Chief Executive Officer, Sprint Nextel Corp.
Remarks presented March 27, 2013, at Big Kansas City, a conference on innovation and entrepreneurship.
Good morning. Welcome to Big Kansas City.
I have seen a lot of growth and change in the eight years I’ve lived in Kansas City. We have a revitalized downtown with the Power & Light District, offering dining, entertainment and shopping, and Sprint Center, is ranked sixth in the U.S. as a venue for live performances. And the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts is a stunningly beautiful facility – a truly world-class venue. Check it out. Kansas City is ranked by Forbes magazine as one of America’s Best Downtowns.
Equally important, Kansas City is increasingly being recognized as a center of innovation and technology. It comes as no surprise that Kansas City becomes the latest Midwest metro area to join the Silicon Prairie News’ “Big Series.” The University of Missouri — Kansas City Bloch School’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation offers a nationally ranked program and the Kauffman Foundation fosters entrepreneurs by providing programs like One Million Cups to give startups a platform for their fresh ideas.
Kansas City became a great city because of infrastructure like a great rail hub and the Missouri River that could transport people, livestock, grain, and other physical goods, plus it’s a central location on the U.S. map, so an early air hub too. The 21st century is about the transportation of digital goods. With Google Fiber and 4G LTE service from providers, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T, Kansas City has a set of digital highways second to none.
Earlier this year, Kiplinger’s named Kansas City one of “10 Great Cities for Starting a Business.” They cited Google Fiber, plus factors such as Kansas City’s lower costs, strong tech community, and perhaps most important, as Jason said “unbeatable barbecue.”
Kansas City is ready to take center stage as a showcase for innovation. We saw an example of this a few weeks ago when Kansas City startup Phone2Action won the South by Southwest Accelerator competition in the News Technology category.
Digital Sandbox KC is a recent initiative led by UMKC and supported by a $1 million federal grant, which Sprint helped secure. The program involves local public and private organizations from Missouri and Kansas. Digital Sandbox KC provides an open play ground for tech companies looking to start here. The program expects to launch 10 tech companies with follow-on funding or revenue generation of at least $1 million, by the end of 2014.
In November, as part of the Kauffman Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, Sprint collaborated with Kansas City corporations Cerner, DST, Garmin, H&R Block and Hallmark to host a Reverse Pitch for local entrepreneurs and startups. As you know, a traditional tech pitch involves smaller or newer companies pitching the larger companies on what they could do for them. Reverse Pitch approached the opportunity from a new angle; the more established companies asked what we could do for them.
Many Kansas City companies, including Sprint, are part of the KC STEM Alliance. This program is an effort by local educators and businesses focused on K-12 education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and math. A strong educational system is crucial to building the talent pool.
Sprint has had many “firsts” in the wireless industry: We were the first U.S. carrier to offer a camera phone; the first to launch mobile-streaming video; and the first national carrier to launch 4G.
Sprint has had more patents issued than any other company headquartered in Kansas or Missouri. In calendar year 2012, Sprint was granted an average of approximately 2 ½ U.S. patents every business day. 2 ½ per day. We look to innovators to help us commercialize our intellectual property. A number of successful innovators in Kansas City previously worked at Sprint.
There is perhaps no industry or technology more important to global change than wireless. There are 10 cellphones produced in the world each day for every baby born. This year, the number of mobile-connected devices is expected to exceed the world’s population. And in just four years, mobile-data traffic across the world is expected to surpass 10 exabytes per month.
Mobility has already fundamentally altered the health care, automotive and insurance industries. It may sound self serving, but having one of the world’s leading wireless companies and innovators headquartered in Kansas City is an important foundation to this area’s future growth.
Sprint has a track record of collaboration. Just over 10 years ago, we launched our national Developer Program to help application developers create mobile apps. More than 60,000 individuals have participated in the program. Our Developer Program focuses on helping developers remove barriers to success, for example, we help with discovery and monetization tools. We intend to clearly communicate the business challenges Sprint is trying to solve, and the Sprint technology that can be contributed to this end. Often start-ups and entrepreneurs who engage can bring a laser-like focus a large company has difficulty doing.
One local company Sprint has been working with is Leap 2. Leap 2 offers a new search application that lets customers keep up-to-date with the latest news, weather, sports and more. In January, they were named as one of Network World’s 10 Mobile Startups to Watch. Sprint and Leap 2 collaborated to bring their application to Sprint customers.
We believe that working with local companies like this goes to the heart of our relationship with our hometown. In 2012, Sprint, the Sprint Foundation and Sprint employees provided more than $6 million to the metro area through donations, sponsorships and 24,000 volunteer hours. It is in this same spirit that we reach out to the Kansas City entrepreneur and startup community.
We look forward to working with you to help our community continue to grow and prosper.