Some of the many entrepreneurial happenings in Kansas City:
The Kauffman Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has played a critical role in the development of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial roots, ensuring that the city stresses the importance of job creation and innovative practices. As one of the largest foundations in the United States, its asset base is estimated at approximately $2 billion and it was the first foundation of its kind to focus solely on how to support and encourage entrepreneurs. Its programs and efforts focus in four key areas: Entrepreneurship, Advancing Innovation, Education, and Research and Policy. The Foundation provides invaluable resources and policy recommendations on the impact of entrepreneurs in a city’s economy, how to enhance entrepreneurial skills and training, and the best methods on improving the environment for high-growth start-ups. Among their many ventures is the Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation (http://www.kauffmanlabs.org/), which provides a collaborative environment for entrepreneurship while also using the endeavor as an opportunity to study the “science of startups.”
UMKC Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Part of UMKC’s Bloch School of Management, the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation combines excellent education and renowned research. It was recently named the nation’s top Innovation Management Research Program by the Journal of Product Innovation Management. With degree offerings from the undergraduate to doctoral level, the program combines academics with real-world experience and test sites for innovation. UMKC also provides access to venture seed funds and other support resources to help entrepreneurial students launch their ideas while still completing their degree. The Institute has recently broken ground on a new facility which has been uniquely designed to facilitate collaborative and creative workplaces.
The first of its kind, Pipeline is an innovative regional fellowship program focused on connecting entrepreneurs to a network of coaches, mentors, and investors. Since 2007, this immersive fellowship experience has provided the training and network needed to equip life-long entrepreneurs. 94% of Pipeline fellows succeed in introducing innovative new approaches and products to their business. Furthermore, the regional component of the program grounds these entrepreneurs in the wealth and resources of Kansas City.
With a network of more than 175 resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs, KCSourceLink provides assistance throughout the full spectrum of a launching a business. They provide tools to assist in evaluating an idea, locating funding sources, choosing an appropriate business site, and much more. Resources also emphasize business growth and the potential of the high-tech industry.
Center for Animal Health Innovation
Building on the Kansas City area’s reputation as a global leader in the field of animal health, the Center for Animal Health Innovation connects technological and operational innovations with the broader industry. Launched in 2011, the Center offers seed funding, technical assistance, and project management to entrepreneurs and those seeking to bring projects to commercial scale. They have streamlined the funding and marketing process to bring contributors of all steps of the process to the table.
The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce – “Big 5” Initiative
The support of local business leaders is crucial to building consensus and resolution on important city-wide issues. The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is the economic powerhouse of the region, serving over 2,500 businesses and organizations in both Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. Our Chamber seeks to champion the region’s shared interests through community collaboration and leadership. Last year, the Chamber announced its plans to stimulate community development through the introduction of five big ideas that would transform Kansas City. In the Fall of 2011, the Chamber rolled out its “Big 5 Initiatives,” including the idea to make Kansas City “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.” This initiative endeavors to leverage Kansas City’s existing legacy and assets to build an ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation. Since its inception the initiative has organized many events in collaboration with these partners including community forums, conferences, and competitive contests.
Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP)
With more than 130 CEOs participating the program, HEMP fosters mentoring relationships between established and emerging leaders in a variety of entrepreneurial fields. The three-year fellowship program was founded in 1995 and was inspired by the relationship between two of Kansas City’s own great entrepreneurs, Barnett Helzberg, Jr. and Ewing Kauffman. The core strength of the program is this one-on-one mentoring relationship, but HEMP also offers additional networking opportunities and resource support. By fostering deep relationships and connecting creative, driven leaders, HEMP builds on the success of its members to strength entrepreneurial leaders.
KCnext: The Technology Council of Greater Kansas City
KCnext serves as the regional advocate for our tech industry, representing over 65 companies throughout the greater Kansas City area. Their key priorities focus on building partnerships and assembling resources across the industry to promote and attract more firms. KCnext supports crucial growth and development of entrepreneurs. A strong partnership with entrepreneurial-focused institutions on both sides of the state line allows the organization to promote their membership companies’ interests in tech-related policy and dialogue.
In 2011, Google selected the two Kansas Cities from over 1,100 other communities to be the company’s pilot project to deploy its ultra high-speed broadband network. Google expressed that the Kansas Cities were ideal and ultimately selected us based upon our community enthusiasm and involvement, supportive local industries, and our local government’s leadership and ability to forge strong working partnerships. Construction and deployment began in the first quarter of 2012. Throughout this process, Mayor Reardon and Mayor James have sought collaboration across state lines by appointing the Mayors’ Bi-State Innovations Team (MBIT). In partnership with the work of MBIT, numerous community-led groups and local businesses are spearheading action plans and forums to discuss ways the community can use ultra-high speed Internet to promote high start-up growth and entrepreneurship (http://www.googleconnectskc.com/). Leaders of industry in education, government, and non-profits also are encouraging dialogue on how web-based technological advancements can improve their outcomes.
Think Big Partners
Think Big Partners assists businesses in the early-stages which rapidly bringing ideas to scale. Their mentorship-based collaborative network facilitates development not only of the idea but also of the entrepreneur, developing skillsets and building connections. Think Big starts by providing entrepreneurs with feedback and concept testing, then provides assistance in developing an investor pitch and making the initial connections. Their services then continue through the launch of a new venture, with in-house experts and on-site services including marketing, design, finances, and human relations. Think Big also offers flexible, high-tech co-working space in its catalyst location opened in 2010.
The Kansas City community is exploring a partnership to be the only site in North America to host one of the most recent and innovative technological advances in this area. Screampoint’s 5D SMART Technology is a visual web platform that allows users to collect and display complex data sets using five dimensional imaging. Screampoint’s products have been applauded for being the next generation technology in urban policy, allowing government officials to combine, coordinate, and analyze data sets, leading to more efficient strategies and policy recommendations. They aim to resolve critical problems through tech-based solutions, forging strong connectivity across various stakeholders. Screampoint was the chosen technology platform for Kansas City’s first Gigabit Challenge, a global business plan competition encouraging entrepreneurs to develop industry-changing technology applications.
An innovative approach to solving local problems, neighbor.ly is a civic crowd-sourcing platform geared towards raising the funds for local initiatives. Several Kansas City projects are currently underway, including an effort to raise funds and publicity for an initial streetcar line through Kansas City (www.ourstreetcar.com). Other projects include high-tech initiatives and bike share programs.
Social Media Command Center
When Kansas City was named as the host of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, the Mayor’s ofﬁce saw an opportunity to leverage the strength of Kansas City’s social media professionals to generate greater awareness nationally for Kansas City.
The Mayor’s Ofﬁce contacted the Social Media Club of Kansas City to launch a Social Media Command Center to track and respond to visitors and residents during game day and the ﬁve days leading up to it. The Social Media Command Center combined the resources of the Mayor’s ofﬁce, the Social Media Club of KC, Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association, and Kansas City companies H&R Block, Barkley and Spiral16. The command center was launched on Thursday July 5, 2012. Communications were focused speciﬁcally on tourism and guiding visitors to make their stay and experience more enjoyable.
The SMCC answered 1,600 tweets using @VisitKC and tracked over 30,000 tweets related to the All-Star Game or Kansas City during the six-day time period, generating press coverage for Kansas City and creating goodwill for future visitors by offering resources and assistance to people in town for the game. http://www.visitkc.com/social-hub/index.aspx
Artist INC is a collaborative partnership of the Charlotte Street Foundation, the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, and the UMKC Innovation Center. Originally launched in 2007 as KCArtistLink, Artist INC connects Kansas City artists of all disciplines to the tools, resources, and opportunities necessary to develop their entrepreneurial skills and strengthen their artistic practice.
Artist INC programs include the original Artist INC Live eight-week seminar that focuses on professional development and business training for emerging and mid-career artists; two speakers’ series that connect artists with national and local experts in arts entrepreneurship; the Artist INC website where artists can find the resources they need to shape their careers and grow their businesses; and the newly launched Artist INC Online, a web version of the live training seminar that significantly broadens geographic access to this groundbreaking program. In 2012, the program will launch Artist INC II, an advanced project-based seminar available to all Artist INC Live alumni.