Glitz and glam; bold and gold; audacious and, more than ever, gracious.
Each January, powerhouse businesspeople from around the Midwest venture to Kansas City to see if Pipeline Entrepreneurs can once again top its enchanting evening of entrepreneurial energy, now known as the Innovators.
Hosted at the Midland Theater, the gala is a veritable smorgasbord of high-impact leaders from the region. Donning clinquant ball gowns, tuxedos and venture-back smiles, attendees each year are treated to a night of hammy skits, inspired award speeches and impressive choreography.
And though serious about building their businesses, the gala is where Pipeline’s entrepreneurs whip out their wild whimsy.
With light-up kicks, EyeVerify CEO Toby Rush synced up with SoftVu CEO Tim Donnelly for a sidesplitting dance to Macklemore’s Downtown. ShotTracker co-founder Davyeon Ross, Orbis Biosciences CEO Maria Flynn and Farmobile CEO Jason Tatge snapped on flat-billed hats and high-tops for a hip-hop inspired cavort. Pipeline CEO Joni Cobb crowned herself with an ornate, two-foot tall feather headdress created by artist and Pipeline entrepreneur Callie England.
But in 2017, the gregarious Great Gatsby evening was paired with another motif that’s been 10 years in the making: gratitude. Teeming with thankfulness, the Pipeline family exchanged hugs as often as praise on the gold-bordered stage that was surrounded by their families and friends.
Thrilled and exhausted, Cobb is already spring-boarding the energy for years to come.
“I’m exhilarated,” she said. “It’s such a testament to the group of entrepreneurs and advisors we have in Pipeline that they fully embrace being on stage in such outrageous style. They love that one day a year to fully decompress and also dress up to celebrate all the hard work of so many. I truly felt the entire decade of energy in the room — which fuels us to get going for the decade ahead.”
Pipeline is a fellowship program and network of entrepreneurs that was founded in 2007. It grew from a concept that high-impact entrepreneurs can better grow and cultivate the economy when working together. From relatively modest beginnings, Pipeline has since expanded its reach throughout Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, and took its first trip abroad in 2017.
The Pipeline family is now more than 100 entrepreneurs strong and — like the Innovators itself — grows its impact each year. But while Pipeline members rightfully acknowledge one another for their accomplishments each year, Kansas City and the broader region may owe a louder affirmation of thanks to the family and its leadership.
In 10 years, the Pipeline family has generated more than $390 million in wages and created 1,025 new jobs. In 2015 alone it raised $74.9 million in capital and paid its employees an average annual salary of nearly $66,000. It’s also a group that often re-distributes its prosperity with 25 percent of alumni serving as active angel investors and 30 are repeat founders.
Indeed, that’s something to be thankful for. Cheers, Pipeline, to 10 years of innovation and here’s to 10 more.