We Create Corporate Engagement

Corporate Engagement Dashboard


In late 2019, through the KC Rising IDEAS committee and its Supplier Diversity Taskforce, Kansas City began to look at five strategic exchanges (i.e., sponsorship; research and development; people, place and product; investment; and customer and vendor sourcing) that drive corporate engagement in KC’s startup ecosystem. The goal: find ways to improve corporate connections.

By 2020, with a raging pandemic and the need to support our small, and especially diverse, businesses, this led to the CEO-to-CEO Challenge, a commitment for CEOs to intentional, inclusive procurement with small and diverse suppliers.

Companies and CEOs who accept the challenge pledge to:

  1. Buy from small and diverse‐owned businesses when possible.
  2. Be an advocate for the cause internally and with peers.
  3. Establish internal accountability framework around intentional, inclusive procurement to include data tracking and reporting of new and existing vendors.
  4. Tie inclusive procurement goals to the firm’s strategic priorities.
  5. Evaluate sourcing and procurement spend and explore opportunities to grow and expand relationships and innovate processes to include diverse suppliers.
  6. Build the diversity of the firm’s supplier pipeline.
  7. Spotlight success stories of diverse suppliers.
  8. Add resources for development and measurement of these activities.

As of November 2021, the following companies have accepted the CEO-to-CEO Challenge. This initial cohort, facilited by Mary Shannon with Connectus Worldwide, is analyzing and identifying opportunities for integrating supplier diversity programs into the execution of their corporate strategy. A playbook, to assist others in joining the challenge, will be available in late spring 2022.

Interested in getting involved in the CEO-to-CEO Challenge? Download the pledge.



To become America’s most entrepreneurial city, Kansas City must open the doors between corporations, universities and entrepreneurs.

Meeting this ambitious goal requires an unprecedented level of partnership among everyone, including regional entrepreneurs, investors, businesses, nonprofit groups, lenders, educators, public officials and residents, to create a more cohesive and better-funded entrepreneurial ecosystem, for now and in the future.

By focusing on five key exchanges between corporations and the entrepreneurship community, we can elevate Kansas City’s status as a top region for startup and business activity.

Since KCSourceLink launched the report, we’ve made significant progress on four of these strategic exchanges. Here are just a few initiatives now under way under the five strategic exchanges.

Customer & Vendor Sourcing

  • CEO-to-CEO Challenge: Through efforts of KC Rising IDEAS committee and the Supplier Diversity Taskforce, the challenge recruited its first 12 companies in 2021, with plans to broaden that reach and impact in early 2022.

People, Place & Product

  • BoardMatch: KCSourceLink launched BoardMatch in the spring of 2021 to connect entrepreneurs with potential advisory and fiduciary boards. Potential board members and startup founders are invited to request a match at kcsourcelink.com/resources/board-match
  • Startup Boards 101: This board training program for early-stage founders and prospective board members has helped educate 29 entrepreneurs and 40 potential board members.


  • KCInvestEd: Throughout 2020 and 2021, KCInvestED continued to connect the investment community through online and in-person events.
  • CapitalMatch: This matching platform helps those seeking to learn about early-stage deals or those interested in obtaining equity investment. Investors and startup founders are invited to request a match or more information via the CapitalMatch platform.

Research & Development

  • Technology Venture Studio:  Launched in 2020 as a core pillar of the UMKC Innovation Center, the Technology Venture Studio is working to enhance the process by which results of research conducted at UMKC are transferred, and provide a continuum of support for university and community-based early-stage technology businesses. The Whiteboard 2 Boardroom program, part of the Studio, already connects 23 regional research institutions.



In March 2020, after months of research and just before the COVID‐19 pandemic, KCSourceLink released a report, We Create Corporate Engagement, to better connect the corporate community with the KC entrepreneurial ecosystem and foster additional innovation and economic activity.

The report explores how strategic exchanges between corporations, universities and entrepreneurs benefit our city and region to elevate Kansas City’s status as a top region for startup activity.

Download the report to find out:

  • the importance of corporate engagement to our entrepreneurial community
  • examples of corporate engagement in Kansas City and beyond
  • how to measure the impacts and outcomes of corporate engagement
  • how corporations can best engage and meet their objectives through the five strategic exchanges