Bill and co-host Grace Chapin talked with Matt and Lauren about the podcast, their entrepreneurial backgrounds, some of their favorite startup success stories, Kansas City pride, and so much more.
Watch the full segment and read the full transcript below.
Grace Chapin: When you’re hot, you’re hot, and Kansas City feels like it’s on fire right now. Of the endless list of awesome things that make KC one of the coolest places to live is something you maybe didn’t realize was going on right here in the metro.
Bill Hurrelbrink: Kansas City is home to one of the top entrepreneurship podcasts in the world. Here to tell us all about the cool things they got going on are two of the cohosts of the Startup Hustle podcast. Meet Matt DeCoursey and Lauren Conaway. Guys, thank you so much for being here this morning. I have a lot of questions about this whole thing, because I go back to a lot of the Startup Village stuff that you and I were just talking about here a little before we went on air. You both are entrepreneurs. I know you did a little bit of work there in Startup Village, but what are your stories into starting your own businesses and then kind of steering it over to this podcast?
Lauren Conaway: I am a serial entrepreneur. I have a background in sales, marketing operations, basically anything non-technical, but ended up working within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and founded an organization called InnovateHER KC. We’re a 6,000-member leadership community for women and individuals of marginalized gender experience. We have a focus on inclusion and low barrier to entry. And it’s through that work that I was very, very fortunate to be asked to join Startup Hustle as a cohost, and join this amazing team that Matt and Matt have built.
Matt DeCoursey: I’m an entrepreneur and an author. I was actually here five years ago; I was surprised to find my book in your green room.
BH: Didn’t plan that at all!
LC: We got pictures.
MD: I’ve been an entrepreneur so long that I’m unemployable at this point. Done a whole lot of stuff. We started the podcast five years ago because we wanted to complain about entrepreneurship. I do need to give a shoutout to our two other hosts that aren’t here, Matt Watson and Andrew Morgans. Started the show with the idea of telling the real story of entrepreneurship. That means you gotta talk about the bad stuff too. It’s a tough ride, and I just really wanted to try to help people avoid a lot of the dumb mistakes that we had made.
GC: And so for those that are sitting at home right now who haven’t heard of Startup Hustle before, take us through, you know, what is it?
MD: The show comes out Monday through Friday, so five days a week.
MD: We have over 1,000 episodes in our catalog. It’s very humbling to say we’ve had people listen in 194 countries, most of which probably hadn’t heard of Kansas City. So we take a lot of pride in that. And we just have real conversations and discussions with people about what they do, the problems they solve, and what they have to go through to make it happen.
BH: Can you talk to us about some of the startups here in Kansas City that you guys have worked with? Who are you working with here in Kansas City?
LC: One of my favorites is Foresight. It’s a female-led — of course I love female-led, given what I do — but it’s a female-led startup and what they do, they’ve created a methodology to evaluate and value startups, which is a really difficult thing to do when you’re looking to invest in a startup. There’s a lot of subjective information and there’s a lot of gray area. And so finding a way to standardize this in a comprehensive way makes it easier for investors to find promising startups. It also makes it really easy for startup founders to assess the health of their startup, the financial health, and I love that. I just think it’s so cool. And I know that Matt has some favorites, for sure.
MD: Every year we come out with the list of Kansas City Top Startups. We actually do that in several cities across the U.S. now. Some of the companies that are on this year’s list — we had DevStride, which is a second-time founder who has a software platform that makes project management a lot easier. Also, another great story, ChessUp. So ChessUp’s been on Shark Tank.
Grace: Yes. They’ve been on KCTV5 News at 9!
MD: Oh they’ve been in here?
BH: Yeah, they were here a few years ago.
MD: Did you play them?
BH: [Laughs] Uh, no.
MD: I didn’t either. That was a smart bet. See, that’s the smart move, I think. That was just an interesting story about what happens when your Kickstarter goes right. And they found themselves selling $1.4 million worth of stuff and then had to figure out how to deliver it and do a lot of other stuff that went with it.
BH: I think we tried to, I was like, “Yeah, I’d like to buy one.” He was like, “Yeah, we can’t sell them right now because we don’t have them in stock because we’re so busy.” And that segment was only four minutes, which was ample time for him to beat me probably two or three times. So that’s why we opted not for that.”
GC: What do you guys think it is about Kansas City that makes this such a great place for these businesses?
MD: There’s a lot of entrepreneurial roots here. There’s been some really amazing entrepreneurs that have left a legacy. You have Kauffman and Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program — HEMP, got a fun name there — but there’s just really a lot of support and ecosystem that tries to help businesses get started. And so Kansas City really punches above its weight for our size, you know, the size of the market compared to what we do with startups and tech and everything, we’re way ahead of where we should be.
LC: We have a really, really strong sense of place. And we bring together a lot of really fantastic resources. And I mean, when you benchmark us against pier cities, and even cities, as Matt was saying, that are much larger than us, we have a lot — really dense offerings, a lot of support, a lot of resources, a lot of capital flow for our size. It’s really exciting to see.
BH: And I wonder if that comes back to city pride.
LC: We do the “Kansas City” on our shirt!
BH: People just want to support Kansas City businesses that much that maybe that’s where that support comes from.
MD: People are open to helping each other. It’s not abrasive. They like to say “that Midwest nice.” I find as I’ve gained — I don’t call myself old, I’m just experienced at this point — but there’s a lot of people here that really feel that they want to transfer the knowledge and help people out. That’s part of why, with the podcast, that’s one of the things that’s probably the most rewarding is when we run into people and they’re like, it really helped me do this or that or not do something.
GC: Always a good feeling.
BH: I gotta use my Midwest nice right now and say, oh, we’re out of time. Love to keep chatting with you but unfortunately we have run up against the time block, but thank you guys both for being here. Congratulations on all the success for the podcast. It’s fantastic.
GC: And for more of these two, you can tune into the Startup Hustle podcast wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find their full list of top Kansas City startups on their website: startuphustle.xyz.