Monday, April 1, 2013

In Case You Missed It…Recap of Big Kansas City 2013 Entrepreneur Conference

Yesterday concluded the first ever Big Kansas City conference, held by Silicon Prairie News. Over the course of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, entrepreneurs, investors, startups and creative folks of all kinds gathered in the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport Museum (National Airline History Museum). Discussion topics varied from speaker to speaker, but each brought their own unique blend of humor, insight, wisdom and knowledge.

Wednesday’s speaker schedule started off with Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. During his speech, he highlighted Sprint’s commitment to innovation as well as Kansas City’s growing technology startup community. During his speech, he singled out recent SXSWi Accelerator winner Phone2Action, a member of the Think Big Accelerator program, as evidence of Kansas City startup ingenuity.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse is excited about Kansas City Startups (photo by Kenny Johnson)

After Dan, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian gave a casual, engaging and intellectually provocative speech about starting Reddit, Internet freedom and the Midwestern entrepreneur boom.

Other highlights from Wednesday included charity:water founder and CEO Scott Harrison, whose riveting images and global insight left many in the audience speechless and reaching for Kleenex; Adam Wilson of Sphero, who explained how their team got President Obama to use their product; Vayable CEO Jamie Wong, who presented an engaging lecture about the most important things to remember as an entrepreneur (#1: Build the world you want to live in.); Dan Martell of, who instead of talking about anything having to do with his business (an interesting decision), gave a lengthy speech about his brother’s entrepreneurial struggles and eventual triumph.

charity:water CEO Scott Harrison's presentation captivated and deeply moved the audience (photo by Kenny Johnson)

A special edition of 1 Million Cups was conducted during lunch, with speeches from the Leap2 search team and the founder of Startup Genome. Both companies focus on search: Leap2 is redefining search to be more interactive, responsive, and answer-driven; Startup Genome is creating a crowdsourced/perpetually evolving startup directory for the entire nation.

Jamie Wong: "Build the world you want to live in" (photo by Kenny Johnson)

The rest of the afternoon was equally engaging, with talks from Dhani Jones of BowTie Cause and Ryan Jones of Proxibid, an extended Q&A panel and a party in the evening.

Some highlights from day two of Big Kansas City include:

·         Kauffman Foundation VP of Entrepreneurship Thom Ruhe giving a riveting speech about his interactions and involvement with Sohael Chowdhury, creator of YELL Bangladesh.
·         Science Inc. co-founder Mike Macadaan speaking about his passion and companies innovations (plus he gave away cord tacos).
·         Code for America Chief of Staff Abhi Nemani gave a potent lecture about civic platforms, the wide-open market for government IT infrastructure (did you know it’s a $140 billion/year industry?), and the coming wave of open-source coding.
·         Citizen Made CEO Rachel Brooks, whose speech about the maker movement was inspiring and thought-provoking.
· CEO Micah Baldwin, whose potently honest and raw insight into the importance of taking care of oneself in the hurricane of entrepreneurialism left the room unsettled in a very good way.
·         Yahoo! Mobile Project Manager Bart Stein, whose contrarian tips for entrepreneurs ruffled a few feathers in the audience, shifted thinking for others and proved a great way to end the event.

The event was catered (and when we say catered, we mean catered!): Table after table of artisan sandwiches, salads, breakfast snacks, drinks, Roasterie coffee, juice, afternoon snacks, barbecue, and Boulevard beer at the end of the event. If you didn’t feel like getting up to get any snacks, you needn’t worry: a bag of snacks was taped to the underside of every chair. All the food was delicious and provided a great setting for casual networking and conversation.

Beyond the food, attendees were engaged throughout the conference, interacting with each other and the speakers. It was a very approachable and relaxed environment, which was perfectly conducive to collaboration.

The event was a very slick operation, with livestreaming and a schedule which was honored throughout the day. Silicon Prairie News and the affiliate sponsors obviously put a lot of thought, time, effort and money into Big Kansas City 2013, and it showed in each and every detail (including the live DJ). If this first year is any indication, then Silicon Prairie has a hit on its hands.

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