It was a night of old school collisions, said Adam Arredondo, bringing together founders, executives, investors and a curated group of younger startup leaders for Startland’s Top VC-Backed Companies celebration.
“The energy in the room was palpable. Many people said it felt like a class reunion, which in a way it was,” added Arredondo, CEO of the Kansas City Startup Foundation, the nonprofit parent organization of Startland News. “Many of those who started their entrepreneurial journeys around the time Google Fiber launched in 2012 — when the energy in the startup community was highest — came out of the weeds to reconnect.”
Tuesday’s reception event — sponsored by WeWork, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Husch Blackwell, as well as supported by data partners at the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City — celebrated firms on Startland’s 2018 Top Venture Capital-Backed Companies list.
Eligible companies included those that raised at least $1 million; raised capital from at least one institutional venture investor; raised a round of capital within the past three years (since July 1, 2015); and are headquartered in the 18-county greater Kansas City region as defined by the KCADC.
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“One of the big takeaways from the list is that most companies started between 2012 and 2014 when the social connectivity of the community with strongest,” said Arredondo. “It affirms the thought that the culture of an entrepreneurial ecosystem is as vital as the traditional, more easily measurable aspects.”
Those peak years characterized by rapid “founding velocity” — the rate at which entrepreneurs founded high-growth companies — didn’t develop in a vacuum, said Melissa Roberts, vice president of strategy and economic development for the Enterprise Center in Johnson County.
“When you think back on our experiences in the community at the time, that really matches with any anecdote you could present,” Roberts said in a Startland interview prior to the reception. “There were a few years there were people were starting companies at a rate none of us had seen before and that has had a lasting impact on our area. That was the result of a growing number of financing opportunities, rich support networks being built, and a real sense of community in the startup ecosystem.”
Startland’s reception sought to recognize such ecosystem supporters Tuesday with Arredondo sharing mic time with Victor Hwang, vice president of entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation; Maria Meyers, founder of KCSourceLink; and Darcy Howe, founder and managing director of the KCRise Fund.
The crowd intentionally provided a collision space not only for old friends, Arredondo said, but also for earlier-stage startup leaders to meet more veteran counterparts from within Kansas City.
“Being a startup founder — especially a growth-stage founder when more is on the line — can be really lonely as you navigate uncharted territory and can’t always tell your investors or employees or maybe even family everything you’re struggling to work through,” Arredondo said. “Creating opportunities for them to connect with their peers gives them an opportunity to share the good and the bad with people who get it.”
More on KC’s Top VC-Backed Companies
- Read the 2018 Top VC-Backed Companies in Kansas City List
- Think globally, invest locally: Are KC dollars worth more than outside capital?
- Kansas-vs-Missouri investment record tied to state support for innovation, experts say
- Startland list reflects big wins across KC — but don’t get comfortable, warns founder