We’ve recently started a new series on Medium that explores the vibrant, growing startup innovation hubs from around the globe. Kicking things off is a city that you may not expect to hear about when we talk about tech hubs and innovative ecosystems. Let us introduce you to Louisville, Kentucky – and one of the key entrepreneurs behind this growth and newfound global presence, CEO & Co-founder of Interapt, Ankur Gopal.
When we think of startup ecosystems nowadays, we don’t just think about Silicon Valley anymore. Many cities have now grown to be thriving startup innovation hubs, creating an exciting global network of new markets and locations to start your business from — without the travel to (or high costs) of the “Bay Area”. The Midwest in the US is one of these regions (see the Startup Trends that shape the Midwest).
In the heart of the USA, the State of Kentucky’s Louisville startup ecosystem has been building momentum over the past decade and is currently on a continued path of growth, thanks to entrepreneurs like Ankur Gopal. This city of 1.6million, in a state of only 4 million, is also home to the UPS Worldport, making it also a fascinating place to learn about the logistics industry.
As CEO of Interapt, Ankur Gopal has had a pivotal role in this largest city of the state of Kentucky. Not only in bringing the burgeoning startup scene to the attention of local politicians, but also to the global roadmap of international entrepreneurs. We talked to him at the World Forum on Foreign Direct Investment in Sydney, Australia.
Maren: Talent is a crucial element for growth and thriving tech community. What does the current startup and innovation ecosystem look like in Kentucky?
Ankur: It’s improving, but there is definitely work to be done. I don’t think that we are where we need to be at yet. Several years ago, the workforce development agencies and the universities asked me why I was not hiring more of their people. I said quite simply: ‘Because you are not teaching what I need!’ Their graduates did not have the skill-set needed for the jobs at our fast growing company.
That was one of the reasons I decided to move into training. If we could not find the talent, I knew we’d probably have to move. If we were really going to start being serious about creating the next generation of talent, we would also build the cornerstones of our future tech ecosystem.
Kentucky is a great place to start and run a business. I had the option of moving to Dallas and San Francisco with a venture partner, and I decided not to. I wanted to raise my family and where I thought I could make the most impact. And the whole community is collectively working together to help build that ecosystem even further. it’s fun to be part of a growing ecosystem rather than an established one.
Maren: Where do I start exploring the tech ecosystem in Louisville?
Ankur: We are just now building it. For quite a while now, we have had a very fragmented ecosystem. There is one area that is closest to what you’re asking — it’s called NuLu. It is where the entrepreneurial hub is being built. Some of the top startups are located there. So when you come to Louisville that’s the first place I would go. They are also building several new spaces in this area. This will help spur creative thought and collaboration.
The cool thing about it: it is still small enough to where you can make connections, make relationships, and if you are good, the community will reward you. Definitely, it is a very open environment that I am very proud to be part of.
Want to learn more about Louisville? You can read the full interview on our Medium publication here.