KC’s first Techweek brought big speakers and announcements.
Story by Riley Mortensen
Kansas City’s first Techweek has come and gone in a blur. Speakers, industry leaders, innovators and aspiring entrepreneurs—over 5,000 people total—all gathered last week at Union Station to tackle existing problems, dream of new ideas, network and become inspired.
Techweek patrons saw and heard about everything from the behind-the-scenes stories of 3D printing to ingestible devices that transmit vital health information. And the best part of it all? Kansas City is guaranteed Techweek conferences for the next four years.
Here we share a few of our favorite highlights.
Kansas City’s got heart
The talks, tours and demonstrations of the week led up to the main event—LaunchKC’s $500,000 grant giveaway. Ten top businesses from Kansas City and beyond were chosen out of hundreds of applicants to receive $50,000 plus a year of free office space in downtown Kansas City, mentorships with industry specific leaders and a Sprint Galaxy phone with one year of free service. In exchange, each of the winning companies must agree to call Kansas City home for a minimum of two years.
Tension ran high as winners were announced one by one, but as they made their way to the stage, formal handshakes were swapped for congratulatory hugs and high-fives.
- Blooom-Chris Costell, Overland Park
- HealthID: Angelo Pitassi Jr., Cranston, R.I.
- Integrated Roadways: Tim Sylvester, Kansas City
- KC Drone Co.: Casey Adams, Kansas City
- Nodal Security: Marcus Eagan, Detroit
- Pycno: Nikita Gulin, Santiago, Chile
- SquareOffs: Jeffrey Rohr, Kansas City, Kan.
- Vertisense: Christopher Ayala, New York, N.Y.
- Video Fizz: Laura Steward, Kearney
- PopBookings: Erika Klotz, Kansas City (People’s Choice Award)
Kevin Conard, one of Blooom’s cofounders said he was completely humbled by the entire experience and that the money from the grant will go right back into the company as they work on new developments.
Conard also said Techweek was a fantastic time and it was great to meet new people and see the Kansas City’s thriving tech scene up close.
“I think making these sort of investments now are going to really pay out in the next five years with a lot of new jobs and making this a more attractive place for families who ultimately want to move,” Conard said. “I think the downtown area will be a big benefactor of it.”
Missouri gives back
LaunchKC wasn’t the only one giving out the big bucks at Techweek. On Thursday night, Gov. Jay Nixon announced a $1.19 million grant from Missouri.
The million-dollar grant will be split between three Kansas City entrepreneur organizations.
LaunchKC, the new initiative attracting tech talent to Kansas City and the host of the Techweek grant competition, will receive $565,000 from the state to help the organization provide more assistance to startups in the metro.
Digital Sandbox KC, an organization that assists startups with funding in their earliest stages will receive $500,000.
The Independence Economic Development Council, which helps anyone looking to grow including startups, manufacturers, retailers, warehousers and service businesses, will receive $125,000.
LauchCode is coming to KC
Keynote speakers were one of the biggest draws of the whole conference, and Jim McKelvey’s presentation on his new nonprofit LaunchCode didn’t disappoint.
McKelvey, the man behind the payment system Square, told the packed auditorium of a big problem he’d seen in his hometown of St. Louis: growing companies were being starved of available tech talent.
So he came up with a plan and, after many failed attempts but continued support, LaunchCode was born. The organization helps to revamp tech education and get employers the kind of employees they’re looking for.
LaunchCode takes on candidates who might not have a typical tech background and matches them with educational resources like online classes from Harvard University. Ultimately with the assistance of LaunchCode, these candidates end up with new jobs and companies are no longer forced to poach from each other for talent.
Now the nonprofit is coming to KC and McKelvey said the possibilities are endless.
“There’s some really cool stuff that we might be able to do together and now maybe we’ve got some sort of intercity synergy that we haven’t discovered yet,” McKelvey said.
LaunchCode is currently working on funding for the Kansas City offices, but plans to start hiring local staff at the end of this year. After that the nonprofit will be looking for company partners and screening candidates, but they already have early interest from groups like Garmin, DST, Cerner and Commerce Bank to name a few.
Photos via Techweek’s Facebook page.