Located on the banks of the Kansas River, Topeka is flying under the radar as a growing hub for innovators and entrepreneurs.
Topeka, KS, located on the banks of the Kansas River, is the state’s capital and fifth-largest city. Despite the city’s modest size – just the 220nd-most populous in the country, and one of the smaller state capitals – and lack of name recognition as an entrepreneurial hotspot, it is becoming known as a more under-the-radar location for innovators and entrepreneurs.
Topeka ranked 115th overall on Forbes’ 2019 rankings of the best small places for business and careers. Additionally, the city is on the rise: after finishing 60th in ChamberOfCommerce.org’s 2019 list of the best small cities for business, Topeka landed at 29th on the 2020 edition of the same list. And while the city was ranked 37th out of 42 Midwestern cities in Silicon Prairie News’ 2018 “State of the Silicon Prairie” report, the report lists that the city’s location near several educational institutions as well the larger Kansas City market as an advantage. To that note, Kansas finished 16th overall on WalletHub’s 2019 rankings of the best states to start a business, suggesting a positive environment to help incubate the growth of Topeka’s startup environment.
Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Topeka’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:
The purpose of this meetup is to support all women, regardless of career or phase in it.
Hosted down the road in Olathe, the meetup group is designed to support both the personal and professional development of the businesswomen that make up its group.
Just down the road from Topeka, the Lawrence Real Estate Investing Meetup aims to support both aspiring and experienced real estate investors in the Lawrence area.
Regular Entrepreneurial Events:
1 Million Cups, an organization that organizes weekly entrepreneurship meetings in cities across the country, has an active branch hosted at 712 Innovations in Topeka.
The Greater Topeka Partnership runs a number of business-based events, including networking opportunities, a variety of conferences, several award ceremonies and more.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce hosts a number of regular business events including an annual Women in Business conference in the capital.
Hosted by Kansas State University in Manhattan, the annual competition open to college and high school students throughout the entire state.
Shawnee County runs the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, a competition for high school entrepreneurs in the area with cash prizes totaling $3,000.
Washburn University hosts a pair of startup competitions for students, a business plan competition with $6,750 in prize money and a pitch competition with $25,000 in cash prizes.
One of the many resources offered by 712 Innovations is CoWork, working space offered on flexible monthly leases that also grants access to some of the group’s other support resources.
Located in a historic building down the road in Lawrence, Cider Gallery hosts art exhibitions, includes an event space, and offers several co-working membership plans.
College Park Office Suites is a company that makes office space available either on a month-to-month lease or longer in addition to making conference room space available.
The Arts & Craftsman Workshop is a 6,000-square foot makerspace that offers several membership plans and makes a variety of tools and equipment available to its members.
Students at the University of Kansas have access to the school’s Nanofabrication Facility, which offers a variety of equipment including 3D printers and a laser engraver.
The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library offers the Make-It Lab, a small makerspace with tools for creating various forms of media as well as a 3D printer and more.
The Kansas Small Business Development Center runs small business support programs throughout the state, including in their Topeka office hosted at Washburn University.
The Center for Technology Commercialization runs a number of business incubation services, including the entire Bioscience & Technology Business Center.
Organized by 712 Innovations, the Wheelhouse Incubator is a 12-week program that provides mentorship and other support to up-and-coming startups.
In Lawrence, the University of Kansas runs KU Catalyst, an accelerator program for student startups through the Bioscience & Technology Business Center.
In late 2019, it was announced that Plug and Play Tech Center, a group that runs accelerator programs throughout the world, is partnering with Topeka to launch one in the area.
Students and recent alumni of Washburn University can apply for funding and mentorship through the school’s Student Business Accelerator Fund.
Kansas State University’s Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship works to support entrepreneurs both at the school and beyond.
Just down the road in Lawrence, the University of Kansas offers a wide variety of resources for aspiring entrepreneurs as well as several academic programs on the subject.
In addition to hosting startup competitions and an accelerator, Washburn University offers its students a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Based in Wichita, Accelerate Venture Partners is a group of angel investors that work with early-stage startups located throughout the Midwest.
Flyover Capital, which is located in Overland Park, invests in seed-stage and Series A technology companies throughout the so-called “flyover country,” including Kansas.
Headquartered in the Kansas City area, Mid-America Angels aims to invest in well-managed teams with the potential for rapid growth.
Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:
Among the many newsletters offered by the Kansas City Star is a weekly dispatch covering business in the city and surrounding region as well as national and international business news.
Silicon Prairie News, which covers technology and entrepreneurship throughout the “Silicon Prairie” of the Midwest, offers a daily newsletter.
While TK Business Magazine, which covers business news in Topeka and the surrounding region, doesn’t offer a newsletter, it does publish its issues online for free.
Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Topeka, KS, not included in the article above? If so, let us know via a comment, and we will add it to the article.
Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?