Report ranks KC, St. Louis near top of ‘Silicon Prairie’ startup communities

St. Louis and Kansas City were two of the top three startup communities in 2016 across a five-state swath of the Midwest, according to a new report published by Silicon Prairie News, a website that covers tech startups in the region.

The report aims to assess the state of startup communities in 14 metropolitan areas across the “Silicon Prairie,” a region that includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and part of South Dakota.

Ames, Iowa, tops the report’s per-capita ranking, followed by Kansas City at No. 2 and St. Louis at No. 3. Lincoln, Nebraska, and Des Moines, Iowa, round out the top five. Columbia, the only other Missouri city in the ranking, is No. 7. Before the rankings were adjusted for population, St. Louis was first, Kansas City second and Columbia eighth.

Chapman and Co., an Omaha, Nebraska-based consultancy, assisted with the report, weighing different metrics to generate a score for each of the communities. The seven factors weighed were startups, innovation, technical and digital infrastructure, talent, company sustainability, finance and venture capital, and community review.

The weight of each category depended on how valuable it is to an entrepreneurial ecosystem, according to Tom Chapman, managing principal of Chapman and Co.

Most of the data sources are publicly available, including data from National Venture Capital Association, Inc. Magazine and SEC Filings.

Kansas City

The report calls Kansas City “the heart of the Silicon Prairie,” due to its size, location and the fact that it’s home to the entrepreneurship-focused Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Kansas City excels across the spectrum, the report says, but gets dinged due to a shortfall in “expected outcomes,” meaning it doesn’t produce as many high-growth startups as communities of comparable size elsewhere in the U.S.

Kansas City has one of the most positive communities in terms of self-evaluation, the report points out, and “is well positioned for success in the next decade as a startup community.”

St. Louis

St. Louis earns the highest scores of any area in the region for financing, sustaining companies and creative jobs. However, the area underperforms in infrastructure and self-ranking, according to the report.

The report recommends that St. Louis take a leadership role in the region due to its outstanding measures on density, connectivity and diversity.

“St. Louis is the top ecosystem in the Silicon Prairie,” the report says, “however, no ecosystem in the region is less a part of the region.”

St. Louis should be acknowledged as the “Gateway” to the Silicon Prairie and lead the region, the report says.


The report describes Columbia as “the startup ecosystem with the most surprising results.” The area does particularly well in starting and sustaining companies, the report says.

The report cites the success of Columbia companies in advertising and digital marketing, including Division-D, True Media and AdKarma.

However, the report notes, Columbia’s ranks below the regional average for financing, innovation and “cool jobs.”

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