Kansas City's Nomination & Award - Global Entrepreneurship Cities Challenge 2015

Kansas City's Nomination & Award - Global Entrepreneurship Cities Challenge 2015


Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo's KC Entrepreneur Ecosystem presentation at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Congress Cities Forum, March 17, 2015, Milan, Italy.

The following is the KC nomination:

Thank you for the opportunity to highlight Kansas City, Missouri and the entire KC region as our nominee in the GEC Cities Challenge. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Kansas City entrepreneurs capitalized on our geographic location to build and grow an innovation and entrepreneurial community. In the 21st century, where geography matters less to commerce and quality of life is a major attractor of creative talent, Kansas City is meeting the challenge. Our downtown renaissance has been drawing people back to the heart of the city. It took tremendous vision and support from the entire community to make this happen but we have passed the tipping point of momentum that is reenergizing the city. Today, companies in all sectors are relocating to our urban core because this is where the creative talent they want to attract wants to live, work and grow businesses. See America’s Creative Crossroadsand the Mayor’s Task Force for the Arts.

The nomination represents input from many entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) from across the KC region including the City of Kansas City, Mo., the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City (EDC), the Downtown Council, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC), KCSourcelink, University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) Innovation Center, Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC), KC Digital Drive, Enterprise Center of Johnson County (ECJC), Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV), KCnext, and the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association (VisitKC). Most importantly, this nomination includes input from a diverse and engaged group of local entrepreneurs who are named and identified throughout our nomination.

Question 1. In one sentence, what is entrepreneurship for you?

In the parlance of Brad Feld’s Startup Communities, I am a feeder and therefore cannot answer this question for KC entrepreneurs. So, I asked them to reply to the question via twitter. Carrie Royce at Maker Pink gave the most insightful response by adding a link to her blog post further explaining her response. The responses are listed below with links to the twitter handles that replied, these are also a number of KC’s rockstar entrepreneurs and entrepreneur support organizations:

@RuKCMO: What is #entrepreneurship for you? A vibrant #StartupCommunity & 2+ amazing yrs for #KC thx @bfeld @CameronCushman

@ThinkBigKC replied “1 sentence = 1 word. HARD.”

@McGinnis_K replied “Entrepreneurship = creation of new ventures based commercialization of innovation or new knowledge”

@KCITP replied “never giving up on the opportunity to build a better future”

@TheMarcus replied “#entrepreneurship = an innate desire to build something from start to finish”

@RepresentKC replied “entrepreneurship equals unleashed creativity without worrying about the results er..consequences”

@ThreeCocktailLunch replied with a blog post “Entrepreneurship is survival”

@FormZapper replied “Stubborn determination to hang on and succeed”

@DianaKander replied “entrepreneurship is a pathway to economic freedom” and “solving problems in a way that creates value”

@LScott1967 replied “Agreed, but we must try harder to bring it to low-income folks & ensure adequate funding sources”

@SteelNiner replied “#KC #GEC2015 What is #entrepreneurship for you? Like raising a child, sometimes they are angels & sometimes they mess their diapers@RuKCMO

@BlueHillsBusCtr replied “@RuKCMO We believe #Entrepreneurship is an opportunity equalizer and the key to economic development and community reinvestment #GEC2015

@TheMarcus replied “Entrepreneurship = "2 roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." #KC#GEC2015

@Symptomly replied “#entrepreneurship is: Creating something out of nothing@RuKCMO @UnleashingIdeas @GEWUSA @SprintAccel @bereitds

@EzeRedwood replied “Anyone can start a small biz. #Entrepreneurship is the movement that brings these ppl together, brands & supports them #KC #GEC2015@RuKCMO

@BLCFirm replied “@RuKCMO Entrepreneurship is helping create the world we WANT to live in through business. One sentence was tough.”

@JasonGrill replied “Entrepreneurship is building/creating something that adds value to society/your community & finds a solution to a problem. @RuKCMO#GEC2015

@bowman @zaarly replied “@RuKCMO @zaarly it's like an ice cream swirl of unbridled optimism and despair-grade doubt. :)”

Question 2. What measures show your city’s success in entrepreneurship? (e.g. number of new businesses, number of startup gatherings, public opinion about the entrepreneurial path, etc.). Please specify whether there is official data, and if so which organization is keeping track of this measure.

Entrepreneurs don’t recognize political boundaries when deciding when and where to launch an enterprise, so we have taken a regional approach to participating in the KC entrepreneur community. There are many examples of startups that begin in someone’s garage, basement or kitchen and follow a course across the region’s numerous entreprenuer support organizations as their company scales and finds its niche’. Crossing the State line or various city limits is often as easy as crossing the street and the best scenarios are exemplified when the entrepreneur makes the decision based on the current and predicted needs of his or her company.

The sheer number of ESOs in the KC region led to the creation of the UMKC Innovation Center’s KCSourcelink over 10 years ago. This venture has also scaled nationally as USSourcelink. Earlier in 2014, KCSourcelink released their We Create + Entrepreneurs Report providing a broad overview of KC regional efforts. One our the most successful programs implemented to date is the Digital Sandbox where theBuilding America’s Most Entrepreneurial City Report provides the most comprehensive analysis of the success at that initiative.

What goes mostly unrecognized is the high level of collaboration and coordination among the ESOs in the region. The Digital Sandbox story is one of these stories. A shared reference to an email announcing a Federal i6 grant opportunity led to a concentrated effort through UMKC Innovation Center and Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City’s LaunchKC staff to submit the grant application prior to the fast approaching deadline. The effort garnered the matching support of 6 major KC corporations and the KC Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 Making Kansas City America’s Most Entrepreneurial City initiative.

No KC corporation has been more engaged in the rapid growth of the KC startup community than Sprint. Led by the vision of Kevin McGinnis, the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars was launched in 2012 with its first graduating class of healthcare focussed startups in 2013. For metrics - contact Kevin McGinnis,kevin.t.mcginnis@sprint.com

The City of Kansas City, Mo. and the UMKC Innovation Center launched the Urban Business Growth Initiative in 2013 in an effort to address the needs of the very early stage small businesses and entrepreneurial companies in the City. For metrics - contact UMKC Innovation Center, Maria Meyers, meyersme@umkc.edu. These are first year statistics:

  • 54 meetings and 164 business counseling sessions at the Lincoln Building with Mark Allen, UMKC Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC)
  • · UMKC SBTDC opened a satellite office at the Lincoln Building providing regular office hours (24 hrs/month) for both Lincoln Building and non-Lincoln Building clients and held 37 meetings and 69 business counseling sessions with non-Lincoln Building clients
  • · 24 graduates of the Construction Management Training class at the Blue Hills Construction Incubator
  • · Outreach efforts to over 210 KCSourceLink Business Resource Partners and strengthened partnership with the City’s KCBizCare
  • · 70 scholarships awarded to the Icehouse, FastTrac New Venture, FastTrac Growth Venture, Construction Business Management, Manage Your Financials and Winning Government Contracts programs

Mayor Sly James announced LaunchKC in 2012 as an initiative of the EDCofKC. For metrics - contact Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Drew Solomon (dsolomon@edckc.com). This initiative will be expanded in January 2015 to include a civic accelerator supported by the Missouri Technology Corporation, the City of Kansas City, Mo., the Downtown Council, Kauffman Foundation, Sprint Accelerator, and a number of other local corporate partners and foundations.

1 Million Cups - entrepreneur pitch session/networking event launched in KC in 2012 now attracts 250 - 300 attendees weekly and has scaled to programs in over 50 cities - contact Nathan Kurtz, Kauffman Foundation, nkurtz@kauffman.org

In 2014, the KC Chamber traveled with more than 110 CEO-level business executives, elected officials, and academic leaders to the Silicon Valley in California. The trip focused heavily on best practices and achievements in the areas of entrepreneurism, technology, and education. The follow up from the trip has been to implement many of the elements that were explored. See KC2SV 2014 KCChamber Leadership Exchange White Paper.

UMKC’s eScholars Program at the Regier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management takes new ventures through a one year mentoring and support process.

Additional evidence of KC’s success in supporting entrepreneurship can be seen in the City of Kansas City, Mo.’s participation and leadership in the National League of Cities Big Ideas for Small Business Peer Network and conferences. In 2014, KCBizcare’s John Pajor facilitated the peer network’s monthly calls among over 30 cities across the country sharing projects and programs designed to support small business and entrepreneurs. In September 2014, the City hosted the 2nd annual Big Ideas for Small Business Summit at the Kauffman Foundation and in three coworking accelerators in our Crossroads innovation district. We sought to immerse the participants in KC-style entrepreneurship by holding sessions at the Sprint Accelerator, OfficePort and Think Big Partners. Panel discussion included startups and serial entrepreneurs discussing the KC entrepreneur community.

The Google Fiber development agreement has pulled KC leaders to the national stage of discussion of gigabit Internet services. We are involved in a number of national efforts through KCDigitalDrive, Next Century Cities, FTTH Council, FCC Gigabit City Challenge, and more. KCDigitalDrive is hosting the Gigabit City Summitin KC in January 2015.

Helzberg Entrepreneur Mentoring Program

Maker Movement

Startup Weekends

The Lean Lab

OpEd from Carrie Royce, makerpink.org

A city’s success in entrepreneurship shouldn’t be gauged by the number of startups that surpass a certain dollar figure in revenue. That itch is for investors and VCs to scratch. Nor should it be measured by the sheer number of groups, gatherings or programs, which can be as distracting as they are rewarding for starters, particularly if they are exclusive, redundant, or offer little more than a hangout.

Rather, a city should measure its success on its broadly enriching dynamics: the number of new entrepreneurs spawned, the number of immigrant entrepreneurs attracted, the number of jobs created, and how the community overall supports and sustains a melting pot of diverse startup contributors.

Success isn’t necessarily defined by share prices and buyout, and that’s especially true for a city.

Just like any other metro in today’s quickstart climate, Kansas City has plenty of starter growth to brag about. That said, I believe two particular features set Kansas City (and the Midwest) aside from the rest of the nation in the battle for recognition as an entrepreneurial nucleus: Quality of Starter Life, and Intricate Mesh of Support.

Quality of Starter Life.

While Kansas City may not compete with the West Coast in numbers of Fortune tech corporations, tech startups, or investment dollars, it also doesn’t rival the West Coast in cost of living, commute, and competition. Yes, some refer with sardonic tongue-in-cheek to the Midwest as “flyover” region. We can respond with a straight face that that’s not such a bad thing. There are definite pros to Kansas City’s position as a regional underdog.

It’s an affordable place to live with reputable schools and varied higher education programs, ideal for both young starters and entrepreneurs with families. The area offers rich history, diversity, culture, sports, and relaxation. For the most part it’s safe and the people are friendly. But that doesn’t mean it’s outdated as Rockwellian. The area is a national leader in agricultural, environmental, and biological innovation. Across mere miles, it supports rural, suburban, and urban ways of life. And it’s quickly becoming a hotbed of fresh tech talent.

On social media recently I posted a random poll asking “How do you find tech workers that are both good and affordable?” A respondent from Silicon Valley replied “We hire them out of the Midwest.”

Intricate Mesh of Support.

It’s said that on the West Coast, an entrepreneur can drop into any hotspot bar, make meaningful connections, and have fruitful conversations. In fact, a 2012 article published in Entrepreneur magazine touted such an environment as a determinant of a robust entrepreneurial scene. The same can be said for here in Kansas City. What’s more, if you’re an entrepreneur dropping into a hotspot here, you probably already know someone from your work in the startup realm. That’s because Kansas City’s entrepreneurial mesh is very tight-knit.

A number of schools, corporations, incubators, nonprofits, clubs, investment groups, meetup groups, and events exist as independent entities across Kansas City. But because they proactively interrelate, none of them really exists on an island of policy or programs. Entrepreneurs are regularly, eagerly referred one way or another to a suitable people and programs that can help them move forward.

What’s more, several fresh programs supporting entrepreneurs were born here—a few of which, like Kauffman’s One Million Cups lectures-over-breakfast model, city mayor Sly James’s Challenge Cabinet, and the ever-expanding Kansas City Startup Village, are even being welcomed/duplicated into other municipalities. Without a doubt the city is, as a state of being, thinking outside the box to customize solutions to Kansas City starters.

Question 3. Who are the “feeders” contributing to the entrepreneurship ecosystem of your city (e.g. Mayor’s office, universities, chambers, etc.)?

In 2011, Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Mo. and Mayor Joe Reardon of Kansas City, Ks. formed the Mayors Bistate Innovations Team led by Mike Burke and Dr. Ray Daniels. Through a collaborative community engagement effort, they published “Playing to Win in America’s Digital Crossroads.” As a result of this “playbook” KC Digital Drive was formed at the Mid-America Regional Council and is led by Aaron Deacon with the mission to implement the “plays” and work to maintain KC’s leadership in the gigabit revolution.

True to Brad Feld’s description of a successful startup entrepreneur community, there is no hierarchical leadership in the KC entrepreneur community. We rely heavily on on our strong network of entrepreneur-led events and organizations, ESOs, business associations, and elected officials. As a City, we seek to convene the community for sharing and collaboration. So, it may appear disorganized and messy but this is how success will be determined. There is a clear path to entrepreneurial success that any Kansas Citian can follow by engaging in conversations at 1 Million Cups, Startup Grind, Code for America Brigade, Geek Nights, aSTEAMvillage, any of our chambers of commerce or economic development agencies, KCSourcelink and more. Three years ago this may have been a hard question to answer, today all you have to do is ask “What are you doing Wednesday at 9 a.m?” and take someone to 1 Million Cups.

The truly amazing thing in KC today is the growth of broad community support for the startup entrepreneur community. Back to Feld’s Boulder Thesis - KC’s startup community is full of activities and events that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. In fact, we have amended the Boulder Thesis with Feld’s consent - See “KC Amendment to the Boulder Thesis.” Just a short list of things to come demonstrate our commitment to the cause:

VisitKC, Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association letter of support

@RuKCMO - #GEC2015, want to connect with the #KC #startup #entrepreneurcommunity? What are you doing Wednesday at 9 a.m? See you @1MillionCupsKC

@RuKCMO: #GEC2015 @KCChamber @deSilvaPeter leading #KC effort#MostEntrepreneurialCityInAmerica #Big5 #Startup #Entrepreneurhttp://www.big5kc.com/?page_id=101

Mayor Sly James - RareWire, Neighbor.ly leaders part of KC’s 30-member Challenge Cabinet

See Entrepreneurs, Startups & Hackers

The Chamber Big 5 Initiative Making America's Most Entrepreneurial City

City of Entrepreneurs Sketchbook Video

Black Economic Union at the historic Lincoln Building at 18th & Vine

KCADC - KC by the Numbers


KCBizCare YouTube Channel

KCPT - Startups Made in Kansas City series

Missouri Department of Economic Development named best economic development agency in the country

Question 4. When did a startup community begin to develop in your city?

Kansas City has always supported a robust startup entrepreneur community. a few quick tweets describe some of our early ventures.

#GEC2015 When did a #startup community begin @KCMO? 1821 24-yr-old François Chouteau founded a trading post in #KC http://tinyurl.com/ocs68g8

#GEC2015 When did a #startup community begin @KCMO? 1865 Francis Reid Long came to #KC founded @CommerceBankhttps://www.commercebank.com/about/get-to-know-us/history.asp

#GEC2015 When did a #startup community begin @KCMO? 1887 Arthur Stillwell left #SiliconAlley founded #KC SouthernRR http://tinyurl.com/kg8f3go

#GEC2015 When did a #startup community begin @KCMO? 1898 @Stanford grads left #SiliconValley founded @BurnsMcDonnellhttp://www.burnsmcd.com/Company/History

The Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV) is an entrepreneur-led community helping to grow and support Kansas City entrepreneurs and the startup ecosystem. The Village sprang up around one of the first neighborhoods in Kansas City to get Google’s superfast internet. KCSV is not only the hub of startup life in the KC metro area, it also serves as a model for other communities. Extensive national coverage has spread the story far and wide of those who came to KC for gigabit speed and stayed for the community,

Fun facts:

  • 25 companies in the village
  • 100+ people employed by those companies
  • international visitors from over 60 countries

New Map Tracks Evolution of Entrepreneurship in Kansas City - 6/20/13

UMKC Bloch School Announces its Entrepreneur Hall of Fame - 12/8/14

Question 5. Who are the rock star entrepreneurs in your city?

This is a tough list to assemble but let’s start at the KCLibrary Staircase of Entrepreneurs and the Wall of Honor

See KCSourcelink Entrepreneurs in Action

This is certainly not a complete list of KC’s rockstar entrepreneurs and we hesitate even beginning for fear of not naming some of our best. So, take this list as a sampling of the entrepreneurial talent in KC today:

Question 6. Do policymakers in your city support the entrepreneurial ecosystem that is flourishing there, or is it flourishing despite policies/lack of government support?

The City of Kansas City, Mo. has engaged the startup entrepreneur community by facilitating Google Fiber's deployment in the KC region, in 2009 launching KCBizCare, the City's Business Customer Service Center, in 2011 the City Council's Special Committee on Small Business made 67 recommendations for changes to support small business and entrepreneurship, appointing an Assistant City Manager for Small Business & Entrepreneurship, appointing a Chief Innovation Officer, establishing the Mayor's Challenge Cabinet, partnering with sister city, Kansas City, Kansas on the Mayor's Bi-State Innovations Team and 2012 Code for America Fellowship, sponsoring entrepreneurial events, establishing a microloan program, partnering with UMKC on the Urban Business Growth Initiative, engaging the startup community at regular events such at 1 Million Cups, KCBizCare Office Hours at coworking and accelerator spaces, KCDigitalDrive was launched through the Mid-America Regional Council to facilitate digital engagment regionally (over 20 cities in the KC metro are slated for Google Fiber services)

The city has been recognized nationally by its participation in the National League of cities big ideas for small business peer network and wto summits. The 2014 Summit was held in Kansas City and featured are entrepreneurial community and the maker movement.

KCMO Open Data Catalog

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran has introduced the Startup Act


Current entrepreneurial support initiatives include:

Programs coming soon:

Question 7. What have been the top three programs/initiatives/developments that have proven most favorable to new firm formation in your city?

  1. Google Fiber FTTH & SMB gigabit Internet services - FTTH currently passes over 210,000 households and 440,000 residents in Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City, Ks. construction has also been completed. SMB Class service is now available in specific fiberhoods in both cities and construction is continuing to over 20 cities in the KC region.
  2. Digital Sandbox - Building America’s Most Entrepreneurial City Report
  3. Tie: Kansas City Startup Village and the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars - 1st Year Story
  1. 1 Million Cups
  2. LaunchKC
  3. KCSourcelink/KCBizCare Urban Business Growth Initiative

(Contributed by Kate Hodel) Three programs that have helped shape the entrepreneurial ecosystem and contribute to new firm formation in Kansas City:


1 Million Cups started out as a simple idea: provide an opportunity for startups entrepreneurs to connect with each other and the community. Founded by the Kauffman Foundation, 1MC got its start in Kansas City and has now expanded to more than 50 locations across the country.

In KC, 1MC remains the place to connect and collide, drawing upwards of 250 every Wednesday. Entrepreneurs solicit nominations, select presenters and emcee the show. Can’t make it to the Kauffman Foundation? The sessions are simulcast at locations throughout the metro...the Northland, Independence, Overland Park.

Fun facts:

  • Founded in 2012
  • 250 - 300 attendees weekly
  • 2 presenters weekly
  • Any data from the 1MC survey that Kauffman conducted last year

Digital Sandbox KC

The Sandbox brings together people and ideas to foster the next generation of booming businesses in the region. The city’s long-time leaders including private companies, government agencies and universities have united to help a new way of entrepreneurs become tomorrow’s leaders. This unprecedented metro-wide partnership is driving startups, jobs and funding.

Fun facts:

  • Founded in 2013 through an i6 Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce
  • 37 proof-of-concept projects funded
  • 23 new KC-based companies created
  • $10.2 million in follow on funding secured by 26 companies
  • 154 jobs created
  • $1.6 million in new sales

Kansas City Startup Village

The Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV) is an entrepreneur-led community helping to grow and support Kansas City entrepreneurs and the startup ecosystem. The Village sprang up around one of the first neighborhoods in Kansas City to get Google’s superfast internet. KCSV is not only the hub of startup life in the KC metro area, it also serves as a model for other communities. Extensive national coverage has spread the story far and wide of those who came to KC for gigabit speed and stayed for the community,

Fun facts:

  • 25 companies in the village
  • 100+ people employed by those companies
  • international visitors from over 60 countries

Question 8. If you could nominate a person to be invited to present your city at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Milan, who would that be (name, title, organization)?

Mayor Sly James, City of Kansas City, Mo. his Challenge Coin says “City of Entrepreneurs”


Question 9. Please submit a video of up to three minutes showing your city’s entrepreneurial vigor. (This video may be distributed to the GEC audience and in GEC media communications).

Digital Sandbox KC (Innovation Never Sleeps) 1:54

Kauffman Sketchbook:

City of Entrepreneurs Sketchbook Video - 3:09

@RuKCMO: #GEC2015 #KC is the City of #Startup #SmallBusiness #Tech #Entrepreneurs #MostEntrepreneurialCityInAmerica http://youtu.be/61rQczKZB0w

Question 10. Your name: Rick Usher, Assistant City Manager for Entrepreneurship & Small Business

Question 11. Your email address (we need this to contact you if your city wins the challenge): richard.usher@kcmo.org

Question 12. The name of your organization and link to the organization's website: City of Kansas City, Missouri www.kcmo.gov




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