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WICHITA — A recently rebranded Wichita accelerator hopes to land new connections between startup founders and investors with a new pilot competition and expanded efforts to build the region’s ecosystem.
“As someone who has been around Wichita for 25 years, it is really heartening for me to see the capital base broadened and more people thinking of themselves as able and willing to play a role in the nurturing of young, exciting companies from around the region,” said Mary Beth Jarvis, NXTUS executive director.
Click here to learn more about NXTUS.
Launched as e2e in 2016, the accelerator aimed to leverage its team of experienced entrepreneurs to reinvigorate the spirit of entrepreneurism in Wichita. A transition to NXTUS continues such a mission, while highlighting the effort’s evolution, noted Josh Oeding, NXTUS president and CEO.
“To support founders and their young, growing companies, NXTUS serves as a nexus, fostering connections between entrepreneurs, investors, corporate partners and the community at large,” he explained.
“We are constantly aimed at achieving the ‘next us’ – growing startups, strengthening our innovation culture and support systems, and creating a bright future for our region.”
Part of such creation includes the development of the NXSTAGE pilot competition — the accelerator’s latest program, backed by a $250,000 grant from the Talent Ecosystem Fund at the Wichita Community Foundation, added Jarvis.
“This is a programmatic declaration and it’s going to add value — I think quickly, to [our already strong] business community in Wichita,” she said. “We want to position Wichita as the ‘Pilot Capital of the World,’ where entrepreneurs can succeed by proving out their offerings.”
“[The Wichita Community Foundation is] keenly interested in changing both the reality and perception of our region. They are providing funding that is going to allow us to bang a loud drum about what we’re doing. … We’re rolling out the red carpet [for startups of all sizes.]”
Built on three verticals — fintech, “industry 4.0,” and community health and vibrancy — NXTSTAGE companies will work to build relationships with corporate partners, meeting face-to-face with decision makers, innovation teams and the community.
Customer-ready companies from across the world are encouraged to apply and will earn paid trips to Wichita throughout the program, NEXTUS said in a release.
Click here to complete an application for NXSTAGE by Feb. 15.
Key community partners will serve as resources to startups in the financial services track of NXSTAGE. Founding partners include, Emprise Bank, Fidelity Bank and INTRUST Bank — each looking to innovate its business and customer experience, Jarvis explained.
“They’re big enough [banks] to matter, but small enough that we can sit down with their leaders and hear their innovation hopes and match them with prospective, young startups that have products ready to be piloted, ready to be deployed, ready to add value,” she said, optimistic of the impact the model could have on budding companies in the fintech space. “We’re going to play matchmaker for those regional banks. And for the startups, whether you’ve been to Wichita or know how to spell it … this is [an entry] to willing and ready customers and we’re going to facilitate it.”
Companies in the industry 4.0 track can expect to lean on expertise and build relationships with leaders at major manufactures such as Cargill and Koch Industries — the company Oeding spent more than a decade with prior to his ecosystem building efforts.
NetWork Kansas will lend support to the community health track which is also expected to include health-focused representatives from suburban, rural and urban areas — all of which make Wichita a proving ground, ripe for growing health companies, Jarvis said.
“[No matter the vertical,] let us get you across the table from decision makers and willing innovators, ready to be paying customers,” she said.
An innovation showcase that puts NXTSTAGE companies on display is expected to be announced in the spring.
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.