We Create KC Year 4: Making KC America's Most Entrepreneurial City
It's here. And it's on the newsstands. And it's coming to a screen super near you.
We've released our fourth annual We Create KC, the state of entrepreneurship report that tracks KC's progress in key areas central to supporting entrepreneurs and business growth in our region.
Let's get right to it. Highlights in this report on KC's entrepreneurial ecosystem include:
- STARTS: On average, 4,400 KC startups hire their first employee each year. 4,679 KC startups hired their first-employees in 2015, with those in service/education/administration-related industries ranking highest.
- CAPITAL: KC funding organizations collectively reported a 290% increase in available capital for early-stage entrepreneurs, for a total of $792 million in capital available to early-stage entrepreneurs.
- INNOVATION PIPELINE: Whiteboard2Boardroom provides a snapshot of and access to more than 200 next-gen, homegrown technologies, ready entrepreneurial leadership and commercialization.
- RESOURCES: KCSourceLink is a network of 240+ business-building resources and made more than 92,000 connections via hotline, email and website last year to help entrepreneurs and small business owners in our metro region find the assistance they need to start and grow.
And we also featured six entrepreneurs this year—artists and innovators, local purveyors and international companies, job creators and startups—who typify Kansas City’s entrepreneurial momentum:
(Read all about them in at the top of our Entrepreneurs in Action
Making KC America’s Most Entrepreneurial City
In 2011, the Kanas City regional community rallied behind a grand vision, articulated by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce: to make Kansas City America’s most entrepreneurial city.
With that bold goal, KCSourceLink and its network for 240+ business-building organizations (of which the KC chamber is one) got to work. In 2014, KCSourceLink published the first We Create KC report, benchmarking six imperatives that would chart Kansas City’s entrepreneurial progress and impact.
About We Create KC
The report, produced under an award from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration and with support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, is organized around six imperatives that were identified as key areas of development in the region’s quest to nurture entrepreneurship and economic growth. The six imperatives came out of research conducted by several local organizations.
The six areas are:
- Maximize entrepreneurial support resources
- Dramatically increase available startup and growth capital
- Create a strong entrepreneurial pipeline of ideas
- Tell the story
- Build entrepreneurial talent
- Engage the broader corporate community
The report also looks at the quadrants of entrepreneurship, recognizing that not all entrepreneurs are alike. In 15 years of working in the entrepreneurial community, KCSourceLink has developed a framework for categorizing entrepreneurs as Microenterprise, Main Street, Innovation-Led and Second Stage. (Those links will take you to landing pages that filter all the content on our website—events, blogs, tips, entrepreneur success stories—by entrepreneurial type.) Resources to support business growth tend to cluster around these areas, and all are critical to a thriving, vibrant economy.
Years 1-3 of We Create KC are available at www.wecreatekc.com. Year 4, which charts how KC has maximized support resources, increased access to capital, created a pipeline of ideas and built entrepreneurial talent and jobs will be available to the public on March 24, 2017.
Why does entrepreneurship matter?
- It’s needed: Young firms (0-5 years) create jobs with net employment growth of 8.6 percent. Older and larger firms shed more jobs than they create. (Sources: U.S. Census Bureau Business Dynamics Statistics; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation)
- It works: Economic gardening—a focus on “growing your own” businesses in your region—resulted in 71 percent increase in employment in Littleton, Colorado, since 1989 while providing no incentives or tax breaks to recruit or attract outside business to the city.
Entrepreneurs and the jobs they create are a vital and critical ingredient for a growing economy, providing to shared economic prosperity, opportunity and empowerment.
What progress have we made?
We Create Year 1 (2013)
In its first year, We Create KC benchmarked the six imperatives. Along with Resource Partner highlights and entrepreneurial success stories, We Create Year 1 includes:
- the quadrants of entrepreneurship and the numbers of Microenterprise, Innovation-Led, Main Street and Second-Stage entrepreneurs that start and grow businesses in Kansas City
- KC Company Watch List of companies that received two rounds of funding, a list that We Create KC continues to update each year
- the chart of the supply and demand of tech jobs and talent
- number of equity funded companies by stage and location
- map of Inc. 5000 growth companies
We Create Year 2 (2014)
In its second year, We Create KC continued to track entrepreneurial connectivity, talent, capital and funded companies, adding the following to its data set:
- map of entrepreneurial density that tracks where in our region new companies (those that have hired their first employee) are formed
- the impact of the KC Regional Microloan Program, which loaned $3 million across 262 loans, resulting in 800 jobs
- map of equity funded companies by stage, location and number of deals
- a snapshot of Kansas City entrepreneurs by business sector, stage and revenues
- a chart of connections between Kansas City’s entrepreneurial organizations, a first step toward mapping the ecosystem and its collaborations
We Create Year 3 (2015)
In its third year, We Create KC introduced the Resource Rail℠, a map of Kansas City’s business-building resources that serve all four types of entrepreneurs, from inception to exit. In addition to its annual watch list of startups, We Create KC shared:
- an infographic depicting “who are our entrepreneurs” by entrepreneurial type, revenue, age, funding streams, and location
- a microloan report sharing the impact of such loans to women, minorities and types of industries
- the growth of grant, equity and angel funding since the We Create Capital report was published the summer of 2015
- the innovation pipeline: the types of homegrown innovations moving toward commercialization and the organizations that help accelerate those ideas
What progress was made in 2016?
In 2013, surveys reported that Kansas City’s entrepreneurial strengths lay in its connected network of resources; emerging areas of entrepreneurial growth were in awareness of KC entrepreneurship both within and beyond our borders, the pipeline of ideas and talent. Reported weaknesses were networked capital and corporation’s engagement in the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Flash forward to 2016 and we are making progress.
Resources: KCSourceLink made more than 92,000 connections in 2016 via hotline, email and website to more than 230 resources
Awareness: Kansas City consistently tops the ratings for entrepreneurial growth: in 2016, Kansas City topped these charts, among many others: #1 City for Business Growth (Wendover-InsightPRM Business Growth Report), #2 Most Improved Metro Areas for Startup Growth (Kauffman Index of Startup Activity), #2 Best City for Women in Tech (Smart Asset), #6 Best City for Creatives (Smart Asset), Top 6 City that Offers Better Value for Growing Startups (Forbes), Top 25 Future Ready Economy (Dell)
Pipeline of Ideas: Whiteboard2Boardroom provides a snapshot of and access to more than 200 next-gen, homegrown technologies, ready for entrepreneurial leadership and commercialization
Capital: KC funding organizations collectively reported a 290% increase in available capital for early-stage entrepreneurs, for a total of $792 million in capital available to early-stage entrepreneurs
Since 2003 when it was founded by the Kauffman Foundation, the University of Missouri–Kansas City and the U.S. Small Business Administration, KCSourceLink has continued to build collaborations that matter, all to move the needle for entrepreneurship in the Kansas City area.
KCSourceLink helps Resource Partners form coalitions and alliances that help pool resources together and make them more visible (like 2016’s KC Coworking Alliance and 2015’s Multicultural Business Coalition) and organizes week-long, metro-wide entrepreneurial events (like Global Entrepreneurship Week, which attracts 12,000+ attendees to 100+ events). It not only matches entrepreneurs and small business owners with the right resource at the right time, KCSourceLink also helps make sure those resources are visible, accessible and relevant to KC entrepreneurs and the challenges they face in starting and growing their businesses.
Alright, so what’s next?
We're not stopping there. KCSourceLink will continue to work with its partners to improve access to capital and access to resources and to report on why and how entrepreneurship matters to a thriving and sustainable economy.
The next step is to engage all players in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, including corporations.
In 2013, corporate engagement was seen as an area of opportunity for Kansas City and the needle hasn’t moved much in the past couple of years. Our next step will be to assess corporate involvement in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, figure out which corporations are involved with the startup ecosystem and how they are choosing to engage.
Many feel that corporate engagement has to come in the form of cash and financial investment in startups. However, we want to look at the ecosystem on a much deeper level— how are corporations mentoring, supporting, incubating ideas and potentially become first customers for our area startups.
We have a feeling there is a lot out there; however, there isn’t an infrastructure built to showcase this aspect of the ecosystem and those that aren’t tapped in on a personal level don’t know how to engage. Stay tuned for findings and to learn how you can help ensure a vibrant ecosystem that includes all players.
Hold up, who are we again?
KCSourceLink is the connection to Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. With a network of 240+ business-building organizations in the 18-county Kansas City region, KCSourceLink helps aspiring and existing business owners find relevant resources. The mission is to help small businesses grow and prosper by providing easy access to needed services. KCSourceLink also looks at gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and works with its partners to address those needs.
And we're ready to help you get started or get growing right now. If you've made it this far into the blog post, take the extra step to get your customized action plan started. Tell us about you and we'll guide you to the right resource to overcome your next business challenge.