Next week, entrepreneurs will be the stars in Kansas City.
The second annual 1Week KC starts Tuesday, and organizers are hoping to build on last year’s event and continue helping startups and their founders network and exchange ideas. A weeklong series of events aimed at connecting and celebrating Kansas City’s entrepreneurial community, 1Week was born out of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5 Initiative goal of making Kansas City “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.”
“Last year 1Week was one of the catalysts to continue boosting entrepreneurship in Kansas City,” said Adam Coomes, a serial entrepreneur and the lead organizer of 1Week. “We got a lot of new people engaged in the community.”
Cameron Cushman, a manager of entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and a 1Week organizer, says this year’s event is going to be different, partially because of the development of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial landscape since last June. “The last one was the end of phase one,” Cushman said. “We were mainly identifying gaps in our entrepreneurial ecosystem and trying to learn what we needed to do going forward.”
Coomes and company are modifying this year’s event to ensure 1Week helps fill those gaps. Among the changes are a six-day schedule this year instead of the nine-day format from 2012 and fewer large-scale events than the first edition. Also, Entrepreneur Day at the K, which organizers hope will draw 2,000 entrepreneurs to the Royals game Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium, will help kick off 1Week instead of closing it.
“We’ll have less big events, but they’ll be more focused,” Coomes said. “And we’ll have only one flagship event every night to get a lot of people attending the most high-impact events.”
The new addition to the schedule that has Coomes and Cushman most excited is the KC Startup Crawl on June 28.
When Startup Crawl organizer Carrie Royce was at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, she got a tour of that city’s vibrant entrepreneurial scene. Royce and other visitors were shuttled from place to place and got to see the highlights in a matter of hours, and she knew that tour could be replicated in Kansas City. In February, the inaugural KC Startup Crawl saw a couple hundred visitors shuttle between six different locations to tour the city’s startup scene.
Royce has made modifications to the crawl based on feedback from the February event, and those upgrades will be on display on June 28 when six shuttles take visitors to 11 entrepreneurial hotspots around town, including CremaLab, Snow & Company and the Kansas City Startup Village. Royce expects about 100 startups to participate and hopes to see them spark conversation among the visitors like they did in February.
“There were a lot of great exchanges on the buses last time,” Royce said. “The shuttle drivers were telling me that they couldn’t believe how excited people were about the startups.”
In the end, Coomes says, the week of events is just one part of the larger movement to make Kansas City more entrepreneurial. “Entrepreneurship is move than just events,” Coomes said. “It’s people stepping up in the community and building great companies.”
He notes that the access to networking opportunities found at 1Week is vital to entrepreneurial growth, but he wants to see Kansas City reach the level of more established tech hubs, where a vast amount of connections are made in everyday life without a catalyzing event.
“Our goal is for a founder to know where help is and who to talk to immediately,” Coomes said. “That way we keep talent here to build more and more great companies and more and more networks of entrepreneurs.”