Pipeline celebrates Entrepreneurial Expression at the 11th annual Innovators gala


Over 600 people gathered on Thursday at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City to celebrate the 11th annual Pipeline Innovators Awards with this year’s fellows, award winners and startup community champions. Friends and family from across the country came together for the annual event that highlights the accomplishments of Pipeline Entrepreneurs, the region’s most successful organization of high-growth entrepreneurs.

This year’s Innovators theme was Entrepreneurial Expression. The event opened with a retro airline vibe with dancers and the voice of a flight attendant preparing everyone for the “flight.”

“We are using the theme this year to highlight the many unique, smart, talented, driven and warm-hearted entrepreneurs and partners that make up the Pipeline Family,” said Joni Cobb, Pipeline President & CEO.

The 2018 class of Pipeline fellows was announced during the show. Pipeline Fellows are chosen for the program following an intensive application and interview process.

“We are often asked ‘Tell me about the typical Pipeline entrepreneur,’ when others are trying to understand our ideal candidates for the Fellowship,” said Cobb. “But that’s the beauty of Pipeline. There is no “typical” Pipeline entrepreneur. Our entrepreneurs come from different countries, states, backgrounds, sectors and more. They are so unique  but all have a common drive to build something significant right here in the Midwest.”

The 2018 fellows are:

Andrew Barnell – CEO & Co-Founder of Geneoscopy, St. Louis
Johnna Beckham – CEO & Owner of BOOST Apparel Group, St. Louis
Trevor Crotts – President of Buddy Brands, Wichita
Glen Dakan – Founder & CEO of Prestio, Kansas City
Dennis Doerfl – Co-Founder of Fourstarzz Media, Lincoln
Will Edwards – Founder & CEO of MetKnow, St. Louis
Colin Nabity – Founder of LeverageRx, Omaha
Robin Rath – Co-Founder & CEO of Pixel Press Technology, St. Louis
Bryan Sapot – CEO of SensrTrx, St. Louis
Ben Schultz – Founder of LaborChart, Kansas City
Ali Schwanke – Founder & CEO of Simple Strat, Lincoln
Matt Sellers – Co-Founder & CEO of Rack Performance, Kansas City
Linda Van Horn – President & CEO of iShare Medical, Kansas City

“This year’s class has an enormous diversity in sectors, experience level and stage of growth,” said Cobb. “I will tell you though, that each year has similar makeup as we purposefully want to create a mix in a class where entrepreneurs learn from, and are inspired by, all of these different industry perspectives and experience levels.”

Evan Luxon, Photo by Dave Kaup, Dave Kaup Photography

Earlier in the day, 2017’s class of entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to a panel of national judges. The pitch competition helped determine the winner of the 2017 Innovator of the Year award, which went to Evan Luxon, Co-founder of Centese.

The evening included additional recognition for the following award winners:

Pipeline Entrepreneur (Member) Growth: Paul Jarrett (Bulu Box, Lincoln, NE) and Alfred Botchway (Xenometrics LLC, Kansas City)
Pipeline Entrepreneur (Member) Inspiration: Kim Gandy (Play-it Health, Kansas City)
Entrepreneurial Leadership: Nelnet, University of Nebraska, Linseed Capital and Prairie Ventures

“The strength of Pipeline is how it enables the growth of entrepreneurs and their companies.  Seeing their success, and their impact on our community is the best reward,” said James Linder, founder of Linseed Capital.

This year’s awards also marked a first in The Innovator’s history. It was the first time the event featured not only a host but two hosts. Blake Lawrence and Will Compton took the stage dressed as pilots; Blake in military gear and Will in a traditional airline pilot uniform.

“[Earlier] this year while all of us were gathered on a Microsoft hosted boat tour in Seattle, Blake cornered me––with Will at the ready on text––and brought up the idea of letting them co-host.,” said Cobb. “We’ve never had a host of any type, but when I saw how excited they were to do this, I couldn’t say no.”

Every year, Pipeline continues to gain ground throughout the region as a top tier organization for entrepreneurs seeking to strengthen their skills and businesses. Cobb said Pipeline’s strong classes of fellows are fostered by a family-like environment that looks for key cultural fits.

“Our partners, advisors and our own entrepreneurs participate in both recruiting applicants, as well as selecting the final class. They look deeply at each candidate for a match with our culture,” said Cobb. “Beyond being very talented and driven to create a scalable company, we look for a fit with our big culture linchpins: Pipeline Entrepreneurs are Honorable, Supportive, Coachable, Professional, Invested, Generous, Grateful and Accountable.”

Cobb attributes Pipeline’s continuing success to the uniqueness of the program’s model.

“We are an organization ‘of’ the entrepreneur. We don’t take equity and we work side by side with the entrepreneurs to create our programming and partnerships. We are all Pipeline. And that makes for ownership and pride that is unique and lasting.”


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