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TechPanel: Entrepreneurs discuss starting up in Kansas City | KC Roundtable

TechPanel: Joe Tierney, Todd Smith, John Thomson

KC Round­table wel­comed a dif­fer­ent setup this week. Rather than invit­ing one speaker to the table, we had the lux­ury of three entre­pre­neurs in the form of a TechPanel.

Our pre­sen­ters included:

"joe tierney" umzuzu kc roundtable kansas city entrepreneur

: Ser­vices Direc­tor at Umzuzu

Pas­sion­ate about the value propo­si­tion of cloud com­put­ing ser­vices, Joe’s work with Umzuzu helps orga­ni­za­tions replace anti­quated tech­nolo­gies with Google Apps for sim­ple, pow­er­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion tools.

"todd smith" engage mobile kc roundtable kansas city entrepreneur : Oper­a­tions at Engage Mobile

Todd has entre­pre­neur­ial man­age­ment expe­ri­ence across mul­ti­ple indus­tries. He is pri­mar­ily focused on high-growth and technology-based ven­tures from startup to harvest.

"john thomson" saepio kc roundtable kansas city entrepreneur : Pres­i­dent & CEO of Sae­pio

In 2007, John joined Sae­pio, which is a pre­mier provider of soft­ware and solu­tions that max­i­mize brand effec­tive­ness for orga­ni­za­tions with cor­po­rate and dis­trib­uted mar­ket­ing networks.

of RFP365 facil­i­tated the panel, ask­ing our respon­dents about the chal­lenges and rewards of build­ing a com­pany in Kansas City. Major top­ics included:

Financ­ing

Always a pop­u­lar con­ver­sa­tion piece among local entre­pre­neurs, the gen­eral con­sen­sus from the whole Round­table was that financ­ing is a chal­lenge in Kansas City. Angel investors and VCs are inter­ested in phys­i­cal assets, not ideas; proper debt val­u­a­tion is still a mys­tery to local bankers; and intro­duc­tions to investors are eas­ier to come by in the aggres­sive land­scape of Sil­i­con Valley.

Regard­less of these chal­lenges, our panel remains fond and appre­cia­tive of Kansas City. If he could do it all over again, Todd would still build his busi­ness here. The tal­ent is more loyal (and per­haps more level-headed) than that of the Val­ley. And Joe had to praise the low cost of liv­ing: an ideal sit­u­a­tion for boot­strap­pers. Plus, for nationally-reaching start-ups, cus­tomers on the coasts seem to like work­ing with the Mid­west, a sub­tle but rea­son­able differentiator.

Posi­tion­ing

Rec­og­niz­ing and cap­i­tal­iz­ing on trends (even those as sub­tle as pleas­ing coastal cus­tomers’ desires for a friendly Mid­west­ern voice on the other side of the phone) is the dif­fer­ence between suc­cess and fail­ure. The secret is to be vibrantly aware of your mar­ket and where your cus­tomers’ needs lie — and to be will­ing to move and shift with them. As John reminds us, the most wildly suc­cess­ful busi­nesses, from Skype to Ebay , actively made sub­stan­tial changes to stay ahead in the marketplace.

No mat­ter how great the idea, if it has zero cus­tomers, it is not a viable busi­ness. Never fall so in love with your busi­ness model that you’re neg­li­gent about chang­ing to appease the demand. Under­stand and learn from rejec­tion. Make corrections. Focus on 1) What cus­tomers will pay for, and 2) How your core strengths serve their needs. If you fig­ure out a way to make those two ideas coex­ist, be the biggest believer in your prod­uct or ser­vice, because no one else will ever care as much as you do.

Sales

tweet #kcroundtable james robertson kansas city entrepreneur kc

Organic growth can only get your busi­ness so far. To get pre­dictable sales, you need pre­dictable leads. And get­ting pre­dictable leads demands a bet­ter sales prac­tice than a few strokes of luck and good refer­rals. Get smarter about your sales by test­ing assump­tions; then, back up your hypothe­ses with checks and balances.

And, per­haps the great­est les­son of the morn­ing: Fol­low your com­peti­tors nation­ally, not just in Kansas City. Regard­less of where your client base lies or where you hope to dip in the mar­ket­place, com­pare your­self to the best , not the rest.

is president of Tether New Media , which helps B2B companies raise website traffic by 10 to 30 percent. Follow her .

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  1. […] RFP365 co-founder Stu­art Lud­low was asked to facil­i­tate this week’s ses­sion of KC Round­table. As a net­work­ing group for young entre­pre­neurs in Kansas City, KC Round­table rou­tinely invites suc­cess­ful local entre­pre­neurs to tell their war sto­ries and pro­vide prac­ti­cal advice based on their expe­ri­ences. Selected for his exper­tise in engi­neer­ing and tech­nol­ogy, Stu­art led a panel of three area entre­pre­neurs with rich track records in the tech indus­try: Joe Tier­ney (Umzuzu), Todd Smith (Engage Mobile), and John Thom­son (Sae­pio). The dis­cus­sion that fol­lowed largely revolved around doing busi­ness in Kansas City: the pros and cons of start­ing up in the Mid­west; the impor­tance of flex­i­bil­ity in an ever-shifting mar­ket­place; attract­ing investors and financ­ing; and the humil­ity required of busi­ness own­ers to rec­og­nize weak spots and make adjust­ments accord­ingly. For the full story, see the syn­op­sis at KC Roundtable’s blog. […]

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