Swiss Professor Heike Mayer recently mapped Kansas City’s bright entrepreneurship stars and systems into a Tech Galaxy map. The new “Kansas City Tech Galaxy” poster map visualizes data on the entrepreneurial heritage, or genealogy, of nearly 600 firms and institutions in the region. The data funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation illustrates Kansas City’s entrepreneurial development over the past 50-plus years.
Mayer, who has studied Kansas City’s entrepreneurial culture since 2005, says, “Kansas City appears to have followed a markedly different path of economic development than more prominent tech regions like Silicon Valley and Boston.”
Kansas City’s tech industry growth is not because major research universities have pushed for the development of technology but can be attributed to leveraging large home-grown firms such as: Marion Laboratories, MRI Global, Sprint, UMKC, Cerner, Innovative Software, Perceptive Software, Proteon Therapeutics, and Archer Technologies.
“This research confirms that Kansas City is a vibrant high-technology location,” said Dane Stangler, director of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “The development of this vibrancy, however, does not match the way policymakers usually think about it. The companies in these sectors were made locally—not imported from other states as a result of the conventional smokestack chasing that many economic development leaders pursue.”
The Kauffman Foundation points out that the data and survey helps community developers to understand founders and the region they inhibit.
Seventy percent of Kansas City entrepreneurs used personal savings to launch their startups, while just 9.4 percent accessed venture capital.
Respondents gave mentors who give advice the highest rating (52.5 percent) as sources of new ideas for Kansas City entrepreneurs; customers and users followed at 43.8 percent.
Key advantages of the region include informal local access to innovative people, ideas and technologies, as well as supportive local entrepreneurship organizations and initiatives. On the negative side, respondents cited difficulties in accessing capital locally, as well as local shortages of technology, marketing, and sales talent.
The Tech Galaxy Map is an ongoing process. Most of the data comes from respondents that can be categorized as small businesses. The map does not show the full extent of Kansas City’s spinoffs and entrepreneurial development. Mayer encourages local companies to provide data. The form is available here.