I’m not going to lie. It’s been a heckuva ride.
Who could have imagined the Kansas City Startup Village’s serendipitous start in Fall 2012 would turn into all this? Not me.
I vividly remember the nights Matthew Marcus and I were awake at 2 a.m., trying to keep up with the flood of emails from people around the world wanting to learn about Google Fiber and the little community of entrepreneurs that settled in the first neighborhood to get it. At the time, we were still leading our startup, Local Ruckus, and we would ask ourselves how we could possibly keep putting in 40-plus hours on two projects at the same time. We both knew it was unsustainable — but ultimately accepting the fact that we were too passionate about the community to stop.
By Summer 2014, the volunteer-led startup village had grown to 15 properties with 32 startups. We had given tours to thousands of people from every segment of the community — from U.S. senators and CEOs from publicly traded companies to busloads of students and everyone in between. People came from all corners of Kansas City and more than 80 countries across the globe.
It didn’t sink in right away but eventually became clear, that this was about way more than just a little volunteer, grassroots effort on State Line Road. The startup village had become a platform for Kansas City to tell a different story about itself. After tours of the village and conversations about the momentum building in KC, we witnessed many visitors shift their perspectives of Kansas City as a cowtown in flyover country with good BBQ and jazz to a burgeoning tech and startup hub worth watching. We’d never seen such a mindset-shifting force in our hometown.
About a year and a half after the transformation started, we realized it was important for us to figure out how to capture the energy, passion and collaborative spirit of KCSV and the startup community as whole to continue to spark the imagination of locals, change the perspectives of visitors and alter the culture of a city built on a “slow and steady wins the race” mindset. (Hint: Slow and steady doesn’t win races any more.)
Thanks to Mike Farmer, Rachel Merlo and Melissa Roberts, the original KCSF board and Polsinelli attorneys for helping us figure out how to even fill out nonprofit docs.
While KCSF was just starting to get its legs, serendipity struck again.
In May 2014, we received an email from the executive assistant of the CEO of Affinity Enterprise Group, a company we’d never heard of. The email said the CEO was “very interested in what (KCSV was) doing in the community and would like to get more involved.” On June 17, I trekked north, near the airport and met with Mike Wrenn.
The Center of Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development was born 28 days later.
Originally, CEED was simply going to lead MECA Challenge and run Village Square, but six months later, the opportunity to form Startland News presented itself. After another conversation with Mike, we launched entrepreneurially focused online news magazine in May 2015.
Three years later, here we are.
CEED and KCSF are now one, and Marcus and I are again unified in living out our passion to build a world-class community in Kansas City. Only this time, there’s an unbelievable team of people along side us.
As in the past, we can only speculate where this journey will take us, but we believe one thing to be certain: If we stay focused on being honest and doing right every day, the impact of KCSF will be felt in Kansas City for generations to come.
If we’re going to realize our vision for Kansas City, we need your help. We want to bring the power of entrepreneurial problem solving to the masses. That means no matter who you are or what you do, you have a role and seat at the table. We will work tirelessly to make it as easy as possible for you to plug in and make your unique impact.
If you’d like to engage, learn more about what we stand for here.
We hope you join us on this journey. It absolutely takes a village!