Good collaborations and true "fits" are really a thing to behold in life and in business. One of those has been built in Kansas City, Missouri. Techweek and Kansas City's Launch KC have formed a beautiful partnership that will not only help entrepreneurs with both resources and finances, but will also showcase one of America's most entrepreneurial and rising tech cities.
Techweek's mission is to build a better world through tech entrepreneurship. Launch KC is a civic engine igniting the KC tech scene. Seems like a match made in heaven right? We aren't dealing with strange bedfellows here. However, Techweek is only in five American cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Detroit. All major US cities with large populations. How did Kansas City get one of the most well-known and successful gatherings of technologists, entrepreneurs, investors and media to host this marquee event in the City of Fountains? It all started with barbeque.
Iain Shovlin, is the managing partner of Guild Capital, the venture group that funds and started Techweek. When Mr. Shovlin was with another firm on the west coast he invested in one of Kansas City's most successful startups at the time. When he came to KC with that funding deal he couldn't get past the amazing barbecue Kansas City offered. KC is the barbecue capitol of the world after all. When Shovlin and the others on the Techweek team came to Kansas City to consider it for its next city, they met with KC tech leadership including the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Economic Development Corporation of KC, Drew Solomon, over you guessed it barbecue. A meal at Jack Stack Barbecue in KC's downtown Freight House District sealed the deal.
Now besides barbecue, Techweek was very impressed with Kansas City's growing downtown and re-rise of its urban center spearheaded by not only economic development, but also by the successful tech scene. Techweek leadership, including Executive Director Sam Kennedy, were blown away by Kansas City's innovative ideas, infrastructure and initiative, as well as the commitment to driving technology in its downtown area. Kennedy said, "Kansas City is particularly exciting right now for the nationally significant initiatives they have, such as Cisco's Smart City and Google Fiber." In addition to these initiatives Kennedy is also excited about the global significance of Kansas City. "There are many global tech companies based in Kansas City. Companies such as Sprint, Garmin, Cerner, VML, H&R Block and DST are extremely successful and when you combine these successes with the number one entrepreneurial resource, research and programming institution in the world, the Kauffman Foundation, it was very clear that we wanted to be in Kansas City."
The added cherry on top for Techweek was Kansas City's Launch KC initiative. Launch KC "launched" its inaugural Grants Competition at SXSW during the interactive session with an event on 6th street. Nearly 1,000 individuals from across the US and the world rsvp'd. The competition will take place during Techweek and will award up to ten $50,000 grants to early stage entrepreneurs and their tech ventures. "Kansas City has put real money and capital behind its efforts to attract and retain technology companies in its downtown area," said Drew Solomon who is the architect behind the Launch KC Grants Competition. Launch KC will award the largest prizes ever given at a Techweek event. "We have already seen some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the country apply, as well as some pretty interesting business models and new concepts," said Mike Hurd, Chief Marketing Officer at the Downtown Council of Kansas City. "We couldn't be more excited to have Techweek in downtown Kansas City, Missouri."
Techweek is making a five-year commitment to build and grow this "SXSW style" event in Kansas City. Techweek and Launch KC are hoping for attendance numbers between 3,000 and 5,000 people for the flag planting first year in KC. The Chief Strategy Advisor at Techweek, Allison Konkel said, "We will promote innovation by engaging the entire tech ecosystem and shining a national spotlight on the incredible companies that are growing in Kansas City. Focusing on promoting KC's thriving local innovative ecosystem to a national audience is very important to us."
Confirmed speakers for the event include the Co-Founder of Tinder, Jonathan Badeen.
In a way that's pretty ironic because the personality and match between Techweek and Kansas City seem spot on.
"I've never been offered free office space in any of our other cities and I've never been in a community that has so little pretense when doing business than Kansas City. The sense of a close knit, welcoming tech community is pervasive in KC," said Kennedy.
In a global age, exceptional tech companies can be built anywhere, not just in Silicon Valley. Kansas City is proving that to be very true. Techweek partnering with Kansas City as its first mid-size US city to hold its marquee event continues to build upon Kansas City becoming one of America's most entrepreneurial cities.
Techweek coinciding with the Launch KC Grants Competition takes place in downtown Kansas City, Missouri from September 14-20th, 2015.
It might be time to insert techies and startups in these famous words, "Going to Kansas City...Kansas City Here I Come."
About the Author: Jason Grill is an attorney and the founder of JGrill Media. He is the co-founder of Sock 101 and the host of the Grill Nation Show. Jason contributes regularly to national publications, radio and TV stations. Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonGrill, Facebook and Instagram.