If 1 Million Cups as an organization is based on entrepreneurs discovering solutions over a million cups of coffee, our goal with Monetery is to give those solutions—based in the Midwest—a place to grow and prosper.

In more than 180 communities each week across the country, 1 Million Cups is a program designed to educate, engage and inspire entrepreneurs. The Des Moines Chapter of 1 Million Cups hosts a program each Wednesday morning at the Science Center in downtown Des Moines.

On March 27, Steph Atkin, Dwolla’s Vice President of Marketing, presented at 1 Million Cups Des Moines to talk about Monetery, the premier tech conference in the Midwest.

“We want to bring together startups and entrepreneurs with CEOs who have built successful companies and are scaling their companies,” Atkin said. “We want to shine a spotlight on the Midwest and make those connections possible.”

In addition to facilitating connections, Atkin said Monetery in 2019 will continue to be a funding engine supporting underrepresented groups in technology.

“We want to give back to the community that helped us,” Atkin said. “As we continue Monetery in 2019, we want to continue to leverage the event as a funding engine for organizations in tech and be a good steward of our community.”

After a brief ten-minute presentation, Atkin took questions from the audience about the Investor 1:1 portion of Monetery, the expansion of Monetery since its first conference in 2018 and what to expect in 2019 along with the story behind the name and logo for Monetery.

Below is the full conversation, edited for clarity and conciseness:

What was the vision for Monetery in 2018 compared to 2019?

SA: Our event in 2018 was to really gauge the interest and get a response from our audience. We wanted to know if the people we were bringing in were engaging. Was there a fit?

Now this year, we will double down on this and we have the support of our community in doing so. We took the three-hour session from last year and made it a full agenda with a keynote speaker, additional speakers and networking.

We’re excited to have a very diverse set of speakers who are building their own companies—and doing it successfully. We didn’t want to just bring in one person, but an entire lineup that can share their experiences.

Then the second day is for investor meetings with startups. This day focuses on making those connections between entrepreneurs and startups with venture capitalists who want to fund companies in the Midwest.

We have over 15 venture firms coming to Des Moines that want to meet entrepreneurs in the Midwest. We are providing that opportunity to connect at no cost, all you have to do is submit your pitch and we will connect you, facilitate the introduction and make those connections.

What does that day of meetings with investors look like?

SA: We ask that if you want to participate in the Investor 1:1, submit your pitch deck and we will share that with all of the participating VC firms. Then, they will identify who they want to meet with and we will then build the schedule, identify time slots and meeting rooms.

We will work with the VC firms and startups to build their schedule. We have the capacity to accept about 100 startups, so I really encourage anyone if they know a company currently or planning to seek funding, please apply.

What does your pitch deck need to have?

SA: It all depends on what level your startup is at. We do have VCs that are looking for the pre-seed round, where your company is a little more than an idea and those startups wouldn’t necessarily have financials.

Then we have other VCs looking for companies that have a path to the next step. We don’t have just one type of company or startup. Because we have so many VCs coming, what they are looking for can vary quite dramatically.

What kind of startups would get value from Monetery?

SA: This can run the gamut. Some of our speakers are leading companies with more than $100 million in annual revenue. Then we have other speakers who have launched a company that is less than five years old. So we have stories on both sides of that.

Then we have folks like Sherri Davidoff, a woman in the security field who launched her own company. Hearing the challenges and experiences she’s faced are inspiring. So it depends on your lens.

Do you want actionable advice to help scale your company? We’ve got that. If you are looking to be inspired to start your own company, we have perfect examples who can speak to that as well.

What changes are coming from 2018 to 2019?

SA: Well beyond the conference being extended past three hours, last year our primary speakers were venture capitalists, talking about investing.

The change this year is that our primary speakers are CEOs and founders, who have actually built a company and have actually scaled a company. So this year is all about actionable insight and learning from people who have done it before, then marrying that with Venture Capitalists who have the funding to support it with the Investor 1:1 meetings.

What is the backstory with the name and logo for Monetery?

SA: Monetery the conference is a play on the word monetary, which is value. And for value, at Dwolla we are a company that helps businesses move billions of dollars each year. We want to shine a light on the Midwest, and we want to continue to create value in the Midwest.

With the logo, it is an abstract of the M and you can also look at it as doors opening. That’s what we want to do, provide an open door to continue to create value in the Midwest.

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