trying to change the world, on a budget

The Midwest Approach

Last night was our fifth monthly StartLouis meetup for St. Louis entrepreneurs. This time around we had David Karandish, the CEO of Answers.com, as our featured guest.

David rocked it. He told the story of Answers, shared his vision of “social Q&A”, and fielded an extensive questions and answers session (he’s pretty good at that!).

The talk included a lot of good advice. But there was a unifying theme, summed up in David’s comment: “I like to take a Midwestern approach to building a business.”

What is the Midwest Approach?

According to David, the Midwest Approach means focusing on profitability first – and letting grand schemes unfold later.

The Answers parent company started as a comparison-shopping engine, which very gradually led towards their big move into Q&A.

It means getting past the idea stage as soon as possible, and living in the execution phase.

Their company story is really a tale of pivoting – from shopping, to Q&A, to purchasing the Answers.com site – and transforming it. With each step, they learned lessons and put them into action.

And it means making informed decisions, and planting deep roots.

Answers has offices in Silicon Valley and New York, but maintains its headquarters and core team in University City, MO!

The Midwestern Approach really does mean something. It’s a mindset, and a way of life, that differentiates flyover country from the coasts.

“Every Piece is Something We Would Want to Wear”

Echoing David’s talk, last night my friend @castavridis posted this video from a clothing company called Vagrant Nobility. They’re up in Chicago, and they totally get it:

Fundamentals over flash. Talent over ego. Leading with craftsmanship, and worrying about valuations and exit strategies for later (or never).

Staying small, staying passionate.

I realized – The Midwest Approach is what lured me back to St. Louis, after serving a tour of duty in San Francisco. And it’s what keeps me now. There is a real sense of humility here, which is a true asset.

As the STL startup scene has grown, there’s been a lot of splash about seed funding, grant money and raising venture capital. All good stuff which has its place. But first and foremost, we need to embrace our roots, and stay keyed in to the power of that good ole Midwest Approach….

This is a place for building something with long-term, lasting value.