“Kansas City has been a lot of hubs over the years: cattle hub, railroad hub, greeting card hub, college hoops hub. And now … tech hub?
“We’re not there yet, but last week brought the city closer to being a place recognized for its appetite for innovation,” according to a story in today’s Kansas City Star.
‘“Yes, Kansas City has buzz around the country,” said Heather Burnett Gold, who lives in Virginia. “Have you ever had buzz before?”
“Ouch. But her point had merit as Gold, an advocate for threading homes with high-speed fiber, joined delegates from more than 40 cities at the University of Missouri-Kansas City for a three-day conference called the Gigabit City Summit.”
The Gigabit City Summit began just days after the Downtown Council introduced its new LaunchKC tech startup business plan competition. LaunchKC will award up to 10 (ten) $50,000 grants at the new Techweek Kansas City conference in September to aspiring tech entrepreneurs with plans to build high growth potential starts right here in Kansas City.
The Gigabit City Summit was designed to attract tech leaders and players from around the country to learn from Kansas City and get the opportunity “to explore ways of juicing up their communities with ultra-fast Internet connections.”
Midway through the meeting, even the White House lauded Kansas City’s emergence on the high-tech stage.
Just before President Barack Obama’s appearance in Iowa last Wednesday to pitch a plan to boost bandwidth around the country, the White House released a video of him cradling an electronic tablet displaying a bar chart.
On his screen glowed the words “Kansas City,” among the pioneers of a small pack of communities with a “huge competitive advantage,” he said, because of the bistate venture into wiring neighborhoods with Google Fiber.
Throw in Kansas City’s victory this month in landing a prestigious technology expo known as Techweek, coming in September, and gee, maybe we are becoming an “it” place for geeks.
Not quite yet, said one of them.
“I think a lot of things are converging,” said local native Jonathan Wagner, founder of a startup called Big Bang. “But it’s still harder to raise money here than on the coasts.”
He said Kansas City needs to attract more deep-pocketed venture capitalists and software developers “willing to take a chance on a big idea and swing for the fences.”
Still, there’s broad agreement within the local technology set that area leaders have made huge strides toward becoming the capital of Silicon Prairie.
“The local average Joe working at a restaurant probably doesn’t recognize it,” said Mike Burke, co-chairman of the Mayors’ Bistate Innovations Team, which was coordinating efforts. “But I can tell you, the energy within our entreprenuerial and technology communities is a thousand times greater now than a decade ago.”
Outsiders are watching.
They’re watching from Portland, Ore.; Charlotte, N.C.; Nevada City, Calif.; and Provo, Utah. All sent delegates, often teams of them, to the Gigabit City Summit.
In total, more than 200 people showed up to hear about the Google experiment from local planners, from national experts in the “smart city movement” and from the mayors of Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan. The summit was co-sponsored by several organizations and companies, including Google and the Kauffman Foundation.
Although the selection of the two Kansas Citys by Google as its starting point for Fiber launched much of the tech drive, the movement now includes other providers and startups.
Gail Roper flew in from Raleigh, N.C., where she works as the city’s chief information officer. She held a similar job in Kansas City until she left eight years ago.
“You wouldn’t have seen this conference in Kansas City back then,” Roper said.
To read more of reporter Rick Montgomery’s story, click here.