Leap2’s team made the trip up to the Silicon Prairie Awards last year and came home with valuable connections.
About the author: Tyler Van Winkle, Leap2 director of product, was kind enough to write about the company’s experience at last year’s event. Leap2 is a finalist for two awards at this year’s event.
Last year, leading up the 2012 Silicon Prairie Awards, Leap2 was on its last legs. For months we had searched far and wide for new investors. Frustrated, exhausted and burned out, we decided we would send the team up to Omaha to be part of the Awards.
So, with an empty bank account, a full tank of gas and aspirations of winning Mobile App of the Year, the team saddled up into an SUV and put the car in drive. For most of us it was a last hurrah, over a year and a half had been spent with a moonlight team working around the clock to deliver on the promise of reinventing search and most of us assumed this was our last run. Little did we know, the journey was only beginning.
As we walked up the front steps for the Awards ceremony, Adam Arredondo was sitting on the steps talking on the phone and greeted us with a smile as he talked about how he hitched a ride with another local entrepreneur to get to the reception. As the team checked in and received their badges there was a buzz in the air that the whole team was surprised by. Entrepreneurs and investors filled the room, talking, making connections, geeking out and giving their elevator pitches.
As the evening progressed, our surprise was doubled as introductions were made and a new world of potential was opened up to us. Truth be told, award ceremonies—like the SPN Awards—are great, but the real value is in the people you meet.
We met what turned into several lead investors in our rounds, including Jim and Karen Linder of Linseed Capital and Dundee Venture Capital and got to spend the evening rubbing shoulders with our buddies from Sprint. We also made the trip with Microsoft’s newest partnership evangelist, Taylor Cowan. As it turns out, we eventually would become a development partner with Microsoft. So in a nutshell, we landed some of our key investors and a relationship with a major corporate partner.
We also happened to meet Matthew Marcus. At the time we put him in the Rolodex as a good connection, and a nice guy who had just came back to town from Boulder. Little did we know that Adam Arrendondo, Local Ruckus founder, met Matthew that night too.
Even though we didn’t receive the Mobile App of the Year, the team came home late that night with new vigor. In the car at 2 a.m. on I-29 with a Microsoft employee in the car yielded a completely different conversation than the same circumstances several hours earlier. The team opened up, finally feeling validated for their hard work. It evolved into plans for the future, when people could come on full-time, features they were dying to build in and the prospect that we’d get to continue to work together for another 18 months on a full-time basis. The possibilities were endless!
As we met the following Monday evening to discuss the future of Leap2 based on the newly acquired funding commitments, we walked by a house in the neighborhood that happened to be for rent. One of our developers said “Man, it would be awesome to work in a house! And I’ll bet they get Fiber!” The following day we called on the property knowing we’d need more space to house the team on a full-time basis. Luckily for us, the landlord happened to be Matthew Marcus. He talked to us about renting the house, and said he would love to have a startup working out of it. Matthew then called us back a few days later and told us he had teamed up with Adam Arrendondo from Local Ruckus, and asked if we would be interested in sharing the space with the Ruckus team.
As we moved into the 4454 house on a mild October day, Leap2 and three other companies embarked on a path that turned out to be bigger than we ever expected. The announcement of our house being the first house to have Google Fiber installed acted like a lightning rod in an April thunderstorm, and out of it the Kansas City Startup Village was born. Now 25 companies rich, KCSV has received global attention as an entrepreneurial community.
Leap2 also has seen bright days since the Award: in October, we were featured on the front page of The New York Times, and have been showcased on CNN, GigaOm, TechCrunch, Fast Company and most recently VentureBeat.
Thank you, Silicon Prairie News. Here in the Midwest we don’t have a Disrupt or Demo or TED or GigaOm conference, so gatherings like this Awards (and others) are key to creating a vibrant startup ecosystem.
Your focus on regional startups, your support for the entrepreneur and your community has led to what we live every day, as a company, a community and a Village.
Credits: Photo from Malone & Company.