In a special event at the White House, Kansas City Mayor Sly James exalted area entrepreneurship and a startup community that grew as a result of the metro’s access to Google Fiber.
Joining mayors from Boston and Fresno, Calif., for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, James stood at a White House podium touting the gigabit service and the Kansas City Startup Village as examples of innovation in the heartland. The Kansas City Startup Village is located on the Kansas-Missouri border in the first neighborhood to receive Google Fiber in 2012. It hosts more than 20 startups in a three-block-radius and has served as a hub for entrepreneurial growth.
James poked fun at Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for the startup village’s success in luring away a few Bostonians.
“As a matter of fact, mayor, there were three kids that showed up at a reception for Code for America,” he said. “They came in off the street, I asked them where they came from. They said they had just driven in from Boston to go live at the Startup Village where they started their business that deals with software for home 3D printers and they moved to Kansas City. They’re still there.”
“They must have left their Red Sox hats in the car,” Walsh replied.
“They did because now they’re all wearing Royals jerseys,” James joked. “We have a tremendously active entrepreneurial population with a lot of startups.”
James also shared with press at the meeting that Kansas City drew an impressive turnout to its inaugural Techweek conference in the City of Fountains. Techweek came to Kansas City in September, hosting dozens of tech related events, including networking meetups, lectures, parties and more. After a strong showing in Kansas City, it committed to coming back to the area for five more years.
The mayor also noted the success of LaunchKC, a grant competition in which the city and other organizations awarded 10 firms $50,000 each.
“We surprised Techweek,” James said. “They brought Techweek in on kind of an experimental basis expecting 1,500 people. 4,000 showed up. And during the time of Techweek, we had LaunchKC that we use and we gave away $500,000 in $50,000 blocks to 10 selected entrepreneurial enterprises which have now grown and are getting secondary and third level funding.”
To watch the mayor’s speech, click here.