Kauffman’s 1 Million Cups out to help startups grow with each cup of joe

Sparking the growth of the Kansas City entrepreneurial community, one cup of coffee at a time, is the goal behind 1 Million Cups, a new education program from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. "The Kauffman Foundation's entrepreneurship team developed 1 Million Cups as a way to engage Kansas City's entrepreneurs on a weekly basis, educate

Kendra Wyatt, co-founder New Birth Company in Overland Park, Kan. presents at 1 Million Cups. 

Sparking the growth of the Kansas City entrepreneurial community, one cup of coffee at a time, is the goal behind 1 Million Cups, a new education program from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

“The Kauffman Foundation’s entrepreneurship team developed 1 Million Cups as a way to engage Kansas City’s entrepreneurs on a weekly basis, educate the community about the great startups in Kansas City, and to hopefully accelerate the growth of these companies by doing so while building a dynamic and diverse entrepreneurial community,” Nate Olson, an entrepreneurship group analyst at the Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation, said in an email.

1 Million Cups consists of a weekly educational program that runs from 9-10 a.m. on Wednesdays in Kauffman Labs and features presentations from two local startups. The java flows, and each business shares a short presentation followed by an open question-and-answer session.

Launched April 11, the program attracts about 50 attendees every week, ranging from founders and CEOs to mentors, advisors and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Kirk Hasenzahl, the CEO of RareWire, was the first to present at 1 Million Cups and has been a frequent attendee of the weekly sessions. “1MC is all about being involved in your startup community and getting to know what other exciting things are happening in KC.” Hasenzahl said in an email interview. “(1MC) gives us a great opportunity to tell the community what we are up to, and create excitement around RareWire, as well as meet other new companies that have turned into business opportunities.”

Counting conversations

Per its website, 1 Million Cups strives to “engage Kansas City upstarts through a weekly education program.” The program tracks those engagements on the site with a “Spillover counter.” Tag #1millioncups on Twitter or send the 1 Million Cups team an email when you’ve had a meaningful interaction with another entrepreneur in Kansas City — over a cup of joe or not — and the Spillover counter will reflect that. The counter currently reads 997,126, meaning 2,874 conversations have already been recorded and just north of 997,000 are left to go.

“Drinking coffee is nice, but that’s not the point!” Olson (above left) said. “It is a catalyst for getting people together to talk about their ideas. One million meaningful interactions is totally obtainable — that, I’m confident of.”

“The Spillover counter is a way to gauge the multiplier effect of these interactions that happen on a weekly basis,” Olson added. “If we have 50-75 people meeting to discuss entrepreneurship on Wednesday mornings, hopefully attendees will make connections and grab coffee throughout the week to further their discussions.”

Franchise and website growth

The Kauffman Foundation intends to keep the program up and running as long as there is a need for it, and plans are currently in the works to create a franchise model that would spread the 1 Million Cups platform to other cities.

“It is pretty clear to us that great ideas live everywhere.” Olson said. “We want to provide a program that serves as a way for those ideas to be heard.”

Every week, profiles of the companies that present are posted to 1millioncups.com, featuring information on how other Kansas City entrepreneurs can help that startup and what the startup is willing to give back to the community in return. The Kauffman Foundation has recently started live-streaming the weekly presentations and plans to soon include the video recordings with each startup’s profile.

“The website becomes a central point or backbone of a much larger community that will grow when we launch 1 Million Cups in other cities.” Olson said. “Each community will have their own channel on the site and allow opportunities for cross-pollination between startup communities.”

Organizers and attendees alike believe the program has the potential to inspire scores of active and potential entrepreneurs. “There are a lot of exciting things happening in the startup community in KC right now, and Kauffman is a key component of that.” Hasenzahl said. “And 1MC is just one of the many tools that they provide to help create that excitement.”

For more from 1 Million Cups, check out the photos below from one of the group’s August meetings.

Kauffman Labs, a program of the Kauffman Foundation aimed at teaching innovators how to start and grow their businesses, houses the weekly meeting of 1 Million Cups.

The coffee bar at Kauffman Labs is a hot spot on Wednesday mornings.

More than 50 local entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors attend the weekly education program at Kauffman Labs. 

Kauffmam Labs records and live-streams each weekly session of the 1 Million Cups education program.


Credits: Photos by Annie Sorensen.

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