Wichita has struggled in recent years to churn out the kind of startups that contributed to the rise of the city – companies like Cessna, Pizza Hut, White Castle, Coleman and Rent-A-Center.
But all that may be changing.
The startup ecosystem is coming together and startup activity is increasing at a rapid pace, generating startups like KingFit (a diabetes education and prevention app powered by artificial intelligence), Knoxx (revolutionizing recruiting), QuickDraw Studios (marketing gamification), SocialPreneur Lab (teaching and providing a platform for youth social entrepreneurship), Lawn Buddy (on-demand four-season lawn care), Vigilias (rural focused telemedicine) and Ulterius Technologies (replacing everything on your network with one secure device).
What’s really exciting to see is how the community has rallied behind these startups. From the volunteers in community organizations, to the 60-plus local mentors in programs like the e2e Accelerator, to the local investors who are stepping up to fund these companies.
Over the last two to three years, the entrepreneurial community has rapidly taken shape, contributing to the increase in the number of startups.
The e2e Accelerator, a community-driven accelerator focused on growing companies in the Wichita region, launched its first cohort.
GroundWork Startup Hub, a collaborative program focused on entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs, launched and is now home to several exciting tech startups.
The Entrepreneurship Task Force, an arm of the newly formed Greater Wichita Partnership, continues to foster high-powered collaborations across the many community organizations contributing to entrepreneurship.
And Youth Entrepreneurs, now in its 25th year, continues to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs through its high school programming.
Local universities have gotten in on the act as well.
WSU’s Innovation Campus will provide real world and applied learning experiences with companies like Airbus and access to resources like labs and a maker-space.
Newman University added a new School of Business, and Friends University started a Cyber Security Master’s Degree.
Community events like 1 Million Cups, Accelerate the Heartland – a conference that brought together startups, investors and other members of the entrepreneurial community – and the recent stop on the North American Tech Tour with VC Paul Singh (courtesy of Clutch Studio) continue to bring together more support and exposure for local startups.
In addition to all this, several other efforts are in the works and are expected to be announced soon.
Signs of progress are beginning to show in Wichita, but there is still a lot of work to be done. What exactly all of this will become is yet to be seen, but something good is definitely brewing in Wichita.
Sam Foreman is special counsel at Fleeson Gooing. Paul Lavender is director of special projects at Sasnak Management Corporation. The article originally was published on Silicon Prairie News, an online news site dedicated to raising the visibility of startups across Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.
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