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Kansas City Star looks at state of startups, focusing on three KC firms

September 6, 2011 by

A story in today’s Kansas City Star offers an interesting look at the state of tech startups in Kansas City through the lens of life working for three area firms — Five and Fifty, Front Flip and AudioAnywhere. (Left, article sreenshot from

Five and Fifty, which we most recently reported on last month after it announced a new partnership with 4INFO, is a platform that enables companies to post short-term discounts via SMS messaging. Front Flip is a service that uses QR codes in businesses to produce virtual scratch-off cards that reward customers and provide businesses information about those customers. AudioAnywhere is a music platform the Star article describes as “a bit like Facebook meets iTunes” that aims to provide enough information about listeners for advertisers to create highly targeted commercials.

One dominant theme woven throughout the story, which was penned by the Star’s Scott Canon, is the uncertain nature of starting a tech business. “The future,” Canon writes, “doesn’t look so much bright or dark as just hazy.”

But there’s plenty to be gleaned from the story besides the often murky outlook for tech startups. Be sure to check out the complete story and share your thoughts in the comment section below. And, in the meantime, here are a two other quick takeaways I got from the story.

Optimism a necessity

Like it or not, building buzz is an important part of the process for many startups.

A refrain commonly echoed around these parts is that the Silicon Prairie is different than Silicon Valley or other coastal counterparts because startups here don’t rely on the hype that’s become such a part of other entrepreneurial ecosystems. And, to a large extent, that’s true. Nonetheless, some of the most promising startups you’ll find on the Silicon Prairie have charismatic leaders who ooze optimism and are their startup’s best pitch people.

“If you’re getting competition, then you’re doing something right. They should be scared of us, the three guys in the garage.”

- Michael Richardson, Five and Fifty

That importance of that sort of optimism is evident in the Star story. “It’s as if confidence were as critical to making money off a cellphone application as computer coding,” the story says.

Says Five and Fifty’s Michael Richardson: “If you’re getting competition, then you’re doing something right. They should be scared of us, the three guys in the garage.”

Startups are the future

The story cites studies by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation about the role new businesses play in job-creation and the growth of the economy in the United States. None of those statistics should come as especially surprising to regular readers of this site, but the big-picture importance of startups cannot be overstated: 

“There’s reason to care whether these guys succeed,” the story says of the entrepreneurs it features. “The rest of us could end up working for people like this or not working at all.”

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