DES MOINES — As Ben Milne sought money for the mobile-payment company he began developing here three years ago, investors responded with rejections by the dozens.
Eventually, he coaxed $1 million from a pair of local investors. His app, Dwolla, has since attracted more than 100,000 users, and now moves $30 million to $50 million in transactions a month.
So when he decided to seek a second round of financing last year, Mr. Milne, a 29-year-old college dropout, had an easier sell. This time investors courted him. This year, he announced that Dwolla had drawn $5 million more in capital from investors on both coasts, including Ashton Kutcher and a firm with Twitter and Foursquare in its portfolio.
From Des Moines to Omaha to Kansas City — a region known more for its barns than its bandwidth — a start-up tech scene is burgeoning. Dozens of new ventures are laying roots each year, investors are committing hundreds of millions of dollars to them, and state governments are teaming up with private organizations to promote the growing tech community. They are calling it — what else? — the Silicon Prairie.