You may have heard Kansas City implemented Google Fiber, but according to a member of the city's local startup scene, there's much more to the community there than blazing fast broadband.
By Allison Way (Director of Marketing, Think Big Partners)
Ask anyone outside of the greater Kansas City area what’s going on in the KC startup scene and they will say just two words: Google Fiber. And yes, it’s true; the implementation of Google Fiber is helping to spur innovation, increase collision density and foster new startups in the area. But as many entrepreneurs here in the KC area know, there is more to Kansas City’s growth than just Google Fiber. And I’m not just talking about barbecue either.
Kansas City’s Startup Forefathers
As a matter of fact, Kansas City was recognized as a growing hub for information technology by the Wall Street Journal not just because of Google Fiber, but because of other tech giants that have been established in Kansas City including Sprint Nextel and Cerner. Current entrepreneurs take inspiration from other KC success stories including Hallmark, H&R Block and Garmin. Lucky for Kansas City entrepreneurs, these giant corporations are continuing to innovate, grow and create new jobs. We can only be inspired from our “startup forefathers”.
KC Startup Superstars
But the entire Kansas City community is just as inspired by our giant corporations as we are of our new and growing startups. KC boasts many recent startup successes including EyeVerify, Leap2, PlanetReuse Zaarly, Front Flip, and others (all of which have successfully grown and raised capital in the past three years).
The Kansas City Startup Support System
As Kansas Citians, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the Kauffman Foundation as a part of our community. Kauffman is the ringleader when it comes to the startup support system in Kansas City. But take a look at the lesser-known startup organizations in KC and you’ll find a plethora of resources dying to help entrepreneurs make the next big step. For starters, there are Kansas City startup accelerators and business incubators, the champion of which being Think Big Partners, a self-proclaimed “idea factory” started a little over three years ago by Herb Sih and Tyler Prochnow. Think Big Partners alone has helped to launch and grow over 150 successful companies with its creation of coworking spaces, entrepreneurial conferences, essential services, startup resources and funding.
In addition, Kansas City is littered with coworking spaces. Among the most notable are Think Big Coworking, OfficePort, Cowork Waldo, Innovation Café and Beta Blox. Finally, Kansas City has received much of its recognition and support from other initiatives and organizations such as KCSourceLink, Red Nova Labs, Startup Village, LaunchKC and many others.
The Google Fiber announcement may have overshadowed other recognitions that Kansas City has recently received on a national scale. Believe it or not, the KC startup community has been recognized in a variety of national publications to include America’s Techiest Cities (Travel + Leisure), Highest Android App-Producing US City (VentureBeat.com), an Entrepreneurial City to Keep Your Eye On (Entrepreneurs Unpluggd), a Top Market for IT Talent (KLG Advisors), one of America’s Biggest Brain Magnets (Forbes), and a Top 10 City to Find a Job (MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal).
The Most Entrepreneurial City in America?
An outsider looking into the Kansas City community may see nothing but giant two giant words flashing brightly in their face (GOOGLE FIBER! GOOGLE FIBER!). And although Google Fiber does help us get on the startup map, it is only one facet of what we have to offer. It wasn’t long ago that the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce announced its initiative to make Kansas City America’s Most Entrepreneurial City. It’s up to us, Kansas City, to become known for more than just the testing ground of Google Fiber, but to be one of the newest and most disruptive startup hubs across the nation. How can we do that? I have a few ideas of my own.
- The Corporate Sector Needs to Innovate: Innovation needs to be a focus for both startups and corporate businesses. As a matter of fact, the two need to work together in order to foster new innovation. Corporate environments need to embrace individuals who are willing to break the rules. Kansas City needs to embrace individuals who are willing to break the rules. That’s what will set us apart.
- We Need to Continue to Build Local Support: There are hundreds of ways to support local Kansas City entrepreneurs--from attending one of the many startup events (1 Million Cups, Geek Night, iKC, the list goes on and on), to providing services to local small businesses and startups. Find the best way for YOU to get involved in the startup community. What can you bring to the table?
- Entrepreneurs Need to Keep the End Goal in Mind: It’s the community’s job to support local entrepreneurs, but it’s the entrepreneur’s job to see that they have something to support. One of the biggest problems we see in the Kansas City startup community is that entrepreneurs lose sight of the goal of entrepreneurship: to take an idea and turn it into a profitable, sustainable venture. Remember, entrepreneurs: your idea can make an impact on society. It can change the way people think or the way they work. It can do a lot of other things, but ultimately, it needs to make money.
What women innovators are making an impact in KC?
About the guest blogger: Allison Way is the Director of Marketing for Think Big Partners, Kansas City’s business incubator and startup accelerator. In addition to her role at Think Big Partners, Allison is a content manager for Inboun, a digital content marketing agency in Kansas City.