Leaders from the Heartland division of Endeavor on Monday gave local entrepreneurs a first look at capital, resources, and programming that could come to Kansas City as the global nonprofit considers expansion into the region.
During the preview event, organized as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, representatives from Endeavor’s regional office in Northwest Arkansas discussed how the organization works to create a “multiplier effect” by investing in high-impact entrepreneurs.
“What we found is that if we can support a small but very, very meaningful number of companies that will have the biggest impact on jobs and capital in the region, and innovation,” said Canem Arkan, managing director of Endeavor Heartland.
Endeavor would take the same approach if the organization ultimately decides to expand into Kansas City, she said. It has previously invested in a wide range of companies — from agtech and health diagnostics to barbershop booking platform.
“A handful of really important founders can make all the difference,” Arkan said. “What we would hope to give to the ecosystem is to help three or four founders achieve that scale quicker, faster, better.”
“And if they do that, then that creates that multiplier effect,” Arkan continued. “Now they have some extra liquidity, so they become angel investors. That 20-something-year-old saw that company exit and starts their own company.”
Such intentionality is why the organization is carefully weighing when and how it launches in Kansas City, rather than just diving in head first, said Shawn Morris, manager of entrepreneur selection and growth.
“A big piece of why we’re not immediately jumping into KC is because we want to make sure there’s a need and a space for us,” Morris said. “We don’t want to compete with organizations that are already here, but we just want to figure out where we can come alongside and help the next stage of founders.”
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Endeavor invests 10 percent — up to $2 million — in the “high-growth founders” that complete its four-step selection process, typically focusing on startups in the Series A and B seed rounds.
Selected founders then have access to Endeavor’s global network of more than 2,000 advisors who offer one-on-one mentorship throughout the entrepreneurial journey. It operates focused accelerator programs in select markets based on communities’ specific needs.
The organization would seek to have “boots on the ground” and run operations locally if and when it expands to Kansas City, according to Arkan, as opposed to managing remotely from the Endeavor Heartland offices in Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa.
The nonprofit is actively working with several companies in Kansas City to demonstrate its value to founders and has spoken with 15 to 20 Kansas City founders and startup ecosystem leaders over the past few months, Arkan estimated.
The company also continues to look for leaders in the KC business and entrepreneurial ecosystems who might be interested in joining Endeavor’s regional board, she added.
Endeavor focuses its efforts on helping local entrepreneurs succeed, and would not relocate founders from elsewhere to Kansas City or vice versa, Arkan said.
“We want entrepreneurs in Kansas City to succeed,” she said. “We’re not actually in the business of bringing companies to Kansas City. That’s not what we would do. . . Our job would be to support companies that are already building their businesses here. We want the companies here to know our resources are dedicated to them.”
With that being said, Arkan noted that Endeavor Heartland would like to connect founders and businesses in Kansas City with its existing ecosystems in Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa.
“I think that if we connect the regions, it’s just more powerful,” Arkan said. “That’s what we hope to get [out of] being in Kansas City.”