The Kauffman Foundation: Bringing Entrepreneurship Up to Date in Kansas City

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go through the process and determine that the idea they were working on, thinking that they were going to start a company, might not make the most sense,” she says. “But the fact that we’ve helped them to get there is huge—we call it ‘failing fast.’ They’ll then have a better understanding of how to evaluate their next idea.”

On my way to Kansas City, I also happened to meet Eddie Martucci, a senior analyst at Boston-based PureTech Ventures who is one of the first two Kauffman Entrepreneur Fellows. Unlike the postdoctoral program, this part of the Kauffman Labs initiative focuses on budding entrepreneurs who are already part of a commercial technology incubator or accelerator such as PureTech or the California-based medical device incubators ExploraMed and The Foundry, which are also hosting fellows. Martucci has a PhD from the Departments of Pharmacology and Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry at Yale, where he did proof-of-concept work on new chemical scaffolds for antiparasitic drugs. Whether that’s still his focus at PureTech is hush-hush—but Miller says “I’m sure he’ll be coming out of this in the next year or two with a viable company.”

Learning from existing centers of entrepreneurship expertise like PureTech is part of Kauffman Labs’ mission, Miller says. “There are a lot of incubators and accelerators…and they all come at this activity differently, but at the end of the day they have all been succesful in forming companies, so we thought it was important to partner with a few of these organizations and document that process,” she says. The foundation is selecting Entrepeneur Fellows both for their business savvy and for their skill at observation and self-reflection, Miller says. “I have seen a couple of Eddie’s reports from his experiences at PureTech so far, and from what he is capturing and the observations he’s making as he goes through this process with an amazingly sophisticated group around him, we are learning a ton.”

The foundation is already debriefing all of its new fellows regularly, and will eventually start to share its findings at places like Entrepreneurship.org and Growthology.org, two startup-oriented blogs published by the foundation. One point of the Kauffman Labs initiative, after all, is to establish what Schramm calls “the science of startups”—an understanding of the factors that really account for the success (and failure) of high-growth firms. “Our job is to describe and develop a science so successful that it is copied everywhere,” Schramm said at last week’s dinner. “It’s not like we know what we’re doing—but we have enormous hopes, and we have resources, drive, partners, and stick-to-it-iveness.” For the sake of the entrepreneurs Xconomy covers, and the economy in general, I hope the Kauffman folks succeed—and I’m looking forward to writing more about their work as it progresses.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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