Ep. #842 - Comeback KC Ventures
In this episode of the Startup Hustle, Matt DeCoursey and Jim Starcev, Solutions Lab Program Manager of KC Digital Drive, talk about how Comeback KC Ventures support entrepreneurs to get their business ideas rolling.
Covered In This Episode
Are you a resident of Kansas City with a great idea for a startup but don’t know where to start? Our guest, Jim Starcev, shares how Comeback KC Ventures prepares entrepreneurs for the realities of starting a business through a series of workshops and grants they provide. Here are the key things Matt and Jim discussed:
- What does Comeback KC Ventures do?
- Harsh realities dealing with bureaucracy within the government
- Programs provided by Comeback KC Ventures
- Importance of Workshops, Mentorships, and a Can-Do Attitude
- Jim Starcev’s business background (2:04)
- What does KC Digital Drive do? (3:57)
- Comeback KC Ventures (7:23)
- Challenges with bureaucracy (13:36)
- Realities of supporting startups (22:12)
- What is a workshop? (25:01)
- Why are programs like Comeback KC important? (30:04)
- Importance of doing a smaller number of things (36:27)
- Founder’s Freestyle: A Recap (40:08)
All the different pieces that it takes to create a business, you will need help. And having a startup ecosystem can help those companies. Not only can it change the entrepreneurs’ future, but it also changes the city’s future.-Jim Starcev
Find something that’s important to you and embrace that. Find your passion and go for it.-Jim Starcev
A lot of you listening have been searching for an idea. They are out there. Big money ideas are everywhere, and they’re not worth a dime without execution.-Matt DeCoursey
Be sure to tune in to this “Comeback KC Ventures” episode to get some ideas on how to propel your startup idea to the next level.
Assembling a software development team is no doubt, difficult. It’s the reason why Full Scale is sponsoring today’s episode. Full Scale helps businesses match with highly skilled developers quickly and affordably. They use a state-of-the-art platform that recruits, onboards, and retains developers so you don’t have to! Check out fullsale.io to find out about their development services.
Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
And we’re back for another episode of Startup Hustle Matt DeCoursey is here to have another conversation which I’m hoping helps your business grow. Everybody loves a comeback. Ah, the Cinderella story is a big win coming from behind and there are so many of them that have come up since the whole covid 19 thing hit two years ago and I’m going to talk about the comeback of KC Ventures Casey as in Kansas City and I know we’re less we have listeners. All over the world 181 countries last year and thank you for that. But Kc Kansas City that’s my hometown and that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about now before I get into who we’re talking with today today’s episode of Startup Hustle is brought to you by fullscale.io. Helping you build a software team quickly and affordably That’s my company people and I want to help you make your tech dreams come true. Go to fullscale io and just click the tab that says get started to answer a few questions and we’ll get back to you and let you know if we can help. With me today I’ve got Jim Starcev and Jim is the solutions lab program manager at KC digital drive does that sound familiar because we’ve had other people from KC digital drive on the show in the past we’ll put a link to the show notes for that other episode which had Aaron deacon on it. But. You know without any further ado straight out of my hometown Jim welcome to startup Hustle;
Matt, thank you, and my pleasure to be here today.
Yeah, you know I like to start the conversations on this show with you giving us a little background about your backstory. So let’s hear it, Jim.
Yeah, you know I started with the entrepreneur bug. A while ago. So not to date me but about 2 decades ago I started my first company. Um, and for the last twenty years have just lived in the startup ecosystem. So that company was in the fintech space had ah had a true bootstrap my partner and I started it with about $6000 grew it to a. 50 employee company that was acquired by Charles Schwab so it was was quite an experience over eight years and after that, we started bouncing around I did some interesting things and opened a couple of gelato shops. Okay, anybody ever wants to talk you know frozen desserts. love love that topic um from there we merged into data analytics for retail. So I actually even today still do a lot of work with coffee shop owners. So I’m heading to New York for the international food show and coffee fest this weekend um to speak to probably a few hundred people that own coffee shops and talk to them about how to do their business so it’s been for me as I said I bounced over and actually my most recent venture I had a former employee at the fintech that we sold that decided he wanted to start a business so I worked with him for a couple of years on a company called Nexa insights. Ah, Kansas City company that’s doing surveys to financial advisors and you know we helped them get that off the ground. He’s doing a phenomenal job knocking that out of the park. Um. I then took a little bit of a pivot myself about a year and a half ago I decided I wanted to move into the nonprofit world. So I jumped in with Aaron Deakin at KC Digital Drive and took over as the program manager for our solutions lab.
Give me a little bit more explanation about what KC Digital Drive does and once again, there’s ah, a link in the show notes for the episode when Aaron was on the show and yeah, that was like honestly man that was like 600 episodes.
Yeah, so ah, you know the links down there. But what’s the core mission at KC Digital Drive. Yeah, so you know we started actually it’s kind of crazy I know especially for Aaron ten years ago so we actually celebrate our 10 year anniversary in May and that happened to coincide with when Google fiber. Came to Kansas City so that was really the start of KC Digital Drive. A lot of smart cities and really the big driver being digital equity and you know how can we make for sure everybody in town. Everybody in Kansas City and the whole region really has access to the tools that they need to succeed. And today’s environment um and that is still one of our core pillars. We do a lot of work in that space. But we’ve also expanded out I mean I like to say that you know we sit at the um intersection of emerging technology and doing good. Um, and so we touch a lot of different things like in solutions lab you know, just in this year ran an augmented reality virtual reality developer challenge I’ve got an air quality monitoring program. We’ve put about 50 sensors along what we call the t truth corridor. Being able to really monitor what the particles are in the air and pull that out and do that we’ve got some interesting things to go in with that we do as we said we’ve done a lot in the covid response including the big one. We want to talk about today is that the comeback KC Ventures um program that we’ve launched about twelve months ago.
You are a true entrepreneur mainly because you’ve got to be doing 15 different things. A couple of things for context, you know Jim mentioned Google fiber so Kansas City was the first major city in the United States to have our entire internet infrastructure strung up with fiber optic line and Google went through a whole process like Topeka Kansas actually changed their name to Google Kansas for a day trying to get Google’s attention but you know. That particular part of the timeline is important for Kansas City’s tech scene in my opinion because well I moved back here shortly after that where I would have been in Indianapolis even though this is my hometown but there was a lot you know at the time now look this isn’t high technology. Ah, a decade later. But at the time no one had this gigabit speed so it attracted a lot of startup activity. A lot of venture capital and stuff like that because people were able to get in and do a lot more model testing related to things that you look at like telestuff meaning like. Video conferencing or I don’t know it had a lot of smart city implications as you mentioned another thing a rule here on the podcast is if you mentioned gelato you’re supposed to have some for everyone so sit of breath I’m gonna give you a pass on that this first time but I didn’t get to be this big and fat. Without the help of gelato&
so it definitely added a few pounds to my physique.
Yeah, that happens I mean so what? what are you going to do? What are you going to do? Okay, so comeback Kc ventures and I mentioned at the beginning of the show that there are a lot of comeback stories. There are a lot of not comeback stories. From covid to so you have a given and a take some you know one of the things that we’ve been pretty um, open about this so you know like the example at full scale when covid hit I lost 35% of my recurring contracts in a month. Um. Took me three months to get them back and the reason I got them back is that some of our clients so we work pretty specifically with technology-related companies and some of them found that they were booming and then some of them are like holy crap. This is not good. Yeah, and then there was a whole nother category that emerged because I’ve done multiple shows that that wasn’t even just about this like a local company black and v did ah did a covid related some grants and there was a lot of stuff with that and.
And comeback KC is one of those 2 so as you mentioned two-thirds of the way through it. So I’m assuming what we’re going to do today is a little bit of a temperature check on some of that and then maybe we’ll see how it ended in the end but how did you even go about like how did this even start like. Yeah, get the not-profit thing, and thank you for all, you’re doing here in my hometown but when you look at some of this stuff I think a lot of people see it pop up. They’re like oh cool this is a great program. But how do you even get something like it started.
Yeah, that’s a great question. You know we’ve been involved in. You know the startup ecosystem. But a while back you know the launch Kc days for people in Kansas City that remember that grant program KC Digital Drive was one of the companies kind of behind that and we do a lot of work in our code for Kc where we’re really helping bring people in and develop things out. We’ve had quite a few companies. Actually, come out of some of you know nonprofit work that we’ve done which we’re always a fan of and really encouraged to do that. So so for us, as we said it goes back to when covid started we actually did play a big part in the city’s response. You know comeback Kc was really kind of the whole marketing campaign around you know. Esas and you know people you know when do we need to be masking and you know testing options and vaccine options and we did a lot of the data work behind the scenes um without pulling that out. So, we were already heavily involved on kind of the health side of it. Um, and we do as I said i. Didn’t even begin to mention all the things and we have a health innovation group that we’ve had for years that brought together so we were heavily involved there. We were heavily involved in the startup ecosystem anyway. So we saw it was really a grant from the department of commerce came out and said you know look we’re going to award federal the federal. Federal department of commerce I think I’m trying to remember how many awards they gave it was very competitive.
Well, think about that for a second because I forgot to mention it earlier. You can go to http://caseydigitaldrive.org. There’s a link for that in the show as well as learn more about that. But so the department of commerce we’re talking like. The big government did not just like so kans not just 0 right?
So they had a nationwide they put out to all the communities there were hundreds. We have lots of our partner ones that I know submitted for this that didn’t get it. So um, but we were able to put together a proposal. We worked with um kc innovation center you know Maria Myers and Joe Myers and talked to them and said hey we think we could really put together a good package of ways between both of our organizations that we can really help these companies either pure startups I mean we actually were trying to take this hey here’s an idea. Can you bring this into a company?
As I said companies that had been around but had really pivoted or created a solution that says hey because of covid we’re going to offer this and our goal was to help 20 companies. Um over this eighteen-month period. Um, as we said either start or scale. Um, what they were doing so and it’s been exciting so we started off with workshops. We did four what we call discovery workshops on specific areas. We had a healthcare focus. We had an education focus. We had a digital inclusion focus and then we kind of had a generic any entrepreneur type. Um. Open session and brought a lot of community leaders and people to the table. We probably had about 200 people participate in those workshops to tell us hey here’s some things I’ve heard of that are being done in Kansas City here are some things we’ve seen in other parts of the country. We think someone should bring to Kansas City to do here are just some ideas that here’s a problem that I’ve seen you know that true entrepreneur spirit here’s a problem that someone needs to solve. So so we did all those workshops and came up with a whole bunch of ideas and a whole bunch of contacts people to work with rolled out. We did a showcase in the fall of like First 10 companies that had kind of come through say take a look at it and companies like a quality who was doing air purification. Um, come on now that was helping people get into particularly community health. Type organizations to get appointments and get that scheduled and you know not to have to wait in waiting rooms. Um with that and we had a few others that maybe didn’t feel like Hollywood animation studio who because of covid were able. It was a Gavin who came from the West Coast we’d been working on lots of Netflix and other shows but said hey I can now work remotely. Why don’t I start teaching people in Kansas City how they can get involved in. You know the Hollywood industry from Kansas City so so we had some really cool cool cool companies that we did and then some really high tech. You know me as a company that does. Augmented reality surgical navigation with telehealth. Um, you know, remote option to bring that in so there’s can be I mean they’re technology. They’ve got Fda approvals for using Microsoft Hololens in a surgical setting. It’s really cool to see some of the things that have really popped out. Of this.
So when I think of government grants accelerators councils local federal 200 people to me that if I had to think of a word that went without I honestly would probably say slow. Yeah now that was but you guys couldn’t be slow could that be slow. So how do you fix that problem?
They call it a sprint grant. Okay, you have you have eighteen months to get this all done and you know part of it was we we leveraged you know, kind of that. Boots on the ground and philosophy. We had especially with ummkc innovation all the stuff that they already offered you know digital sandbox became part of this the tech venture class. So a lot of things that already existed. We were able to to bring people in. We brought a lot as I said it it took a large team. You know we had you know 3 or 4 people on our side in digital sandbox about 6 or 7 people at umkc innovation we brought in facilitators to run the workshops and do that. So really, definitely ah, kind of a team collaborative effort um to get a lot of things done and. And at times it’s like any other you know, true entrepreneur. There’s there’s times we definitely want to pull our hair out and and say you know this this is hard. Maybe it’s harder than what you know when you write up a 10 page grant it all sounds kind of easy. Then once you actually are doing it. And it takes a lot of work and a lot of bedwork.
But yeah, that’s never easy I don’t know that’s why I said that’s why the word slow came out because there’s a lot of paperwork and anytime you get committees and the more people you have to get to agree on anything I don’t care if it’s about a grant just in life. Yeah, the more difficult that can become so I have an additional question with that. Ah did the department of commerce demand and require speed.
Yes, it was their program. It was it was considered a sprint grant right? As I said so 18 months was the time timeframe. We couldn’t exceed that. Okay. Yeah, and that’s yeah I mean that obviously makes sense and once again, government’s not ever I’m never like oh gosh they’re so fast with that I should say too though you know we’re an organization that always helps companies and always works with them. You know in eighteen months in it’s not like we’re kicking every everybody out the door. I think either?
Yeah I would imagine that I would imagine on a federal level that that is a major part because if you’re like hey we’re going to go find companies. Yeah, okay, it’s harder than than you think because the companies that need and operate in that space and need that boost. They’re not as easy to they’re not. They’re not as obvious and and easy to find so what did that process look like. So now you get the grant and then you got to reach people and and you know, kind of hey we’re doing this right.
Yeah, and and that’s why we use kind of those workshops to do that and that’s why you know oddly enough as I said in lots of ways when you think of accelerators we were completely wrong. Order you know we we did a demo day at the start of it. Yeah, you know, but we did that to highlight to say hey look these are the kind of you know. Ideas these are like kind of responses that we are looking for. Um and so we put that showcase out there right at the beginning as I was almost more of an object. It was more of an audition day. Yeah yeah, cause a couple of companies ended up not sticking through the program even but not only an audition for those companies but it. Then promoted it out to everybody else to say oh wait here’s this program and they can help me and I’ve got this idea and can I do it so we did that and then we leveraged our network as I said that workshop was going out to people that we knew and worked with and said hey. You guys tell us who you know or or what you’re thinking and do that so it was it’s
that’s a smart approach. Yeah and you know for for those of you listening if you’re wondering what the hell we’re talking about with demo days and audition days. Typically anytime you have a. Ah, startup accelerator or a program similar to this. They go through there are several months that people you can send in your stuff you can basically apply and then there’s an kind of an interview and selection process and then you go through several months of like learning whatever it is that they’re trying to accomplish and then at the end of it. The companies basically showcase what they’ve done what they’ve learned or their experience and that’s the demo day and that’s the day that that a lot of the companies are really trying to work on flexing at is that’s when. Now prior to covid I mean I remember some of the very last events that I went to that were like in person a couple of them were demo days. They were actually for launch Kc. Yeah yeah launch so launch casey they’ve been on the show and you mentioned that them pivoting they used to give away grants and then they have a slightly different approach which I like I like because.
Even though I received one of the grants. So I like that program.
Well yeah, but let’s but let’s just let’s give them a little props too. Yeah I think it’s important to you know you look at organizations and it’s easy to just kind of stick with what you’ve been doing so they were giving away a dozen $50000 grants a year which is awesome. They you know they looked at it and they said I think we could do better and and I love the way that they did it because what they did was they instead gave non-dillutive ah capital meaning like they didn’t require shares in the background but they took a top level corporate sponsor. Yes.
So they did insure tech they did Dean like did they do dfa no that was they did and I’m sitting here. They did an insurance one they did ah they did like a a biotech one yeah because I remember ah how different people that had like you know like interesting food and. And other stuff I’m kind of at a loss with the other ones and I’m embarrassed about that because full scale was actually a sponsor of that so I should know but I don’t
well and I agree with you I you know I I love that concept of it I mean because accelerator you get the best of both. Yeah that’s right, yeah, but being able to do that because I I will. Ah, yeah, this is this is not being recorded is it not just kidding and I know it as never. We do have a speculative project. We’re working on right now is doing a 5 g innovation hub. Um in Kansas City but the thing about that and so we’ve been doing a lot of work and trying to put that together. But the fact that we could. We do 2 things you know we bring in actually. Significant equipment that people could field test and work on and do that they could a startup couldn’t do on their own even if you give them a $50000 check and then 2 you bring the corporate partners behind it to say you know
I think that’s the key part. Yeah with that so you look at like having a top level partner and they make an invest an actual investment in my companies that come in. And you know that’s fine and dandy but what’s more valuable to those companies is the relationship with the the parent organization and that will say that loosely because it’s not truly a parent organization but having someone that has a vested interest but having a power having powerful friends. Yeah, with your startup is connected to is is good. So like you look at like insure tech which was sponsored by a company called for launch case he was Brush Creek Partners and they’re a huge seller of insurance. So they had some different companies that did some different stuff and they do a really good job of of picking who and where um. You know before we get into the second half of the show a quick reminder that today’s episode startup hustle is brought to you by full scale io we help you build a software team quickly and affordably do you know that there are 300000 open it jobs in the us that are currently unfillable because we don’t have people to do it. Which means that you’re gonna have to find resources somewhere else that is what we help you with at full scale go to fullscale io um isn’t that crazy three hundred thousand opennight jobs and it’s a 0 sum game too cause if you fill one you just open another one.
Yeah, so we we were looking specifically at the Kansas City market I think there’s 43 hundred andfied cybersec security jobs.
That’s just cyber security just cyber there’s nine Nine Thousand total tech jobs. So and and so that’s doubled since the pandemic. Oh yeah, it’s just mean yeah and they can’t fill them. You’re right? It really is. It’s ah you know that’s it’s funny because we didn’t start full scale intentionally.
I mean we I just had ah I had an office in the Philippines for a long time and when I became business partners with Matt Watson who at the time was the founder of Stackify. He just couldn’t find people they just were they didn’t exist. Yeah, so you know we ended up we so a good entrepreneur finds a need and fills it. And it’s kind of like who you’re doing so you mentioned I was going to ask this anyway, we don’t have to name companies because you mentioned helping 20 companies which I was you know some of them aren’t going to make it through the program did did that. In fact, occur.
Um, yeah, you know as we said on the innovation showcase which we did through the global entrepreneurship week. Um, yeah, 3 or 4 of those decided that you know it wasn’t worth the time commitment because really in lots of ways. What ours is is you know we’re helping them but ah part of that is we want them to go through some classes. We want them to. We’re we’re setting up advisor boards for them. So we’re bringing that they meet with once a month we’re putting these companies together in peer roundtables with each other. They can benefit so you know so there there’s some time commitment which you know you and I both know from the entrepreneur world time is one of your most precious commodities and and
some people don’t like being told what to do and some people don’t like that told what to do I honestly think it’s more of that
we had a couple people that were clearly not coachable. they they were where they wanted to be which is fine. You know and I wish them well and I hope they do so yeah so we had a few that that fell out but most have have really embraced the program and really feel like they’ve gotten great benefits. Um out of it at this point we just kicked off our advisor as I said that advisor meetings where we brought in from our network. You know 3 to 4 people. Could help them whether they could be you know marketing help legal help technology help so we’ve we’ve had the whole whole gamut really kind of running through there and and the the companies that are doing I said this is just great I could have never made these contacts without this program doing them.
Yeah I was just thinking about. It was ah it was three years ago and there’s an organization here in town the ah hemp the hellsburg entrepreneurial mentoring program sponsored by Hellsburg like as in Hellsburg Jewelers and a guy named Lyl Holt I don’t know if you know Lal he was the founder of car star. He was. Episode 12 on startup hustle out of 8 out and out 800 and he was also in my book balance me but he invited us down to to preview a you know a coaching and mentoring program and Matt both Matt Watson it was a 2 wo-day thing and we were both like. Ah, what do we need to? Why do we need to do this. We know everything and then we went down and and that’s why basically we were talking about that and then at the end of the first day we both got in my truck and we looked at each other like we got to come to stuff like this a lot more and you know so and and that’s the thing is like i.
I really want to encourage everyone listening to participate in these things that that exist because it’s easy to feel like you have it figured out on some days and then thing is being brilliant on the basics requires brushup. You got to go back to it. So I’m curious about you know we’ve used the term workshop. Um, and some of that like what does that look like if I go to if I were in the program and I went to one of these workshops. What is like what what is that?
Well specifically on this one. The workshops were more ideation sessions. So it was really kind of networking and bringing in and as I said building so we’ve done actually. Different workshops but the workshops were really more to turn up either. You know companies or people or ideas. Um, so you know we had you know and we have ideas that we still don’t have an entrepreneur connected to sure you know we had someone come up and said you know the the food deserts are a real issue. You know, could someone build a tool that would allow you know areas that can’t get delivery of food to bundle together so that someone would be willing to deliver food to them or to do that. Great concept would love to find an entrepreneur that says I would like to hook into the do that. 1 that was I thought interesting. We had someone said that with you know through covid um acaians are trying to get papers out really quickly. But it’s really hard to do and still protect their ip could someone create an an nftt program use blockchain to actually let academia people. Get their papers out quickly while still protecting. It. Let the peer reviews happen and have all that really built into a blockchain ledger. Um, to do that I think that’s a brilliant idea I would love to see someone get behind that. So so those workshops we created some you know some just pure ideas. Said I I don’t want to do this. But I think this would be great if someone was working on it and we’re like and and if there’s anybody out here today listening to this and says I love that I idea I’d like to work on it. We’ll bring into the program and we’ll help you. We’ll we’ll put some tools around you to do that. So so the workshops were there. We built business canvases. Um, for these ideas that said here’s the way that you need to do that and as we said and then most of it was just networking and bringing in it’s like hey if you talked to so and so that they’re doing something really interesting and I think that’d be a great fit for your program.
A lot of you listening have been searching for an idea they’re out there I mean idea on i. I say this a lot big money ideas are everywhere and and they’re not worth a dime without execution and the right people that have a passion to solve those problems I also might spend the next hour after this show just uploading all of my stray documents to to open see.
I’m and ah, um, and I’m on a non-fungible token them there you go um and there you go then I’ll put a lock on them. But if that’s you know you look?
Well, it’s an interesting way to protect. Oh actually?
Yes, it’s it’s it’s interesting because. I’d never even thought about that and that’s you know cause I’m not an academic I dropped out of 5 college. Yes, so I’m like the opposite of academic but that’s that’s one of the things that we talked to people a lot at full scale about so that was one of the problems we had to solve for people that so when you go to like we looked at four years ago all these problems that existed with offshoring. It was all like freelance marketplaces but they didn’t have any accountability for the people that were in them like people like oh yeah, but they I’m like yeah that person’s in Malaysia and if they leave with your intellectual property. What are you gonna do about it right. Oh but they say that they’re they’re vetted. Yeah, you don’t have any recourse there and I know that because I actually had a former I’m not going to mention the marketplace but I had a contractor like eight years ago try to blackmail me for my code. Ah this isn’t working out guy. Okay, fine if you’re not going to pay me more money right now then I’m publishing your shit online. Wow I mean I just I mean think about that like yeah and you know and so that was part of the problem like that we solved and a lot of these things are really kind of straightforward and basic. We literally. And when we started fallscale. We just talked to all of our friends that had had offshore developers before and we said what didn’t go well and we just said the opposite I mean it’s I’ve done offshore developing in my in live past. And yeah. It’s hard cause because you if you don’t if you’re not in the so we use the acronym rare. We’re specialists in recruiting assessing retaining and employing which means we have vetted employees. We have ip protection. They’re under contract thus like all of that and I mean honestly, if you think you know a lot about that call me up I might give you a job. Because you probably don’t yeah I mean just saying it’s it’s the same thing with it’s why you know, but but you know one of the other things too is no one want you know you don’t chaining together a team of ah freellancers well and you know it’s jv that’s JB.
Lots of people just see that low price dad what wow $25 an hour and we you know and
we find that those folks get what they pay for they do and then and generally we end up hearing from them later wanting can someone fix this for me. So okay, so little little change in in path here. Ah, why is it? Why is it important to have programs like this in anyone’s hometown.
Um, you know? Well you could get through all the stats of you know how small businesses you know new startups really drive economic development and stuff. But as you know as as you and I in most eyes knows you know, starting a business is not easy. No, um and you need you need a lot of people around you you need a lot of help I mean even as I said I go back to twenty years ago when I started I had no clue of what I was doing I didn’t I didn’t know we were hiring people and it’s like you know what is sexual harassment and I need hr training and you know how do I pronoun one of like 7000 things. Yeah I had I had $1000000 of reoccurring saas revenue off of contracts that I had cobbled together myself you know we hadn’t even we hadn’t done an attorney or anything else with it. So you know all the different pieces that it takes to make a business you need that help so having a startup ecosystem. Can help those companies. Go I mean not only does it it really can change. You know the entrepreneurs future but it changes the city’s future. Um, and it really can help do that so we we are big believers and and a strong startup ecosystem builds strong startups which builds a strong community.
Ah, couple things come to mind first off startups don’t come with an owner’s manual how they and you got to write your own hopefully and change it every day. Yeah, and and you know it’s easy to look at you get these like you know mega million trillion dollar companies they all had 1 employee at some point or 2 or 3 or they were in the garage or something like that. So it all starts that way I think one of the important things is is getting that guidance and input early because in my book million dollar bedroom I talk about the the ball of rubber bands. And you invariably you mentioned cobbling all these things together and doing whatever you were adding rubber bands every time I mean we and and that’s normal. The question is is how big are you going to let the ball rubber bands get before you decide to unwind it and you you’re going to have to unwind. It. Yes and I’ve had painful moments. I’ve almost had basically had to stop business at some points to allow some of that to catch up also normal in an early stage business. But you know much like we use the term in tech technical debt it’s got to get paid back so it’s kind of like startup technical debt in many regards. Ah another thing too when it comes to local stuff for those of you looking to get an edge a start to boost anything. It’s probably in your backyard I mean there are we’re talking about kansas city today but I can name 6 to 8 different things.
Just here in Kansas City the Twenty Eighth biggest market in the United States and we’ve got all this stuff here now. Kansas City actually outperforms markets its size like there was a I don’t. I’m not a real big list. An award guy because you know last as I won an award from Forbes last year and I tried to take it to the bank and I couldn’t fit it in the tube at the drive-through and then I didn’t have a mask so I couldn’t go in to deposit it and I was like shit I can’t put this thing in the bank. So but no, actually there was ah read an article that had Kansas City and as number 10 nationally now that’s a good number for us because like I said we’re the twenty Eighth biggest market like this you know so there’s different tiers but you know cities have this stuff these but here’s the thing you got to go look for them now you’re going where do I look for it. Google. Get really good at googling you know I think that’s has a lot to do with my success as an entrepreneur I’m good at googling things. Yeah yeah Google Google’s amazing tool. Yeah I mean it’s literally got every answer you may have it might not be the first thing at the top of the list but you got to get into it and I mean there’s really no reason. It annoys me when people I don’t have any experience. Yeah, no one else did until they did you can give yourself experience. You can find the info like there’s almost 6000 venture capital firms and funds right now like nationwide like it’s out there. I mean money is pouring into this It’s also got you got federal. You got local. You have economic development committees commissions corporations like get out there and look for it because opportunity needs to be chased. It doesn’t chase you is that fair to say
that’s absolutely fair. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but ah and also too as I said. You you have to be as we we talked about being you know, teachable and everything else too. But you have to know as I said I’ve been an entrepreneur for 21 years there are all sorts of things I don’t know there are you know most people I sit down or know things that I don’t know about running a business and doing a business I can learn from virtually anybody that I sit down with. And you know I think having that attitude and that understanding helps more than anything that that there’s just benefits out there at
the moment that you think that you know even ah, most of it just stop because you don’t you’t it there is too much until. Here’s a startup idea if you can figure out how to do that thing in the back of the head like the matrix and you can just like unload upload and like I know kung fu afterward I’m in on that because that’s what it would take and it would take a very long time of being connected to that cord is it would.
Yeah, so so much of it and yeah, that’s I mean that’s the thing I gotta I gotta be honest, Jim the people that I know that are the most successful and I’ve been pointing out the fact that I’m turning 47 2022 and you know the people I know that are most successful at my age and continue on and whatever they never stop learning. They have an insatiable appetite and you can ask like it’s funny because this is all defined. This is an outside perspective. Are you obsessed or are you driven I say who cares because you got to be 1 of the 2 but. To get it like my wife even gives me a hard time because when I decide to take a moment away from entrepreneurship I just instead like watch Tv shows about entrepreneurship she you know her stuff like that. She’s like you’re obsessed I’m like hey, but that’s what it takes I think the real question is is how bad you want it. So all right? so different. A different. Ah. Subject here. So you’ve done a bunch of stuff a few things. yeah yeah and I have 2 as I once again, pointing out as I’m getting older I’m finding the importance of of really trying to be good. I’m trying to be better at a much much much smaller number of things. What’s your take on that.
Yeah that’s interesting as as I’m getting older I feel like I’m going in the opposite direction but mostly because I’m probably ad d you know I like yeah. Like shiny objects and so I like training why I’m training myself not to chase him and that’s why I’m asking. Yeah I was asking for I haven’t I then I was asking for a friend I haven’t learned that i’t learned that thing because shiny objects is as I said you know a year ago I was doing nothing in augmented reality and virtual reality and now I’m like just. Fully engaged I think it’s the you know I think it’s going to change so many industries next year it’s like I love this you know I love what what’s happening with that and everything else and and as I said two years ago now. What? that’s been four years ago I was making gelato you know so you know. Who knows where where it ends up taking
twenty years ago I was selling pianos
never done that. Yeah yeah, do you play?
No I don’t I play it guitar but I don’t play piano but I ended up I ended up you know. With ah a pretty high level job at the world’s largest maker of electronic musical instruments but it was around I’m passionate about music like I love music and I even wrote a book on the industry with some rock stars a few years ago and And that was a bit of a passion project. He was still business related. It was the realist guy to a successful music career now I had a successful music career but it wasn’t as a performer and one of the things you see in so many different industries is like in that case, people. Oh you’re in the music industry you. That’s the question. Do you play? no. Have the voice of an angel but actually my son told me yesterday he said dad your singing voice is terrible. Yeah, he’s 5 I’m like god is it that bad
as I said I love music I tried to learn guitar at one time I could I could learn the chords I couldn’t strum I have no rhythm I have no natural rhythm of it
I have a couple of friends that like. Like sell out venues like red rocks and stuff like that I saw them play and I quit guitar after that I was like ah so that’s where I well and I have no chance.
Yeah, you can be passionate about something I I referred earlier. You know I won go with sign of that industries is not on the state rich. That’s true. Absolutely yeah, absolutely and that’s what made.
But I read it with ah with performing artists like we had a member Dave Matthews band right? The forward there was all everyone from like Huey we got Huey Lewis remember Huey low power of that guy was actually at 1 time one of the 10 most famous people on the planet and now he doesn’t even do oh do shows. But. Ah, speaking of doing it. It’s about time for the founders’ freestyle. That’s how I’d like to end my episodes a Startup Hustle I say my episodes as you probably know, but maybe not I’m not the only host of the show make sure you tune in for Andrew Morgan’s weekly episode about ecommerce and Amazon and tune in for innovator founder. Lauren Conaway and she talks about all kinds of stuff you you know? do you know la I do yeah, Lauren’s awesome she is awesome. She’s my shiro she I I do that for Lauren now I didn’t Lauren’s also my consultant she wrote she wrote was a great term lawrence like my sensitivity consultant. A caller and sometimes I’ll be like can you explain these acronyms to me because I don’t know how they work but you know that’s all right? So with the founders freestyw we like to you know, recap what we talked about I like to give guests chance to mention, bring up or talk about anything that. Yeah I mean what are your closing arguments or comments or
closing argument as I said I think you know we were talking through covid and and you know, bouncing back and resiliency and being beaten down. But I think you know for me really what came out is find something that’s important to you? Um, and then. Brace that and go after it, you know for me as I said it’s part of what jumped me into the nonprofit world I thought there’s just things I want to do you know I want to change the world you know and I can do that as a startup I can do that in that find your passion and um, go for it and you know we have things that you could plug into but there’s all sorts of. Ways to do that and you know for me the lesson through covid has been that you know life life is short and I’m going to figure out what’s important to me and I’m going to do that.
Well all right? So for my free self First off, thank you for doing the stuff that someone needs to do. I mean honestly I think that we don’t give enough I tell law I think Lauren I’ll actually see her later today. She comes and records the top startups every month we pick a new setie make sure you tune in for those. Ah today we’re talking about ah I believe New Orleans and maybe we’re not. Another city I don’t know they all start to play together. It’s a global world. Well I think the thing from today that I just want to reiterate is you know so many I’ve talked to so many listeners and people in the past that they’re looking to get you know that first movement forward. Have no resources. They have no understanding. They have no experience. These things are carable like you can, but you got once again, you got to get out there and and look for it. I mean no one’s going to come find you sitting on your couch and be like you know what. I heard you’re someone that might have some good ideas can I give you a bunch of money and you just do whatever you want with it. It’s the opposite. That’s not how it works you have to actually have a plan you got to go sell yourself and remember in these earliest stages. It’s you that. We have done a very unscientific survey over 800 episodes where I’ve taught you okay, do you for invest people that make investments do you invest in the jockey or the horse and that stage is the jockey people are investing in you at that point you’re trying to just get something viable. And something going and there’s a ton of places and things to do that. In fact, every month it goes by. There are more of them. You know 10 years ago, you couldn’t do things like crowdfund a startup you could have done kickstarter. But now you can actually like buy equity and we’ve had things like http://hourcrowd.com sponsored the show and like a whole lot of different stuff that you know really made a lot of sense so you know there’s ah there is a way where there’s a will. There’s a way and there is a way out there. So get your will together and I don’t mean the one that happens when you die I mean you know. Get your purpose moving forward and and whatever it is that you’re passionate about that’s probably the best thing for you to be an entrepreneur around because without the passion you’re gonna quit. It’s just that simple. You’re gonna quit because it’s hard.
Yeah hard every day you know is I say it’s hard every day if you don’t have the passion.
So side note. Episode so we started this podcast to complain about entrepreneurship and also to be real about it and episode episode 1 was an introduction to startuppostle episode 2 was titled getting funded sucks like that tells you where Matt Watson and I yeah. Where our heads are at with the message we want to deliver that was literally like the first real episode so and it sucks whether you’re established or whether you’re not so anyway you got to get at it Jim I’ll catch up with you down the road.
Thank you Matt great catching up with you today.