Forbes has released a ranking of the top 10 rising cities for startups. Topping the list at number one is Columbus, Ohio, and coming in at number two is St. Louis. According to the report, “the value of venture capital investments in the past three years in St. Louis is up 90% compared to the prior three years, per PitchBook. Cloud-based software firm Essence Group Holdings has conducted three raises worth a combined $241 million since 2011.”
No where on the list, however, is Kansas City. In most comparisons, Kansas City goes hand-in-hand with Midwestern cities like Columbus and St. Louis. So, where is Kansas City missing the mark on securing startups?
At the beginning of October, Ingram’s hosted a 20 in Their Twenties Assembly. The 2018 20 in Their Twenties honorees sat down for a conversation regarding life in Kansas City as millennials. While they touched on higher education and the hiring process, the conversation also drifted into the sphere of the need to grow Kansas City’s technology and startup sectors.
For Conner Hazelrigg of 1773 Innovation growing the technology and startup sectors begin with securing talent from regional universities. In the report from the assembly, she is quoted saying, “With having KU, UMKC, Rockhurst, you’ve got all these schools that have to have a research aspect for their students that are getting a B.S. Even though Kansas City might be a little rural to students because they want to go on to get a civil engineering or software engineering job out in New York, trying to find a way to harvest those students to stay here is going to be a big part of the tech growth here in Kansas City.”
And Hazelrigg might be onto something with that thought, because according to Forbes, while Columbus not only has the financing available to build companies, they have also done a superior job of retaining talent from universities like Ohio State.
John Nolan of Stonegate LLC, believes on the other hand, securing startups begins with how people run their businesses. “I’ve been reading a lot about private equity and venture firms targeting the Midwest for their startups and developments, a lot based on how the fundamentals around young people starting companies in the Midwest value and build business plans completely differently than individuals on the coast,” Nolan said.
Taylor Buford of Driver Enlist added to Nolan’s claims about a company choosing the Midwest over the coast. “One of these Midwest cities is going to get a lot of private equity money. Venture capital companies are starting to look away from the coast because it’s getting too expensive and they want to invest in a Midwest city,” Buford said. “I think it’s imperative that we win that out, so that we can drive that money, drive that talent, drive larger companies here. I think there’s a real competition right now and someone is going to win, and it might as well be us.”