Kansas City Startup Village entrepreneurs hope to keep a good thing going.

With Google putting Fiber in Austin, Kansas City Startup Village confronts an uncertain future 

Kansas City Startup Village entrepreneurs hope to keep a good thing going.

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"Nobody knew what direction we were going in," Jaycox says. "Some people thought we were for Kansas City as a whole. Other people thought we were for the village. [Now] there's a focus. They're going to make it so it's not a free-form meeting."

On a cloudless, 60-degree April day, Jaycox ambles through the village on his daily "Steve Jobs walks," named after the Apple founder's workday strolls. Backyards are a lush emerald from recent rain. Tall trees intermingle. The chirping of birds never ceases. He points to a black-and-amber-striped cat. "That's a new mommy cat," he says.

Jaycox, who owns a car, says he has spent about $50 on gas since moving here. He walks everywhere, especially to the QuikTrip on Westport Road to indulge his Dr Pepper habit.

"The way I've learned everything about Kansas City is that I walk about 80 percent of the time," says Jaycox, who goes to the Plaza, where the art inspires his work on Dealiver.

"Sculptures are cool because people can take a huge blob and turn it into a masterpiece," Jaycox says. "If you think about it, sculptures and statues — in a way, they hacked something together. They turned nothing, an amorphous block, into a Poseidon shooting water."

Jaycox's time in the house is coming to an end; he'll move out sometime in May before the new Hacker House crop moves in at the end of the month. He plans to stay in Kansas City, crashing on floors of other villagers. Until then, he has only one complaint about the house: a lack of toilet paper.

"People use a lot of toilet paper when they come to visit," he says.


Kansas City Startup Village's latest residents moved into the Feld Fiberhouse April 17. Boulder, Colorado, investor and startup evangelist Brad Feld bought the Cambridge Street house in early February and took applications, awarding one startup free rent and Fiber for a year. Handprint, a software company trying to build easy-to-use 3-D printers, won.

Handprint's four founders are the youngest members of the village. Mike Demarais, 20, is the first alumnus of Hacker House. After his three-month stint, he returned to suburban Boston and started Handprint with Alexa Nguyen; Derek Caneja, 19; and Jack Franzen, 19.

The Feld house sits catercornered across a gravelly alley from the Hacker House, and a few doors away from Local Ruckus' offices. It features a new wood deck on its side, a front porch and a long backyard with two meat smokers. But the real draw for the Handprint team isn't the house's Fiber connection.

"We didn't move here because of Google Fiber," Demarais says. "We moved here because of the community. Back in Boston, there's a huge startup scene. In the Valley, there's a huge startup scene. But it's really hard to have real conversations with people, to get advice, to get feedback about stuff."

Alexa Nguyen says asking for help in other startup markets can also cost equity.

"It's, like, you need help with this problem, give me 5 percent," she says.

That hasn't been the case in Kansas City. Google lent the Handprint team laptops for a Big Kansas City conference presentation. Sprint lent them a couple of 4G hot spots when their previous apartment didn't have Internet access. And another villager offered to build shelves for them.

"We can't believe how generous everybody is and how hospitable and supportive," Nguyen says.

The quartet doesn't view Austin, home of the South by Southwest festival, as a threat to Kansas City's startup scene.

"Some people around here are like, 'Oh, man, we got to step up our game,' " Demarais says. "Here's the thing: Austin already has an established startup community. And this isn't going to make anybody go to Austin who wasn't already going to go to Austin."

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