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Archive for Friday, April 15, 2011

Kansas entrepreneur program receives $800,000 grant

April 15, 2011

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— The state's entrepreneurial program has received an $800,000 grant from the nation's biggest foundation supporting entrepreneurs, but the grant has some conditions.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation said Thursday that it will provide the $800,000, three-year grant to the Pipeline program. But the grant depends on the program, a spinoff of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., raising a matching amount. The grant also requires the Kansas-based program to expand regionally, according to The Wichita Eagle.

The Pipeline program was launched in 2006, and links entrepreneurs who have started promising, high-growth-potential companies in technology and biosciences with experienced entrepreneurs who serve as their mentors.

Pipeline students attend training sessions that are led by local, regional and national entrepreneurs, educators and venture capitalists.

"It's the ultimate validation that we are doing important work and our entrepreneurs are actually executing," said Pipeline president Joni Cobb.

Joe Hadzima, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Entrepreneurship Center and a national adviser to Pipeline, said the grant money is nice, but the fact that the Kauffman Foundation wants to work more closely with Pipeline says even more about the value of the program.

"To me the challenge grant is a real vote of confidence and it's not just because Pipeline is in their own backyard," Hadzima said. "I think they're looking at Pipeline saying this is a model that's workable."

Cobb said details of how much the program will expand are still being worked on.

Thirty-six Kansas entrepreneurs have passed through the program, and another 10 are participating in the program now.

Cobb said she is not daunted by the task of raising $800,000 in matching funds.

"Frankly we were in the process of raising that type of money before" Kauffman announced the grant.

That's because Pipeline is facing a loss of state funding.

Pipeline has received the bulk of its funding from the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., which Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed in his fiscal 2012 budget to roll into the Kansas Department of Commerce. The proposal, which has been passed by the House, also calls for eliminating Pipeline's funding. It remains in the Senate commerce committee.

Cobb said the Kauffman announcement gives Pipeline "tremendous leverage" to raise a matching amount.

"We're very confident that we can get this done," she said.

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