Kansas City, with its deep and long history of innovation and entrepreneurship, is experiencing a renaissance and emerging as a great place to build a startup company. And those outside the Midwest are starting to notice:
- Entrepreneur.com says Kansas City is a hub for tech startups.
- The Wall Street Journal reports that Kansas City is “Where the Action Is” for information technology.
- Forbes Magazine counts Kansas City as one of the “The U.S.’ Biggest Brain Magnets” for attracting college graduates.
Perhaps we are biased, but what stands out to SparkLabKC is our unique blend of investors, tech enthusiasts, resources, and reasonable cost of living. Kansas City is drawing talent from across the country and giving homegrown innovators a local playground to test out big ideas.
Access to Technology
When KC became the first city to get Google Fiber, it gained the attention of the entire startup industry. Fiber offers Internet that's roughly 100 times faster than the typical connection. The implications for coding, design, and development are huge. In fact, it was the early news of Google Fiber’s arrival in Kansas City that spurred the discussions that led to the founding of SparkLabKC.
Our friends at KC Startup Village have capitalized on the availability of Google Fiber to spur an entrepreneur-led community of startups. We are thrilled that the Google effect extended to all of Kansas City and is driving competition and availability of high speed Internet.
Access to Talent
We have a number of large companies in KC that employ a great deal of technology talent in the region including: DST, Cerner, Perceptive Software, Euronet, Garmin…the list goes on and on. It is a great training ground for tech talent when they are ready to take the entrepreneurship leap of faith.
The region is home to several universities that infuse the city with a steady stream of educated and ambitious young professionals. The University of Missouri-Kansas City stands out with its focus on entrepreneurship education. Its E-scholars program and Innovation Center are helping “emerging and existing business owners, whether they are student, faculty or community based, hone their business basics, evaluate commercialization opportunities, and connect with the right resources at the right time.” Regional universities like Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla, MO, and the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS, consistently graduate top computer science and engineering students, many of whom come to Kansas City for IT jobs.
Access to Capital
Startups need access to more than just technology and talent; they need funding to turn their ideas into reality. The Digital Sandbox program has provided proof of concept (initial funding to test the viability of an idea) for many SparkLabKC companies.
The Kansas City region also is home to many angel investors, many of whom are investors in SparkLabKC. A number of our graduating companies have presented their business plans and raised seed funding from area angel investors. The Mid-America Angels was founded in 2006 and serves the Kansas-Missouri region with a network of “accredited investors dedicated to identifying and funding…promising early-stage companies.”
Plus more and more these days, venture capital investors from the coasts are looking for deals in the Midwest, and Kansas City is no longer the best kept secret in startups. While there could always be more funding available, Kansas City is definitely making progress in this arena.
Access to Connections
It's not just about the resources, but about the connections you can make with other passionate people. As a tight-knit startup community, Kansas City has a real local's feel. People are eager to offer advice, mentor other professionals, and support exciting new ideas. It’s all part of the “Midwest Mindset” that I explored in a recent post. At SparkLabKC, we have tapped a broad range of mentors – entrepreneurs to high-level executives – for our companies. They receive incredible insight and guidance during our program, and sometimes the mentor relationship develops into an investor relationship!
How SparkLabKC Contributes
When we founded SparkLabKC, we were aware that we were replicating coastal models, and that there was skepticism around whether an accelerator program could work in KC. After two classes, I’m proud to say that it does work – we are a significant hub for startup activity in Kansas City. We’ve been successful at fostering relationships, making connections, and forging new paths for innovation. The city has been extraordinarily welcoming (Mayor Sly James, among many other notable figures, has been our lead-off speaker for both Demo Days). SparkLabKC has become an essential part of the Kansas City startup ecosystem.
We’re honored to contribute to KC’s growing reputation as a center for entrepreneurship and technological advancement. This great city has so much to offer, and we hope the energy and innovation of SparkLabKC continues to drive development and growth on the Silicon Prairie.