Earlier this year I wrote one of my first pieces for the Huffington Post entitled “Flyover Country? Not this Kansas City.” The column focused on many of the incredible things happening on Silicon Prairie. Since then Kansas City has continued to impress with its unbelievable momentum in the entrepreneur, startup and innovation space. Kansas City is on a roll. It’s a city on move.
Now as many people might already know Kansas City has the best barbecue in the world. Not only is it the best, but recently one of KC’s outstanding BBQ restaurants, Oklahoma Joe’s, was named The Manliest Restaurant in America by Men’s Health. Try the Z-Man and fries, you won’t be disappointed. KC is the barbecue capital of the world, but now through The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 Initiative, KC is building to become “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.” A lofty goal with serious competition on both coasts, but with Kansas City’s rich history of entrepreneurship and innovation anything is possible.
Recently, many impressive developments are helping to move the ball past the goal line with entrepreneurs in Kansas City. Much of this is due to a renaissance in the spirit of collaboration. Groups such asKCSourceLink, UMKC SBTDC and the Kauffman Foundation are providing unprecedented access, opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs. This can be no more apparent than at Kauffman Labsthrough the 1 Million Cups (1MC) program. Every Wednesday morning local startups present their companies to a diverse room of hundreds of mentors, advisers, investors and entrepreneurs over coffee. In addition, the Kauffman Foundation recently powered Global Entrepreneurship Week in 129 countries, which included a full week of over 40 activities for entrepreneurs of all ages and stages of business in Kansas City.
In Kansas City, local government is also developing innovative public-private sector partnerships and real collaboration with the entrepreneurial community. The Mayor of Kansas City, Mo., Sly James recently announced Launch KC. Launch KC is an initiative designed to attract and develop entrepreneurs and IT professionals in the thriving information technology community around the downtown area of Kansas City, MO. A few key parts of the Launch KC initiative are reducing the costs of launching tech companies in KC, building a downtown wireless district, providing incentives on business equipment to tech startups, connecting entrepreneurs to corporate resources and establishing a major technology lab in Kansas City’s Union Station.
On the heels of the major Launch KC announcement, Mayor Sly James brought the City Age “A New American City” conference to Kansas City in December. City Age brought together hundreds of mayors, entrepreneurs, leaders and urban visionaries from all around the United States and abroad. Kansas City was chosen to host this major event because of its new urban ideas, digital connectivity, tech advancements and innovative entrepreneurs. Not to mention the world class, state of the art Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts served as the backdrop for the event.
Not only has collaboration been a major piece to Kansas City’s entrepreneurial and technology revolution, but community has also played a huge role. In the month of November, Kansas City saw the creation of KC Startup Village (KCSV), an entrepreneur-led, organic, grassroots initiative that is helping bolster the Kansas City startup scene by creating a concentrated community of startups. KCSV is located around state line road hovering on both sides of the Missouri and Kansas border. Why you ask? One reason is because this is the first neighborhood in the Kansas City area to receive 100 times faster than broadband Google Fiber services. KC Startup Village has been receiving incredible amounts of local and national visibilitybecause it’s proving that Kansas City is a city and community where budding entrepreneurs want to move, work and where they can easily share ideas while having meaningful serendipitous collisions in a dense area. Entrepreneurs from around the country are coming to Kansas City to experience unbelievable Google Fiber speeds to help their own businesses, but at the same time helping others become successful and grow. The expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem of the region is truly amazing and fascinating.
Incubators such as BetaBlox, programs like Pipeline and events like the Novel City “Novel Day” are among those leading the charge to continue innovation, grow ideas and find better solutions for tomorrow.
Kansas City is pushing the envelope in becoming one of the strongest, if not the finest entrepreneurial city in this great country through a renewed spirit of collaboration, community and leadership.
This is a unique and exciting time in Kansas City’s entrepreneurial history.
Kansas City the future is bright.