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Columbia’s Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

Building it in a Year

In June 2015, Steve Wyatt, MU’s vice provost for economic development, organized a meeting for the new leadership to get to know each other and discuss potential projects for collaboration. The group, called the Regional Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Committee, outlined three goals for the future. Less than a year later, all three goals have been achieved.

Chad Haney says there are two kinds of developers — those who want a stable job in an established company with a guaranteed salary and benefits and those who are willing to trade security to work on new, exciting ideas.

Haney and his business partner Anna Swacker started Tin Can Technologies, a custom software development startup, in 2014 to serve other startups and small businesses. They knew that a company just getting off the ground might not have the resources or knowledge to create software and a website worthy of their idea.

Haney wants to hire students interested in software development, train them, and have them focus their work on one Tin Can Technologies client. Haney has posted positions on university job boards and even Craigslist, but he says his company isn’t getting many applicants. Since his business model relies on new talent, a lack of developers could be crippling.

Tin Can Technologies wants to grow, but Haney says they’re having trouble finding developers in the second category to hire. He thinks they’re leaving Columbia for other markets.

For Haney, the problem isn’t a lack of new ideas in Columbia, it’s a lack of connection between startups and new developers.

“There’s a lot of great ideas in Columbia and these ideas aren’t all from developers,” Haney says. “They’re from people who have no development experience and they need those kinds of developers … I think we need to do a better job as a community of keeping those developers engaged and excited and around more.”

Haney says he doesn’t know what will keep developers in Columbia, other than more support for small businesses in general. Like many other startup communities, one of Columbia’s biggest problem areas is funding, especially for companies that are still just an idea.

Read more about this story at the Columbia Business Time's website.