Dillon Hughes on KC Innovation
“It’s not enough.”
Dillon M. Hughes is the marketing communications intern extraordinaire at Triple-I Corporation and a staunch Silicon Prairie brand evangelist. Triple-I is one of Kansas City’s premier technology consultancies focused on the application of emerging technology to create and deliver innovative business solutions. With its 43 year heritage in the region, Triple-I collaborates with tech and entrepreneurial organizations, like Athena League and WiSTEMM, to foster growth in our dynamic business ecosystem.
Below, he talks about the problem with “startups,” breaks down the unnecessary borders of innovation and sounds the rally for Kansas City’s next steps in innovation and entrepreneurship. And he’s coming after you. So, you know, be ready for that.
Innovation is often associated with new businesses and technology – and the buzzword for business in our era is startup. But what exactly is a startup? Is it a technology-minded venture that is hip, trendy and disruptive?
While technology startups are all the rage of today and often own the spotlight, people forget that startups are new businesses and encompass all sectors, whether it’s a new furniture design store or a disruptive ecommerce site. Businesses start with entrepreneurial people who not only want to capitalize and scale their businesses, but also want to help people. Likewise, innovation starts with people – powered by one part camaraderie and one part individuality.
Kansas City continues to build its reputation as the most neighborly entrepreneurial community in the world. We are one part bold and one part humble – a mindset unique to our Midwestern city. As a community, we carried each other through the recession – we didn’t idle through, waiting for change; rather, we built it together, allowing us to thrive in Kansas City’s “New Reality.” We took on the calculated risk, knowing failure could sink us, but leveraged it to construct our bigger, bolder identity. We took on the Sprint Center, erected the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and refaced the Truman Sports Complex.
We identified and exposed the power of our urban core. Innovation isn’t just born on campuses: it is at the heart of our urban core, pulsating into the entire region.
This didn’t happen overnight.
In a stagnant economic climate, we blended our entrepreneurial spirit with our creative talents, building “America’s Creative Crossroads.” Our tenacity scored us the technology coup of the century — Google Fiber. Our persistence landed us streetcars in KC. Our strength of purpose garnered attention from the world’s top startup accelerator, TechStars, to launch our region’s only mobile health accelerator.
Our determination fostered a fertile technology sector and a national innovation hub. Now, our city aims to restructure our downtown and solidify Kansas City as the most neighborly entrepreneurial community in the world.
These developments inspire our professional communities to build networks that allow us to flourish, coming together and constructing associations and groups that foster ties of trust.
Mark DiSalvo, CEO of Boston-area Semaphore Capital Advisors LLC, recently pointed out in an article by Bobby Burch that, “There’s a lot of hunger in this city for success. A lot of hunger in this city for people to see others succeed — not just themselves — and that palpable sense of community is missing in a lot places.”
With this in mind, these organizations are mentoring and shaping the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. This next generation of talent possess some of the most diverse skillset seen thus far – blending creativity and business, technical-knowhow and inventiveness. This, coupled with the vast array of regional assets that enable success, is powering the most agile age of innovators and entrepreneurs, ever.
As a community, we did all of this. But it is not enough. A new report from the Brookings Institution and the Kauffman Foundation found that the launch of new businesses has dwindled to its lowest point in 30 years, pointing out that “businesses are dying faster than they are being born.”
As a community, we uncovered an entrepreneurial gold vein, so where do we go from here?
As a community, we cultivated a dynamic business ecosystem, but it’s time to capitalize on the momentum and expose our innovative assets with the world.
We can create our own opportunities and decide what the business landscape of our great region will be like for the next 50 years. The next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs must step up as individuals and take a swing, much like the entrepreneurial legends of the metro - Joyce Hall, James Stowers, Henry Bloch and Ewing M. Kauffman.
The community has already done its part, now it’s time for individuals to do theirs: take an individual risk and put it in the works– it’s time to get our hands dirty and unearth the precious things we know are here.