Fountain City Fintech’s plan was to put Kansas City on the map, Zach Anderson Pettet said. In the process, the community bank-backed accelerator earned attention in its own right, he said.
“A big piece of our plan was to give our cohort a chance to dig in and really understand the city — understand the humans inside of the city,” said Pettet, managing director of Fountain City Fintech, which debuted its inaugural cohort in fall 2018. “If we would have just sat up on the third floor of nbkc in a silo, and not brought in people who can really help the companies — the cream of the crop in Kansas City — nobody would have any idea who we are, who Fountain City Fintech is.”
2019 EDCKC Cornerstone Winners
- 21c Museum Hotel
- Bar K (People’s Choice)
- Community America Credit Union – Crossroads and South Plaza
- Fountain City FinTech Accelerator
- Hy-Vee Arena
- Ignite Medical Resorts
- Kansas City Levees Coalition
- Kenton Brothers
- Linwood Shopping Center
- McQueeny Lock Building
- Wonder Shops + Flats
Click here for the full list of finalists.
Heralded alongside 10 other KC innovation leaders, Fountain City Fintech was honored Wednesday with a prestigious Cornerstone Award from the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri. Winners were selected based on the impact of new construction, redevelopment, capital investments, job creation or expansion projects.
Fountain City Fintech made headlines as founders within its first cohort earned grants and investments along the way, as well as announcing plans to relocate to or hire within Kansas City. Active involvement from the metro’s founders, investors and ecosystem leaders played a key role, Pettet emphasized.
“The community stepping up and helping us actually resulted in the community knowing about us,” Pettet said. “Getting a number of companies to start hiring in Kansas City is great outcome, but Kansas City is already excited about technology. And even with Techstars kind of going on pause for a year, it seems like a good time to lean into the assets that we already have in the city.”
For the fintech accelerator, the recognition is linked to an intentional and focused effort by nbkc bank, where Pettet also serves as vice president of fintech strategy, he said. The idea is to create a long-term runway for an industry, as well as individual startups.
“We can point to jobs that have been created, we can point to the companies that are doing more business in KC than they were before — but it’s really hard to feel that excited about those things when it comes to startups because half of them are going to fail and of the other half, only one out of 10 is going to do anything really meaningful,” Pettet said. “So our success is more about becoming known as the city where investment dollars should go — leveling up on how people outside of Kansas City think about what we’re doing specifically in the fintech space, and more broadly in the technology space.”
Fountain City Fintech’s Year 2 cohort, powered by LaunchKC, begins Aug. 1 with an announcement of the new class slated for early July.
Click here to apply for Fountain City Fintech.
While Pettet and Megan Darnell, program manager, are excited about the recruits, they’ve struggled to find Kansas City-born fintech companies that fit the accelerator’s criteria, Pettet said.
“We’re still really recruiting from New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and internationally, but a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish is about not just moving people to Kansas City, but starting net new companies in Kansas City,” he said.
It’s a whole-team effort at nbkc bank — starting at the top, Pettet emphasized.
“We’ve put in a lot of work to achieve this, and Megan and I are the main people working on it day-to-day, but the nbkc executive team has done so much to make this all possible,” he said. “The accelerator was named by our CEO, the idea came from the CEO, so much of the investment work got done by our CFO, our COO has done an unbelievable amount of work just to help the companies, and our chief deposit officer has probably done the most to establish the partnerships.”
“You look at some of these corporate accelerator programs where you just see boxes getting checked,” Pettet continued. “But the biggest piece of internal pushback we got last year was that the executives didn’t get to be involved enough — and they were like 40 times more involved than we’ve seen in any other corporate accelerator projects.”