Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Students get inside look at KC startup scene

Nov. 15 marked the first ever Silicon Prairie News startup job crawl in Kansas City, sponsored by The University of Kansas School of Business.

The job crawl allowed Kansas City area university students to network with entrepreneurs and learn more about the startup community.  Startups and organizations involved in the crawl are looking to involve students in the startup community.  Foster Casterline, a KU information systems student and primary organizer of the crawl, has worked with the startup community and said he believes students can get a competitive advantage by working for a startup during their college career.

“There’s a lot more pressure on you, and you’re going to have to work a lot harder, but you’re going to learn so much more about it and how to run a company, ” Casterline said.

Brittany Mascio, events coordinator at Silicon Prairie News, said the organization wants to partner with universities to spread the word about the startup community and inform students of opportunities.  She said she believes events like the job crawl allow students to see a range of career options.

“It opens their eyes to other options they might not have been aware of,” she said.

Students arrived first at EyeVerify, a member startup of the Kansas City Startup Village. The village is a community of 25 startups, founded to provide support for entrepreneurs after the introduction of Google Fiber.

Students heard from several founders of KCSV startups including Jeff Rohr, CEO and founder of SquareOffs.  During a debate with a friend, Rohr recognized the need for a platform that allows people to discuss and share their viewpoints on a number of matters.  The realization inspired him to found SquareOffs, a debate forum that can be housed in publishers’ websites similar to a YouTube video.

The bus next took students to BetaBlox, which serves as an incubator for startups, assisting them with law and tax issues.  BetaBlox presented its current projects to students and told them about the type of employee they are looking for.

The final stop on the crawl was the Kauffman Foundation where students were able to network with startups that are hiring.

Nate Olson of the Kauffman Foundation founded the One Million Cups program, which allows entrepreneurs to present their ideas to an audience and receive feedback.  He encourages more students to attend the event as a way to be involved in the startup community, because he wants to keep talent local.
“Our interest is keeping talent in the region and getting smart people to start companies and to work in companies,” he said.

Olson said there isn’t only one way to get started in entrepreneurship careers after college.
“When you get done with school, there is no right path,” he said.  “There is only forward.”

by Allison Kite