Can you find your company in Swiss researcher's Kansas City tech galaxy?

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 12:00 am

Heike Mayer's research on the Kansas City entrepreneurial community distilled into a "Tech Galaxy."

A short time ago in a galaxy very, very close to home, a Swiss professor began charting the development of Kansas City's entrepreneurial community over the past 50-plus years.

Funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the University of Bern's Heike Mayer has drawn a "Kansas City Tech Galaxy" map, announced today, which visualizes data on the genealogy of nearly 600 firms and institutions in the region. More than 200 founders and principals contributed to the research through an online survey she conducted in late 2012 and early 2013.

But that's not the end of the exploration. Mayer knows this version of the map doesn't show the full breadth of spinoffs and development in the region, so she's encouraging local companies to provide more input through an online form. What's gleaned from the ongoing results will help explain how the region has been built.

Star in the Kansas City Tech Galaxy. Fill out the survey.

"Kansas City appears to have followed a markedly different path of economic development than more prominent tech regions like Silicon Valley and Boston," said Mayer (right), who has studied the area's entrepreneurial culture since 2005. "In contrast to those regions where growth has long been attributed to the presence of large research universities, regions like Kansas City, which are not typically known for high-tech industry, have leveraged large home-grown firms to develop the region's knowledge, labor and entrepreneurship."

Turns out about a dozen firms and institutions—including Sprint, Marion Laboratories, MRI Global, Perceptive Software, UMKC and Cerner—have spawned a majority of the information technology and life sciences companies here.

Founders' responses also yielded interesting insight into what's great or not so great about the region. These are the data you're looking for ...

  • 70 percent of Kansas City entrepreneurs used personal savings to launch their startups, while just 9.4 percent accessed venture capital. They cited difficulties in accessing capital locally, as well as local shortages of technology, marketing and sales talent.
  • Advantages of the region include informal local access to innovative people, ideas and technologies, as well as supportive local entrepreneurship organizations and initiatives.
  • Respondents gave mentors who give advice the highest rating (52.5 percent) as sources of new ideas for Kansas City entrepreneurs; customers and users followed at 43.8 percent.


Credits: Galaxy screenshot courtesy Kauffman Foundation. Mayer head shot from LinkedIn.

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