Kansas City, Meet Tech FIRST
Written by Todd Fitzpatrick, Vice President - Commercial Banking
Like many who live in the Kansas City area, I was aware of the magnitude of our start-up community here. However, I definitely wasn’t prepared for how exhilarating it would be to jump into that water head first, but I am really glad I did.
I’ve been in banking most of my career, mostly working with established companies with seasoned ownership helping them grow their businesses. As a business banker, it’s important to stay on top of local business trends, and I’ve always taken an interest in the vibrant early stage business community. So when First Business Bank asked me to replicate our successful Emerging Tech industry practice group here in Kansas City, I jumped at the chance.
Opportunity Meets Ingenuity
The first thing I noticed as I was networking is the quantity of quality early stage products and technologies that are being developed in town. The area is truly a hotbed of innovation combined with motivated people who don’t sleep a whole lot.
Then, suddenly, we had an idea to make a splash. Together with our local Advisory Board Members who are connected to this ecosystem, and Tim Keane, our superhuman Board Member who is on our KC Advisory Board, our Milwaukee Advisory Board, and the First Business Bank Board, we decided to bring in a group of investors from outside the Kansas City market for a daylong investor pitch event. Tech FIRST was born.
Tech FIRST Takeaways
We knew we had something special, so we pulled together our event in short order before the snow stopped anyone from the Upper Midwest from traveling. The first event was held Sept 14, and the venue was perfect. The Pinnacle National Development Center, which was across the highway from where The American Royal BBQ and #ARTechBBQ was being held that day, is a world-class soccer venue and training home of Sporting Kansas City.
I was pleased by our Wisconsin and Chicago investors’ appetite for deal flow from our market. I know many local companies have run the funding gamut in town and are hungry for additional investor eyeballs on their pitch. Once we put the word out about our investor pitch day, the incoming communication I received from the local market was exhilarating. We were contacted by many folks whom I did not even know were looking for funding.
In the end, more than ten funds from outside our market listened to 12 local companies pitch. I’m proud to say that at least six of those companies are participating in further due diligence through our investor pool. This is a testament to the quality of companies in KC — such high follow-on interest after the event is very exciting.
Banking Beyond Expectations
Additionally, we are proud to say that many of the local early stage “hubs” in KC welcomed us with open arms. They attended Tech FIRST and were pleased we executed a first-class event on our first try. We’re excited to work on plans to offer this event again. Access to investor capital may not be for everyone, but for those choosing to grow and execute a business strategy via the equity market, we have best-in-class solutions for those founders. With our support as a client, they are finding they can lower their burn rates, make strategic partnerships and connections, and access investor capital. I’d say that’s banking beyond expectations for most founders of technology companies.