Pipeline entrepreneur program will expand network to St. Louis

The Kansas-based Pipeline entrepreneurship grooming program said Tuesday that it is expanding to include the St. Louis area.

Pipeline officials said in a news release that the expansion will allow qualified, high-tech entrepreneurs there to apply for and be selected to participate in its yearlong fellowship program.

The expansion is made possible with financial commitments and other resources from Washington University in St. Louis, David Karandish of Answers, Stephanie Leffler and Ryan Noble of CrowdSource and integrated communication firm Elasticity.

The addition of St. Louis also means that Pipeline will hold some of its future education sessions there, the group said.

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.

In 2011 the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation awarded Pipeline an $800,000 challenge grant to expand its fellowship to include Nebraska and the Kansas City, Mo. area. Earlier this year the group was awarded a second, bigger challenge grant from Kauffman – $1.44 million – part of which was to be used to further expand the fellowship to St. Louis and other parts of Missouri.

Joni Cobb, Pipeline’s president and CEO, downplayed the effect that the St. Louis expansion would have on future Wichita entrepreneurs participating in its fellowship program.

“This is only good for Pipeline entrepreneurs … to not only have their network expand with entrepreneurs, but investors and resource partners,” she said. “This provides more resources for entrepreneurs.”

She said it will make the selection process for Pipeline fellows more competitive, “but there are no quotas in Pipeline.”

“There’s no guarantees for how many entrepreneurs come out of any part of the region,” Cobb said. “This shouldn’t be a lessening of what Wichita gets.”

There are two Wichitans in the current Pipeline fellowship: Carlos Fernandez of Clutch Studio and James Havers-Strong of ABI Group.

And over the years a number of area entrepreneurs have been selected for the fellowship: 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 Follow him on Twitter: @jsiebenmark.