Two hats are better than one, joked Jeff Shackelford, announcing he’s accepted a new role with the Enterprise Center in Johnson County.
“I’m on the same highway but I’m kind of changing lanes,” Shackelford said as he takes the wheel as senior vice president of investment capital and financial operations at the ECJC — where he’ll lead the Fountain Innovation Fund and Mid-America Angels — turning down a path toward leaving the Digital Sandbox accelerator, he explained.
“The last five years have been the most enjoyable years of my career — out of anything I’ve done,” he said. “So I love, love the Digital Sandbox and what we were able to accomplish.”
Click here to learn more about Shackelford’s passion for startups and Kansas City.
Shackelford will continue to serve as executive director of Digital Sandbox while the UMKC Innovation Center — which powers Digital Sandbox — and Maria Meyers, executive director and founder of KCSourceLink, work to find his successor.
“[We really want to] make sure that nothing misses a beat with Digital Sandbox — and it won’t,” he said. “It will remain at the Innovation Center. … Maria is working diligently [to find my replacement] as we speak, and I will continue to stay involved with the Sandbox as part of the evaluating team … even after we’ve signed a new director.”
Click here to learn more about companies in the most recent Digital Sandbox cohort.
Serving as a crucial, early-stage investment funnel in Kansas City, Shackelford reiterated the state of Digital Sandbox weighed heavily on his decision to assume the position with the ECJC and he’s eager the program could find new collaborations as he begins his new position.
“This does give me an opportunity to move a little further down what I call the entrepreneurial, evolutionary path … see companies a little further down the line that are looking to raise a little bit more significant investment and scale and jump quicker,” he noted.
Beyond company support, Shackelford will serve as a leader in ecosystem building, George Hansen, CEO of the ECJC, said in a release about the hire.
“Jeff will drive efforts to identify and secure new capital options for early-stage companies throughout the Midwest region. He will be at the center of influence for all early capital formation in our community — working across state and county lines to facilitate a seamless source of financing and finance-related support for our entrepreneurs.”
Shackelford joins Maggie Kenefake, managing director of the Fountain Innovation Fund and Kelly Sievers, managing director of Women’s Capital Connection as the ECJC continues to drive efforts to identify and secure new capital options for early-stage companies throughout the Midwest region, the organization said.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Shackelford added. “There’s so much going on in Kansas City, in the entrepreneurial space and all of these programs are so vital. So, for me, I just, I really, really enjoy being kind of in the midst of as much of it as I can.”