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KC Entrepreneurship Community Secures Federal Award to Kick-Off $5 Million Pre-Seed Fund

Area organizations collaborated on bi-state economic development proposal to raise and run new, charitable source of early-stage capital


FAIRWAY, Kan. – (October 2, 2017) – The Enterprise Center in Johnson County (ECJC) announced today that it has secured the Economic Development Administration’s  (EDA) Seed Fund Support grant with the cooperation of a bi-state consortium of entrepreneurial and civic leaders. The group, which includes representatives of the ECJC, the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, KCSourceLink, the OneKCforWomen Alliance, the Kauffman Foundation, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and area investors, will use administrative funds provided by the grant to staff and raise a $5 million pre-seed fund.

“The seed capital crunch is one of the pervasive resource gaps limiting Kansas City’s entrepreneurial growth,” said Melissa Roberts, Vice President of Communications and Outreach at the Enterprise Center. “In launching this pre-seed fund and closing that gap, we are taking an important step towards our civic goal of becoming the most entrepreneurial city in America. The fact that this project has been undertaken by groups from both sides of the state line goes to show that our regional goals of spurring economic development, driving job creation and improving business dynamism are better served by building bridges than by border wars.”

A lack of pre-seed funding (defined as a round size of between $50,000 and $300,000) was identified as a key entrepreneurial resource gap by KCSourceLink’s 2015 WeCreate capital report. The new fund will seek to bridge that gap by taking a lead position in investments of up to $150,000, contingent on the procurement of 1:1 matching funds from co-investment partners. The program will also require that entrepreneurs receiving investments participate in educational and mentoring programs provided by the ECJC. The fund is expected to begin deploying capital in the first half of 2018.

The Region Innovation Strategies (RIS) Seed Fund Support grant is allocated annually by the EDA, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Another branch of the Regional Innovation Strategies program, the i6 innovation grant, helped create Kansas City’s Digital Sandbox program in 2014. The ECJC proposal was one of the 41 RIS awardees selected this year from amongst 217 applicants nationwide. Funding from the $150,000 federal grant will be earmarked to cover administrative expenses, and will not be used to capitalize the fund.

“The Trump Administration is committed to strengthening U.S. production and exports, which are essential to our nation’s economic growth,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These projects will enable entrepreneurs in communities across the United states to start new businesses, manufacture innovative products, and export them throughout the world – increasing America’s global competitiveness.”

The ECJC will seek to raise $5 million to capitalize the fund over the coming months; the fund’s founding donor may receive naming rights and a seat on the investment committee in exchange for their early support. The fund’s charitable structure ensures that all donors will receive a charitable tax deduction for their donations to the fund. Rather than disbursing exit proceeds to investors, proceeds will be used to re-capitalize the fund, creating an evergreen source of pre-seed capital for the region. In addition to the short-term benefit of receiving a charitable tax deduction, prospective investors will see a long-term charitable and economic impact through improved dealflow, better educated early-stage entrepreneurs and a more vibrant economy in the metro area as a result of the fund’s activity.

About the Enterprise Center in Johnson County

The Enterprise Center in Johnson County is a non-profit organization, supported by funds from Johnson County, philanthropic partners and private donors that helps connect entrepreneurs to the resources they need to grow and scale early-stage businesses. In addition to offering affordable, flexible co-working space, the ECJC also offers a mentoring program, educational programs and connections to early-stage capital through the Mid-America Angels investment network. The ECJC estimates the regional economic impact of ECJC-assisted companies as $3.2 billion over the past ten years. For more information, visit www.ecjc.com.


Guest Post: When to Use a Texas Shoot-Out and Resolving Partner Deadlock

This guest post by Sheila Seck originally appeared on the Seck & Associates blog

Business partnerships are hard. What if you and your business partners couldn’t get along? Or, what if you and your business partners couldn’t agree on a major business decision resulting in deadlock? How do you move past such a roadblock? A company’s well written operating agreement or buy-sell agreement should address these concerns. One possible solution to these potential issues is the “shotgun clause”, also referred to as a deadlock provision or a “Texas shoot-out”. Read more


5 things the world can learn from KC entrepreneurs

This post originally appeared in Startland News.

This week, entrepreneurship is king in Kansas City.

As we welcome the world to our burgeoning tech hub during Techweek, it’s tempting to think that Kansas City’s startup community is a new phenomenon. But in fact, the names of the city fathers (and mothers) — the Kauffmans, Kempers, Blochs and Helzbergs — that adorn almost every public space in town have entrepreneurial roots that run deep.

The UMKC Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, where the Enterprise Center will be holding our next Venture Lounge event, seeks to highlight this heritage. The Techweek schedule offered a tour of the facility, but if you haven’t yet had a chance to visit, here’s an accounting of the important values that entrepreneurs around the world can look to learn from Kansas City’s most successful entrepreneurs. Read more

Guest Post: 4 Google Analytics Metrics Every Business Owner Should Monitor

This guest post is written by Kevin Pike of Rank Fuse Analytics, an ECJC workshop presenter. To get more of Kevin’s insights in-person, register to attend his workshop on September 24th

Google Analytics can provide business owners with a lot of valuable information—but sometimes, it can feel like a little too much! Have you ever wondered what reports you should be looking at to get the best picture of how your business is performing? Perhaps you’re not sure how to tell if the SEO, social media, email, or digital advertising campaigns are actually succeeding. Or, maybe you are more ROI focused, and simply want to better understand revenues from marketing. Read more

Entrepreneur Resources and Entrepreneurship Education Brand

The difference between “brand decisions” and “business decisions”

Did you miss last week’s workshop on Brand Positioning with Grant Gooding? A local blogger recapped his experience and some interesting take-aways on DownHouseSoftware. Read more about what he thought was the most thought-provoking part of Grant’s presentation: Read more

George Hansen

Statement on the appointment of CEO George Hansen to secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce

The following statement may be attributed to:

Melissa Roberts – Marketing Director, Enterprise Center in Johnson County

“The Enterprise Center in Johnson County is proud to congratulate CEO George Hansen on his appointment to secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce and urges the Kansas State Senate to undertake a speedy confirmation process.” Read more

5 ways to find out if startup life is right for you (without quitting your day job)

Are you entrepreneur material? You don’t have to quit your job to find out.

Taking the leap from a more structured environment to freedom and responsibility of entrepreneurship isn’t easy. When I think back to the day that I made the decision to quit my job and start a business, one of the things I most desperately wanted was a way to test the waters.

If you’re in the same state of mind, don’t worry. Today, there are a bevy of “startup intensives” that can give you the chance to try out the startup grind for a day, a weekend or a week at a time. These events, held frequently throughout the year, can help you decide if starting up is right for you.

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Phil Sinlgeton

Guest Post: 10 SEO Tips For Startup Companies

This guest blog post comes to us from Phil Singleton of Kansas City SEO, an ECJC workshop presenter. To hear more of Phil’s expertise, keep an eye on our upcoming classes for one of his SEO workshops! 


Just because you’re a startup doesn’t mean you can ignore Google or search engine optimization. The right SEO strategy can propel your business to unimaginable heights.

Yet, tf you don’t have the right strategy early on, SEO is going to be an infuriating process.

This blog post will clarify the process of creating such a strategy. We’ll go through exactly what you need to do to create a winning outcome. By the end of this article you should know what needs to be done, and in what order.

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Mid-America Angels nominated for Silicon Prairie “Investor of the Year” Award

It’s that time of year–the time when entrepreneurs and supporters from across the Silicon Prairie gather to crown our greatest innovators and brightest stars.

This year, the Mid-America Angels investment network is honored to be one of five groups nominated for the Silicon Prairie News “Investor of the Year” award. We’ve been a mainstay capital provider and leader of many Silicon Prairie seed and Series A rounds since 2006. In less than ten years, MAA members have invested over $15 million in regional startups including EyeVerify, Aratana Therapeutics, Bulu Box, Rawxies and Zave and Rhythm Engineering. Read more

advice for startups on startup community leadership tips

6 Ways To Become a Startup Community Hero (for non-entrepreneurs)


This post was originally published by Startup Grind.

In my work at an entrepreneurial service non-profit in the Kansas City startup community, I get to meet many passionate, community-minded people each day. Often, those people have no connection to our startup community, other than a desire to help and support those “grinding it out “ as entrepreneurs. In that situation, many people find their way to organization like mine to seek advice on how to best support entrepreneurs. Others, while equally well-intentioned, strike out to provide resources to startups on their own.

It is been said by Robert Burns, John Steinbeck and many others that, “the best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.” The best-laid schemes of those engaged in the entrepreneurial world often go awry, too. That is why entrepreneurs spend hours reading The Lean Startup and Steve Blank’s blog, testing their assumptions, interviewing customers and sometimes “pivoting” at the last possible minute. Understanding your customer is paramount to success in the minds of many entrepreneurs.

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