This week we’re traveling with Steve Case on the Rise of the Rest road trip to celebrate entrepreneurship, in all its forms, across America. Every day we’ll post dispatches from the cities we’ve seen. Read our earlier updates from Madison, Minneapolis, and Des Moines.
We continued our tour across the Midwest today in Kansas City, a city with a rich history of entrepreneurship and a growing startup community taking off on the back of its incredibly fast, low-cost Internet access, courtesy of Google Fiber.
Notable in Kansas City is its engaged civic servants—we were joined this morning by Sen. Jerry Moran, Mayor Sly James (from KC, Missouri), and Mayor Mark Holland (from KC, Kansas)—and its community institutions, namely, the Kauffman Foundation. The Kauffman Foundation’s role in supporting entrepreneurship is acutely felt both here in Kansas City and throughout the nation, and its roots in the local community provide the basis for a city that has launched an initiative to be “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.”
The Kansas City Startup Village anchors the city’s startup community. The Startup Village—a collection of homes hooked up to Google Fiber—provides office space for startups seeking to disrupt search (more on them below), using eye biometrics for security verification, and creating platforms to increase user engagement. Perhaps most importantly, the Startup Village might be the country’s first “Fiberhood”—a startup community that grew out of fast Internet access, proving that reliable and affordable Internet really does drive economic growth.
Like other communities we’ve visited in the Midwest, we met startups in Kansas City committed to making a difference. One was MindMixer, a company creating tools for citizens to engage with their local governments. But also like the other Midwestern communities, Kansas City has to contend with a culture traditionally averse to risk, a lesson we heard from local investors. The good news is that with the support of the Kauffman Foundation and the excitement local startups have generated, the community here is clearly on the road to continued growth.
That promised growth was on display during the day’s pitch competition, where we saw companies looking to disrupt post-college job placement, making government payments, and expanding personal wearables into the world of basketball. And today’s winner—Leap.it, a Startup Village resident—takes search and turns it on its head by adding visual and social collaboration. As Steve Case put it, the company is trying to disrupt Google by relying on Google Fiber.
The importance of that fiber here cannot be understated. The availability of fast and cheap Internet access has clearly helped make Kansas City an American startup destination. An engaged investor community, led by Kauffman Foundation (and amazing community cheerleader and Rise of the Rest bus tour guide Lesa Mitchell), also helps. Together, they’re putting Kansas City on the entrepreneurial map.