Jason Grill: Kansas City Is Becoming a Mecca for Big Technology Names

KansasCityKansas City has always been an entrepreneurial city.

Companies such as Hallmark, Sprint, DST, Cerner, H&R Block, Garmin and Russell Stover Candies all call Kansas City home. However, a true renaissance in entrepreneurship and a renewed sense of a vibrant startup community has skyrocketed of late. A recent paper from the Kauffman Foundation shows that Kansas City has the third highest increase overall among the largest metropolitan areas in high-tech startup density from 1990-2010 in the United States. Kansas City ranked first for the highest increase among the largest metropolitan areas in high-tech startup density from 1990-2010 in the United States when based only on information and communications technology. This might strike some as surprising since Kansas City is not in Silicon Valley or on the East Coast, however it’s less of a surprise to those familiar with the technology ecosystem there. Kansas City’s growing tech density and its burgeoning startup activity demonstrates that the city has viability as a technology destination. Now, national technology players are truly taking note of the city and its success.

This newfound interest can be seen in the heart of Downtown Kansas City, Missouri at Think Big Partners. Think Big Partners is an early-stage business incubator, startup accelerator and mentorship-based collaborative network that takes ideas, opportunities and entrepreneurs and helps to take them to the next level. Why is this so important? Here’s why…Think Big Partners just became the first of its kind in the entire world to partner with Microsoft Ventures. To put this in perspective, think something similar to Google Ventures. In the past Microsoft Ventures has opened up its own accelerators in locations such as Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Paris and Beijing. However, Think Big Partners in Kansas City is the first established accelerator to build a partnership with Microsoft Ventures.

“Think Big Partners represents the best of KC as well as startup reach nationally and globally. We’re pleased to be working with them to find and support great startups,” said Cliff Reeves of Microsoft Ventures. The focus of Think Big Partners will continue to be helping entrepreneurs, grow, build and start their companies, but with this impressive partnership with Microsoft Ventures they now will have access to more of the “right” mentors to continue building their brand in an effort to grow and attract companies outside of Kansas City and the Midwest. These types of partnerships also allow Kansas City to attract more capital into town and more access to what it brings. “The extensive resources and boots on the ground that Microsoft Ventures adds to our checklist-oriented process will help us get entrepreneurs from idea to first customer faster and even more efficiently,” said Blake Miller, Director of Think Big Partners Accelerator.

110901_grill_arenaIn addition to what Think Big Partners is doing with Microsoft Ventures, Sprint has also been a relevant player on the tech scene launching the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator in partnership with the well-known accelerator brand, Techstars. Leaders of early-stage mobile technology companies from across the United States will be coming to Kansas City to work on initiatives driving innovation in health care. Seems like the right focus with all the transformations going on in health care right now doesn’t it? “Wireless innovations are helping people around the world by improving health care, empowering people with disabilities and promoting wellness,” said Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint.

The Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator, powered by Techstars, will provide entrepreneurs in this field an unparalleled opportunity to strengthen their businesses with the guidance of leading technology experts from Sprint, top technology companies in the area and many from around the country. “To me, Kansas City is an obvious place that has an up-and-coming tech community to rival other top geographies,” said David Cohen, Founder and CEO of Techstars. “The presence of leaders in the mobile health care space makes this the perfect home for the accelerator.” Oh, I almost forgot…guess what? The new Sprint Accelerator is located about a block and a half away from Think Big Partners in one of Kansas City’s most desirable neighborhoods, the Crossroads. Kansas City is building true technology density and a real innovation zone in its urban core.

The major Think Big Partners and Sprint Accelerator news comes off the momentum of Kansas City becoming the first city in the United States to receive and implement 100 times faster than broadband Google Fiber services in many areas in the metropolitan area. Downtown Kansas City is getting wired for Google Fiber right now. This will only help Kansas City increase its high-tech density startup growth and help it build on its status as an emerging entrepreneurial technology center.

Kansas City will continue to be a catalyst for growth in the entrepreneurial sector in America and its technology innovation prowess is proving to be on the rise.

Going to Kansas City…Kansas City here I come.

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