Kansas City, Kansas won’t immediately come to mind when you think of tech company startup hotspots. Yet thanks to one of Google’s latest ventures, Google Fiber, Kansas City’s tech startup sector is booming. Google Fiber launched in Kansas City in summer 2012 and offers competitively priced high speed fibre optic internet to businesses and residences.
For $70 per month Google offers unlimited one gigabit internet access and a network box. It is no wonder this offering is attracting technology entrepreneurs given that a comparative internet package would cost possibly hundreds or thousands of dollars in what Google would call a non “fiberhood” area.
Technology website CNET has investigated how Google’s offering is changing the technology industry in the city. One of the most unique developments inspired by Google Fiber is the Homes for Hackers initiative. Run by a web designer, the Homes for Hackers project hosts up to four startup entrepreneurs for three months giving them access to Fiber’s desirable internet speeds.
Brad Feld, a venture capitalist originally based in Boulder, Colorado, bought a house in a Google “fiberhood” hoping to encourage tech entrepreneurs to use Google’s infrastructure to build apps. Feld ran a competition offering twelve months of free rent at his Google Fiber home. The inaugural winner of the competition was Handprint, a startup focused on making 3D printing software. One of Handprint’s founders had been the first resident of the Homes for Hackers program earlier in the year.
Interestingly neither of these projects have involved the startups surrendering any equity in return for the support. Brad Feld said “[I'm] using a “give before you get” philosophy here to experiment, learn, and help the Kansas City startup community.”
The Hanover Heights neighbourhood was the first area to receive the service, the area has since been known as the Kansas City Startup village. The gravitation of companies towards this area has been so strong that residential properties have been rented just for business use. One company, Leap2, had office space in another part of the city but was drawn so much to Google Fibre it also rented a house in Hanover Heights to work from.