Techstars believes in Kansas City’s potential because of its proven track record, said Lesa Mitchell, announcing the 2020 return of the seed accelerator to the City of Fountains following a brief hiatus.
“I am the luckiest person on the face of the Earth because I’m again going to run what we call a horizontal program, which means its fully paid for by Techstars,” said Mitchell, Techstars Kansas City managing director. “And I get to choose whatever kinds of companies I want.”
While applications for the popular program have not yet opened — an announcement on an exact timeline could be made in the next few weeks — Techstars Kansas City’s comeback and its ongoing status as a fully-funded accelerator are significant, Mitchell emphasized.
“Most of the new programs Techstars is rolling out across the globe are all corporate programs,” she said, noting the need for a corporate financial partner. “Techstars is interested in supporting the Techstars Kansas City program because of the success of the companies that have already been through the program.”
The accelerator’s first cohort boasted two exits — TeacherTalent and Zego (formerly CasaIQ) — and its most recent class saw all but two of the companies raised their goals, Mitchell noted.
Techstars Kansas City currently is on hiatus for 2019 while Mitchell has been dispatched on a “special assignment” with the Indianapolis-based Techstars affiliate, Heritage Group Accelerator. During her time at the “hardcore physical science program,” she has established a new network of corporate contacts, business development experts and venture capital partners who she’ll link into the Kansas City startup ecosystem upon her return in December when the Heritage Group Accelerator wraps, she said.
“This is my last jaunt out,” Mitchell said. “I’m coming back to stay.”
Her focus with the next cohort will be industry-agnostic, she said, indicating Techstars Kansas City’s strength has not centered on specific markets, but a diverse array of solid startup ideas.
“I’ll be looking for founders that I love and areas that I think are impactful. I always pick companies that are fixing real world problems,” Mitchell said. “As much as we can, I want to find companies that aren’t from Kansas City and talk them into staying. If they’re already from the region, the more the better.
“I’ve had great luck in Columbia, Missouri, and I hope that continues.”
But before cohort applications open, Mitchell will be searching for a new program manager. Alex Krause Matlack, who previously served in the “right hand” role now is working at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
“Alex is amazing, but I can’t have her back because she’s needed at UMKC,” Mitchell said.
Click here to apply for the program manager position.
The hunt also is on for Techstars Kansas City’s new home when Mitchell returns this winter, she said. The program previously operated from WeWork Corrigan Station.
“It will for sure be somewhere between the Country Club Plaza and River Market,” Mitchell said, with a laugh.
The Techstars leader expressed gratitude for the outreach she received when news spread that the Kansas City accelerator was on pause for 2019.
“I had a lot of people in executive roles ask if they could be a corporate partner — or what was needed from the community perspective to get Techstars back — and I told all of them, ‘Just be patient.’ It was simply a timing issue,” she said.
For those startup leaders who can’t wait to jumpstart their Techstars experience, Mitchell encouraged them to consider the coming Techstars Startup Weekend Kansas City event Sept. 20-22.
Click here to learn more about the three-day event where entrepreneurs team up to prototype a hardware- and product-based business idea.