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K-State Olathe partnership encourages KC-based entrepreneurs

K-State Olathe partnership encourages KC-based entrepreneurs

OLATHE — Kansas State University Olathe, Digital Sandbox KC and the City of Olathe are helping startup businesses better flourish in Greater Kansas City. Through a new agreement, entrepreneurs who receive funding through Olathe’s Digital Sandbox program now also will receive access to K-State Olathe resources. 

Lounge, conference room and open spaces at K-State Olathe can be used by Digital Sandbox-funded entrepreneurs. In addition to serving as a collaborative environment, K-State Olathe also becomes a resource pipeline to the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, Electronics Design Laboratory and numerous other Kansas State University labs and facilities for these Kansas City-based entrepreneurs.

“Our partnership with Digital Sandbox and the City of Olathe embodies K-State Olathe’s commitment to meeting industry’s needs and helping to expand the community’s economic potential,” said 
Ralph Richardson, K-State Olathe dean and CEO. “Our campus is uniquely positioned to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, which is strong in Olathe and the entire Greater Kansas City area, and link businesses to the university’s vast educational and research expertise.” 

Prior to this partnership, entrepreneurs who received grant funding through Olathe’s Digital Sandbox program have not had designated space to collaborate, said Casey Wilhm, vice president of business development at the Olathe Chamber of Commerce. This lack of space often created barriers for startups. As a result, Wilhm and colleagues have focused on identifying co-working space for years. 

“The City of Olathe and the Olathe Chamber of Commerce understand and appreciate the importance of having locations where early stage entrepreneurs can collide and collaborate,” Wilhm said. “The Olathe Chamber of Commerce greatly values our partnerships with the City of Olathe, K-State Olathe and Digital Sandbox KC, and are so excited to be involved in linking everyone together on such an important project that will, without question, help grow our invaluable entrepreneurial community.”

Digital Sandbox is a partnership among private companies, universities, entrepreneurial support organizations and government agencies across the Kansas City region. The group spurs the creation of local, high growth companies by providing funding of up to $20,000 to proof-of-concept projects to cover consultants, legal support, equipment and other market validation, prototyping and beta testing needs. Since 2013, the group has provided more than $1.2 million in funding to 85 proof-of-concept projects in the region that have created more than 400 new jobs. 

Entrepreneurship in Greater Kansas City has been growing in leaps and bounds since 2009. In 2016, KCSourceLink reported that more than $752 million in early-stage funding was made available to Kansas City entrepreneurs. Health care services is the field that has experienced the largest growth in recent years.

K-State Olathe supports the Johnson County Education Research Triangle’s mission of economic development in the region through its education, resources and outreach efforts to the Greater Kansas City Community.