1 Million Cups coming to Wichita

Local leaders said Wednesday that they have approval to bring the 1 Million Cups entrepreneurship networking event to Wichita.

The kick-off of the weekly event will be Feb. 10 at 238 N. Mead in Wichita State University’s Old Town facility.

It will be from 9 to 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and open to the public.

Wichita will be about the 80th city to get 1 Million Cups, a creation of the Kansas City’s Kauffman Foundation. Nearby cities with the event include Lawrence; Kansas City; Lincoln, Neb.; Omaha; Oklahoma City; Tulsa; and Springfield, Mo.

The event is another piece of a broad effort by the regional Entrepreneur Task Force to build a system of events, mentorships, training programs, venture funds and an incubator/accelerator to foster more fast-growing startup companies in the Wichita area.

At 1 Million Cups, one or two early-stage entrepreneurs will present for six minutes about their company, followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session.

Bob Litan, a Wichita-based attorney and former vice president of the Kauffman Foundation, explained that over time, this simple formula can have profound effects.

The presenters will be new entrepreneurs trying to figure out a solution to a business problem.

“It’s a sophisticated focus group for them to get crowd-sourced advice from people like them or from potential customers, suppliers or investors,” he said.

And audience members can learn about companies they’ve never heard of but might want to.

“There is now no way to know what’s going on under the radar,” he said. “And, with this, they can meet each other and form a permanent and lasting community in this city.”

Tonya Witherspoon, executive director of Ennovar, a new research institute at WSU, said locals aren’t paying to bring the franchise to Wichita, but they did have to get approval from the Kauffman Foundation and abide by its rules.

She said she wanted 1 Million Cups because it has been proven to work. The structure of these kinds of events is important because people need to feel they aren’t wasting their time; otherwise, they won’t come and the event will flounder, she said.

“We didn’t want to worry about who’s making the coffee; we want to worry about the content,” she said.

Dan Voorhis: 316-268-6577, @danvoorhis