Olathe wants to become known as a hotspot for budding entrepreneurs.
Innovation Pavilion Inc., a Colorado company that runs a mentoring and resource hub for startups, is eager to open one in the city. The Olathe City Council is tentatively scheduled to consider a professional services agreement with the company at its meeting on May 19. The company is seeking a $70,000 economic development grant and other assistance with site selection.
The firm has an 80,000-square-foot conference and event center in Centennial, a Denver suburb, where startups and other entrepreneurs rent office space, network, attend events and get business training. In the past three years, Innovation Pavilion has nurtured more than 150 startups.
Vic Ahmed, Innovation Pavilion’s founder, told the Olathe council Tuesday evening that he hoped to duplicate that model and success in Olathe.
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Many council members were enthusiastic about the prospect.
“There are certain things Olathe is looking for, and unique solutions is one of them,” Mayor Michael Copeland said. “This is one of those ideas that takes Olathe, and the entire region, to another level.”
Councilman Larry Campbell agreed.
“It’s not always about getting the big fish, but giving small businesses a chance as well,” he said after the meeting. “This is an exciting opportunity for Olathe. And you really never know what might come out of it. After all, Garmin was once a little business that started here.”
If the council approves the agreement, Ahmed said, Innovation Pavilion will set up events right away.
The firm may not have a space immediately, however. It is looking into options, such as buying a vacant building or constructing a facility.
Olathe is not the only city Innovation Pavilion approached. The firm has asked St. Louis, Houston, Tampa and several other cities about expanding.
All facilities will be based on the Centennial model, which houses 50 startups.
At the Centennial facility, startups rent office space for $150 a month. The fee includes all the programming, such as special events, access to venture capital, mentoring and networking socials.
Companies and individuals do not have to rent space in the building to participate.
The incubator model serves as a road map to starting a business, Ahmed said. Everything from legalities to marketing is taught. Business models are analyzed. Startups are introduced to possible investors.
It is designed to help new entrepreneurs avoid pitfalls and learn from the experts.
In Olathe, Ahmed is already meeting with potential collaborators and mentors in the business community, such as Garmin and Olathe Medical Center. Part of his firm’s process, after all, is introducing big corporations with innovative thinkers.
“What’s happening these days is no matter what product or service you have, the competition always catches up, and fast,” Ahmed said. “It doesn’t matter how different your product is. So a company needs to come up with new, creative ways to stay ahead. Otherwise it will vanish.”
Education is also another key component of Innovation Pavilion.
The firm wants to partner with the Olathe school district, and possibly others, to create programs in entrepreneurship and apprenticeship. It also plans to emphasize science and technology skills in schools.