Editor’s note: New in KC is an ongoing profile series that highlights newly relocated members of the Kansas City startup community, their reasons for a change of scenery, and what they’ve found so far in KC. Click here to read more New in KC profiles.
As Kansas City’s startup scene came online in 2012, Lindsey Branding was headed for the Windy City.
“A really interesting opportunity came my way to join the finance team at Groupon and it was post IPO,” Branding, now controller at BacklotCars, said of her introduction to startup ecosystems, which immediately followed a postgrad stint at Deloitte.
“There’s so much success worth celebrating in Chicago. There’s a lot of companies, there’s a lot of people that work for startups, there’s a lot of really cool things happening and a lot of ways to get involved,” Branding said of the city’s startup ecosystem and how it welcomed outsiders.
Three years at Groupon primed Branding for a controller role at Hireology — a hiring and talent management platform, partially led by a former coworker, she explained.
While her trajectory in Chicago showed no sign of decline, Branding started to hear whispers about Kansas City’s evolution as a startup hub, she recalled.
“I have a good friend that works at KCRise Fund and he’s just a really great connector and kind of knows a lot about what’s happening in the startup scene,” Branding explained, noting such conversations as a catalyst for bringing her back to Kansas City.
“There’s a lot happening in Chicago, which is awesome. But it was kind of hard to keep up on everything and really connect with people,” she added.
In Kansas City, innovation and connections are accessible to anyone hungry enough to get involved, Branding said, noting startups eager to attract talent to the metro make the heartland even more attractive.
“[My friend] mentioned that one of [KCRise Fund’s] portfolio companies, BacklotCars, just raised $25 million in their Series B. And he was like, ‘Why don’t you just talk to them about what they’re doing?’ There wasn’t really even a job posting at the time,” she detailed.
Click here to learn more about Backlot Cars $25 million funding round.
After two phone calls with Justin Davis, CEO and co-founder of BacklotCars, Branding found herself headed back to the metro — this time with a family in tow.
“It was really exciting to learn there’s a lot happening in Kansas City. There’s a lot of opportunity here. My family, we made the decision that it would be good for us personally and for us professionally,” she said of the decision-making process, the results of which flipped her previous concept of Kansas City on its head.
“When I left in 2012, there wasn’t much of a startup scene. And to be frank, I didn’t even know that I wanted to explore the startup world until I moved to Chicago,” she said. “Everyone at [BacklotCars] really rallies around our goals and we all believe in what we’re doing and we believe we can be the best at what we’re doing and come to work every day to work hard and really push the company to the next level.”
Plugging in, Branding — who grew up in Topeka and attended the University of Kansas — is eager to use the knowledge she gained in Chicago to collaborate with founders, community builders and area women’s organizations to help create a similar energy in and beyond Kansas City as innovation take hold along I-70, she said.
“I’m kind of starting to dip my toes into the community … I’m really interested in getting involved. Women in business, women in tech, that’s something I’m really passionate about,” Branding said.
“From Topeka to Kansas City, I think [the region] is drawing a lot of attention from investors locally, but also investors in bigger markets,” she continued. “There’s really good talent here, the cost of living is lower, it’s a really great place to raise a family. It just feels like everyone is supported.”
Click here to read about the growth of Topeka’s startup ecosystem, fueled by the coming launch of the Plug and Play accelerator.
Helping the outside world better understand the Kansas City region is also on Branding’s task list as she settles back into the metro, she noted.
“I feel like I took a big step forward in coming to BacklotCars and coming to this startup community,” she said, speaking to skewed observations of friends in Chicago who might have considered such a move to be a setback.
“There’s a lot happening all around us. It really feels like in Kansas City I can not only make an impact at the company I’m working for — but also within my community and I’m so happy to be back and I’m so happy to be raising my family here.”
Click here to connect with Branding on Linkedin.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.