Applications are coming in for our Class of 2015 and the beginning of our third session is on the horizon! Everyone at SparkLabKC is excited for what is to come, and I'd like to share some of what our next class (and the startup community in Kansas City) has to look forward to in 2015.
New & Improved Space
The biggest development since we graduated our second class of innovative entrepreneurs last April is our move to a new space downtown (which I covered in detail in a previous post). The large industrial space has an open floor plan to encourage collaboration between companies, tons of space for work and play, and great amenities including a gym and "party room" with a kitchen, a ping-pong table, and a putting green! The new location in the heart of downtown Kansas City puts us in close proximity to many of our mentors and investors, as well as great restaurants and coffee shops for breaks during the day, and many prospective happy hour locations.
Another development that our new, larger location has made possible is the continuing availability of work space for our graduates. Several members of the Class of 2014 have made use of free office space as they continue to engage with SparkLabKC as a valuable resource for their continued growth and development. We'll be sad to see them grow up and find their own space in December as we bring in our new class, but are glad to be able to offer ongoing support to our graduates in this way.
The collaborative nature of the space has been valuable to our graduates and will benefit the new teams as they embark of their own "90-day sprint" through the SparkLabKC program. The potential for cross-pollination and teamwork is a reflection of the startup ethos - encouraging innovation and collaborative thinking and allowing our teams to share their strengths with their colleagues. One of our original goals was to build a sense of community among the startup crowd in Kansas City, and it has been gratifying to see our new space become a hub of activity.
We are also excited by the new mentors and investors we have added to our roster. I know that the teams joining the program will be able to engage with and learn from some of the areas most successful and experienced business people. Our mentors have always been a huge ingredient in the success of our companies, and this infusion of fresh talent guarantees that access to the best minds in the business will continue to be one of SparkLabKC's strengths.
In particular, I am excited by the new talent we've recruited in the areas of finance and accounting. The Class of 2015 will benefit from increased education about financial reporting and accounting, which is one area in which startup teams are often underdeveloped. As they prepare to raise seed funding and venture capital, strong financial mentorship will set them down the right path and prepare them for success.
New Access to Capital
One of the most exciting developments in the Kansas City entrepreneurship space is the founding of Flyover Capital, "a group of technology entrepreneurs and fund managers [who] have participated in a number of venture capital funds and personally invested and managed early-stage technology ventures in the Midwest." The existence of a local capital fund is a huge reflection of confidence in the startup community, its evolution, and a major piece of the entrepreneurship puzzle that is now in place.
In a recent interview with Keith Molzer, one of the founders of Flyover Capital, he provided some great insight into the state of early stage funding in Kansas City. Keith and his co-founders felt the time was right in Kansas City and noted that:
"There hasn't been an organized, institutional early stage venture fund in Kansas City in a long time," he says, "It’s called Flyover for a reason, because all the venture capitalists would fly over and fund stuff in [Silicon] Valley and the Northeast, but there are great deals, great entrepreneurs, and great value propositions for technology companies in the Midwest."
Flyover Capital was founded to address that gap and provide support for area entrepreneurs. They seek to target high growth, technology-related sectors, including digital media, enterprise software, healthcare, and B2B/B2C commerce platforms. Companies that catch their eye have typically completed a round of angel investment, have a few early adopters using their product, a clear path to revenue generation, and an exit strategy.
Keith, a serial entrepreneur himself, offers this advice to the SparkLabKC Class of 2015:
"Be passionate about what you’re doing, but not so passionate that you don’t see other opportunities. Some of the best companies that are built aren’t doing what they originally set out to do. You’ve got to go talk to people, talk to the experts, get great mentors, get out and talk to potential customers - that’s the only way you’re going to find out if your idea or your technique is going to get you to the next level."
With so many exciting developments in Kansas City's entrepreneurial community, I have a great feeling about the future of our SparkLabKC graduate companies as well as our new class. SparkLabKC is proud to be a part of this thriving community.
Tweet us @SparkLabKC with your thoughts about how we can continue to make Kansas City and the Silicon Prairie a center of excellence for technology and innovation!