As KCITP turns 4, founder Gelphman reflects, looks toward future
KCITP kicked off 2012 with a social responsibility happy hour, one of its variety of tech-geared events.
In 2008, Michael Gelphman established a grassroots group with a modest goal: to connect people in the Kansas City tech scene. Four years and nearly 9,000 online members later, Gelphman's group is doing that at a larger scale than he could have imagined.
Today, KCITP, which is described as "a grassroots effort to build and strengthen the local tech community," puts on an array of events including happy hours, educational talks and hackathons. KCITP's Linkedin group is knocking on the door of 9,000 members. And, in February, Gelphman left his job to dedicate himself full-time to KCITP.
So there's plenty to celebrate when KCITP marks its fourth anniversary on Wednesday evening with a High Five Happy Hour at Snow and Company (1815 Wyandotte St.) in Kansas City, Mo. (Note: Tickets are sold out, but you can visit the Eventbrite page to join a wait list.)
On the eve of that event, we caught up with Gelphman (below) by email to get his thoughts on KCITP's first four years and learn about what's in store for the organization's future.
Silicon Prairie News: How does the vision you had for KCITP back in 2008 compare to what the organization has grown into today?
Michael Gelphman: There wasn't any vision, initially. I simply started it as a way to connect with other local tech people. This whole thing really happened by accident.
When we grew to 500 people in just a few months, I wondered whether we were on to something. As growth and activity continued, I realized that we were missing an opportunity to connect offline.
In February 2009, we organized our first happy hour and 200 people showed up. It encouraged me to put more and more time into building this community.
When I look back on how things have evolved, I'm amazed. On the other hand, even though we've come so far, I still feel like we're just getting started. As the community grows, the possibilities become infinite as to what we can do.
SPN: Four years in, what pleases you most about KCITP?
MG: That we've made an impact and have been able to touch people's lives.
Pouring your heart and soul into building something means that it matters to you, but others may not care about it. However, it seems like every day I meet someone new and, through conversation, find out they're part of the community. They tell me they're thankful for what we do, that they get value out of it. It gets so me jazzed, because it's a continual validation that this hard work has been worth it.
Also, relationships. I had coffee with a couple friends the other day, and I'm sitting there thinking, "I wouldn't know them if it weren't for this whole thing."
SPN: What are some major objectives on the horizon for KCITP in year five? How about beyond that?
MG: We're excited about the future and have lots of plans, but all I can say at this point is stay tuned. :)
SPN: In February, you went full time with KCITP. What motivated your decision to do that?
It's something I had been wanting to do for a while, and I got tired of being afraid to take the leap. I didn't want to be 60 and wonder if it's something I could have done. Part of being an entrepreneur is an unshakable belief in what you're doing. I just knew that once I put myself out there, I'd find a way to make it work.
SPN: Close to six months since you made the jump, what's your assessment of your decision to do so?
MG: I feel lucky. Every day is a challenge, but that's exactly why I'm doing it. Honestly, I wish I had done it sooner. If there's one thing I'd tell others, it is: don't fear failure, fear regret.
MG: I was really excited about the response and participation, especially being that it was the first time. We're definitely doing it again, so stay tuned on that as well. :)
Credits: Photo of happy hour by Annie Sorensen. Photo of Gelphman courtesy of Gelphman.