Midwestern Entrepreneurs Feted At Pipeline Awards Gala In Kansas City

On Thursday night the Midwestern digerati gathered at the beautiful Arvast Bank Theatre at the Midland in downtown Kansas City, Missouri to celebrate some of the brightest stars in the region’s high tech sector. This was the annual Innovator of the Year gala hosted by Pipeline Entrepreneurs.   It may come as a surprise to people in the myopic world of Silicon Valley, but there are other tech hubs around the country - and we’re not just talking about Seattle, Boston and Austin. One such community is the tech triangle encompassing Omaha, Des Moines and Kansas City, which is known as Silicon Prairie.

 

Midland Theatre bar, image courtesy of David Jones

Midland Theatre bar, image courtesy of David Jones

Pipeline Entrepreneurs is a key part of the Silicon Prairie ecosystem. It is a non-profit that works with select company founders in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. My husband was invited as part of the team from Omaha’s SkyVu Entertainment, a game company founded by last year’s Innovator of the Year, Ben Vu.

According to the Pipeline website, “Each year approximately 10-12 new entrepreneurs are invited to join Pipeline as Fellows. After an extensive selection process, new Fellows participate in a unique and rigorous year-long business leadership development program that blends workshop modules, advice from national experts, and a deepening of the relationships among new and current Pipeline Members.”

Since this is Lipstick and Politics, we’re always looking for the women leaders at tech and business events. Also, we’re on the lookout for cool fashion. Unsurprisingly, women weren’t a high percentage of the entrepreneurs in attendance. While we were people-watching from the second floor of the lobby, a woman from the business community speculated that women aren’t socialized to take business risks in the same way as men.

Image courtesy of Katrina Markel

Image courtesy of Katrina Markel

Although they’re certainly in the minority, there are women in prominent leadership roles around the region.   Pipeline President and CEO Joni Cobb took the stage in a custom-made skirt printed with words contributed by members of the “Pipeline Family” that signified what Pipeline meant to them. The skirt could be removed to reveal a black and beige, figure-hugging dress. Regan Carrizales, CEO of Silicon Prairie News, was in attendance wearing an elegant black, sequined evening gown and I thought Pipeline member, Olga Koper looked striking on stage in her scarlet evening wear.

Photo of Kim Le courtesy of Katrina Markel

Photo of Kim Le courtesy of Katrina Markel

Most of the ladies (myself included) went for safe choices such as little black dresses or re-useable bridesmaid gowns, but there were some standouts in our Omaha contingent including a sunny yellow, vintage cocktail dress and a black lace gown from Rent the Runway. There was also some beautiful ethnic formalwear from places like India, Vietnam and Africa, which stood out from the rest of the little black dress brigade.

Image courtesy of Katrina Markel

Image courtesy of Katrina Markel

The theme for the evening was “Family” and the program emphasized both the importance of the entrepreneurs’ families and the role Pipeline plays in creating a sense of family among their Fellows and members.   It does seem that there is a tremendous sense of community and cooperation in the Midwestern tech sector and it was fun to be part of that for an evening.