In a 2009 study, the Kauffman Foundation found that both Kansas and Missouri fall well below the national average in entrepreneurship/business rates per capita. But when Kansas City has quality universities, excellent medical schools, several great school districts, internationally recognized institutions, a number of capital firms and groups, highly successful companies, law firms that specialize in intellectual property, and a handful of mega-successful entrepreneurs, how can this be so?
Ryan Weber and Aaron Sloup set out to answer this question in the fall of 2009. When the two of them put their heads together, Weber (with experience in intellectual property at Kansas State) and Sloup (with a vast perspective on Kansas City and experience with Cerner) found that it wasn’t the amount of Kansas City assets that was the issue—it was the lack of overall collaboration.
That’s why about a year and a half ago, Weber and Sloup established a new non-profit organization called KC Hub. The two visionaries formed a web-based portal that provides exposure to innovation and entrepreneurialism in Kansas City. The site combines the efforts of innovators, entrepreneurs, leaders, investors, and mentors in Kansas City with one cohesive website featuring a calendar of events, startup news, and much more. In December of 2011, the KC Hub team will feature its Innovative Networking Site Version 2.0 which will be even more interactive, more collaborative, and more personalized for innovators and their targeted needs. Meanwhile, KC Hub is also developing within the entrepreneurial community with face-to-face opportunities and collaboration with various companies.
KC Hub wants Kansas City to be recognized as one of the 10 most innovative regions in the world—a region in which entrepreneurs, scholars and visionaries will flock to work collaboratively in coworking environments with like-minded individuals, intuitions and companies.
Aaron Sloup, President of the organization, keeps his five year plan in mind, but is striving for this overarching goal. “Our ten year vision is for Kansas City to be nationally recognized by people as a place for innovation.”
His partner, Ryan Weber, agrees. “Kansas City has a viable ecosystem for innovators to build sustainable companies and give people opportunities to make the startup process easy,” he says. “We want Kansas City to become a highly-rated base for entrepreneurial activity."
Both founders believe that the reason KC Hub started was because of something that we are all too familiar with: thinking big.
“KC Hub is thinking as big as you can get,” says Weber. “It all started with big thinking, and now we are stepping back and starting from step one.”
“Think Big defines our organization,” adds Sloup. “There are organizations out there who take on very focused pieces of the overall puzzle—we are thinking bigger than this. We are thinking bigger than anyone else and we’re excited to see how far we can get.”
Both founders agree that thinking big requires more than just imagination and innovation. And it's that entrepreneurial initiative that seems to matter most. "It's important to get to a point where you feel comfortable to take that [startup] leap," says Sloup. "It's amazing how many people will come out of the woodwork to help you."
And help you they will--just look at KCSourceLink, a resource that helps small businesses grow and prosper by providing business owners easy access to needed services. This is a well-established entrepreneurial resource that not only strengthens the nonprofit network by collaborating with various Kansas City small business providers, but it also enhances the effectiveness of these businesses which helps the community's economic growth and impact. Be sure to check out the highly-regarded KCSourceLink for more startup help too!
Written by Allison Way. Allison is a writer and videographer for Think Big Partners and bizperc, two of Kansas City's newest entrepreneurial resources. To read more of Allison's work, visit the Kansas City Entrepreneurship Examiner.