To you, what is an Ecosystem Builder?

I see an ecosystem builder as someone who takes a holistic look at creating the conditions for entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive in a community. Direct entrepreneur support is critical but only a part of creating a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

What motivates you as an ecosystem builder?

I believe that the entrepreneurial spirit is the biggest driver of progress and change. Without it, we become controlled by our circumstances. To me, ecosystem building is about cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit of a community which builds energy, creates hope, and drives prosperity.

What is the most successful/impactful program/event/thing you do/have done in your ecosystem?

It’s like you’re me making pick my favorite kid! Ahhhhh … Startland News has shared thousands of entrepreneurial STORIES with millions of people over the years and forms the foundation of engagement on which our company works.

Our events (aka EXPERIENCES) have connected thousands of people and started even more conversations that have been instrumental in creating KC’s burgeoning startup culture.

With that being said, I will focus on our newest program area; TALENT, specifically real-world learning. After running one-day student innovation competitions since 2013, we expanded our efforts to work with schools to build a culture of innovation where students are solving real-world problems as the norm in classrooms and not the exception. (Watch video:

Through our real world learning efforts, we train teachers in design thinking to transform the way they teach from being lecturers to student project coaches.

From an impact standpoint, it’s hard to beat better equipping young people to be confident, capable problem solvers.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an Ecosystem Builder?

Silos and scarcity mindset … Even some of the people and organizations you’d think would be our biggest allies have struggles to overcome being siloed which is often driven by a scarcity mindset that thinks our organizations are somehow in competition for limited resources or influence.

Building a trust-based, culture of abundance where everyone embodies a “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality is very difficult, even at times on my own team.

What is your biggest frustration as an ecosystem builder?

Scarcity mindset. It holds us all back.

What ecosystem building skill/knowledge do you want to gain?

I’d love to be able to speak to diversity and inclusion with a higher level of eloquence and confidence.

What are the most important things that need to happen to advance the field of ecosystem building?

The three that come to mind immediately:

– A broader understanding that ecosystem building isn’t just direct entrepreneur support but everything that goes into creating an environment in which innovation can thrive.

– A common taxonomy

– Metrics that everyone uses

What others are saying about Adam

I don’t know another ecosystem builder who works as tirelessly on building a community like Adam. I’ve had the honor of knowing Adam (aka Dondo) since 2012 when he was a young entrepreneur and the darling child of the then nascent StartupKC community. Not only did he work diligently to build his startup (Local Ruckus), but he contributed an abundant amount of time to co-founding and co-leading the Kansas City Startup Village.

When it became apparent that Local Ruckus wasn’t going to be a successful company, he decided to shut it down and focus his attention 100% on helping to cultivate and steward Kansas City’s startup ecosystem. As the CEO of STARTLAND, he works day and night (and yes I mean late into the night) working towards the vision of making Kansas City the “Most Entrepreneurial City in America” while simultaneously leading an amazing nonprofit dedicated to activating a culture of innovation in KC through moments of impact.


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