As a transplant myself, I know how flustering it can be jumping into a new city. Especially one like Fargo, where it can seem small (depending where you come from), there’s lots of trains, and people wave at you even when you’ve never seen them before. That was my first impression a year ago, when I moved from Los Angeles to Fargo for a job.
But I’m here to tell you there’s a lot more to this place than meets the eye.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting a few Fargo newcomers from around the country, who moved here for work as well. They were curious about Fargo, and I did my best to share some of the gems – but with so many people moving here all the time, I’m sure there are many wondering, “How exactly do I Fargo?”
The answer to that question has many layers. So rather than digging into it all at once, here’s my own Beginner’s Guide to Fargo’s Startup Scene. Yes, there is a startup scene in Fargo-Moorhead. Read on.
The Fargo Startup Scene
One of the most unexpected things about Fargo, in my opinion, is that there is a burgeoning startup scene. This startup fever is happening all over the world, and Fargo has been featured in Bloomberg, Sky, Fortune Magazine, and others for its efforts to create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
You should also know that, because of this, you are entering a city in the midst of rapid transformation and growth. In the past few years, Fargo-Moorhead has changed drastically. Many of the events here have come as a result of this new startup wave. A few industries that are growing here in Fargo are indie game design, 3D printing, E-commerce, drone/UAS, agriculture, healthcare tech, and Internet of Things-related companies. Here’s how you can plug in.
First things first, our newsletter is the realest. I’m not just saying that – if I had just moved here I’d sign up for this just to know what’s going on. We send it every Tuesday, and it includes a comprehensive list of upcoming events happening in the startup- tech world. For example: Hackathons, E-commerce breakfasts, Drone Focus meet-ups, game-maker meet-ups, graphic design competitions and more.
There are new things each week. Pick and choose what interests you, and get plugged in. There are also cool photos and the occasional hilarious joke. Get the newsletter by signing up here.
2. 1 Million Cups Fargo
1 Million Cups Fargo is the first event I point people towards when they’re getting to know Fargo. It’s a weekly event where we feature 1-2 local entrepreneurs in the startup scene, who present their startup on stage and then engage the community in Q&A. The whole thing lasts an hour, starting with free coffee and local event announcements and ending with the final question, “What can the community do for you?”
We also sometimes feature “Random Acts of Art,” where we bring on a singer, musician, or world-class yo-yo champion. You never know.
When I first moved to Fargo, I attended this event, and it has since served as a powerful connection platform. Everyone is there; students, city leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, business people, artists, professors, etc. 1 Million Cups is an event held around the nation in over 70 cities, and Fargo consistently has one of the highest number of attendees. Come check it out! Every Wednesday, 9:15 – 10:15 AM at the Stage at Island Park (unless we’re on the road!).
3. The Prairie Den
The Prairie Den is a coworking and events space, and another great starting point if you’re looking to dive in to the community. It’s located at the heart of downtown, right above King House Buffet at 122 ½ Broadway – and anyone is completely welcome to come by! Seriously, people randomly stop in all the time and just have a look around. The Emerging Prairie team works here full time as well as Hash Interactive, and a handful of other people who are ready to show you around.
Read more about the Prairie Den, and why we are building it to be a “student union” for Fargo, right here!
4. Startup Weekend
Startup Weekend is an event built to condense the process of launching a startup into one weekend. You start by pitching an idea, and by the final presentations you have a team, business plan, maybe even a product. I participated in Startup Weekend 2015 and actually ended up starting a small business (I write about it here).
It’s an absolutely unforgettable and empowering experience that I would recommend everyone try once. Get more details on the next one, which will be held March 4-6, 2016.
5. Get to Know Downtown
Honestly, downtown Fargo-Moorhead (aka Broadway and surrounding area) is where it’s at. Groups like the Kilbourne Group are buying old properties and renovating them to create a more vibrant and walkable downtown, there’s an influx of new restaurants, and there’s a multitude of startups building their companies right in the heart of Fargo.
The Black Building is home to many local startups such as Botlink and Beach Interactive, and is right next to the Prairie Den where Emerging Prairie and Hash Interactive work full-time. Not too far away is the Meadowlark building, home to Myriad Mobile, CoSchedule, dogIDs, Napasol, Danielson Legal, and a few other startups. It’s only a matter of time before some healthy rivalry builds up between these three spaces Just wait.
A few great ways to meet people and get to know downtown:
- Hang out at local coffee shops, 20 Below (try their cider), Stumbeano’s (try their fluffy toast), Atomic Coffee (try their chocolate covered espresso beans).
- Get a free personal downtown tour via Folkways, an awesome group focused on building up Fargo culture. (They’re also working on a mobile sauna and pop-up waffle shop. No kidding).
- Check out Fargo Monthly magazine!
6. Other Resources
Here are a few other groups in the tech/startup scene of Fargo-Moorhead that are great to get involved with + some upcoming events you don’t want to miss:
GDI Fargo is a nonprofit organization providing affordable & accessible programs for those who want to learn web & software development through hands-on instruction. Although classes are geared towards getting more women in tech, they are open for all. As a past participant, I can fully recommend taking one of these courses. A great way to dabble with code and get creative with HTML/CSS!
Fargo Game-Makers meet-ups are the best way to connect with current or aspiring game designers, creatives, and engineers in the Fargo, North Dakota area. This is a great way to jump into the indie game design community. Join the next meet-up at the Prairie Den, on November 17 at 6 PM. *Also, a cool guy named Corey Cliett recently moved here and is making podcasts about the Fargo gaming industry. Give em a listen!*
Geek Meet is for geeks, nerds, hackers, and everything in between. The group was founded primarily on a common interest in diving deeper into web platforms, frameworks, technologies, and best practices.
Hack Fargo is a non-profit that promotes open source data, and throws awesome hackathons. Participating in a hackathon is a great way to meet other software developers, designers, and all out techies. Read up on our most recent hackathon we had, with great success!
Join other content nerds for regular discussions on strategy, trends, best practices, tools, professional development and more. Whether you’re a blogger, social media marketer or WordPress junkie, this will help you perfect your content creating skills. Here are some tips I compiled from the last one! Great stuff.
Caught the startup bug? This group meets every Tuesday night at the Prairie Den with new entrepreneurs, to walk through a clean, efficient program on how to start a business. Apply here if you’re interested!
TEDxFargo is a self-organized version of the well-known TED talks. It’s a once-a-year event that brings together arts, educations, tech and design with a variety of speakers from around the country. Last year, the event drew over 2,000 people and, frankly, it looked insanely awesome. Watch videos of our amazing speakers here.
So, there you have it.
But I must add one thing. None of this will do you any good if you don’t first hear these three words: Count Yourself In. This was told to me when I first arrived, and it does wonders. For more on the count yourself in mentality, check out this article by Greg Tehven, a Fargo champion.
To sum it up, it means: show up at events, meet new people, give before you get. I believe the famous quote goes, “Ask not what Fargo can do for you, but what you can do for Fargo.”
If this is your mentality, Fargo will come alive. Give it a chance.
Photos courtesy of Rick Abbott, Dan Francis, J Alan Paul, & Bri Lee.