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WICHITA — Funding opportunities are flowing fast in Wichita — so quickly Kansas City entrepreneurs should take notice, said Josh Oeding, eager for regional connectivity among startup hubs.
“If entrepreneurs in Kansas City know there’s cool stuff going on down here and that we could be a proxy to help connect them to other startups down here [maybe they’ll want to work with us],” Oeding, founder and managing member of Accelerate Venture Partners and president and CEO of the e2e accelerator, said of what’s on the horizon for the growing startup space in south central Kansas.
Founded in 2018, Accelerate Venture Partners (AVP) is intended to serve as a major catalyst for ecosystem growth through its network of accredited investors, family offices, and venture funds committed to investing in high-growth seed and early-stage technology companies, Oeding noted.
“We now have members in four or five different states that have deployed capital in the four deals that we had done. And we’re looking at deals, frankly, from 20-plus states; Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma,” he explained.
Among its first deals, AVP made investments in Kansas City-based startups Bellwethr and Spinal Simplicity.
Click here to learn more about Bellwethr, one of Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2019.
The angel group has also thrown its support behind Midwest eSports, one of Wichita’s rising startups, Oeding said, adding that 20 percent of the group’s investment came from Kansas City-based funders.
“We think this is kind of an early sign of capital getting mobilized and moving within the region in a noncompetitive way,” Oeding said of AVP’s momentum and how it could serve as a regional connectivity tool.
“It’s an outlet for all of us — investors, companies, the corporates, the entrepreneurs, the founders — to kind of view our backyard, not just as our local community, but kind of as a whole innovation ecosystem within the region.”
Beyond a growing investment climate, Wichita’s ecosystem has taken a new approach to corporate engagement, Oeding explained.
The e2e corporate accelerator is expected to launch in January and could stand to overhaul communication between founders, ecosystem builders and corporate leaders, he added, detailing ways an ten-year stint with Koch Industries has given him unique insight into the corporate world.
“I kind of intimately knew the value that gets created on both sides of that table,” he said of perspective he brought to his role with e2e that ultimately paved the way for the corporate accelerator to take shape.
“If a big company’s innovation needs can appropriately be paired with a startup, there’s big value for both. It’s very hard. It’s very messy. Most of the time they don’t communicate well with each other.”
Bridging gaps between the two worlds could just be a matter of changing the conversation, Oeding said.
“I would go to an executive, a president or a leader at one of our local corporates and when you walk in and say, ‘I’d like to talk to you about entrepreneurship,’ they go, ‘We love it. We encourage it. It’s great for our community. We would love to buy a table at your event whenever you have it because we think it’s great and we want to help you,” he said of past conversations that never quite moved the needle on innovation.
“If you go to those same corporate leaders and you say, ‘Tell me about strategic issues for your company, tell me about your innovation imperative, how do you think technology can bring stuff forward for your customers,’ … You’re now engaged in a completely different conversation.”
Concrete details surrounding the corporate accelerator’s structure will remain hush-hush until the new year, but the program will stray away from welcoming idea stage companies and focus instead on accelerating startups with products currently in market, Oeding said.
“We hope to have between 10 and 20 core, corporate partners and we’ll cover multiple, industry focus areas,” he said. ‘We’ll be bringing forward something that’s focused on facilitating pilot programs between small startups and our local large employers.”
Companies across the region are encouraged to apply for the program, Oeding added.
Click here to learn more about the e2e accelerator.
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.