Rising Entrepreneurs Provide Key Insights at First Wednesdays

Photo Credit: Brandon Parigo, UMKC Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

On March 1, a panel of Kansas City’s emerging entrepreneurial stars spoke to Bloch students, faculty and community supporters at a special First Wednesdays presentation.

Moderated by Bobby Burch, Editor-in-Chief of Startland News, panelists included:

Kris Adair, Co-founder of Mycroft, the world’s first open source voice assistant

Sanjay Gupta, Chief Operating Officer of C2FO, a financial technology company and the creator of the first market for working capital

Chris Smith, Founder of Athlete Network, the nation’s largest online network for athletes

Below are a few insights these innovators shared about their personal journeys, and advice they have for aspiring entrepreneurs.

What have you learned as your business has evolved?

Chris Smith: “The great thing about being a startup is that you’re able to adapt quickly. Keep your angle, but pivot how you do it.”

Kris Adair: “Beginning a startup is like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down. Being able to adapt as you go is critical.”

Was there ever a time you thought you weren’t going to make it?

Sanjay Gupta: “Often as an entrepreneur, your role will change and you’ll think ‘Will I make it?’ But, you have to take on the responsibility to make it work.”

KA: “Every day. It takes a special determination to be an entrepreneur, but it’s something I’d never change. It’s so hard, but so rewarding.”

How has Kansas City served your business?

SG: “Kansas City has been great so far. There are so many draws to Kansas City; there’s a steady beat of high energy and productivity.”

KA: “We love this city. It has given us mentors and allowed us to grow. As we move forward, we’re keeping our headquarters in Kansas City, because the talent is just as great as anywhere, and we can do what we do in an affordable way.”

CS: “When I first came to Kansas City from 5,000 miles away, I initially had trouble getting investors to come here. Now, Kansas City is seen as a positive due to the affordability and talent.”

What advice would you give students who aspire to be entrepreneurs?

KA: “Know that if you don’t love what you’re doing, you won’t make it through. Also, learn to ask questions and not be afraid to do so.”

CS: “Practice flexibility – you have to know a little about a lot. Practice networking as much as you can. If you offer to help people, they’ll want to help you too.”

SG: “Know exactly what you’re trying to do and how you’re going to do it. Have your business clear in your head and talk to people about it nonstop.”

The next First Wednesday event, scheduled for April 5 at 5 p.m., will give attendees a chance to experience the incredible story of Annie Hurlbut Zander, CEO and Co-founder of Peruvian Connection and 2017 Entrepreneur Hall of Fame inductee.

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