Pipeline hopes moving its The Innovators gala to Omaha for 2019 will help keep the premier startup event fresh after more than a decade in Kansas City, said Joni Cobb.
“Change and experimentation are what Pipeline is all about,” said Cobb, president and CEO of Pipeline. “We are an entrepreneurial organization, and as such we are always looking for ways to improve, test and keep things exciting.”
Tickets for the Jan. 25 The Innovators event aren’t yet available, she said.
The regional entrepreneur fellowship program, in part funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, covers cities in Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. The Innovators caps each cohort’s year of intensive classes with an annual gala, at which the current fellows graduate, pitch their businesses, and the next year’s fellows are announced, Cobb said.
“When we became regional, we had hoped we’d get to a place where it could rotate around the region, like our modules rotate around the region, so this is the first time we’re rotating our annual capstone event to one of our participating cities,” said Cobb.
Changes to the event are expected to direct attendees’ attention more toward the entrepreneurs, as well as providing more time to network, she said.
A daytime session will feature guest speakers and a happy hour coinciding with the graduating fellows’ company pitches, she said. The evening gala will be a cocktail reception style with music and food provided, Cobb said, as the Innovators Awards are presented.
The awards include the Innovator of the Year, presented to a high-performing fellow who does well on the pitch and written component, the Entrepreneur Leadership award, presented to a community member dedicated to the greater entrepreneurial community; and awards presented to existing Pipeline members, she added.
Those entering the Pipeline network are mostly companies that have already taken advantage of other programs in Kansas City, she said, noting Pipeline doesn’t take equity in the startups.
“The main thing about Pipeline that’s a differentiator is that it’s really about that next step — [companies that are] really getting some traction and we focus on the founder and support their career-long growth,” she added.
The 2020 event location has not yet been decided, said Cobb.
“The overall mission of Pipeline has always remained the same,” she said. “It’s to do two things. No. 1: Identify, train and bring entrepreneurs together and keep together the highest-growth entrepreneurs in the region. No. 2 is to help build the ecosystem and network around them to sustain their growth for the long term.”