In partnership with Think Big Partners, the Innovation Exchange offers Kansas Citians context and behind-the-scenes details on newsmakers in the area entrepreneurial ecosystem.
This month, area leaders — including the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s vice president of entrepreneurship Victor Hwang — discussed what’s on the horizon for Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. If you missed the event, a video is available on Startland’s Facebook page.
Kauffman and the Kansas City entrepreneurial ecosystem
It’s been almost a year since Victor Hwang moved to Kansas City after accepting the position as the vice president of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation — a position he calls “his dream job.”
Hwang shared that be believes Kansas City is reaching its “inflection point.”
“I’ve seen a lot of cities that are building entrepreneurship, and where Kansas City is now is the most interesting time to be in a city,” Hwang said. “It’s a moment where a city is just waking up to its own potential after a long slumber of inactivity. As we’re waking up, we feel a burst of creative energy.”
As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Kauffman Foundation “hit the road” last month and filmed the video series EshipCity on the road, featuring Hwang. He added that Kansas City, as well as many other Midwestern cities, are entering a “cultural shift” in which residents are less conservative about possibilities.
“The heartland and the Midwest is rebirthing itself because the means of innovation are becoming democratized,” Hwang said.
In addition to establishing Kansas City as an entrepreneurial testbed for Kauffman, Hwang said he hopes to push more organizations to become invested in area innovation. Through his role, Hwang said he’s working to elevate Kansas City entrepreneurship while ensuring that entrepreneurs and other community groups — not just the foundation — are joining the effort.
“Kauffman is both a blessing and a curse to this community,” Hwang said. “It throws its weight around a little too disproportionately. What I would like to see is the city being able to do their thing without waiting around for Kauffman to get involved.”
KCK and KCMO innovation
Innovation in the Kansas City metro area knows no borders.
Startland’s Bobby Burch chatted with KCMO innovation analyst Kate Garman and KCK chief knowledge officer Alan Howze about the innovation they’re driving in their respective cities. In addition to KCMO’s chief innovation officer, Bob Bennett, the two work regularly together to not only learn from one another but also to help the region.
“Partnering with KCK makes everything that we’re doing more effective,” Garman said. “Even though we’re neighboring cities, we actually have quite a few different challenges. And it’s these different challenges that means we can come up with even more solutions.”
Howze moved to Kansas City, Kan., with his family in July to serve as KCK’s first chief knowledge officer. As CKO, Howze manages the IT department, 311 center calls, the geographic information system, open data and all thing innovation. He said that this position offered a “unique opportunity” to combine many facets of innovation.
Howze and City of Kansas City, Kan. recently opened an open data portal full of public information, including property records, citations and more. The portal aims to make information more accessible by and digestible for residents and businesses. Since the release, the data has already assisted nonprofit groups in mitigating blighted property.
“The challenge has been more organizational than technical,” Howze said. “We want to see the city as a platform for innovation and for people to begin to use the information that we already have available.”
Although similarly focused on innovation, Garman, who’s also an attorney, primarily looks over industry regulations that may need updating. She does this to not only serve city officials in an advisory role, but also to help accommodate new tech and services, such as driverless cars, Uber and AirBnB.
This week, the City of Kansas City, Mo. hosted its inaugural demo day for its Innovation Partnership Program. The program paired city departments with seven local startups that tested their technologies with the city to create efficiencies.
“It basically allows people inside city hall to see new technologies without the cumbersome process of the procurement hurdles,” Garman said. “We hope this can change the culture from within.”
Research shows that as much as $500 billion dollars of wealth was lost as a result of patent troll lawsuit from 1990 to 2010.
That stat and a recent proposed procedural rule change in a Kansas U.S. District Court prompted political advocacy expert Melissa Roberts to speak up. She recently wrote on the subject for Startland News, arguing that the rule change could lead to more patent trolls, which will squash innovation in the area.
Roberts encouraged those to share their voice by signing an online petition.