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Society News Update, 28 Oct. 2016

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Kauffman Foundation Announces $960K in Scholarships for KFP

Kauffman FoundationOn Monday at the Kauffman Reunion VC Summit in Kansas City, Wendy Guilles, President & CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, announced that beginning in 2017 the Foundation will award 12 scholarships that will enable emerging fund managers from Kansas City and across the Midwest to participate in the Kauffman Fellows Program. The $960K fund will sponsor 4 scholarships per year for 3 years: two from the Kansas City metro area, one from the heartland states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska), and one from the mid-continent region, from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians. The goal of the scholarships is to enhance capital-formation expertise across the Midwestern United States and support Kansas City as a regional hub for investor networks.

“This partnership is a key component of our emerging ‘Kauffman Midwest Capital Creation’ initiative, designed to address key market gaps and help Midwestern entrepreneurs become more successful,” says Wendy. The announcement received extensive press coverage, including in the Kansas City Business Journal, Startland News, and Kansas City local television KSHB.

Victor Hwang (Class 12), VP of Entrepreneurship at the Foundation, was quoted in a Silicon Prairie News article on the announcement. Victor noted that the vast majority of venture funding flows to only 3 states: California, Massachusetts, and New York. “It’s a playing field that’s not level for entrepreneurs who are trying to build companies. One of the key objectives of our work is to level that playing field,” including the establishment of the scholarship fund.
Wendy Guillies, Kauffman Foundation
Wendy Guillies on stage Monday at the Reunion Summit


Scott Ford (Class 11) Profiled in Inc. on Midwest Investing

Inc.Scott Ford (Class 11) was the focus of an in-depth Inc. interview entitled, “One VC’s Take on How Startup Innovation Happens Outside Silicon Valley.” Scott is a Managing Director at OpenAir Equity Partners, and CEO of PEQ, an IoT home security and automation firm, both based in Kansas City. In the interview, Scott discusses being a Kansas City-based investor, the region’s next steps needed to become a bigger investment ecosystem, and where he sees technology investing going.

With regard to entrepreneurship in the KC area, Scott says, “What’s required to create an entrepreneurial community is capital. And while there is a lot of capital in Kansas City, it’s historically been focused on less risky types of investments. In response, now we have a new civic effort called KC Rising that includes a fund made up of contributions from area businesses and high-net worth individuals, and it’s focused on Kansas City startups.” In discussing the mentality of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, Scott comments, “What Silicon Valley has going for it is a history, and the development of, a culture where it’s okay to, and almost a badge of honor, to do two things. The first thing is to jump out of a company and start your own thing. … Next for developing a startup culture is the notion that failure is part of the journey to success. Kansas City is learning to embrace both of these notions and it is freeing up the talent needed for entrepreneurial success.” Read the full interview.


Jeff Harbach (Class 16) writes of AT&T–TimeWarner Merger in Entrepreneur

EntrepeneurThis week, Jeff Harbach (Class 16) spoke with Brad Feld about “Why AT&T May Succeed With Time Warner Where AOL Couldn’t” on Entrepreneur. At the KF Reunion Summit, Brad Feld agreed that both mergers had a valid premise, and the difference is a matter of timing: “We, with nostalgia and some pain and anxiety, recall the dot-com bubble, and many of those same ideas are being instantiated in products that are very successful today,” Feld said. As the merger goes through and technology continues to evolve, Jeff asks: “Will we even call the result ‘television’ anymore?” [Read the full story.]


Ken Elefant (Class 5) Wrote “Startups Are Bought, Not Sold,” Advice to Startup Founders

Ken Elefant (Class 5), wrote an essay this week published on PE HUB Network, “Startups Get Bought, Not Sold,” an advisory letter to startup founders. In light of the current IPO drought (that doesn’t seem likely to change), the most recent exit event for startups is acquisition by a larger company. Ken empahsizes the importance of developing relationships early in the company’s life cycle—”gaining access to people who will listen to your pitch, vet your product, back a trial use, and vouch for its performance.” Ken is a Managing Director at Intel Capital, and discusses the benefits to a startup of working with corporate venture groups, from product and market feedback, to access to technical staff, to access to the firm’s “broad Rolodex” of industry and banking contacts that a traditional VC may not have. Read his full essay.


Jake Saper (Class 20): Venture Capitalist by Day, Actor and Singer by Night (Who Parodies Himself)

Jake Saper in South of Market musical
Jake Saper as Riley (on right). Photo credit: South of Market: The Musical

South of Market, the musical, is a “75-minute show [that] parodies everything techies in San Francisco fawn over while also bringing to light major issues such as diversity, gentrification, and what really matters,” according to the VentureBeat review. (The show’s title refers to the neighborhood in San Francisco’s financial district.) It is the story of Riley (played by our own Jake Saper [Class 20], of Emergence Capital Partners), a 29-and-a-half-year-old entrepreneur who becomes fixated, above all else, on getting on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list.

Jake isn’t giving up his day job just yet; South of Market was on stage for 4 nights only: October 20-23. According to VentureBeat, the show is “the first of what is said will be an annual original music comedy” on timely San Francisco issues. [The show was also written up in Recode.]


Akshay Garg (Class 18) Interviewed in e27 on FinAccel’s Expansion

e27Akshay Garg (Class 18), co-founder and CEO of FinAccel, was interviewed in e27 this week in an article, “FinAccel Co-Founders on Why Lending Is Different from the Gaming Business.” As we reported in September, FinAccel’s product, Kredivo, acts as a layer between lenders and the e-consumer, providing a credit line for online purchases. Due to its banking rules and structures, Indonesia has the biggest credit-card penetration gap in the region, and FinAccel hopes to fill some of it. The firm is busy securing partnerships with ecommerce merchants and managing its planned expansion into Jakarta. “We are growing very rapidly. Any number that we are telling you right now will be irrelevant by next week,” says Akshay, also noting that the firm’s main emphasis will be in cultivating the repeat user.

So how is lending different from gaming? Akshay says, “We started out very slowly. It’s a lending business where you’ve got to be very careful; it’s not like the gaming business in which you can target one million app installs from Day One.” [Full story.]


Keith Harrington (Class 20) Interviewed about Investing in the Kansas City Area

Keith Harrington (Class 20) was interviewed in The Startland News on the investment and entrepreneurship environment in Kansas City, where he and his firm, Fulcrum Global Capital, are located. Kansas City, like much of the Midwestern United States, has a reputation for being “nice,” which lends itself to entrepreneurs with a strong work ethic and “grit,” as well as a community that can be counted on. However, the nice-mentality in entrepreneurs often leads to risk aversion. Keith says that “fear is not always viewed as just another step on the way to success, the way that it might be viewed on the coast. Failure sometimes leads to shunning, and that is a problem in this ecosystem.” That view is starting to change, and Keith continues to believe that the benefits of being nice outweigh the downside of risk-aversion.

Entrepreneurial access to capital in the heartland is not the same as on the coasts. “What we hear from a lot of entrepreneurs here is that it is a lot easier to raise money for a nonprofit than a startup—and a lot easier than raising money for a fund.” Venture capital in the Kansas City area has been pretty scarce until recently, but several new venture and angel funds have been established, including Keith’s Fulcrum Global Capital, and the state now offers angel investing tax credits to mitigate risk. Keith’s overall assessment of the Kansas City investment ecosystem? “All of the trains are running in the right direction.” [Full story.]


Simone D’Souza Brody (Class 12) and What Works Cities Announce the Addition of 16 Cities to Program

What Works CitiesThe mission of What Works Cities, part of Bloomberg Philanthropies, is a accelerate cities’ use of data and evidence to improve people’s lives by improving services, informing local decision-making, and engaging residents. Launched in 2015, the 3-year project aims to help 100 mid-sized cities. Simone D’Souza Brody (Class 12), the Executive Director of What Works Cities (WWC), announced this week the addition of 16 new cities, bringing its total to 55. The organization also plans to publish a roadmap, freely accessible to the public, that teaches cities how to implement the principles of the program on their own, thinking out past the program’s 2018 ending date. The vision of the roadmap is to “deconstruct the methodologies behind data innovation so they are distilled into easily understandable and applicable practices.”

WWC emphasizes the importance of cities taking the principles of the program and using them to solve their own, specific local problems; WWC isn’t a cookie-cutter, one-size-only solution. The hope is that “city staff … can develop skill sets they can use to go in a totally different direction.”  Lexington, KY found low-cost ways to dramatically reduce unpaid sewer bills; New Orleans developed a text-message campaign that resulted in 350 low-income and uninsured people scheduling a free medical appointment; Mesa, AZ engineered a web app to analyze code violations, crime, and graffiti in order to prioritize neighborhoods for allocating $780K in community assistance. The focus of the program is on producing results. Simone says, “I think the hardest part of the work is, how do you help cities actually make different decisions on how to spend their money based on looking at what works.” [Full story.]


Michael Roberts’s (Class 3) First Nations Development Institute publishes a Native American children’s literature reading list and discussion guide

First Nations logoNovember is Native American Heritage Month, and in preparation, Michael Roberts’s (Class 3) First Nations Development Institute has published the Native American Children’s Literature Recommended Reading List and Discussion Guide as part of its effort to “share authentic resources about Native histories, cultures, and peoples.”

“We feel it is important to provide an opportunity for people to learn more about Native experiences from a culturally and historically accurate perspective,” says Michael. “A core part of our work is to change the narrative on how American Indians are viewed … by making the invisible visible, by actively refuting persistent negative stereotypes, and by shifting the pervasive misperceptions. Education makes a significant difference in breaking down stereotypes, reshaping collaborations, and building bridges of understanding in the world today. A great place to start for young people is with Native authors writing about Native America.” [Press release]


Job Opportunities

Several job opportunities have been sent in by Fellows; see below for details. Jobs are removed from this list after 4 weeks. Browse back-issues of Society News if you’re looking for an older job post. If you are a Fellow or Mentor and would like to re-post your job, please email us.

  • Tribal.vc, Matter, and 500 Startups portfolio company NewsWhip is hiring a Chief Revenue Officer in New York. NewsWhip is a market-leading content intelligence company powering a suite of SaaS applications for media corporations, publishers, global brands, and agencies. The CRO will head up a team of 17 sales and marketing professionals with alumni from Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Comscore, ScribbleLive, Critical Mention, StubHub, and others, and growing it to more than 50 over the next 2 years. This person will oversee and structure sales, customer success (account management) ,and marketing and will have previously led rapid revenue growth in a SaaS or media technology business, from $5m to $20m ARR or beyond. Full job description. For more information, Contact Conor Stanley (Class 17).
  • Silas Capital portfolio company Lifefactory is looking for a Senior VP of Operations. Based in Sausalito, CA, Lifefactory is “the pioneer and leader in glass hydration,” best known for their iconic glass water bottles, now sold in over 30 countries. The VP of Operations is responsible for day-to-day oversight, execution, and coordination of U.S. and international components suppliers, manufacturing schedule, quality control, and logistics. Minimum 10 years of work experience, with at least 4 as an executive in the wholesale consumer products sector, is required. View the full job description and how to apply on LinkedIn.
  • Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the largest and most active early-stage technology venture investor in Canada, is seeking an experienced investment professional to lead the fund-of-funds and co-investment activities. Candidates must have at least 10 years of fund and co-investing experience in the PE/VC asset classes, and experience in a managerial capacity with an institution undertaking indirect investments. Ability to communicate in both English and French is an asset. This Vice President position is also responsible for seeding and growing emerging top-tier general partners as well as supporting existing top-quartile Canadian GPs. Read the full job description. Questions? Contact Ela Borenstein (Class 17).
  • The Draper Venture Network is looking for a tech-savvy Analyst to help develop and enhance internal tools for investment, marketing, community engagement, and collaboration. The Draper Venture Network team, based in San Mateo, serves as a hub for an alliance of 10 venture firms and their 350+ portfolio companies across four continents. The ideal candidate has some venture or startup experience, enjoys a fast-paced environment, and can code or is otherwise nimble with various technology tools. The role can start as a part-time internship to test fit, with the potential to become full-time. Contact Sid Mofya (Class 19) for more information.
  • Streamlined Ventures is hiring a Principal. This is a partner-track opportunity. Streamlined is an early-stage fund now raising Fund II and under the management of Ullas Naik. They made news with their recent exit of AppLovin (acquired $1.4B). Claire Tomkins (Class 15) writes, “Ullas is a fantastic individual.” Email Claire for an intro.

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