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Google Fiber creates thriving startup industry in Kansas City


Ben Barreth, owner of the Homes for Hackers house

When Google first announced Fiber, thousands of cities jockeyed to be the first test location, but to many people’s dismay, Kansas City was eventually named the winner. For the past year, internet service in the area has been booming thanks to the network, which in turn has made it a popular area for startups and entrepreneurs, according to a new report from CNET. When Google announced Fiber, web designer and Kansas City local Ben Barreth bought a house in the startup district in hopes of being one of the first people to be connected to the network. In order to pay for the house, he started it up as the “Home for Hackers,” which he says is a place for startups and entrepreneurs to rent out a space to work and be connected the incredibly fast internet service.

The house is really simple. It sleeps four to five entrepreneurs and has one bedroom for “tourists,” which it rents out for $39 a night. Everywhere you look there are desks with ethernet cables hanging. There are 18 ethernet jacks spread out throughout seven different rooms, but it doesn’t look like a house that you’d expect multiple people to be working out of.  Barreth is very strict with his rules, which include things like no partying and no smoking.

The house resides in the middle of what has become known as the Kansas City Startup Village, which sprang to life following Google Fiber’s installation in the area. Mike Demarasis was the first person to rent out space in the Homes for Hackers back in October.

“We could have gone to any number of cities, but we came to Kansas City because people here will talk to us and answer our questions,” he said. “If you go anywhere else, you’re just hustling and hoping to be heard, instead of building your product.”

Since Google Fiber was up and running, the startup district has grown to include more than two dozen companies, all within walking distance of each other.

Barreth says it’s not necessarily the network that brought people to the area, but rather the people.

“The best asset that Kansas City has are its people,” Barreth said. “But we need more tech talent and new people with good ideas in the local scene. The expectation is that the people who come through the Homes for Hackers program end up staying here for a long time.”

Entrepreneur Mike Demarais says that it would be incredibly hard to get noticed as a startup in some place like Silicon Vally or his hometown of Boston.

“I can’t imagine trying to compete for any attention in the Valley or Boston right now,” Demarais said. “I mean every kid at MIT and Stanford is building a startup out of their dorm room. It’s hard to get anyone’s attention. But here, it’s still a tight-knit group, and people will talk to you and offer advice.”

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Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller


Chance currently writes for both 9to5Google and 9to5Mac, in addition to 9to5Toys.