Kansas City attracts tech to boost business

Tech startups and accelerators are blossoming in the downtown area, with plans to attract even more fledgling firms and young residents.

Google Fiber

Google Fiber launched in the Kansas City area in 2012, and since then it's been a land rush to launch tech accelerators and promote startups. The downtown on the Missouri side is getting the most attention, with Cisco expected to set up the world's largest smart city network along Main Street where a two-mile streetcar line is being built. And that's just steps from the Sprint Accelerator in the Crossroads Arts District where 10 mobile tech startups just graduated.

For a more in-depth look at what's going on in Kansas City tech, check out our main story.

Kansas City streetcar

A two-mile KC Downtown Streetcar line is under construction along Main Street in Kansas City, Mo. It will connect the city's Riverfront neighborhood adjacent to the Missouri River with Union Station to the south, serving an area of accelerators and incubator office spaces for tech startups, including the Sprint Accelerator building and new space in the historic Globe warehouse.

Inside the Globe renovation

Inside the historic Globe warehouse construction on Main Street of Kansas City, Mo., Herb Sih of tech incubator Think Big Partners shows off an unfinished open stairway where developers can stand and pitch tech ideas to colleagues and strangers alike in a free-form sharing process.

Keeping the old, but in with the new

Cisco will share office space in the renovated Globe warehouse. The historic building will keep its facade and mural art.

Credit: Sprint
Sprint's startup accelerator

Sprint located its Sprint Accelerator space in the Crossroads Arts District near downtown Kansas City, Mo., nearly 20 miles from its Overland Park, Kan., suburban headquarters.

Sprint uses the space as a startup accelerator to mentor 10 young companies -- all within the mobile health arena -- for three months a year, but the facility is also open to the public.

The Kansas City Startup Village

In a residential neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas, along the state line with Missouri, a group of coders and tech innovators has created Kansas City Startup Village (KCSV). One of the community's goals is to support the growing startup ecosystem within Kansas City.

The small, home-based offices are connected to ultra-fast Google Fiber and more than 20 startups have worked there. Matthew Marcus, co-leader of KCSV, poses near the official red flag for the budding community.

Bringing Internet access to everyone

In the basement of a community center in Kansas City, Kan., the nonprofit Connecting for Good stores dozens of old PCs that it plans to refurbish. The organization's goal is to bridge the digital divide between those who have access to the Internet and those who do not. 

Everet Leimer (left) volunteers more than 30 hours a week helping interns rebuild machines. The nonprofit's CEO, Michael Liimatta (right), says the need is great for both computers and Internet connections for low-income families in the region.

Volunteering for Connecting for Good

Interns from private Cristo Rey Kansas City High School volunteer time to refurbish computers for Connecting for Good.

Turning STEM into STEAM

Kansas City, Missouri's Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts sits adjacent to land where the University of Missouri-Kansas City is reviewing concepts for a new Conservatory for Music and Dance.

One official said moving the program near tech startup accelerators in the area will further put arts into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines, turning STEM into STEAM. The area already boasts art galleries and coffee shops.

Creating a smart city

Kansas City, Missouri Chief Innovation Officer Ashley Hand says the location of Cisco's promised smart city network along the area of the downtown streetcar line offers an unparalleled opportunity to serve residents, businesses and visitors. Here she stands outside the Filling Station coffee shop on McGee Trafficway, a short distance from Crown Center.

The streetcar's new neighborhood...

The streetcar line will terminate its north end along tree-lined streets in a neighborhood near River Market that features upscale condos and offices, all expected to rely on fast Internet access. Work on the $102 million streetcar project is expected to finish by mid-2015.

... and the old neighborhood

An old streetcar from the heyday of such transportation sits near the 100-year-old Kansas City Union Station. The coming downtown streetcar line will terminate near here and travel northward two miles to near the Missouri River. In between are new startup accelerator spaces amid an arts district, downtown high rises and the Power and Light District as well as the Sprint Center arena and Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

From riverboats to Google Fiber

A footbridge allows visitors to walk to a platform overlooking the fast-moving Missouri River just downstream from the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers. The platform sits where commerce first began in the 1840s with riverboats using the rivers as highways to move goods and people. Now the nation's first Google Fiber network is helping spur commercial use of the information superhighway, boosting tech startup activity in the region.