KCSourceLink Releases 6th ‘We Create KC’ Report on Kansas City Entrepreneurship

Being an entrepreneur is about being connected, getting that critical support and those key investments to make it (because we know an entrepreneur’s journey is tough).

But before we dig in, let’s hear from a few of #startupkc’s very own and remember what this all is really about …

We Create KC 2019
is KCSourceLink’s sixth annual state of entrepreneurship report. It measures Kansas City’s progress in key areas for supporting entrepreneurs and for business growth in the region, including connectivity to resources, the idea pipeline and access to capital.

Check out the highlights from this year’s report below, and download the full report at wecreatekc.com.


A Big Leap

In 2018, 50 percent of the top VC-funded companies (based on reporting from Startland News) in Kansas City got their start with early-stage investment programs that emerged after 2012, according to We Create KC 2019.

“That high percentage shows us how important these early-stage investment programs are to our entrepreneurs and our ecosystem,” says Maria Meyers, founder of KCSourceLink, and executive director of the University of Missouri–Kansas City Innovation Center , of which KCSourceLink is a part. “If our companies are to survive the ‘valley of death,’ the community needs to support these early-stage funders and help them continue to create a pipeline for entrepreneurial growth and investment.”

Nick Ward-Bopp of Maker Village KC welds metal with a mask on

Investing in Ideas That Shape the Future

In this year’s We Create KC, we mapped the capital continuum from business inception through maturity. During the early stages of the capital continuum, before startups gain traction and earn revenue, they hit what venture capitalists call the “valley of death.” Here, during the proof-of-concept and rollout phases of firm development, financing is usually scarce, and startups are at their most vulnerable to cash flow requirements.

In 2012, studies suggested Kansas City lacked the capital and resources to help startups survive the valley of death. Published in June 2015, We Create Capital 2015 provided a clearer picture of the funding landscape for emerging and growth businesses in the Kansas City region and outlined an action plan to address the gaps.

Since then, individuals and organizations across the Kansas City region have rallied to improve access to capital for area entrepreneurs and fill this gap in financing and investment. Digital Sandbox KC, LEANLAB Education, LaunchKC, the Fountain Innovation Fund and various accelerators have all entered that space in recent years to help educate entrepreneurs and pressurize the pipeline for growth and later investment.

In 2018, 24 of the 48 top VC-funded companies had received support from one of Kansas City’s early-stage investment programs, including Life Equals and Mycroft AI, which both closed deals more than $2 million in January 2019; Transportant and RiskGenius, which each completed deals of more than $500,000 in December 2018; and LendingStandard, which closed a fundraising round of $2 million in October 2018.


“I think we’re seeing a lot more funding activity in Kansas City to help small tech businesses grow,” says Andy Kallenbach, CEO and founder of LendingStandard. “Groups like Digital Sandbox KC, Launch KC and Mid-America Angels are doing more investing in early-stage startups. That helps Kansas City build more big wins and good exits and helps experienced entrepreneurs create new ventures and invest in other startups. We need that cycle of wins, experience and exits to continue to make progress for better funding in Kansas City.”

Financial assistance is just one way that the KCSourceLink network and the Kansas City community can help KC businesses start and grow. This year’s We Create KC report also outlines two other ways the community can support startups, which, between 2013 and 2017, created 58 percent of all net new jobs in Kansas City.

And now a word of caution from Maria Meyers. Because marathon, not sprint . . .

“It’s important, however, not to get too focused on year-to-year gains or losses in number or value of deals,” Meyers cautions. “Only about 1 percent of startups raise VC funding, so those numbers will fluctuate from year to year. It is important to focus on networking capital and building that pipeline of deals, realizing that we’re building a 10-year, not a two-year, strategy.”

Creating a Bridge between Opportunities and Resources

“Entrepreneurs need resources and connections,” says Jenny Miller, network builder for KCSourceLink. “Anyone can be a bridge to opportunities and resources by knowing the resources and opening their social networks.”

KCSourceLink’s Resource Rail (that link is to the newest version), a map of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial resources, is one way to help aspiring and established business owners find the help they need along their journey.

Calling or emailing KCSourceLink is another. In 2018, KCSourceLink helped 2,593 startups and existing business owners in a range of areas and from a range of industries—and business owners conducted 8,702 online searches for assistance using The Resource Navigator®, a searchable, online database of vetted resources. The top five requests concerned startup assistance, financial resources, marketing/sales, mentoring and nonprofit development.

Serial entrepreneur Gigi Jones helps a customer at her small business Zafar

Engaging Corporations in the Startup Ecosystem

Many folks feel that corporate engagement has to come in the form of cash and financial investment in startups. But corporate engagement runs the full spectrum, from event sponsorship to product co-development, strategic partnerships and corporate venture capital. KCSourceLink is currently working with corporations to better understand how they are mentoring, supporting and incubating ideas and potentially becoming first customers for area startups.

One way corporate leaders can engage with startups is through board service. In early summer of 2019, KCSourceLink will launch a training program focused on early-stage board development for both founders and prospective board members. Having the right network of experienced board members can accelerate growth. This series of workshops will cover the importance and role of a board, board selection and how to transition from corporate and philanthropic board service to early-stage companies.

“We know that the right connections matter to entrepreneurs and that entrepreneurs matter to Kansas City’s economic growth,” Meyers says. “Having the right resource at your back is critical for the survival and growth of Kansas City startups and small businesses.”


For more, check out the report on wecreatekc.com.

More Details about the We Create KC Series 

The We Create KC reports, produced under an award from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration with support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, covers six imperatives identified as key areas of development in the region’s quest to nurture entrepreneurship and economic growth. These six imperatives came out of research conducted by several local organizations, and helped focus this particular Big 5 initiative defined by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

To advance entrepreneurship in Kansas City, we need to continue to:

  • Increase awareness of KC as a “startup metro”
  • Maximize and fill gaps in entrepreneurial support resources
  • Ensure a funding continuum for startup and growth businesses
  • Create a strong pipeline of ideas ripe for commercialization
  • Build entrepreneurial talent
  • Engage the broader corporate community

We’ve started working, but we need you.

Check out We Create Capital and We Create Jobs to see how the KCSourceLink network and Kansas City community have rallied around these imperatives and the vision to make Kansas City America’s most entrepreneurial city.

And then join us to advance entrepreneurship, innovation, solutions, dreams and hope. Can’t do it without you. 

(Want to do just a little bit right now? Here are some easy ways to get engaged and get connected with KC entrepreneurship. #BetterConnected.)

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