Increasing its ongoing support of entrepreneurs, Affinity Worldwide has donated $1 million to the Kansas City Startup Foundation (KCSF), a nonprofit championing and connecting the local startup ecosystem.
As part of the donation, Kansas City-based Affinity is also donating ownership of the Center for Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development (CEED) — the parent organization of Startland News — to the foundation.
What does the merger mean?
Effective immediately, KCSF will absorb CEED programs and staff. The foundation now operates Startland News, the Kansas City Startup Village, Village Square Coworking Studio, MECA Challenge, 1Week KC and Startup Crawl KC. All four CEED staff members have joined the foundation.
The $1 million donation will be disbursed over five years, helping to ensure sustainability while the foundation focuses on growth and developing additional revenue streams. The foundation also plans to evaluate other programming and resource needs for the entrepreneurial community.
Mike Wrenn, the CEO of Affinity Worldwide, is excited to accelerate the foundation’s mission to create the most-connected entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world, he said.
“We’ve enjoyed watching this vision grow and have seen the positive impact CEED has made in Kansas City’s startup community,” Wrenn wrote in announcing the merger. “CEED has worked closely with the Kansas City Startup Foundation and both entities have been integral parts of the startup community’s story. … I’d love for our gift to encourage others to join us in giving.”
Why merge now?
The missions of CEED and KCSF targeted similar goals, which helped prompt a merger of the two organizations, said Adam Arredondo, executive director of the foundation and co-founder of CEED. With the two combined groups, the foundation will have more resources, several established brands and an improved opportunity to privately fundraise as a nonprofit.
The merger also clarifies the missions of the two organizations.
“There was confusion in the community about the difference between CEED and KCSF — I don’t blame them,” Arredondo said. “With both organizations basically having the same mission of connecting the startup ecosystem, combining efforts only made sense. … The strengths of each organization are complimentary.”
Arredondo emphasized that KCSF will maintain a startup mentality. With guiding principles to take risks, practice radical candor and be action-oriented, the foundation believes that an innovative, fast-paced ethos will result in greater impact.
The merger process was long, Arredondo added, but it will ultimately pay dividends for the foundation and Kansas City.
“Once we optimize our operations, this merger will allow us to take all of our efforts to the next level,” Arredondo said. “We’ve had a number of ideas on the back burner until we expanded our capacity. Our capacity is officially expanded.”
While its mission now aims to boost the whole of the entrepreneurial community, the initial vision for the foundation was to support the Kansas City Startup Village. Founded in 2012, the village is a community of entrepreneurs that serendipitously moved to the first neighborhood to receive Google Fiber.
Matthew Marcus, the foundation’s director of operations, has been a key leader in the village since its launch. With the foundation, Marcus said the village and Kansas City as a whole have a significant opportunity to grow.
“I envision the foundation doing its part to holistically make Kansas City a great place to live and work within a united community,” Marcus said. “We’re charting new territory and creating the model of next generation economic development and ecosystem building.”
The foundation is planning a community event on Sept. 6 to celebrate the merger. Stay tuned for more information on the merger and what it means for Startland News and Kansas City.