Why I decided to visit Kansas City: it’s not just Google Fiber

A Little About Me

I’m a hacker and entrepreneur from Los Angeles, California. My initial introduction to technology came when I was a child, and my dad showed me how to assemble our own computers. I was intimidated at first, but I was also fascinated. Our first family computer was a 486DX with 16MB RAM and a 14.4k modem. Over the years, I dove deep into various online communities, from shareware to virtual worlds to web development. In 2008, I made the switch to Mac for the sole purpose of doing iPhone app development, and I’ve had amazing success there: today, my iOS and Android apps have over 12 million downloads, and nearly a million active users.

The Hacker House Movement

I followed the creation of the Hacker Dojo, a hackerspace in Mountain View, established in 2009. That was where I really got plugged in to the Silicon Valley hacker culture. In November 2012, I was living at Stonehenge, a hacker house in Palo Alto. I was there for a month, but it wasn’t my permanent home. I’m a nomad. Sometimes I feel that I could go on traveling forever; other times, I yearn for something to anchor me down.

In between hacking, I flipped over to Hacker News and spotted an article about a new hacker house in Kansas City. That’s not particularly notable by itself: though I hadn’t heard much about KC, the hacker house movement has been underway for years in the Bay Area. But what really caught my attention was the fact that Google Fiber had selected KC for its rollout. There must be something special there.

It was Wednesday, November 14th, and the serendipity of discovering the Google Fiber rollout sparked a fire within me. I told my fellow hackers at Stonehenge about the news, and heard a lot of positive things about Kansas City and the Midwest. I was eager to learn more, so I called Ben Barreth, the guy profiled in the Ars Technica article. I think he answered right away, and I was impressed by his friendly and welcoming tone. We did a brief Google Hangout, but my video wasn’t working at the time, so it was mostly just an audio chat.

The mission of Ben’s “Homes for Hackers” initiative is “to encourage startups to move into the KC area.” It’s easy to state something and kick off something new, but a lot of people– myself unfortunately included– will fail to follow-up. I can’t count the number of times I was struck by a new idea, got something started, and then dropped it just a short time later. Not Ben Barreth, however: he was persistent, organized, and enthusiastic all the way through. He replied to all my emails, and though I didn’t call him again, I have no doubt he’d answer. His reliability is one of the factors that made me decide to come.

So I booked a flight with Delta Air Lines and touched down in KC late last night.

What’s Next

I’ve only been in Kansas City for about 16 hours. This trip is just one week, so I want to make the most of it. I’ve been thinking about some concrete goals, so within a day or two, I’ll put those in writing and share them with you.

If you’re in KC, let’s get in touch.

Elliot Lee
(213) 863-4775

Leave a Reply