrive, I also want our city to stay true to what makes us unique, our Midwest Nice. It has a place here, and we need to leverage that into our own uniqueness, while not allowing it to hinder smart risk. In the words of one of my favorite athletes, Skylar Diggins: “You Do You.”

Let’s do us in a way that helps us to shine.

* Credit to Mark Kovacecvich of Improving for that phrase!

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