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Heartland Tech Weekly: In search of ‘social capital’

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It’s a missing ingredient in the lives of many heartland entrepreneurs, the secret sauce of personal connections that can help transform ambition to success. It’s advice, know-how, a willingness and ability to make key introductions. It’s mentorship and friendship.

J.D. Vance, author of bestseller Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, describes how after leaving Appalachia and making his way to Yale Law School he discovered the value of a professional network, or what he calls access to “social capital.” There, a professor provided him life-changing counsel.

It’s hard to put a dollar value on that advice. It’s the kind of thing that continues to pay dividends. But make no mistake: The advice had tangible economic value. Social capital isn’t manifest only in someone connecting you to a friend or passing a résumé on to an old boss. It is also, or perhaps primarily, a measure of how much we learn through our friends, colleagues, and mentors.

Serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Patrick McKenna describes this as heartland entrepreneurs needing to find ways to tap into “demand signals:”

I looked at Youngstown and asked ‘Why isn’t this place hopping?’ This place is completely isolated. They can find local money, but they can’t access ‘the network’ to tap into the right people and the right ideas to find the right demand signals.

Efforts to connect emerging tech ecosystems to Silicon Valley are central to speeding up the development of social capital. So, too, are entrepreneurial successes and strong exits for investors, which prime the pump for more success — and more social capital.

Please send feedback, news tips, or story suggestions to me via email — and be sure to bookmark our Heartland Tech Channel.

Thanks for reading,

Blaise Zerega

Editor in Chief

P.S. Please enjoy this video, “Defying Bloomberg,” which explores the value of teaching coal miners (and others) to code software and how it improves diversity for the tech industry.

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