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PIPELINE alumni stepping up to help match Kauffman Foundation grant

PIPELINE president and CEO Joni Cobb and chairman Mike Beckloff accept a check for $160,000 in late April. Past participants have raised another $55,000 for the program since then. Photo courtesy of Cobb. 

PIPELINE alumni continue to dig into their pockets to help fuel the future of entrepreneurship in the region. PIPELINE president and CEO Joni Cobb said Wednesday that past participants of the Kansas-based entrepreneurship immersion program for innovative, high-growth entrepreneurs have have raised an additional $55,000 since presenting a check for $160,000 to PIPELINE in late April. That brings total alumni donations during the current fundraising push to $215,000. 

The giving comes after the April 14 announcement of an $800,000 matching grant to PIPELINE from the Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. As part of the three-year grant, under which Kauffman will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for other funds PIPELINE raises up to $800,000, the program is adopting a regional focus. Previously, PIPELINE relied on government funding from the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation and was open only to Kansas-based entrepreneurs. 

Toby Rush, co-founder of Rush Tracking Systems and a member of PIPELINE’s inaugural class, has helped with the fundraising effort and said he is pleased with the willingness of even the program’s most recent graduates to chip in.

“Initially, when we started out, I was … unsure at how much financial support the existing alumni would be able to give,” Rush (left, photo from rushtrackingsystems.com) said. “A lot of them, you know, they’re just starting their companies – they’re one, two, three, four years into their companies — and they were not in a position to contribute a significant amount financially. So when we started going out and reaching out to folks, I was blown away, excited, surprised that as many people stepped forward.”

Cobb said the giving serves as a testament to the value entrepreneurs get out of the program. 

“The alumni donation speaks loudly to the importance of PIPELINE to their continued growth,” Cobb said. “It is one thing for our board and supporters to say PIPELINE works but entirely another for the entrepreneurs within the program to reach in their own wallets while they are watching every dime during growth years, to ensure this program thrives and remains available for the region. They also know that as we expand, their network expands. This is an exciting group of alumni, and this will be where they continue to gather, connect and grow together.”

Cobb said time is of the essence as PIPELINE seeks to raise additional funds. PIPELINE traditionally recruits participants during the summer months, and the recruiting trail for the 2012 class will encompass more real estate — exactly how much more, Cobb and company are working to determine.

“Our initial ‘investors,’ along with our alumni, mentors and advisors, have been in constant discussions on this process,” Cobb said. “There is much care given to expanding the region in a way that ensures an exciting mix of entrepreneurs and stakeholders. We want the network to grow and encompass others who are excited to be a part of what we are building.”

Rush said he expects to see “phenomenal” results when PIPELINE is no longer bounded by the state line, and he encourages other people, particularly high-net-worth investors, to consider the potential return on an investment in the program. 

“Encouraging this kind of ecosystem is going to give them a great look at serial entrepreneurs and … opportunities for them to invest in real deals,” Rush said. “It’s a way for them to get to know people outside of a pitch and really say ‘Who are these people?’ and ‘Who would I really want to place money on?’ So if you’re an investor, if you’re an angel, a (venture capitalist), even private equity guys, then this is a phenomenal way to encourage and to grow a system and to participate in that.”

For more on PIPELINE, its fundraising efforts and the Kauffman grant, see the video below, which includes insights from Kauffman president and CEO Carl Schramm

Video from Pipeline on Vimeo.

For more on PIPELINE, check out these past stories from Silicon Prairie News and other outlets:

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