Kansas City was named one of the top five emerging cities in the world for entrepreneur ecosystems at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Milan, Italy. In January 2015, leaders from KC’s business, civic, philanthropic, education and local government communities launched “KC Rising … Our Shared Vision for Regional Prosperity.”
This regional study identified three economic drivers, including Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which require investment and engagement for increased economic growth. KC Rising is dedicated to strengthening the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem so it is able to produce significant research and innovation, develop commercial applications from research, deploy new ideas through entrepreneurship and drive technology adoption within existing firms and clusters.
Some examples of the growing entrepreneurial environment are noted below.
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Established in Kansas City in the mid-1960s by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (Kauffman Foundation) is among the largest private foundations in the United States with an asset base of approximately $2 billion. The Kauffman Foundation is the largest foundation in the world devoted to entrepreneurship. Examples of the Kauffman Foundation’s programs include:
- FastTrac provides courses to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. More than 350,000 people worldwide have taken a course since 1993.
- Kauffman Founders School is an online education program that enables entrepreneurs to learn anywhere, anytime. Leading experts present rich content that founders can immediately apply to their businesses.
- 1 Million Cups is a free, weekly program held Wednesday mornings where early-stage startups present their companies to a diverse audience of their peers, mentors, educators and advisors. Founded in April 2012, 1 Million Cups has quickly grown to nearly 75 startup communities across the country. More than 2,500 attendees nationally join the event each week.
- Global Entrepreneurship Week – Kansas City: Held every November since 2008, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. GEW is celebrated in more than 160 countries. Locally, more than 10,000 attendees take part in the more than 100 events GEW – Kansas City offers.
Digital Sandbox KC is a proof-of-concept program that significantly and rapidly moves early-stage entrepreneurs from concept to commercialization. Since it was launched in February 2013, Digital Sandbox KC has worked with more than 300 entrepreneurs and early-stage companies across the region. Thus far, Digital Sandbox KC’s results include 77 proof-of-concept funded for area startups, 34 new businesses created, 339 jobs created, and $28.2 million in follow-on funding.
These companies represent a range of industries, including health care IT, data security, creative mobile apps, big data, consumer products, technology platforms and more.
Kansas City Startup Village
The Kansas City Startup Village is an entrepreneur-led community helping to grow and support entrepreneurs and the Kansas City startup ecosystem. Their mission is to foster the education of entrepreneurs and increase the number of opportunities for startups to succeed through programming, recruitment and knowledge sharing.
KCSourceLink connects a network of 200+ nonprofit resource organizations that provide business-building services for small businesses. They facilitate the linking of these resource organizations to one another and to established, emerging and startup small businesses throughout the region. Simultaneously, KCSourceLink, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Kauffman Foundation have expanded the “SourceLink” approach nationally to build U.S.SourceLink. In rural regions and urban centers nationally U.S.SourceLink has helped identify communities’ entrepreneurial resources and strengths to improve their value, impact and visibility. They work with business and community leaders to transform fragmented entrepreneurial and economic development initiatives into a cohesive, collaborative and vital entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Pipeline Entrepreneurs is a network of entrepreneurial experts who donate their time and talent to provide a Fellowship Program for entrepreneurs. The 2016 Fellows class is comprised of 13 entrepreneurs from six cities and three states. On Jan. 26, 2017, Pipeline will hold the Pipeline Entrepreneurial Award ceremony. Local fellows include Kim Gandy with Playit Health; Blake Hawley with Integrated Animal Health, Jeff Rohr with Square Offs; and Tommy Saunders with FEWDM.
The Sprint Accelerator is a hub for corporate innovation and entrepreneurial engagement. The Sprint Accelerator programs connect corporations with new ventures – spurring innovation through curated conversations and facilitated action.
ThinkBIG partners with community members and national organizations to provide a technology-focused accelerator, innovation center and co-working space. ThinkBIG is a community where early stage businesses find the elements to launch, grow and succeed.
Techstars Kansas City was founded in 2015 and is committed to improving diversity in tech entrepreneurship. They invest in organizations with grant money and leverage the Techstars network to empower these organizations to accelerate their missions forward.
Whiteboard 2 Boardroom Program Facilitates the Transfer of Technology
Whiteboard 2 Boardroom (W2B) connects entrepreneurs and established businesses to technologies available for licensing at institutions of higher education and corporations in the bi-state region to stimulate applied research, leverage innovation in the marketplace, and accelerate the commercialization of technology. The W2B partners have assisted with the advancement of regional innovations to new start-up companies, contributed to 80 jobs, supported 26 startup companies, and helped raise $15.5M capital funds.