It’s the Kansas City Startup Foundation’s turn to drive the tour bus, said Darcy Howe, announcing Monday the transfer of the Back2KC talent pipeline initiative to KCSF, the nonprofit ecosystem-building organization that also powers Startland News.
The move means KCSF will take ownership of the program for its Oct. 3-4 return, adding a full-time team member, Jessica Powell, to manage the Back2KC effort, as well as other KCSF experiences.
“We’re super excited to bring Back2KC under the KCSF umbrella for a number of reasons,” said Adam Arredondo, CEO of KCSF. “First and foremost, with our existing focus on entrepreneurial talent development, it’s a perfect complement to our current efforts.”
The 2019 event will target a curated list of high-growth tech talent, investors, innovators, and community impactors, said Powell, a former Back2KC volunteer who previously co-founded the FUND Conference, a national venture capital gathering.
Click here to learn more about the Oct. 3-4 Back2KC event.
Back2KC launched in 2018 as a passion project of Howe, managing director and founder of the KCRise Fund. The inaugural two-day event drew 30 former Kansas Citians for a wide-ranging tour, top-tier speakers from KC’s startup and business communities, and experiences designed to woo them to reinvest their talent in the City of Fountains.
“As a venture capital firm, we realized that entrepreneurs are raising money to hire people. So we felt it was part of our obligation to go out and help find some more people for you to hire,” Howe told attendees at Startland’s Monday night Innovation Exchange event. “Our objective was to bring back people either from KC, or went to school in the area, and who are now winning in other cities.”
The first-year effort was backed by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas City Area Development Council, which continue to support the initiative.
Click here to read about the response to 2018 kickoff of Back2KC.
“We wanted to target people who were longing for a better future, and a better future for their kids,” said Bek Abdullayev, CEO and founder of Super Dispatch, and who also served as a 2018 Back2KC ambassador. “They don’t know the types of opportunities we have here — opportunities they would die for and would pursue on the coasts.”
Abdullayev and Bo Nelson, co-founder of Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters, joined Howe Monday in the spotlight at nbkc bank to describe their experiences exposing Back2KC visitors — dubbed “Kansas City champions” — to a version of KC that’s changed greatly since the mid-1990s.
“Kansas City is still an undiscovered secret. Austin and San Francisco are overcrowded. They’re too much,” Abdullayev said. “It comes down to having opportunities here, then using everything else the city offers as an added bonus.”
Back2KC organizers are now looking for 60 Kansas City champions (along with their spouses) to visit during the Oct. 3-4 event. Powell also is seeking companies large and small as partners, as well as additional ambassadors to share their perspectives on Kansas City.
Click here to nominate potential champions or to get involved with Back2KC.
“We’re growing. We’re proud of what we’ve done and we want to do better,” Powell said. “So in order to do better, we need to re-engage the talent who has left, re-engage their spouses, their families.”
To date, KCSF’s talent pipeline efforts have focused on growing an entrepreneurial mindset in K12 students led by Katie Kimbrell, director of education. Back2KC is another entry point for Kansas City’s future workforce, Arredondo said.
“This is something we’ve seen other communities do well and simply wasn’t being prioritized in KC,” he said. “We’re excited to pick up the torch that Darcy, Jessica, and others lit last year and carry it into the future with the Chamber, KCADC and other partners.”
Click here to learn more about KCSF and its programming.
In addition to helming Back2KC, Powell is expected to serve as the lead organizer for KCSF’s other annual events — including Startup Crawl KC and Startland’s Startups to Watch Celebration and Top VC-Backed Companies reception.
“We all know people who have left,” she said. “We all know people who remember how Kansas City was in 1995. I was one of those people who couldn’t wait until I graduated to explore the world. But it’s not that Kansas City anymore.”