Today, Amy and I are announcing a matching gift from our Anchor Point Foundation to the Startland News’ Give A Start donor campaign. We will match any contributions from this point forward, up to $25,000.
Since 2015, Startland News has helped Kansas City entrepreneurs shout their triumphs from the rooftops — a critical piece of storytelling as the local startup community evolves beyond good ideas written on napkins to the home of powerhouse startups and nine-figure exits.
Startland News is part of Startland, formerly the Kansas City Startup Foundation, and is a community-building 501(c)3 nonprofit activating a thriving and inclusive culture of innovation in Kansas City through stories, experiences, and talent.
A thriving startup community also explores its failures, the ongoing challenges plaguing entrepreneurs, and how innovators not only can learn from them but also accelerate past the roadblocks to success. Startland News has been unafraid to identify and confront these issues and grow along with its ecosystem. When the nonprofit newsroom recognized the economic and racial inequity represented in its coverage of mainstream entrepreneurs, it expanded the scope of stories to include more innovators from outside the world of high-growth, high-tech startups and actively opened its platform for the voices of diverse risk-takers, creatives, makers, and small businesses.
While the Covid crisis has been eating up the headlines in 2020, nearly half of the year’s more than 360 Startland News stories have featured underserved or underestimated entrepreneurs — all while the digital publication continues to focus on the city’s latest tech and startup developments.
Equity in startup communities will be a concern for years to come. Still, the solution begins with tangible action to increase access to entrepreneurship and the support and resources that abound in a healthy ecosystem.
In The Startup Community Way, Ian and I discuss storytelling as a factor that helps shape outcomes and included a sidebar on the Startland News story as an example for other startup communities worldwide. Pairing storytelling with diversity only makes that rooftop shouting more clear and compelling.
While I no longer have a house in Kansas City, I have a deep affection for the city, as it has played an important role in my own entrepreneurial journey, starting with a major software project in the early 1990s for a client of Feld Technologies and accelerating with monthly trips in 1994 to work with The Kauffman Foundation on various projects.
Like many non-profit (and for-profit) organizations, 2020 has been a challenging year. Join me in helping Startland News give a start to more innovators in the Kansas City area.
I attended the 20th Reunion of the Kauffman Fellows on Monday and Tuesday. I’ve recently joined the board of directors and enjoyed spending two days in Kansas City immersed in things with the Kauffman Fellows, a bunch of friends, and a number of LPs and GPs that came to the event.
As part of it, I gave a talk and did Q&A with Lesa Mitchell (now the Managing Director of Techstars Kansas City). We covered a lot of ground around startup communities, investing, government, multi-turn games, and other things I can’t remember anymore. Buried in the middle is a story of my experience with Startup Weekend Tehran and a long rant on transcending geographic borders.
If you are looking for a Saturday morning video to run in the background, enjoy.
Yesterday Techstars announced the launch of Techstars Kansas City. This is a city-based horizontal accelerator similar to the ones we have in Boulder, Boston, Seattle, Austin, New York City, London and Berlin. Applications open in January 2017 and the program will run in July 2017.
I have a long history with Kansas City. I almost grew up in Kansas City, as the two cities my parents looked at when moving from Boston were Kansas City and Dallas (they chose Dallas.) In the mid to late 1990s, I was an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Kauffman Foundation working with Jana Matthews on “learning programs for high growth entrepreneurs.” During this time, Jana and I initiated a deep partnership between the Kauffman Foundation and YEO (the Young Entrepreneurs Organization). I spent about a day a month in Kansas City, during which time I developed a deep respect for the Kauffman Foundation, Ewing Marion Kauffman (Mr. K), and his value system around entrepreneurship and philanthropy.
In 2013 when Google announced that Kansas City would be the first city in the country to have Google Fiber, I bought a house in the first neighborhood that was being wired up with Google’s gigabit Internet. This was inspired by Ben Barreth, who was the first person to buy a house in the neighborhood and turn it into a hacker house. Lesa Mitchell, at that time at the Kauffman Foundation, found the house for me and did all the on the ground work for me. Later in 2013, Techstars and Sprint launched the Sprint Accelerator, which Techstars ran for three years.
As a result of this activity, Kansas City has become an important startup city in Techstars network. Earlier this year we started talking more about our long term view for our involvement in the Kansas City Startup Community and recruited Lesa Mitchell to lead the effort for us as the Managing Director of Techstars Kansas City.
I giggle with joy when I think about working with Lesa closely again. There’s a long list of things we did together when she was at the Kauffman Foundation, we share very similar visions for startup communities, and – well – she’s just dynamite.
I’m going to be in Kansas City on Monday for the Kauffman Fellows Reunion VC Summit and the 20th anniversary of the Kauffman Fellows Program. I joined the Kauffman Fellows board last month (more on that in a post soon) and David Cohen (Techstars co-CEO) and I are doing an event Tuesday afternoon about what Techstars is doing next in Kansas City. Come join us if you are in town and interested.
I’m running another competition for a startup to live for a year for free in my Kansas City FiberHouse.
When I bought my house in Kansas City in 2013, I announced my intentions clearly.
“I’m not going to be living in it. Instead, I’m going to let entrepreneurs live / work in it. Rent free. As part of helping create the Kansas City startup community. And to learn about the dynamics of Google Fiber. And to have some fun.”
So far we’ve had two different companies live/work in the FiberHouse. HandPrint spend the first year in the house and LeapIt spent the second year.
The third year could be you! Apply today.
It’s been a blast to have a house in Kansas City. I’ve made a bunch of new friends from it and have been able to participate in the radical growth of the startup community there, especially in the KC Startup Village where my house is located. I’ve gotten to experience Google Fiber first hand and also helped mentor a neat startup called HandPrint who has been living in the house for the past six months. And it continues to be really fun to tell the story of the look on Amy’s face when I came home and said “hey – I bought a house in Kansas City today.”
When I bought the house, it had an attic that was a mess. A really gross mess. Think mouse turds, busted boards, and damp rotting wood mess. I hired a contractor who the HandPrint folks hung out with and he turned it into a great new loft. Turnstone (a Steelcase company) offered to furnish the house as a way of highlighting their furniture in a startup environment.
It turned out awesome. If you’ve been following the story at all, the video below will give you a few minute glimpse into the house, some of the players including the amazing Lesa Mitchell who helped make it all happen, the snazzy Turstone-loft, as well as give you a look at the HandPrint team.
I’m trying to figure out the next fun place to buy a house like this.
Techstars has launched another “powered by” accelerator, this time with Sprint around mobile health. It’s based in Kansas City (Sprint’s headquarters) and is our fourth powered by Techstars accelerator, joining Nike, Kaplan, and R/GA.
I’m an enormous fan of four things about the Sprint Accelerator – what we call “PBTS” (powered by Techstars), mobile health, Kansas City, and Sprint.
The PBTS strategy is one we started working on in 2012. We knew that we would continue to expand Techstars geographically (in 2013 we’ve added London, Austin, and Chicago). At the same time we were talking to a lot of large companies with outstanding brands about building accelerators specifically around their ecosystems. It dawned on us that the dynamics of an accelerator could work as well for building innovation and new company’s around a particular company/product ecosystem as it could for a city. So far the results have been awesome with outstanding companies coming out of the Nike+ Accelerator and the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator.
As an investor in Fitbit, I’m an enormous believer in quantified self. As the son of a doctor who is obsessed with repairing the healthcare system I’m regularly subjected to hearing about the massive flaws in today’s healthcare system. My dad has beaten into my head that my healthcare is my responsibility, and I’ve become an enormous believer in consumer-driven healthcare. I’ve never been interested in investing in medical devices, but I’m very interested in the consumerization of the medical device industry. And the intersection point of many of these ideas for me is mobile health.
Kansas City has a special place in my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years, going back to the mid-1990s when I was an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Kauffman Foundation. I bought a house there last year to experiment with Google Fiber in the middle of the Kansas City Startup Village. While I don’t like BBQ or the Kansas City Chiefs, I like the people a lot and think it has one of the most exciting growing startup communities in the United States.
Sprint makes me smile. Many of you know that I have a long history and relationship with Softbank, which just acquired Sprint. I’m very loyal to my friends at Softbank and love any opportunity to work with them – directly or indirectly. Sprint was my first long distance carrier – if I think hard enough I can probably remember my Sprint calling card number – and I used it many times to call my parents and my ex-wife when I was at school at MIT. And Sprint is a great US entrepreneurial story that traces its roots to the Brown Telephone Company in Abilene, KS in 1899.
This is going to be a fun one! Applications are open.
The winners of the Feld KC FiberHouse competition, that I’ve done in conjunction with the Kauffman Foundation, is a company called Handprint!
Handprint is working on some amazing 3D printing and editing technology. We had plenty of applications for the competition – many of them very interesting – but Handprint really captured our imagination.
As winners of the competition, they’ll get to live in the house rent free for a year. I’ll pay for Google Fiber and the house; they cover their own expenses. There are no strings attached – I don’t get any equity and there are no downstream obligations for them.
Google Fiber was installed last week so when they move in they’ll immediately have access to 1 gigibit Internet.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m doing this as an experiment around Startup Communities. I’m fascinated about what is going on in Kansas City around Google Fiber and rather than observe, I decided to participate.
Thanks to Ben Barreth for inspiring this project with his Homes for Hackers discussion with me when we met at Thinc Iowa. And thanks for Lesa Mitchell at Kauffman Foundation for all of her support. Both Ben and Lesa have done all the hard work on this project – I’m deeply appreciative of their help. Also, thanks to Scott Case of Startup America for helping judge the competition.
A huge congrats to the Handprint team which consists of Mike Demarais, Alexa Nguyen, Jack Franzen, and Derek Caneja. I look forward to getting to know you better over the next year. Welcome to the Fiberhood!
The chance to apply to win a slot to live in my Google Fiber enabled house in Kansas City are open for one more week – ending on March 25th at 17:00 CDT. Last week Google opened up Fiber access to the neighborhood my house is in and I registered for the $120 / month plan (which will be included in the house – no charge for that, or for rent, for the winners.)
I’m looking for entrepreneurs who are committed to living in Kansas City for a year who have a unique and novel approach to taking advantage of 1 gigibit Internet. The house is next to Homes for Hackers and down the block from KC Startup Village. The winners get to live for free in the house for a year and get to be kept warm by 1 gigibit Internet.
I bought a house in Kansas City on Monday. It’s next door to the Homes for Hackers and KC Startup Village. It will have Google Fiber in it. I hope it becomes an integral part of the nation’s first Google Fiberhood.
I’m not going to be living in it. Instead, I’m going to let entrepreneurs live / work in it. Rent free. As part of helping create the Kansas City startup community. And to learn about the dynamics of Google Fiber. And to have some fun.
Here’s how it’s going to work. The Kauffman Foundation and I are running the Feld’s KC Fiber House Competition. Entries can be submitted online starting now. Entries are open through Friday March 22. Applicants must be at least 18 years old. Up to five winners will be selected from among the applications received. They’ll get to live and work in the house for a year rent free. I’m not taking any equity in these companies – I using a “give before you get” philosophy here to experiment, learn, and help the Kansas City startup community.
The judges will be me, Scott Case of Startup America Partnership, David Cohen of TechStars and Lesa Mitchell of the Kauffman Foundation. We’ll be looking for the innovative potential of their startups and their companies’ ability to leverage Google Fiber. We’ll all be informal mentors and friends to the people who win and end up living in the house.
This came about through meeting with Ben Barreth, who created Homes for Hackers, at the Thinc Iowa conference. I loved what Ben was up to and offered to help. I thought about it more over the next month and then wrote him and Lesa Mitchell at Kauffman a note asking if it would be useful for me to buy a house near the Hacker House and open it up to entrepreneurs. This is what resulted.
I have a couple of very specific goals. First, I want to set an example using some of the principles I talk about in Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. Next, I’m fascinated with Google Fiber and the idea of 1GB Internet access to the home so I want to experiment and see what smart entrepreneurs can come up with. I have a long relationship with Kauffman and Kansas City going back to the mid-1990’s and I want to support the development and growth of the Kansas City startup community. And finally, when Amy and I talked about the idea of it, we agreed it would be a fun thing to do.
If you are an entrepreneur at a startup and want to live rent free for a year in a house with a 1GB Internet connection, apply now!