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Jeff Harbach Jeffrey Harbach

Don’t Forget the Fly-Over States

Entrepreneur LogoThe following story was a guest column by Kauffman Fellows CEO Jeff Harbach in Entrepreneur.

Founders will find vast opportunities if they locate near Midwestern hubs of industry

A big trend we are seeing in the venture capital world is that investors are actively seeking out new pockets of innovation in old economy industries.

For instance: The world needs only so many pizza delivery apps. And there’s an opportunity to apply the kind of innovation that has already overtaken whole markets, such as travel planning and taxi rides, and apply it to big and complex challenges.

Imagine revolutionizing farming and feeding the world. Or re-engineering our energy use to stop climate change in its tracks. This kind of industrial-strength disruption means getting out of the comfort zone of the typical innovation hubs in Silicon Valley and New York and into the rest of the country.

Mercury Fund’s Aziz Gilani is passionate about the opportunity and potential for innovation in Middle America. His focus is the “mid-continent,” a term that comes from the railroad era to delineate the region that extends from Texas to industry hubs in cities such as Detroit, Cincinnati and Chicago.

The Kauffman Fellows interviewed Gilani about the opportunity in traditional industrial hubs at their recent VC Reunion Summit in Kansas City, Mo.


Jeff HarbachJeff Harbach is President and CEO of Kauffman Fellows. Jeff has been an entrepreneur and investor since 2002, and was Executive Director of the Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN), based out of Austin, TX, from 2011–2013, where he served his fellowship. He has led multiple startups, including two 7-Eleven stores, a luxury furniture store and interior design firm, and a private country club golf network. He was also an angel investor himself with the Vegas Valley Angels. Jeff holds a BS from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the University of Texas, Austin. jharbach@kfp.org