Startland News exists to share the stories of innovation that happen every day in Kansas City.
But while we try our best to give you updates as they come, it is rare that all the details of the news we produce are included in the stories we publish.
That’s why editor-in-chief Bobby Burch led Startland and Think Big’s first Innovation Exchange event, featuring ShotTracker co-founder Davyeon Ross, Firebrand Ventures managing director John Fein and Polsinelli tech attorney Greg Kratofil.
Burch said he hoped the event would give readers more context on the news they read.
“Journalism must equip people with the tools to self-govern and navigate society in an informed way,” Burch said. “The better informed a community we are, the more united we can be to address its challenges and celebrate its victories. And that’s what we hope this event does by offering a more personal look at some newsmakers in Kansas City.”
You may have read recently that ShotTracker snagged $5 million from NBA legends Magic Johnson and David Stern. A skilled basketball player himself, Ross told the crowd of about 75 people at Think Big Thursday a little background on his experience.
Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Ross said a childhood growth spurt led to his devotion to basketball. He added that Johnson supporting his company was a dream come true.
“I was that kid that would get up at 6 in the morning to practice shooting,” Ross said. “I fell in love with basketball watching Magic Johnson, so it’s really surreal that he is now a sponsor.”
A driving force behind the evolution of Midwest early-stage capital access, Fein elaborated on previous comments about the effects of a conservative investment culture in Kansas City. Wanting to build a bridge between entrepreneurs and investors, he started Firebrand Ventures a few months ago to offer transparency to founders.
Startups often look to the coasts for investments, but Fein believes the capital is all here, it just needs to be organized better.
“Fundraising shouldn’t be hugely complicated,” Fein said. “When it gets that way, I believe something’s off. … I want Firebrand to be highly visible, highly responsive and highly proactive.”
In addition to advising startups from around the metro, Greg Kratofil has also been apart of drafting the legal framework for one of Kansas City’s newest funds. An 18-year startup and tech legal vet, Greg Kratofil said that when a startup wins, the community shares in that victory.
He pointed to EyeVerify’s recent exit — on which he drafted the legal paperwork — as an example of a big win for Kansas City.
“That gave us all a little bit of swagger,” he said. “Just as Google Fiber gave us a little swagger, and Techstars gave us a little swagger. For EyeVerify, we now have an example of technology developed here. We watched them develop something where someone will pay over 100 million for. It can happen here.”
If you missed the event, check out the gallery below or watch the live stream video here.
Photos by Jordan EuDaly.