Prairie Portrait: Ari Kern of UP Global

Quote I might have said: “They ought to take chances. Not taking chances will lead to a life of colorless mediocrity. They’ll be comfortable. But something in their spirit will be missing.” — Carlos Hortas, Dean of Yale University (So I didn't say it, but sounds like me.)

Prairie Portraits is a weekly set of questions intended to help the community get to know someone from the Silicon Prairie startup scene a little bit better. Prairie Portraits feature a fixed set of questions ranging from career background and personal preferences to, perhaps, off-the-wall questions on YouTube videos and entrance music.


Name: Ari Kern
Title/Occupation: UP Global regional manager, Southeast U.S.
Age: 31
Hometown: Trenton, OH
Current city: Kansas City, Missouri
Twitter: @AriKern


Title of my autobiography: “That JUST Happened”
Thing I can’t live without: Music. It conveys creativity, stories and a whole range of emotions. It brings us back to specific memories and times in our lives. It encourages us to get out there and dance or sing. It provides the rhythm to live our lives
Drink of choice: Green tea (non-alcoholic) or a pomegranate mojito for fun.
Last book I read: “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Tipping Point” for the 100th time
Ultimate road trip snack: Kettle corn and dried tropical fruit
Entrance song if I was a wrestler: Bones by MS MR.
Celebrity doppelgänger: I don’t totally see it, but most often, I get Giuliana Rancic or Amanda Seyfried (above) as a brunette.
Guilty pleasure band and/or film: If we’re going for guilty pleasures, I have to say Ace of Base still has a special place in my heart. Movie — “Team America”… such a dude movie, but cracks me up (“Matt Da-mon”)!
Chosen career in an alternate reality: Anthony Bourdain’s role in “No Reservations.” Who wouldn’t want to travel the world, meeting its people and exploring the food and culture!?
Worst OCD tendency: I apparently shake my fries before I eat them. Good friends pointed this out years ago and I realized I was doing this subconsciously to toss aside the floppy ones.
Quote I might have said: “They ought to take chances. Not taking chances will lead to a life of colorless mediocrity. They’ll be comfortable. But something in their spirit will be missing.” — Carlos Hortas, Dean of Yale University (So I didn’t say it, but sounds like me.)
Which actor or actress, and why: Mila Kunis. She’s smart, witty and unique. Keeps it classy while keeping it real.
Favorite YouTube video: For inspiration:

And humor:


Best place in Kansas City no one knows about: Record Bar. OK, so some people do know about it, but it is completely underrated! One of my favorite spots to catch live music in an intimate setting and actually has a great brunch!
Kansas City’s obligatory tourist stop: Oklahoma Joe’s
One thing Kansas City has that other Silicon Prairie cities don’t: Google Fiber
Best thing going for Kansas City’s startup community: Momentum and connectivity between groups/organizations. We are an underdog of sorts and everyone loves an underdog!
Last local restaurant I ate at: Thomas on 39th—live piano and the most amazing turtle cheesecake. Oh, and did I mention wine!?
Best meal I’ve had in Kansas City: Magnolia’s (on Cherry). Amazing brunch, dinner also is fantastic. Southern cuisine… soul food with flare!
Kansas City would be better if… we had better transportation options or if it was more walk/bike friendly. We need Uber, Sidecar, Lyft, etc. Let’s continue to connect KC!

The Startup Scene

Social media pet peeve: Ignorance plastered all over. Oh, and Facebook game invitations.
App I’m obsessed with: MyFitnessPal. Also, Eat24—KC needs it!
Silicon Prairie startup crush: EyeVerify. Pretty amazing stuff and wonderful accomplishments/exposure lately!
Something most people don’t know about me: Growing up, I was in musicals. I was a thespian in Ohio show choir… think “Glee.” Good times.
Entrepreneur I most want to grab a drink with: Leila Janah. She is an extremely strong female entrepreneur who is truly an inspiration. She is more focused on making a difference than making millions (Samasource creates living wage digital jobs for women and youth in emerging markets).
I do what I do because… it challenges, inspires, piques my curiosity and creativity and makes a bigger impact daily. I consistently interact with some of the most fascinating and driven people I’ve ever met and this holds me to my personal promise to keep pushing beyond my own boundaries. 
Before I was in startups… I worked with a large corporation for more than six years helping to communicate vision and implement change within the company culture. I moved around quite a bit with that company—Ohio to Virginia Beach, Baltimore and eventually Kansas City. I also did a brief stint in marketing and sales at a small KC startup. I’ve now found my place where my skills and experience align with my passions!
If money wasn’t an object, my next company would be… either something incorporating creative endeavors into the busy professional lives or a dream vacation/travel scout. I would obviously have to scope out all the best scenes first in order to report back! 
The Silicon Prairie startup scene is missing… cohesion as a whole community. Lots of amazing groups, but we can work together more strategically to fill the gaps in the entrepreneur’s journey.
In five years, I’ll… look back on what we all did and feel proud. However, I’m sure it will still be a work-in-progress and we will still be “doing” it.
In five years, the Silicon Prairie… will be demanding a second and third look and will have a couple large/well-known startups that were born out of KC.


Credits: Photos courtesy Ari Kern. Videos from YouTube.


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