In this final installment of Startup Diaries, Vytal founders Spencer Steinert and Jared Goering share their ideas on Wichita's entrepreneurship ecosystem and how it could better face the future. Check out previous diary entries to learn more about Spencer and Jared, their team and their vision to change the world.
CREATING A FUTURE-PROOF ECOSYSTEM
Wichita has the unique opportunity to mold the future of its entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Currently, the ecosystem is built around a pipeline that provides the education and resources needed to take a business from idea to commercialization. In its current form, this process looks like this:
- Someone with an idea for a business can start at E-Launch, which teaches idea validation to ensure it has a place in the market.
- Once the idea has been validated, you can move on to LaunchPrep, where you are paired with a mentor and attend sessions focused on getting funding, branding, marketing and more.
- As you and your mentors continue to develop out the business, you move on to the e2e Accelerator and Incubator, which will help you execute your plan to run and grow your business.
This is a great starting place for Wichita. It fills gaps and provides resources that weren't there even two or three years ago.
That being said, there's still room for improvement. For one, we need capital in order to make this pipeline work. Local investment capital — mostly from angel investors — has to be made more available to new entrepreneurs. Angel investments are usually the first funds that go into a startup and the overwhelming majority of these investments come from the same community where the startup began.
Gaining more investment capital in Wichita is much easier said than done. Angel investors are typically wealthy individuals who invest their personal money into early-stage startups. Wichita has a good amount of wealth to tap into, but our culture doesn't actively encourage investment into the next generation of entrepreneurs. Culture is tough to change, but through the work of Wichita's young entrepreneurial community, the shift has started, and local individuals are starting to open their eyes to angel investment.
The second thing that this ecosystem needs is a critical mass of ideas and people willing to see them through. The system will improve proportionately to the number of ideas that flow through it. Again, it's easy to identify this problem and hard to do something about it. But Wichita has started to put resources in place to assist with this, which focus on getting more technology developed at WSU into the market and fostering an innovative mindset at an earlier age — even before college.
As our ecosystem grows, we have to look to the future. We shouldn't only be asking what would get people to stay here, but also what would make them come here. We believe the answer is specialization in aerospace manufacturing, consumer hardware and medical devices.
If we are going to compete with other cities for talent and startups, we have to offer something other cities don't. Aerospace is where Wichita already has a reputation, but the specialty we choose to focus on has to offer opportunity to innovate and has to be future-proof.
Future-proofing is one of the main reasons building this ecosystem is so important. Silicon Valley is no longer the only place fostering technology. Venture capital is pouring into the Midwest and people are waking up to the innovation happening in cities like Kansas City, Lincoln and Austin. Wichita can't afford to miss out on this trend.
Ensuring the next 100 years are positive is extremely important to the future of all of us. To be proactive in that process and help shape what that looks like is insanely cool.
But changing trends in the startup world aren't the only reason for a stronger ecosystem. There are technological innovations like artificial intelligence, blockchain and machine learning that will change almost every industry — and everyone's lives — in the coming decades. We have to keep up.
There is so much potential in the world for change. We truly believe that now is one of the most exciting times in human history to be alive. Ensuring the next 100 years bring more positive change is extremely important to the future of all of us. The opportunity we have to help shape that future is insanely cool.
Since this is our last entry in Startup Diaries, we wanted to take the chance to thank The Chung Report and the people of Wichita. We are not natives of Wichita, but there is no other place we'd rather call home. It's not lost on us that this community and the amazing people in it took a chance on two kids right out of high school with a dream. We will continue to work to repay that and make you all proud.