By Greg Elliott, Director of Business Development at 1102 GRAND
There are many people and groups all working to make the region around Kansas City a better place to work, live and enjoy life. I recently caught up with Aaron Sloup, co-founder of KC Hub, to get his take on what is happening in the Kansas City area and to share with us what KC Hub is all about.
Tell us a little about KC Hub’s background -
KC Hub started as a conversation between Ryan Weber and me about the fact that KC has a ton of resources like incubators, entrepreneur support (Kauffman, Pipeline, KCSourceLink, etc), major regional universities, bioscience research facilities and an active startup community, but our metro wasn’t really known as an innovation hub like North Carolina’s Research Triangle, Austin, TX or Silicon Valley. We came together in July 2010 to officially form as a non-profit to take on the task of transforming KC into an “ecosystem for innovation.” Our four founders are Ryan Weber, Matt Wilson, Matt Sawka and me. Since that time our region has made some incredible strides toward that end. KC is showing up on all kinds of national and worldwide rankings for entrepreneurial cities, Google Fiber selected us from well over 1000 cities to prove out its network, UMKC’s Bloch School is growing and accelerating their programs and making national lists as well, the KC Chamber’s Big 5 shows a lot of promise and that the folks in that organization are understanding and embracing a similar vision, not to mention KCNext…the list goes on and on. At KC Hub, we’re just excited to get the word out on cool things like this and try to support and grow the community any way we can.
What goal did you hope to achieve by founding KC Hub? What is the group’s mission or core focus?
The goal is really to make innovation the standard for KC. Whether it’s healthcare, transportation or IT, KC Hub wants Kansas City to be a place where the new breakthroughs take place. Our stated mission is “to transform the Kansas City region into an ecosystem for innovation.” Having said that, we don’t have illusions of grandeur thinking that we’re going to do this alone. We know that it’s going to take our entire community to accomplish that feat, and we’d like to just play a role in moving our region in the right direction.
How can the community get involved in the cause?
Find something you’re passionate about, whether it’s cancer research, tech startups or renewable energy, and then find groups you can join, events you attend, classes you can take, etc. Honestly, if you really want to make an impact, go start a company. There are a ton of resources in KC, from Pipeline to KCSourceLink to bizperc to Kauffman Labs, all of which support startups. With KC Hub, we built a website that allows anyone to create an account and post innovation news and events from across the region and around the world. We just wanted to create a central place for people to share cool and innovative things that are happening now. We’ve had a lot of people contact us just to find out how they can help. Innovative Networks is a good example; they actually did all the custom Drupal development and hosting for our site. They’re also a KC-based tech company and wanted to contribute to the cause.
What would an ideal Business Ecosystem look like to you?
Ooo, ideal? A supportive community of entrepreneurs/startups, unlimited capital, a wealth of excellent mentors, great and affordable legal advice, cheap office space, excellent research institutions – the thing is, Kansas City already has most of those aside from the unlimited capital part. But our VP, Ryan Weber, had a passion for that and is now the KC director for Angel Capital Group, bringing much needed, early stage funding to our region. KC may not have the big names that other regions do, but we have all the pieces in place and the community of innovators is getting bigger and stronger. I guess on the big names thing, Zaarly’s getting up there. And now that they have Meg Whitman on their board, I think more and more people will be following what they’re up to. It’s a cool story for everyone involved and a great testament to some of the innovative thinking happening here in the metro.
What do you like best about being involved in the research/technology community in Kansas City?
Seeing how passionate people are here. And it’s a different passion than what you might see on the coasts. Here, it’s more about believing in a long term vision vs. just building something to sell off in a year.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to throw a plug out there for Startup Weekend. It’s a really cool event, where you show up, form teams and basically build a company over a weekend. They usually have two a year. Even if you’re just curious about startups and want to learn, it’s a great event to learn by doing something vs. just reading about it.
How should interested people get in touch with you?
Jump on kchub.org, create an account and start posting interesting news/events about innovation in KC and throughout the world, or join us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. We like social media and talking about innovation. Come to a KCNext happy hour or Tech ESP event (when they start again in the spring) – we’re usually at those events. Feel free to drop us a line via our site as well.
Thanks for sharing Aaron and it will be exciting to see what is next for the Kansas City area!