How Kansas City’s accelerators are fueling innovation
Area leaders are evaluating the impact accelerators have on Kansas city’s entrepreneurial community. Since 2014, the Kansas City-based Sprint Accelerators was powered by Techstars, a global accelerator and investment firm. In 2017, these two powerhouses will divide to create an independent organizations. Techstars will focus in Kansas City, with Sprint Accelerators focusing on corporate innovation with both Dairy Farmers of America and Virgin Mobile.
Techstars Kansas City
World traveler and entrepreneurial advocate Lesa Mitchell began in January as Techstars KC’s managing director. Mitchell is a Kansas City native but plans to use her network from all over the world to put local entrepreneurs on the map.
Mitchell said that it has been easy to engage people thus far, thanks to the attractiveness of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. She added that the connections made through Techstars will create a ripple effect in the city. But, she warned that we shouldn’t just meet up to meet up — we have to meet up with a purpose.
Mitchell is particularly interested in recruiting companies that dis-intermediate a market. She is also looking for diverse founders and those who believe in social impact.
Applications are now open and entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply.
Sprint Accelerator and Dairy Farmers of America
When the Dairy Farmers of America decided to come on board as a partner with the Sprint Accelerator, the large corporation — which produces one-third of all milk products in the United States — wasn’t sure what to expect.
However, the firm plans to drive new innovations in DFA’s logistics chain and learn how to better use data. The firm hopes to learn a thing or two from the entrepreneurs who are selected to the Sprint Accelerator 2017 cohort.
Sprint Accelerator manager Doug Dresslaer said that before the firms begin the 90-day program, they will establish three goals that they want to accomplish. Dresslaer hopes that each company will establish a working relationship with a corporate partner by the end of the program. Unlike the Sprint Accelerator in years past, the 2017 program will not make a financial investment in participating startups.
One of the main goals of the Sprint Accelerators is to encourage corporations to get more involved in the local startup scene. Dresslaer is thankful that Sprint has given them the opportunity to impact entrepreneurship in the city.
The Lean Lab
The Lean Lab is an education innovation incubator. Established three years ago, co-founder Katie Boody a former teacher and Teach for America alum, realized that teachers do not have the tools needed to prepare students for the modern world. She’s particularly excited to see the incubator improve local education.
The Lean Lab invested $100,000 in five teams last year, thanks to KC Social Innovation, Village Capital and the City of Kansas City, Mo. 2016 was the first year that the incubator recruited nationally and Boody said the Lean Lab will continue that in 2017.