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Pipeline: The Midwest’s secret weapon

In 2006, KTEC (Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation) created the Pipeline program and recruited Joni Cobb to organize and run the nascent company. The goal of the organization was to build a sustainable, long-term entrepreneurial training and mentoring network.

Entering its 13th year, Pipeline’s success is measurable.

The entrepreneurs that have graduated from Pipeline have created more than 2400 jobs and run more than 85 companies, including some of the region’s hottest startups and scaleups. The program consistently attracts strong candidates from around the region wishing to join the network and facilitate their own company’s growth.

It has proven its value through results. For example, Lincoln-based Opendorse founder Blake Lawrence consistently points to Pipeline as a critical part of both his personal growth and professional development. In turn, this has been a driver for Opendorse’s successful national and international expansion – including millions in revenue and venture funding.

Kansas City-based EyeVerify was founded in 2012. The firm raised $12.36 million by 2016, including funds from mentors and connectors in the Pipeline network. Toby Rush of EyeVerify (a Pipeline graduate) and his investors ultimately exited in 2017 for $100 million.

Speaking from the viewpoint of an investor, Trish Brasted of Wichita (Managing Member of the Midwest Venture Appliance and a Pipeline Mentor) stated, “This level of interaction would not have happened without Pipeline, and I am much more confident when investing in a Pipeline Member alongside one of my regional investment partners.”

Pipeline has members from around the Midwest, including Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. These members meet for four engagements over a year where they work on their companies and their companies’ business plans. Pipeline hosts a celebration that concludes the year, during which the entrepreneurs present their companies to judges and investors who provide awards at the regional celebration. This year’s Innovators Remix gala is scheduled for January 25, 2019 in Omaha.

Pipeline’s worth extends beyond the individual growth of the current crop of its individual members. Being part of the program maintains value over time. Simply put, the network that exists beyond the program is extremely valuable. Pipeline network members have teamed up to start companies, have provided introductions to customers around the region, and investments in their peers’ organizations.

Justin Kalhoff of Infogressive in Lincoln stated: “Pipeline dramatically increased my business’ trajectory. It gave me the confidence and wisdom to become a better leader and inspired me to think bigger. The friendships are permanent and the network is unmatched.”

Part of the Pipeline program is to build the network beyond the Midwest; in fact, folks from around the globe have tied into the entrepreneurial scene in the Silicon Prairie.

San Francisco based Nathan Gold of the DEMO Coach describes it this way, saying “The Pipeline Fellowship program is 11 years in the making now and is one to be envied around the world––and I have been around the world many times over! Pipeline outshines all others in my humble opinion (and yes, even better than 500 Startups, Founders Space, and Y Combinator). Any partner who gets involved will immediately be able to leverage this amazing network and program for both their region’s and their own entrepreneurial energy. It’s just that powerful.”

CEO and President of Pipeline Joni Cobb stated: “From the very beginning of forming Pipeline’s model, we focused as much on building the network as we did on the specific needs of our individual entrepreneurs. The network has become the most compelling part of our work––as experts who care, who work right alongside our entrepreneurs to ensure their success, and also have a deep and wide network of their own to share––is fundamental to our long-term value.”

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