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Pipeline preps for Innovator of the Year, invites public to watch pitches

Pipeline, a Kansas City, Kan.-based fellowship for high-growth entrepreneurs, on Thursday will award one of its current 12 entrepreneurs the title of “Innovator of the Year” and announce this year’s class at its annual gathering.

Though the event’s evening celebration is sold out (a waitlist is available), seats still remains for the free day-time event in which the program’s entrepreneurs present their businesses. This portion accounts for the final one-third of the award criteria, entrepreneurs’ performance during the year and scores from their retooled business plans account for the other two-thirds. (To register, contact info@pipelineentrepreneurs.com.)

First regional class to graduate

This year’s event carries a new element, as well, as it marks the completion of Pipeline’s first regional class. In 2012, the original Kansas-only program – the private nonprofit was spun out in 2009 of the now defunct Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation – expanded to include participants in Missouri and Nebraska.

This expansion combined with the successes of its entrepreneurs, keeps Pipeline in the news. Just last week, for example, one of its alumni sold the company he founded 1997. Covering the sale, the Kansas City Business Journal reported that Innovadex founder Bruce Ianni attributed his company’s recent growth to his participation in Pipeline.

When asked what makes Pipeline special, its president and CEO Joni Cobb (right) pointed to its fellowship characteristic.

“(Pipeline) is a distinctive organization in that it is an organization of peers that are helping each other and growing together and leaning on each other and our national network,” Cobb said Monday. “We sit on the same side of the table with our entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs help run the organization. We don’t take equity. We don’t charge a fee. We literally are just an organization of the entrepreneur.”

Cobb said requests for Pipeline to expand beyond its current three-state region have been fielded and dialogues are underway. “But,” she said, “they would have to be done in a way that did not distract us in anyway from executing our current expansion plans.”

As to a hint of who will be named to the new class, Cobb was mum. She did, however, say that the whole region is represented and the new entrepreneurs come from diverse backgrounds.

“We have some that are very experienced entrepreneurs down to those who are just taking their first crack at it,” Cobb said.

Linder joins Pipeline board

Pipeline announced Monday that James Linder, M.D. (left), a Nebraska angel investor and president of the University of Nebraska Technology Development Corporation, has joined the organization’s board of directors. Linder, who’s credited as a regional founder of Pipeline, is also serving as one of three honorary chairman for this year’s Innovator of the Year event.




Note: Silicon Prairie News is a media sponsor of Pipeline’s Innovator of the Year event.

Credits: Innovator of the Year photo from Pipeline on Facebook. Joni Cobb photo courtesy of Cobb. James Linder photo from unmc.edu.

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