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Kauffman Foundation to award $1.4M grant to Pipeline entrepreneur group

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, June 26, 2014, at 8:21 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, June 27, 2014, at 3:53 p.m.

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Editor's note: This story has been changed to correct information about the matching requirements attached to the funds.

The Pipeline entrepreneur program received its second – and biggest – grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation on Thursday, but this time it plans to use half of the $1.44 million to support the 70 entrepreneurs who have graduated from the year-long fellowship program.

Part of the challenge grant, to be used over three years, could be used to broaden the Kansas-based program’s reach in Missouri, Pipeline CEO Joni Cobb said Thursday, as well as to provide continued support of its high-tech entrepreneur grooming program in Kansas and Nebraska.

But, Cobb said, the big focus will be to look at ways to support its alumni – or members – from the three-state region.

“To think they learned everything they needed to learn (in the fellowship year) it’s not very logical,” she said. Programs that Pipeline may develop to support alumni could include ways to deal with rapid growth, culture change within a startup, and finding talented employees and developing them, Cobb said.

She said the alumni entrepreneurs will help the organization determine what programs should be offered, as will some of Pipeline’s national advisers, a cadre of high-tech entrepreneurs, academics and venture capitalists.

“We know the needs of membership will be diverse,” Cobb said.

Todd Gentry, a 2008 Pipeline fellow from Winfield, said he remains an active member even though it’s been five years since he went through the fellowship. In those five years, Gentry said, he’s exited the business he had started before becoming a Pipeline fellow, Inno-Labs, and is working on a new venture, HyperBorean, which aims to use waste heat to power refrigeration and air-conditioning units.

With this second venture, he’s relied heavily on the Pipeline member network. He said Pipeline alumni helped him to reshape an equity offering for HyperBorean in the space of 10 minutes’ time. The network also proved valuable in HyperBorean’s business plan. Gentry said one of his new venture’s early investors was impressed at the thoroughness and completeness of his plan for HyperBorean. “Really, one of the answers was Pipeline,” he said he told the investor.

“The member programming is probably one of the most exciting parts of the grant,” Gentry said Thursday.

Cobb said Pipeline intends to match the funds from Kauffman up to the maximum of $1.44 million.

“We raised the whole grant amount last time,” she said. “We’re very optimistic we’ll be able to hit that ($1.44 million) match.”

In 2011 the Kauffman Foundation awarded Pipeline its first challenge grant, which was $800,000. That grant provided for Pipeline to expand its fellowship to Nebraska and the Kansas City, Mo., area. Cobb said a portion of this second grant will be used to further expand the fellowship in the St. Louis area and other parts of Missouri.

Pipeline was started in 2006 as an initiative of the now-defunct Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., a public-private agency created to grow technology firms in the state. Pipeline lost its state funding beginning in fiscal year 2012 and has been self-supporting since as a nonprofit organization.

Two Wichita entrepreneurs, Carlos Fernandez of PageOut and James Havers-Strong of ABI Group, are 2014 fellows of the program.

They are among 12 Wichita entrepreneurs who have been selected for the fellowship program since its inception. The others are: Tahir Ahmad, Joey Blue, Alex Cavgalar, Nate Gregory, Jeremy Jones, Gary Mason, Gerald Rues, Brandon Shuey, Ben Tyson and Brian Williamson.

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jsiebenmark.

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