After six years, the connectivity at 1 Million Cups remains as strong as the coffee, organizers said.
The Kansas City-born event series is celebrating the anniversary of its first pour 9 a.m. May 2 with the program’s trademark brew — two startups delivering 10-minute pitches to an audience with the intent to educate, engage and network — all over cups of coffee.
“It’s hard to say whether we’ve actually served 1 million cups of coffee yet, but it has to be pretty close,” said Matt Fischer, director of new entrepreneurial learning at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which established the program in 2012. “Since 1MC’s inception, the program has continued growing, year over year. New 1MC applications roll in every week, largely from cities and towns that are ’next door’ to existing communities. That’s a testament to the value that 1MC creates for entrepreneurs and local ecosystems.”
1 Million Cups has now spread to more than 185 cities nationwide, according to the program, which announced in September an ambitious goal to grow to 500 communities by the end of 2018.
Individuals apply to bring the pitch program to their cities and then volunteer to host and organize local entrepreneur presentations, the Kauffman Foundation said in a press release.
“The expansion of 1 Million Cups can be attributed to more than 900 volunteers around the nation working to build entrepreneurial ecosystems in their communities,” Kauffman said. “These volunteer organizers have already coordinated more than 1,365 entrepreneur presentations in 2018.”
One such presenter, Ben Schultz, CEO of LaborChart, said appearing on 1 Million Cup’s stage was an important catalyst for his business, which offers a resource management platform for the construction industry.
“After that presentation, I was connected with Hunter Browning, who is now the co-founder and CTO of LaborChart. Together, we’ve grown the business and are helping contractors become more efficient with their labor,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have some of the biggest names in the industry now on our platform.”
That impact is possible because 1 Million Cups is a program run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, said Courtney Windholz, a Kansas City organizer for the program.
“As entrepreneurs, we understand the unique challenges that come with the territory of starting a business, and are here to support one another in any way possible,” she said.