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Startup spirit was strong in KC before Google Fiber arrived, report says

Updated: 2013-09-05T20:43:30Z

By STEVE ROSEN

The Kansas City Star

Forget Google Fiber. The Kansas City area was an entrepreneurial and technology hot spot long before the Silicon Valley giant started laying its high-speed Internet cable all over the metro.

That’s the message of a research paper released this week by the Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The report said a strong regional or local culture of technology-driven businesses in Kansas City and other cities “is not a recent phenomenon.”

Cities such as Kansas City, Portland, Ore., and Boise, Idaho, that are popularly viewed as new startup hubs “actually have been fostering a culture of entrepreneurship for some time,” the foundation said. The report noted that the top 10 cities for entrepreneurial growth in 2010 also ranked among the top 20 cities two decades earlier.

Kansas City, for example, ranked No. 3 in high-tech startup growth among large metropolitan areas between 1990 and 2010, the foundation said.

“What Kansas City’s growing tech density demonstrates is that the metropolitan area had a strongly growing technology sector prior to recent milestones, such as the advent of the high-speed Internet service potential of Google Fiber,” said Dane Stangler, director of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, who wrote the research paper.

According to the report, many cities’ recent adoption of entrepreneurial programs is “more an indication of the underlying strength of the region and its base of talent on which those programs can build than it is a cause of startup activity.”

Kansas City and other small business hubs “all owe their emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems to many years of spinoffs and entrepreneurial spawning,” the report said.

Stangler warned, however, that more work must be done to understand entrepreneurship locally and regionally, the barriers that may exist and the role of supporting institutions.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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