BetaBlox Entrepreneurship HQ Moves To Grid, Overland Park
Well, here’s the short story. BetaBlox is moving from Missouri to Kansas and into KC’s newest coworking space, the Grid.
We launched in late 2011 in a facility referred to as “the caves”, and have been there since. For a number of reasons we’re relocating our Missouri business incubator to Kansas, and it has nothing to do with the border wars, or government-based preferential treatment. It’s mostly because we’ve partnered with a new real estate team that we strongly believe in. A team that has not only built a one-of-a-kind facility in Johnson County, but also because their leader has become an investor in the BetaBlox portfolio of startups.
The Grid is a collaborative workspace and coworking facility for entrepreneurs and small business owners that only launched a few short months ago. They reside in a building on the border of Leawood and Overland Park on 121st and Blue Valley Parkway. Not only are we moving as many alumni from our program to the facility as possible, but moving forward every entrepreneur awarded into the BetaBlox alliance will receive a full membership to the Grid during our contract period for free. In other words, if you join BetaBlox, you join the Grid at no extra cost.
Looking back, our partnership with the cave helped us launch against insurmountable odds. Frankly speaking, what we do is expensive. Without having such flexible and forward thinking real estate partners, we wouldn’t have been able to stay in business long enough to take flight. Over the last half decade BetaBlox has eclipsed from a pile of unproven hypotheses to a machine that produces some of the best entrepreneurs in Kansas City. We went from a dream, to a small incubator, to an incubator, to a large incubator, to a regional incubator with one of the largest portfolios in the Midwest. As we’ve grown larger we have proven the ability to add more value to each entrepreneur that joins BetaBox, individually (network effects). But with that power and growth came growing pains.
Entrepreneurs in our first couple batches augmented our network with that of resources and partners outside of BetaBlox – as they should. Meaning, we provided our due amount of value, but it was nowhere near enough to build out full-fledged companies without leaving our facility. We had to reach outside of our walls and beyond our computers to find other top notch service providers, co-founders, or more specific industry-focused mentors. But now, the group is so large that our teams have borderline too much internal support. Our startups trick themselves into thinking that their networks are large enough simply because of the other Bloxers – when in fact, a network is NEVER fully built. We had built too safe of an environment. This is a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
We knew we needed more space, of higher quality, with more functionality, and it had to dwell within a larger community that wasn’t made up exclusively of our people. We needed a facility that could help us bridge our teams to other resources and talent, and that’s exactly what partnering with the Grid does.
Coworking is hardly a new model – especially in Kansas City. But we had a couple of specific needs that weren’t as easy to appease as they might sound.
We needed it to be in Overland Park or Leawood. **DOWNTOWNERS** please don’t get your panties in a bunch … we come bearing data. Although residential downtown is growing faster than any other area of Kansas City, that doesn’t mean it’s the largest (or even close to largest) concentration of homes in KC. We obviously have the address of every company in BetaBlox, and when you do a scatter plot of where all of our entrepreneurs live, they’re dramatically more south than originally anticipated. Yes, some live downtown. Yes, some live very north. Yes, this means they’ll have a longer hike than they do now. But the average commute time for our startups will decrease so much that we could no longer ignore it. We will never say that South Kansas City is cooler than downtown, because it’s not. It’s night and day. But when our startups want to work for the day – they don’t care what’s hip, they care what’s close, and functional.
The Grid was the only modern coworking facility that we could find in Overland Park or Leawood. Yes, there are various executive suite options, and plenty of random offices we could rent. But we didn’t just want offices. We didn’t just want classes. We didn’t just want event space. We wanted a community. A community where we’d have enough exclusivity to grow our own internal alliance, balanced with enough inclusivity to tap into others’ networks. Doing this also makes it possible for companies that don’t qualify for the BetaBlox business incubator and accelerator to connect with our teams. Now fellow entrepreneurs can just rent a space at the Grid and rub elbows at the same tables with our 100+ startups.
We also knew we needed to partner with a real player. Someone who had proven their worth in the industry. Someone that had proven they knew coworking isn’t about offices, it’s about relationships and inter-connectedness. That person was the founder of The Grid, and the most recent BetaBlox investor, Danny Needham. Although the Grid in Kansas is a relative newborn, the company that birthed it is anything but. Their spaces are cast throughout Colorado, Georgia, and as of three years ago, Overland Park – and we don’t mean The Grid. We mean he has a portfolio of on-demand real estate suites engineered for other industries that don’t typically refer to themselves as coworking facilities, even though that’s exactly what they are. One of which is the giant building to the immediate East of the Grid in Johnson County. Not only are they revolutionary in his field; they’re huge; they’re beautiful; they’re almost completely occupied; and his tenants all act more like family than they do co-workers. So whether Kansas City wants to admit it or not, one of the biggest players in Kansas City coworking doesn’t even live here. To add some gasoline to this story, two more Grids are being built as we speak in very startup friendly metros. When you combine JUST THE OCCUPIED square footage of coworking spaces of each of their properties, it makes him larger than even the largest in KC. This represents an opportunity for our startups to connect to their growing community in South Kansas City, but it also means we’ll have direct lines of communication to other entrepreneurship hubs across the region.
Our last request was that it was sexy. BetaBlox works with startups that are building business models meant to transplant the status quo. It helps to accomplish such a feat when the places they dwell are equally inspiring. Admittedly, it’s not a requisite to work in a beautiful space; there are a lot of remarkable companies started from dungeon-esq environments. But starting from a dungeon isn’t what made them successful, it was their thoughtfulness when it came to how they spent what little cash they had. And now, entrepreneurs in Kansas City that want to be careful with their capital, while also getting the offices and advisors they need – should look no farther than joining BetaBlox.