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Free Living Arrangements Offered to Startup Founders in Kansas City (homesforhackers.com)
72 points by nordicnomad82 604 days ago | comments


sakopov 603 days ago | link

I lived in Kansas City most of my life. Here is my take on living in Kansas City and building a start-up here.

1. Climate. There is no mild weather in KC. Summers are excruciatingly hot. Winters can sometimes be very cold and snowy. Tornadoes can get pretty scary at times, but 90% of the time there is nothing to worry about. I've seen a couple of touchdowns in 15 years. Most of the time i just hear about them.

2. Cost of Living. Rent is fairly cheap. If you're single and want to be in the middle of all the action a single bedroom place on the Plaza will probably run you around $800. Power & Light district will likely be around the same price. Westport area is going to be cheaper around $600. If you don't mind the drive, you can probably find a decent place in North Kansas City for around $500-$600. Want to buy a house? ~$250K in the burbs for a nice 4 bedroom house 20 minutes away from the center. 2-3 bedroom homes are around $160K-$200K.

3. Traffic. KC is backed up all over the place between 8-9am and 5-6pm. When the rush-hour is over, it is a pleasure to drive here.

4. Nightlife. You have the new Power & Light district with tons of bars and clubs open 24/7. You have the old Westport area with it's own vibe. If you're from the Bay Area, you'll likely fit right in here. It's a very hip place. Plaza, Zona Rosa and The Legends are great place to shop and get a bite to eat around day time and up until midnight. KC occupies pretty massive territory, but it actually isn't a big city and it can get old pretty quick. So keep that mind, especially if you're single or a young couple. You'll be running into the same people over and over again before you know it. :)

5. Recreation. KC has beautiful lakes, nature and wildlife. 30 minutes away from the center and you're pretty much on camping grounds. Getting around on foot is pretty tough and even impossible in some places. You really need to have a car here. Sidewalks are non-existent in many neighborhoods. There is always something going on in the city. Lots of concerts and outside events in the summer. Not so much in the winter.

6. Tech Scene & Job market. KC doesn't really have a good techy/entrepreneurial scene. It has strong corporate IT sector, which is booming. Good developers are still very hard to come by. Most companies are more than willing to dish out 100K+ if you know what you're doing. The interesting thing about Kansas City businesses is that most of them aren't looking for rockstars or ninjas. They're looking for someone who can fit in with the rest of the team. This is not a bad thing, but more often than not you wind up working with really incompetent people who fit in but don't know squat. It's also very hard to find interesting work. The hottest thing is IT jobs supporting internal development in financial and medical sectors. There are some prominent tech companies in the area like Sprint, Garmin, Honeywell & Cerner, but most are just not very appealing in terms of life/work balance, innovation and quality of work.

7. Want to run a start-up from KC? Hmm... I don't know. Finding good developers is a pretty hard task here. Finding talented developers is inexplicably difficult. Most folks who know their craft are no longer in KC. You basically have to know people who know people. Tech conferences are usually full of talented folks. The great thing about KC is the lower cost of living. You can make a comfortable living on 60K/year, but as a developer you can easily make 100K here and have plenty of time & money to invest in your own start-up while working full-time elsewhere. So in that respect, it is a pretty good place to build a start-up.

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veemjeem 603 days ago | link

The reason why SV is the scene for startups is simply because of the people here. It's expensive in SV, the traffic sucks, nightlife is mediocre, etc, but nobody cares about that stuff when they need to create a company. They only care about talented individuals, investors, and other existing startup companies. Getting free rent is just not enough of a motivator for moving to KC.

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batista 603 days ago | link

>* The reason why SV is the scene for startups is simply because of the people here. It's expensive in SV, the traffic sucks, nightlife is mediocre, etc, but nobody cares about that stuff when they need to create a company. They only care about talented individuals, investors, and other existing startup companies. Getting free rent is just not enough of a motivator for moving to KC.*

Not all startups care about VC money or hiring outside talent to work in site. Imagine a 5 person team working on some web service or a mobile app, with external people telecommuting if needed.

Why does everybody assume that startup = Facebook, Twitter, Groupon etc wannabes?

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nordicnomad82 603 days ago | link

This by 1000. If you can get a small team to focus and build something awesome over the course of a few months, you can basically raise money and hire people from anywhere.

Most startups that make it out of KC right now have raised money from both coasts and locally and have Dev offices in SV and Boston if not other places.

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tsmith 604 days ago | link

"What you'll get: Free Room & board [...]"

"What is expected of you: [...] You pay for your own food"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_and_board

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bogrollben 604 days ago | link

What you'll get: and potentially Google Fiber!

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veemjeem 603 days ago | link

I don't think speedy internet is what motivates startup companies to move. Most people have their servers in data centers that are already wired with fiber. Speedy internet at home only increases the chance that you'll blow a few hours on netflix streaming video.

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adl 603 days ago | link

Don't look at it that way. Imagine the possibilities if your startup carters to users that are guaranteed to have ultra high speed internet.

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ktsmith 604 days ago | link

The same error exists in the hosts section.

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bogrollben 604 days ago | link

Fixed. Thanks!

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peacemaker 604 days ago | link

I lived in the KC area (Overland Park) for a short while and loved it. The people are friendly, there is loads to do, and it's cheap to live there. The downsides for me were the lack of startup software jobs and the weather, tornados specifically.

Now I'm here in SF and paying double the rent for a place half the size of my place in KC, seeing something like this is very intriguing. Especially since I'm trying to bootstrap my own startup and feeling a bit lost in a sea of Silicon Valley startups!

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ggchappell 604 days ago | link

> The downsides for me were the lack of startup software jobs and the weather, tornados specifically.

I lived in KS & MO for a total of 20 years. I'd say that worrying about tornadoes in KC is a bit like worrying about earthquakes in the Bay Area. Outsiders think, "Oh, my goodness!" but people who live there just do what little (very little) they need to, to deal with it, and mostly don't worry about it.

Nonetheless, weather is an issue. KC does not have a mild climate. Late summer can get very hot. Cold, windy winter days can be miserable. Ice storms can cause power outages. Most of the year, it's fine, but these do happen, and should be taken into account.

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ghshephard 603 days ago | link

The one thing about the bay area - particularly on the peninsula, is the incredibly moderate weather. I've lived here for 15 years, and have turned on the climate control in a house or apartment I've ever rented - no heat in the winter, and I've never been in a home with air conditioning.

I will admit, in one house with close to zero insulation and very large windows, having finally purchased an electric blanket for about 2 weeks out of the winter - but never turned on the central heat.

Certainly a change from the Cariboo Interior in British Columbia, let me tell you...

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jroseattle 603 days ago | link

Seriously, do not discount the weather. It is extreme.

Weather events in KC don't just make the news; they take lives. Flooding, ice/snow, wind, lightning, tornados, heat waves, cold spells. You name it, KC deals with it.

It can seem like there's always something to deal with everywhere, but the midwest gets the crap knocked out of it from the weather. It is not mild in the least.

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waterlesscloud 603 days ago | link

There was also substantial, serious flooding in the area in the 90s. Probably will happen again eventually.

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supercanuck 603 days ago | link

I did consulting work in Olathe, and it seemed like every other cabbie 's side job was storm chasing.

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adrr 603 days ago | link

Biggest downside for Kansas and Missouri is that both states enforce non compete clauses. Working at a company, and think you can can build a better product, tough luck you can't for the duration of specified in the clause.

Also forces salaries lower, competitors can't hire you away. If you are skilled, you're better off in a state like California. Paid more money, and you aren't handcuffed to your job. Look what facebook did to Google's talent pool or Zynga did to EA's.

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msh 603 days ago | link

You dont get any compensation for noncompetes?

I am not from the US, but where I come from noncompetes are enforced, but are very expensive (by law) for the companies so they are not used that often.

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_delirium 603 days ago | link

Varies entirely by state, but I don't think any US states have mandatory compensation, only whatever is negotiated in the original employment contract. Some states that allow noncompetes will, however, narrow or in some cases refuse to enforce one if it's deemed to produce too great a burden on the person's ability to earn a living.

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adrr 603 days ago | link

Nope. It doesn't require compensation. And it applies even if your are laid off, fired etc. I've seen some that extend for 2 years. Its legalized slavery which is why California outlaws them.

There's even worse things out there for employees. I've read about ownership of all ideas/work clauses including outside of work hours while employed and enforced in a court of law. Imagine doing a startup nights and weekends only having it taken from you.

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nordicnomad82 603 days ago | link

Anything that extends for more than 6 months and isn't extremely narrow in terms of geography or activities will have a hard time standing up in court. The employer has no right to deny a person a living.

As for IP stuff, that's really a case by case basis with each companies contract and how reasonable the claim that special resources and information made available by the employer were behind the development of the ip. If you're working for Starbucks and patent an algorithm for targeted advertising than no way in hell. But if you work for Garmin and develop a method to improve GPS reception in small devices, you're probably screwed.

And most of that stuff is pretty standard across the country.

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cjfarivar 604 days ago | link

Cyrus Farivar from Ars Technica here. Would you be willing to talk more about your thoughts on this? Email me: cyrus.farivar@arstechnica.com. Thanks!

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EwanG 603 days ago | link

Are you looking for folks who have applied (I just did), folks who currently live in KC and might be willing to be part of this, or... ?

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cjfarivar 603 days ago | link

I was, but we published already.

http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/08/startups-would-you-c...

Still, if you do end up committing to move there, I'd love to hear about your experience.

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peacemaker 603 days ago | link

Hey, just read your article and noticed my comments! Shame I only just saw this reply as I would have emailed you with a bit more detail.

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alwaysdoit 604 days ago | link

Never in my life did I expect that "Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City" would be true again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSbz_ciFSn4&t=1m09s

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ashbrahma 604 days ago | link

Any idea when the first Google Fiberhoods will go live? Even if someone is interested in hosting - this may not work till later this year or early next year depending on which fiberhood they live in.

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bogrollben 603 days ago | link

It's all speculation, but the rumor is that on Sept 9th Google does the following: - Officially ends the first fiber rally - Begins immediately wiring up fiberhoods, highest-demand neighborhoods first - Announces business fiber plans

My best guess is that the highest-demand neighborhoods are fully wired by end of October.

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niels_olson 604 days ago | link

Grew up in KC (Shawnee, specifically). If you are from a large coastal city and want to get acquainted with life in the Midwest, KC is a good start. Certainly less of a shock than, say, Omaha or Wichita.

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waterlesscloud 603 days ago | link

KC is a reasonably culturally hip location as well. Decent music and arts scene. It's not San Francisco, but it beats the rest of Silicon Valley in that department.

And the Nelson-Atkins Museum is better than anything in the Bay Area, in my opinion.

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niels_olson 603 days ago | link

Been a while since I saw the Nelson-Atkins, but there are several solid museums in SF, as opposed to Nelson-Atkins being one of the few games in town in KC.

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waterlesscloud 603 days ago | link

The Bay Area has more decent museums than KC, but it doesn't really have any outstanding museums. Kinda weird, really.

KC has an ok modern art museum, and Lawrence KS has a decent museum at the university there.

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hosh 604 days ago | link

I have been wondering why metro Kansas City is home to a lot of interesting projects: Open Source Ecology, The Urban Farming Guys, Google Fiber. For a mid-sized city, it has a maker space and a Ruby User's Group. But what's in Kansas City?

Tax-write-off wars and the Big 5. Awesome.

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nordicnomad82 604 days ago | link

Lots of artists and tech people in a small community where it's possible for everyone to know each other an work together on interesting stuff helps.

Add in a bunch of rich people who don't have to spend a lot to live luxuriously and get bored easily means a lot of cutting edge stuff gets funded that you wouldn't expect.

And then you have a culture of giving back that includes the Kauffman foundation, which is the 4th largest foundation in the US and focused on education and entrepreneurship. They us KC as a testing ground for a lot of their pilot programs in teaching entrepreneurship. So the city has more startup resources than just about anywhere else.

But the city has long been a testing ground for new products and services over the years due to having a lot of basically isolated areas that mimic demographic conditions in all other parts of the country. That was part of the reason for the google fiber coming here, and the fact that as it spreads across the country it will end up following railroad right of ways to keep expansion costs down. And KC being a transportation hub in the middle of the country makes this a natural match.

You have to realize that it's basically the entertainment, financial, and technological hub for about 30-40million people living within an 8 state radius. So there are a lot of things centered here that normally couldn't be supported in a city of the same actual population.

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firebones 603 days ago | link

Kauffman Foundation, great BBQ, an innovate sports franchise (Sporting Kansas City playing in probably the most wired stadium in America), Stowers Institute for life sciences doing basic research into curing cancer with world class scientists, built on a star line which creates public-sector competitive pressures which businesses can play to their benefit. Huge tdevelopment alent engines in Sprint, Cerner, Garmin and access to talent from Omaha, Des Moines, Lincoln, Columbia.

It's not SV, it's not Austin, but it has a huge reach for a lot of talent and it is starting to spawn dividends.

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hosh 603 days ago | link

Nice! Thanks for clarifying.

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wesgarrison 603 days ago | link

We have a lot of biotech & life science investment here, too.

Our Ruby talent pool lost some talent with the Google acquisition and subsequent moving of a local company, but we're back up to 40 at our Ruby group meetings twice a month. We have the Ruby Midwest conference and other developer conferences. Lots of opportunities to meet and hack with other developers.

I would totally offer up my basement, but I'm just outside of the first round of fiber rollouts.

Cool idea, be awesome to see how it goes.

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hosh 603 days ago | link

40 is about the average numbers of people who show up to the ATL Ruby Meetup.

I'll be swinging by that area in Sep, maybe I can drop in on something. KC sounds like a place I want to poke around in for a bit.

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spudlyo 603 days ago | link

Also houses infested with brown-recluse spiders, which are both terrifying and fascinating at the same time.

http://www.pitch.com/kansascity/spider-man/Content?oid=21878...

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hosh 603 days ago | link

Tangent -- not a brown recluse, but a black widow spider: http://www.quora.com/Black-Widow/What-does-it-feel-like-to-b...

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jroseattle 603 days ago | link

Lived just outside KC for most of my youth, part of my adult life. Moved west to Seattle, and haven't looked back.

Kudos to the locals for trying to pull young entrepreneurs to KC. The town needs a jolt of options outside the typical corporate-IT-office-park-in-the-burbs.

One thing about KC is culture. The people are really nice, but the midwest is so substantively different from the coasts. In Seattle and the bay area, technology is king -- it's dominant from an industry perspective. Not the case in KC, and it's not going to be anytime soon. Whether you, as a possible startup entrepreneur, care about that is personal, but make no mistake -- the local culture is not around tech.

A second knock on KC -- the good local talent doesn't hang around. Historically, competence in technology has not been rewarded; thus, the good companies tend to see young up-and-comers depart for greener pastures.

Want to start your technology company in KC? I would say it's a bad bet. Cost of living is cheaper than many other places, but you get what you pay for; expect access to technical talent to be challenging.

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wololo 602 days ago | link

How is the culture there?

* Westboro Baptist Church is in Topeka, KS (65 miles away)

* a professor was beaten in Lawrence, KS (30 miles away) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Mirecki#Intelligent_Design...)

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mrhlee 604 days ago | link

I just signed up. If already owning a startup isn't a prerequisite, this would be a great opportunity for me to switch from my current environment and day job to focusing on building something full time.

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bogrollben 603 days ago | link

Mr Lee - just left you a VM about the program. I'm trying to get in touch with everyone personally that signed up to give a run down of the program and give you a chance for any questions. Thanks for your interest! Ben

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sneak 604 days ago | link

This is sad because any people who take them up on this offer will contribute increased taxes to the USA which will then use that money to implement things like PATRIOT and a bunch of unnecessary foreign wars.

Try again somewhere that doesn't use most of its government revenue in destructive ways, and maybe this would be worthwhile.

Seriously, it's time to leave the USA. If you want to encourage migration and innovation, do it somewhere outside of the borders. The world is a big place and not all of it is insane like the USA.

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EwanG 603 days ago | link

Assuming you are serious and not just venting, where are the offers like this outside the US?

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ricardobeat 603 days ago | link

Well, in the largest cities of Brazil you can get 100mb internet for US$150, rent a good house for US$1000 (or an apartment for $500), and hire great talent for ~$2-3k/month; they all have active startup and developer scenes. As a bonus you get access to a booming mobile market :)

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sneak 602 days ago | link

Same goes for Berlin (where I live), plus our Apple store opens in a few months, we will be a Lufthansa hub shortly, and Amazon works well here. There are also tons of hackers and startup events here!

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wesgarrison 603 days ago | link

Serious question: what would it take for a US citizen to move to Brazil and work there? I don't have any idea about the visa intricacies.

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ricardobeat 603 days ago | link

    1. A $50k investment
    2. A job or research position
    3. Marry a brazilian :)
    4. Be over 60 and with +$2000/month income
And there are no immigration quotas.

A foreign developer will probably find a job very easily, but be prepared to live on 50% less.

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TheEzEzz 603 days ago | link

Surprisingly restrictive, as (last I recall) Brazil has a tit-for-tat policy against the US: restrictions the US puts on Brazilians coming to the US Brazil likewise imposes on Americans going to Brazil. You can, however, buy citizenship for $100,000 (At least I recall researching this. I can't find a reference for at the moment).

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swah 603 days ago | link

I'm offering to switch places with you. There are no Apple stores nor Amazon here. We have sugar Coke though...

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ricardobeat 602 days ago | link

We do have Apple franchises, and Amazon is coming this year (reportedly) :)

But we don't have Cherry Coke :(

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dinkumthinkum 603 days ago | link

This is just so ridiculous it borders it on stupid. What does this inane political jibber jabber have to do with free rent in KC? Right, the only thing the U.S. does is invade countries and start wars. What pure mindless propaganda. European countries don't have any blood hands at all, nope. ... Wait ...

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