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Examining the Connections within the Startup Ecosystem: A Case Study of St. Louis

September 9, 2014

This paper documents the resurgence of entrepreneurial activity in St. Louis by reporting on the collaboration and local learning within the startup community. This activity is happening both between entrepreneurs and between organizations that provide support, such as mentoring and funding, to entrepreneurs. As these connections deepen, the strength of the entrepreneurial ecosystem grows. Another finding from the research is that activity-based events, where entrepreneurs have the chance to use and practice the skills needed to grow their businesses, are most useful. St. Louis provides a multitude of these activities, such as Startup Weekend, 1 Million Cups, Code Until Dawn, StartLouis, and GlobalHack. Some of these are St. Louis specific, but others have nationwide or global operations, providing important implications for other cities.

Beyond Metropolitan Startup Rates: Regional Factors Associated with Startup Growth

January 27, 2014

Understanding what fosters -- and hinders -- firm formation and growth at the metropolitan level across the United States is a challenge. Entrepreneurship can be measured by a variety of indicators, and they each can tell somewhat different stories. Furthermore, because entrepreneurship can refer to the growth of firms from a startup stage to mid- or large-scale, no one dataset covers the full range of companies that fall in this category. This report contributes to the Kauffman Foundation's recent series of analyses on the rate of business creation in metropolitan areas. Going beyond identifying metropolitan areas with higher rates of entrepreneurship, we analyze what regional factors are associated, or unassociated, with entrepreneurial activity. Understanding what drives entrepreneurship at the regional level -- especially high-growth business creation -- will help policymakers and entrepreneurship supporters know where to invest their efforts.

Leveraging Regional Assets: Insights from High-Growth Companies in Kansas City

July 1, 2013

As a typical Midwestern city, Kansas City and its successful entrepreneurs often are overlooked in economic development studies. We find, however, compelling evidence that the region has ample entrepreneurial success to celebrate, study, and share since numerous Kansas City area firms have appeared on Inc.magazine's list of the fastest-growing companies. We recently interviewed the founders of some of these firms in the city's information technology, biotechnology, and business services sectors about their views on the strengths and viability of Kansas City's entrepreneurial ecosystem. We gained valuable insights for area policy and economic leaders. Key findings of our interviews include:-Lack of venture capital or angel investment does not hinder the growth of Kansas City firms. Only a small percentage of the high-growth firmsinterviewed reported receiving investment from Venture Capital or Angel investors. Instead, most high-growth firms were self-financed or received financial assistance from founders' close friends and families. Some bootstrapped by adapting their firms to customer needs to achieve growth, while others scaled up only as revenues increased and additional customers were found. No matter how they were funded, the firms successfully grew their revenue. -Kansas City firms enjoy a substantial pool of talent in the region. Growing firms often have a long-term employee development strategy to hire young people and train them to be first-class professionals, including technical experts. Entrepreneurs also find the region's low cost of living and strong, Midwestern work ethic to be major strengths.-Most Kansas City entrepreneurs find support from customers, vendors, and/or collaborating firms in the region. This finding runs somewhat contrary to Swiss researcher Heike Mayer's recent conclusion that firms in the Kansas City region are disconnected. These regional connections lead to the firms' innovations and growth. -A number of high-growth firms serve only the Kansas City area or a limited market of regional cities, yet they see this limited regional focus as a business strength. Entrepreneurs and their support community should take note that a firm does not have to capture a national or global market to be highly successful. -Most Kansas City entrepreneurs report that locally based mentors have played a significant role in their success. Whether through informal or 2 formal channels, connecting experienced entrepreneurs to aspiring or nascent entrepreneurs and allowing mentor-mentee relationships to grow organically should be goals of the city's entrepreneurial support community. Further research is needed on how best to create and implement local mentorship programs.

The Ascent of America's High-Growth Companies: An Analysis of the Geography of Entrepreneurship

September 1, 2012

This report offers the first-ever deep dive into the geographic trends of America's fastest growing private companies -- the Inc. 500. Inc. magazine's annual ranking, which began in 1982, has become an important point of pride for high-achieving companies and a source of research for economists. Not until now, however, has anyone dissected the past thirty years of comprehensive data from these high-growth companies. Through a partnership with Inc. magazine, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has done just that. In this, one of a set of studies examining Inc. 500 data over time, we offer a geographic analysis of how regional characteristics are associated with fast-growing companies and innovations. Tracing hundreds of Inc. firms per year and thousands per decade, we have captured a range of innovations and analyzed the regions that continuously produce fast-growing companies. Knowing that very little is understood about the geography of high-growth companies, we approached this analysis with a range of questions: where are the fast-growing Inc. firms located at the state and metropolitan levels? How have they shifted over time? Do we find greater geographic concentration of Inc. firms over time? How is the geography of Inc. firms different from commonly associated growth factors, such as high-tech industries, venture capital firms, and research universities?As you review the findings of this report, keep in mind that the creation of another ranking is not our primary objective. It is more important to demonstrate different regions with different sectors and strengths, in contrast to previously identified areas that have been highlighted as strong producers of high-tech companies. Thus, our objective is to shed light on formerly understudied areas of economic development.