1 Million Cups from Kauffman Labs Hits the Road to Connect Entrepreneurs with Coffee, Conversation

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ITEN in St. Louis is latest to launch popular program that aids in building startup communities

The buzz surrounding entrepreneurs and the business startup scene in the Midwest is growing louder. 1 Million Cups, a program launched by Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation last April to bring together and engage entrepreneurs in the Kansas City community, is taking its show on the road – to Missouri’s eastern edge.

Tomorrow morning, 1 Million Cups will launch in St. Louis. Innovate St. Louis, through its Information Technology Entrepreneur Network (ITEN), will serve as the program organizer, helping St. Louis entrepreneurs connect with coffee and one another each Wednesday morning at the studios of local PBS station KETC Channel 9.

St. Louis is actually the fourth city on 1 Million Cups’ expansion map. 1 Million Cups Des Moines was the first community outside Kansas City to launch, coming online during Global Entrepreneurship Week last November. 1 Million Cups then perked up Houston’s startup community Jan. 23.

“ITEN is excited to be partnering with the Kauffman Foundation to bring 1 Million Cups to St. Louis. We have seen the phenomenal growth of the program in Kansas City and how it's energizing the entire KC startup community,” said Jim Brasunas, ITEN executive director. “We hope for a similar impact in St. Louis. Our local partnership with the Nine Network (KETC) will be a unique aspect of 1 Million Cups in St. Louis.”

“National media have given much of the credit for the heightened buzz in Kansas City to the arrival of Google Fiber,” said Thom Ruhe, vice president of entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. “But we believe our startup activity is also heavily fueled by 1 Million Cups. Every single week, the coffee and collaboration flow.”

For one hour each Wednesday morning, 1 Million Cups gives two early-stage startups the opportunity to present their companies to a diverse audience that includes mentors, advisers, researchers, builders, makers and aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. In the education-based forum, each startup founder presents for six minutes and then fields audience questions for 20 minutes more.

“It’s been said that communities are built on a million cups of coffee – and the conversations they create,” said Nate Olson, an analyst at the Kauffman Foundation and co-founder of 1 Million Cups. “Our hypothesis was that if Kansas City entrepreneurs had a million more cups of coffee together, we could fundamentally change the culture of entrepreneurship here.”

The hypothesis is proving its validity. Attendance at 1 Million Cups in Kansas City has grown rapidly. From an initial audience of less than two dozen last April, the program hit a new attendance record of 260 late last month.

“From the very beginning, 1 Million Cups has been open to the public,” Ruhe said. “Many involved in – or wanting to be involved in – Kansas City’s entrepreneurial scene now see this as a ‘must attend’ event every single week. It’s grassroots, informal and highly effective in building connections.”

With entrepreneurs and the networks that support them taking notice, 1 Million Cups is soon to pour into even more communities. In fact, Ruhe and Olson are building a list of other cities that have expressed interest, and Kauffman Labs expects to have 1 Million Cups brewing in 20 U.S. cities by year’s end.

For more information, visit http://www.1millioncups.com or follow @1MillionCups on Twitter.

About the Kauffman Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works with partners to advance entrepreneurship in America and improve the education of children and youth. Founded by late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is based in Kansas City, Mo. For more information, visit http://www.kauffman.org, and follow the Foundation on http://www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and http://www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

About ITEN
The IT Entrepreneur Network (ITEN), is an initiative of Innovate St. Louis, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation. As a catalyst of the IT ecosystem, ITEN provides unique programs, events, and access to resources that accelerate tech venture success. ITEN's programs form a venture roadmap from concept through design, prototype, launch, revenue, funding and rapid scaling. Guidance from serial entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and important community influencers helps entrepreneurs focus on essential critical tasks and avoid wasted efforts. Access to investors, key service providers and qualified talent means lower barriers to rapid growth. Designed by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, requiring neither payment nor equity, ITEN is a unique community asset and a proven route to venture success. Visit http://www.itenstl.org and follow ITEN on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/itenstl.

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