K ansas City, Missouri is renowned for its mouthwatering barbecue, classic jazz, and its World Series-winning Royals. But increasingly, it’s also gaining a reputation as an emerging epicenter for startup formation and incubation. “Kansas City is really on the rise as an entrepreneurial ecosystem,”
says Drew Solomon, senior vice president of business development for Economic
Development Corporation of Kansas City, an agency that works with city, state, and
local resources to bring new businesses to the city.
And while locals say the area has always been welcoming of start-ups (this is
the Midwest, after all), it’s clear that the efforts to help entrepreneurs thrive have
intensified since 2012, when Google Fiber announced it would launch its ultra high-speed network there.
“That decision really added to our swagger,” says Tim Cowden, CEO of Kansas City
Area Development Council, which helps attract businesses to 18 counties across
Missouri and Kansas. Besides the actual advantage of faster Internet connections,
“having a company the caliber of Google choose the Kansas City region after
evaluating more than 1,300 markets gave us a tremendous amount of confidence.”
It also provided “confirmation that we knew this region could compete and win for
any level of investment.”
That confidence has translated into innumerable side benefits for the innovation
economy as a whole.
Now, five years later, Kansas City’s entrepreneurial landscape is growing
• STARTUP VILLAGE A residential neighborhood that converted into shared
workspace for about 25 startups also marks the site of the first fiber installation.
• LAUNCHKC A $500,000 city-supported business model competition draws
applications from entrepreneurs from all over the globe.
• ACCELERATOR PROGRAMS Including Techstars, several new programs have
established themselves in the area, as have a growing number of angel and
On measures like startup density and percentage of new entrepreneurs in the
population, Kansas City has become one of most-improved metropolitan areas in
the Kauffman Foundation’s ranking of 40 U.S. cities, jumping from #29 to #18 in
2015 (the most recent year data are available).
According to Cowden, the momentum is increasingly drawing larger companies
looking for an innovative edge to relocate to the area, with Virgin Mobile USA and
AutoAlert two recent HQ relocation examples. “It’s fair to say they’ve been
blown away by the quality of the talent pool here,” he adds.
What makes the city so attractive? We look at five key factors that have
contributed to this Midwestern renaissance. ;
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