Earlier this year, Kiplinger ranked Kansas City as one of the top 10 best cities for entrepreneurs looking to start a company. To make their selections, they ranked cities by things like low cost of living for self-employed individuals, the presence of a large educated workforce, availability of investment dollars for startups, and low business costs. Kansas City made the cut thanks to a number of factors unique to this wonderful city, including low costs, a booming entrepreneurial community, the exclusive presence of Google Fiber, and “unbeatable Kansas City-style barbecue,” to name just a handful.
In recent years, low startup costs have led to a major boom in tech companies across the Midwest, leading the area to be dubbed the “Silicon Prairie.” But while Kansas City sits at the heart of this tech boom, it also has a strong history of local entrepreneurial support, and a lot of local and regional systems in place to help get startups off the ground and make sure they succeed in the long haul.
Nobody in the Kansas City area is unfamiliar with the name Kauffman. The new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts dominates the downtown skyline, but fewer people may be aware of the $2 billion Kauffman Foundation, dedicated exclusively to educational achievement and entrepreneurial success. The Kauffman Foundation recently launched its own version of a startup incubator in the form of Kauffman Laboratories for Enterprise Creation, or Kauffman Labs, which helps extend “the science of startups” to train and guide entrepreneurs in building successful businesses that will last.
The Kauffman Foundation is just one of the many support structures for entrepreneurs that exist in Kansas City. The area has a unique heritage of successful entrepreneurs “paying it forward” by helping the next generation, according to Bo Fishback of Kauffman Labs. The Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentor Program (HEMP) was created by Helzberg Diamonds founder Barnett Helzberg as a way to connect promising entrepreneurs with successful mentors who can help them through the process of building and strengthening a business. There’s also the Pipeline, an exclusive network of high-performance Midwest entrepreneurs that work together to face business challenges and find new opportunities.
Kansas City also offers a lot of opportunities for finding investment dollars for startups. The city has a rich history of “angel investing,” in which affluent individuals provide startup funds for promising business ventures. Also, thanks to organizations like the Kauffman Foundation and HEMP, Kansas City entrepreneurs can get access to unique funds to help build businesses in certain fields.
So, what kinds of startups are most successful in Kansas City?
Well, the city’s entrepreneurial spirit means that just about any kind of business can take off here. Metro area success stories include Boulevard Brewery, Cerner, and Helzberg Diamonds just to name a few. Right now, there’s a major emphasis on tech-based startups, thanks in no small part to the presence of Google Fiber. In 2012, Google unveiled their new broadband Internet infrastructure initiative in Kansas City, and its presence has helped cement the area as a hub for tech-based entrepreneurs.
LaunchKC is another Downtown KC organization, designed to cultivate the thriving IT business community in the Crossroads Arts District and throughout the downtown area. Conceived through collaboration between the Mayor’s office, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Kansas City, and the Downtown Council (DTC) of Kansas City, LaunchKC aims to attract entrepreneurs to downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and develop the already-flourishing startup community present here.
In addition to the various opportunities for entrepreneurs, Kansas City’s cultural and artistic advantages make it an appealing place for businesses. From the Sprint Center to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and from the Plaza to the Power and Light District, Kansas City offers a wealth of culture, entertainment, and nightlife to attract entrepreneurs, investors, and employees alike. Not to mention that famous Kansas City-style barbecue!
As Google continues to build their high-speed Fiber network in Kansas City, we know more startups will be moving into the neighborhood and we want to make sure they have all the resources they need to be successful! Click here to learn more about KC’s start up scene, including links to local Incubators, Kansas City Start-Up Village and Google Fiber.