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PIPELINE – What it Means to Me

August 28, 2011 Comments off

It doesn’t seem like work when you do something you love.  The PIPELINE program is that to me.  I’ve been around and associated with PIPELINE and their entrepreneurs since its start-up.  This Op Ed is appearing in local papers to support the commitment it received from its alumni and the Kauffman Foundation.  If you like that, look at my related link to tell if your child has the start-up DNA.

– Start of Op Ed –

Successful entrepreneurs never succeed only by themselves.  They succeed with a support network of friends, mentors, advisers and education.  They thrive in a supportive ecosystem.

The Kansas City area was touted in the Wall Street Journal on August 23, as one of the hottest spots in the country for starting a new business.  It states: “Here’s a look at seven up-and-coming innovative centers. All have solid partnerships between the public and private sectors, a growing work force to fuel the industry and long-term strategies for development. And entrepreneurs say being there is vital to their success.”

One such initiative fueling the Kansas City innovator ecosystem is the PIPELINE Entrepreneurial Immersion Program (pipelineentrepreneurs.com).  This program, competitively selects 10 entrepreneurs from the region to undergo a one-year intensive fellowship program.  This program exposes these entrepreneurs to a nationwide network of successful Venture Capital sources, accomplished Entrepreneurs and matches both local and national mentors to these start-ups.  Lawrence should be proud to know 3 of the 10 innovators in the current class are in the PIPELINE program.

This program is now in its fifth year and boasts a network of accomplished graduates who have been named in Inc 500, the fastest growing company in Kansas City, Entrepreneur of the Year in many different groups, to name of few of the many accolades received by these high growth innovators.

In addition, some of these companies have already been purchased by private equity groups, funded by angel capital, and tracked by national publications. With all of the attention of Google in our region, it is important to note that one of the PIPELINE ranks in the top 7 as a Google provider.  All substantial metrics that the program creates jobs, grows the economy and maintains a vital network of entrepreneurs that help and inspire one another to grow.

The program itself has garnered the interest and support of such venerable institutions like Microsoft, Silicon Valley Bank, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National Association of State and Venture Funds, the Kauffman Foundation and many other accomplished regional and national players.

The region may not benefit from the critical mass of a Boston or Silicon Valley, but a program such as PIPELINE can provide the resources for our best and brightest to stay here while accessing the networks provided by the PIPELINE program, be it an alum, an engaged national expert, or a mentor.  That continuing networking and “smart” education of our top entrepreneurs will continue to garner recognition from the likes of the Wall Street Journal, among others.

I have been lucky enough to return home to Kansas and continue to pursue my own entrepreneurial career.  It has been an honor to be a part of the PIPELINE program as a lecturer, mentor and resource.  My connection with this network has inspired and improved my ability to grow Kansas business.  I think I can speak for all of our mentors that the reward far outweighs the time investment in this program.

Developed with the support of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation, it has now “privatized” itself as its own non-profit organization and has attracted the support and endorsement of the Kauffman Foundation by receiving an $800,000 challenge grant – which requires the private sector to match dollar for dollar.  This recently stimulated a commitment of over nearly $400,000 (half required for the match) from PIPELINE alumni and others in the community who understand the growing value of PIPELINE.

Now is the time to show our support for the PIPELINE program to invest in its growth and leverage the investment made by the founders of this organization; as well as the Kauffman Foundation.  It has proven itself a worthy program that accomplishes what all communities strive for:  Job growth in high technology, high paying enterprises.

Dennis Depenbusch is a Lawrence, Kansas resident, serial entrepreneur, PIPELINE mentor and advocate and received a Bachelor and Master of Business Administration Degree from the University of Kansas

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