Brian McClendon shouldn’t have felt the need to leave his home state of Kansas, he said. But he saw tech opportunities elsewhere and spent about 30 years in Silicon Valley, where he not only invested in startups but started them. One of the startups he co-founded is Keyhole Inc., a geospatial data visualization company that Google acquired in 2004 and transformed into Google Earth.
In 2017, the former Uber and Google exec returned to Lawrence, but the tech scene still felt like it was missing something. Either the state didn’t have enough tech-focused startups, or broad awareness of them was gravely lacking, he said. And if there’s not enough tech employers or brand awareness, it can dampen efforts to attract and retain tech talent.
So he and his wife, Beth Ellyn McClendon, started researching tech employers in Kansas and the Kansas City metro to get a comprehensive look at the tech scene. Their investment firm, Free State Forge, released their findings Wednesday, which uncovered about 600 companies that employ tech talent in Kansas and the Kansas City metro. More than 300 of those employers are considered tech companies.