Editor’s note: KCultivators is a lighthearted profile series to highlight people who are meaningfully enriching Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by WeWork Corrigan Station, a modern twist on Kansas City office space.
Growth is a daily driver, Lesa Mitchell said, but it can be limited by the environment around entrepreneurs.
“If we had greater density I think our companies would grow a lot faster,” the managing director of Techstars Kansas City explained as she reflected on the metro’s startup culture and the evolution of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Not only does growth push Mitchell professionally, it’s representative of the way she lives her personal life, she said.
A former vice president of innovation and networks for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Mitchell has led the Techstars KC accelerator since late 2016.
Click here to read about the latest Techstars class, members of which are set to hit the stage in October as part of Techweek KC.
Startland News sat down with Mitchell to find out what makes her tick and how she sees the future. The KCultivator Series is sponsored by WeWork Corrigan Station, which provides entrepreneurs and businesspeople a community and a workspace.
Age: Old enough to vote!
Hometown: Chicago, but Kansas City is my hometown for my entire adult life.
A startup idea you don’t mind if readers steal: I’m so deeply enmeshed in everyone else’s startups. I could never have one of my own. I am so deeply enmeshed in 10 different companies right now. There’s not one I could think of.
A historical figure you’d like to have coffee with and why: Nelson Mandela. I think in hindsight, Nelson Mandela probably would have good insight on how he could have gone about changing culture in a faster way, and I think we so desperately need lessons right now given the state of the United States.
Weirdest thing you’ve eaten: I’ve eaten lots of different kinds of bugs — traveling in other countries, not here. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything weird in the United States. I think eyeballs was the worst.
The animal you’d want to become in your next life: I would love to become a horse, but I only want to be a horse that’s going to be ridden. Like, I would like to be a really, really successful Olympic horse.
You’re up to bat for the Royals, what’s your walk-up song: Oh my God. “Girl on Fire,” by Alicia Keys.
KC’s biggest area for improvement: Density is the biggest problem that we have — this sprawl.
An influential book in your life: Every book by Adam Grant. Adam is a friend and every one of his books I love. They’re excellent. I mean, that’s the easiest answer: All of Adam Grant’s books.
What keeps you in Kansas City: I love helping companies grow. I feel like what I’m doing is partially kind of giving back to the community.
New technology that you’re most excited about: The future of material science.
What you would do if you weren’t in your line of work: I would love to be a welder. I don’t know how, and I’ve always wanted to learn.
You have a time machine and can travel anywhere in the past or future. Where and when do you go? I think I’d go to the Sixties. I’m a troublemaker and I would have loved it.
Favorite travel locale: The south of France.
Hidden talent or ability: An ability that I have is to remember millions of people’s names and the context in which I know them.
Your mantra or motto: Leave the world better than you found it.