There’s been a lot of talk and even some gossip lately about the latest news coming from the KCSV. Some people have heard that the residents in the Spring Valley neighborhood are rising up and rallying against the KCSV. Others have heard that the KCSV could come to an end. And articles like this one in the Kansas City Star and this one in the Kansas City Business Journal have been written. The purpose of this blog post is to clear the air of any misconceptions and accurately share the latest news directly from the co-leaders of the village.
Adam Arredondo and Matthew Marcus, KCSV co-leaders, recently updated the villagers on the latest developments via email. Their letter is displayed below for all to read. It’s a good update about the KCSV’s past, present and future, and the proposals contained within were unanimously accepted and approved by the villagers.
Discussions will continue among all parties involved about what’s next for the KCSV. We will be sure to keep you apprised of decisions and developments.
The future is bright for the KCSV and Spring Valley / West Plaza neighborhoods. Together, we’ll find a way to coexist and prosper together.
Adam and I are jointly sending you this email at a very important time for the KCSV. Changes are upon us, and it’s important you know what has happened, what is happening and what will happen.
This email is long, but it needs to be. Thanks for taking the time to read it, and for sharing it with your team members.
Quick KCSV History
For almost 3 years, the Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV) has operated as:
An entrepreneur-led community helping to grow and support Kansas City entrepreneurs and the startup ecosystem.
While this purpose and operational mindset has served us well so far, the KCSV community has grown to the point that it now impacts many individuals and organizations in a number of ways, both beneficially and perhaps detrimentally.
When people ask, “What is the Kansas City Startup Village?, the answer is often, “an organic and grassroots community without an operational hierarchy or any direct funding, but rather many co-leaders who voluntarily work side-by-side and primarily fund initiatives themselves.” This is a genuine and true answer, and those who hear it are often inspired and intrigued.
However, at times, those who wish to support the KCSV or even those who wish to challenge it wonder how to appropriately do so. If the KCSV doesn’t have clear leadership or isn’t a legal entity, who actually receives support and resources given to it? Or, who specifically should be addressed when issues arise?
For many years, Adam Arredondo and myself have found ourselves in the position of being “unofficial” spokespeople for the village. Not necessarily by choice, but by our constant village involvement which seems to have itself dictated this position for us. Thus, when outside groups or individuals want to talk to the village about both good and bad things, they often approach us. And it’s for this reason that Adam and I are emailing you today.
Why this Email?
A goal of the village has always been to get more entrepreneurs and startups to move to the village and find ways to provide them with value through collisions, connectedness and collaboration. This simple strategy has worked out well. The village has grown to over 30 startups and 15 properties. And while it hasn’t required much money to operate, it has required many, many, many volunteer hours by several people, including villagers and supporters of the village.
The village’s growth has, in the eyes of many, been a good thing. But there are some who believe the opposite and are displeased with certain village aspects. Because of these differing points of view and our growth trend, the village now finds itself in a predicament. Our expansion and mere presence has garnered the attention of those who wish to support us, as well as those who wish to challenge how we operate.
For those who have expressed interested in supporting us, they are unable or unwilling to do so because the KCSV isn’t a legal and official organization. They simply cannot give monetary or other types of support to a loose-knit group of community co-leaders.
On the other hand, those who do not support the KCSV or its mission/purpose have requested that they get answers to their questions and concerns. Some even want the village to change significantly. This includes local residents, civic groups and government representatives. The KCSV should and will stand up for itself, but doing so as a “ragtag group of entrepreneurs” is difficult and comes with its own set of challenges.
It’s for these reasons and more that Adam and I believe it’s time for the KCSV to began a new chapter.
Before we talk about what’s next, the KCSV owes you an update on all that’s happened over the last year. This update is long overdue, and I would like to personally apologize that it wasn’t sent sooner. The village is for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs, and we should all know and understand the current state of affairs as they happen around us.
To briefly bring you up to speed, the KCSV is dealing with several issues and changing points, including:
- A legal dispute with our name. The phrase “startup village” is trademarked by a well known and national organization, and they want us to change our name. Adam, myself and Greg Kratofil of Polsinelli have been dealing with this issue for well over a year now, and we’re finally close to an agreeable resolution. We’re hoping to settle this matter within the next month or so.
- Some residents of the Spring Valley neighborhood are displeased with the KCSV and oppose any non-residents working in residential properties. There is an ongoing conversation between the KCSV, Spring Valley residents, WYCO EDC and Unified Government of Kansas City about how to appropriately proceed. This conversation has been going on for quite a long time, and we’re hoping that we can find an agreeable resolution. But we still have a long way to go.
- On a more positive note, relatively recent conversations have led Adam, myself and others to believe that the KCSV can receive the financial support and resources it desperately needs to continue achieving its mission and goals. Again though, the individuals and organizations willing to provide support cannot do so if the KCSV continues to operate in its current “organic” capacity.
It’s because of issues and opportunities like those listed above that Adam and myself come to you with a proposition for change. A transition that will allow the KCSV to continue doing what it does best, yet also appropriately represent itself to those who wish to either support or challenge it.
In mid-2014, several KCSV co-leaders including Adam and myself realized that the KCSV needed to become more formalized in order to continue prospering. We discussed the idea of converting the village into a 501(c)3 non-profit, but ultimately decided against it so the village wouldn’t lose its organic, grassroots nature. Instead, we decided that it made more sense to start a new NPO (non-profit organization) which would support the village and other KC startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem building organizations and projects. And that’s just what we did.
We’re excited to announce to you the formation and creation of the Kansas City Startup Foundation (KCSF), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the following mission:
Provide educational resources and support to organizations working to further the offerings, growth, advancement and opportunities of Kansas City’s startup and entrepreneur ecosystem.
Thanks to the pro-bono help of Polsinelli, our 501(c)3 application has been submitted to the IRS and should be approved sometime in the next 60-90 days. The KCSF already has a board of directors (comprised of Adam Arredondo [CEED], Rachel Merlo [Google Fiber], Mike Farmer [Leap.it], Melissa Roberts [ECJC] and Matthew Marcus [Independent]) which has held several meetings to formalize the KCSF and its mission/goals.
While the KCSF ultimately intends to support several organizations which are helping to build and grow Kansas City’s startup and entrepreneur ecosystem, it’s important that it first establish itself as a legitimate and credible KC organization. This means showing potential donors and supporters that it has a clear focus and is ready to prove itself with a concrete win for Kansas City. Seeing as the formation of the KCSF stemmed from the KCSV needing support, the KCSF’s initial strategy is concentrated on supporting the KCSV.
In order for the KCSF to appropriately and legally support the KCSV, Adam and myself propose the following important and necessary change:
The KCSV becomes a special interest group of the KCSF, governed by the KCSF board of directors.
Doing so not only allows the KCSV to still keep many of its entrepreneurial co-led roots, but also allows a legal organization to officially represent it in times of support and challenge. The KCSV will still have co-leaders, and can even opt to have its own Board of Co-leaders if it so chooses. These are all options, and there will be much for us all to explore as the changes continue to unfold.
Adam and I believe that you have for years put your trust in us to do right by the KCSV and right by each of you. We’ve never approached the village as something which would be specifically beneficial for ourselves or our careers, but rather as an opportunity to support an important part of KC’s overall startup and entrepreneurial efforts. As we’ve done in the past, we will continue to do now and in the future.
Thanks for your support, and thanks for taking the time to read this very long email. Please reach out to Adam and/or myself with any questions, concerns, feedback or advice you might have.
Matthew and Adam