Ryan Weber off to busy start at helm of KCnext
It's been less than two months since Ryan Weber took the helm of KCnext - The Technology Council of Greater Kansas City, and the agenda is full.
KCnext aims to promote the area's tech sector by supporting its community and the tech industry as a whole through publicity, education and building employment opportunities. As we reported earlier this year, Weber took over in mid-January as the first president of the newly-formed organization, which is a fusion of the Software and Information Technology Association of Kansas (SITAKS) and a previous iteration of KCnext. Since taking over, Weber has focused on eliciting feedback from his members and planning events.
"We have been on a 'listening tour,' " Weber said of his time with KCnext since January. "We take note of the feedback we receive from our members. Therefore, we are learning what needs exist for the tech industry in our region."
Looking ahead, KCnext is involved in hosting several key industry events. "On April 5 & 6 (KCnext) is sponsoring The Forum @ Middle of the Map Fest. This event is KC's version of SXSW with a variety of panel discussions focusing on art, tech and culture." Weber said.
Focus on Fiber, education and collaboration
KCnext is also hosting its first educational event on March 29.
"Local company and KCnext member PASSIVENetworks is sponsoring a senior Motorola official who will discuss how to bring 'fiber to the desktop,' " Weber said. "The presentation will also explain what speed can do for the workplace. It's a timely presentation given the launch of Google Fiber later this year."
Weber and KCnext are excited about the potential of the Google Fiber project for the Kansas City area. "Sometimes in technology, being first is very important," he said. "Google Fiber brings a new opportunity to attract more tech talent to the KC region. We hope global innovators take note of this opportunity."
Supporting a membership base ranging from large tech employers to startups, KCnext has a lot to offer its more than 65 members. It has a close relationship with the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC), which allows KCnext access to KCADC's public relations and marketing team, a benefit KCnext can pass along to its members.
"We strongly encourage our members to share their success stories with us so we can help share them with the rest of the world," Weber explained. "We have that kind of capability now."
On top of planning networking and educational events, promoting the benefits of Google Fiber and listening to the needs of its membership base, KCnext continually works to increase opportunities for collaboration amongst companies in the Kansas City tech sector.
"Reducing the 'silo effect'," Weber said, "we take an inventory of the tech assets that exist among our members and share this knowledge. Our goal is to foster business and joint ventures among members and other companies in the region."
Two cents on angel tax credits
There are proposed changes to the legislation in both Kansas and Missouri surrounding the angel tax credit programs. That's a subject in which Weber, the former Director of the Midwest Division of Angel Capital Group, is well-versed.
"(Angel tax credits) have a tremendous impact on persuading investors to actually cut a check," Weber said. "These programs make it easier to raise the necessary capital, and incentivize investors from outside our region to consider investments here."
Kansas is considering cutting its angel tax credit program, while Missouri is currently working to create such a program. "In my experience, I have noticed savvy entrepreneurs will launch their ventures in the state that gives them the highest likelihood of success," Weber said. "It's an important decision they have to make individually." Weber explained, referring to the local entrepreneurs.
In the past, entrepreneurs in Kansas have been able to take advantage of the angel tax credit, and "the benefit to the entrepreneur has multiple angles." Weber said. He went on to explain that state approval and the award of the credits can be a strong third-party validation for the entrepreneur's venture. Additionally, approval is another tool entrepreneurs can use to help raise seed-state capital and make it easier on themselves to attract investors from outside the Kansas City tech region.
It has been a busy start to 2012 for KCnext, with much more to come for the region's tech industry. Weber is grateful for the support as he continues to make an impact in his new role.
"It's incredible to see the continuous support we receive from area tech companies," Weber said. "All are excited there is a regional voice for the tech/IT community."
For more about KCnext, and to learn how becoming a member can benefit your company or venture, visit kcnext.com.