Think Big Partners is more than just a company dedicated to entrepreneurship – we remain entrepreneurs ourselves. Through our hybrid combination of a technology focused accelerator, innovation center and coworking space, we have created a community where early stage businesses find the necessary elements to launch, grow and succeed. A community where all elements of the ecosystem converge, allowing entrepreneurs to have meaningful “collisions” with others so they feel comfortable collaborating to produce more sustainable and dynamic ventures.
Meet The Team
Herb spent 15 years as an investment professional. Herb has been a wealth manager, a derivative trader, a branch manager and has investment banking experience. Herb also has worked for an early stage venture fund.
Herb is a frequent speaker in the areas of smart cities, entrepreneurship, startups, innovation and economic development via entrepreneurship and work spaces.
Herb has completed the National Business Incubator Association (NBIA) Incubator Management certificate program. He also has a deep digital marketing background.
Prior to his business career, he was a military pilot in the United States Army.
Along the way, Sarah coordinated programs and conferences for Think Big Partners such as Smart City Tech Summit, Gigabit Challenge, Hackovate Health, iKC: The Unconference and more.
Today, Sarah helps other cities, companies and communities become smarter through citizen engagement workshops, economic development consulting and workspace advisory.
Sarah serves as Vice President of the KC Coworking Alliance and speaks at various industry events such as Global Workspace Association’s Coworking Conference, the Global Coworking Unconference Conference and Southern Economic Development Corporation Annual Conference.
As a volunteer, Sarah founded and has co-coordinated Project Homeless Connect KC annually since 2014. She resides in Overland Park, KS with her husband and two young children.
Blake joined Think Big in 2009 as the Director of the Accelerator, managing the accelerator program portfolio and internal technology operations for Think Big. At Think Big, Blake has championed several new initiatives that grew out of Think Big including; the Kansas City Smart Initiative which won a 2017 Edison Innovation Award and Homebase.AI that originally started as innovation partnership between Think Big and Sunflower Development group.
Blake has been recognized as a Next Gen Leader by the Kansas City Business Journal, top 20 in their 20's by Ingram Magazine, and a top young entrepreneur to watch by under30ceo.
Blake speaks nationally and serves as a board member, advisor and mentor to a number of startups.
In 2009, we (Herb Sih and Tyler Prochnow) started Think Big Partners. Our combined founding vision was inspired by years of work colored with our years of different experiences as corporate professionals, other past work experiences and entrepreneurs. We both shared a passion to help people avoid the many mistakes we made while launching new businesses, while also creating “the place we wanted to work but couldn’t find it” – so we built it. Hence, Think Big Partners was born.
Initially launched out of 1700 square feet of “B grade” office space, meetings with entrepreneurs and early curious supporters began. Originally conceived as a technology focused business incubator, Think Big went through the National Business Incubator Certificate Management program to learn the craft of helping other entrepreneurs build their startups under the business incubator model.
In 2010, Think Big held its inaugural event, Think Big Kansas City, at the Kansas City Convention Center. Over 300 people from 9 states attended this single day, multitrack format event that was designed to provide education and inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs. Chris Gardner (portrayed by Will Smith in the 2006 blockbuster movie, The Pursuit of Happyness) delivered an amazing keynote speech and shared his incredible personal story of triumph. This “experiment” confirmed enough unknowns for us to proceed full steam ahead. We began to hire other talented team members who acted more like co-founders given their role, vision and passion for helping others like we did too. Blake Miller and Sarah Fustine joined us. We could feel the energy building.
As activity began to increase, Think Big quickly evolved into a hybrid collaborative workspace when other entrepreneurs began to show up looking for a good cup of coffee and a place to call home.
Even back then, we felt that people wanted more than just a desk. People were looking for a place that offered support, camaraderie and even the occasional opportunity to work together. What we initially observed as pure luck and coincidence, we began to see a pattern of serendipitous “collisions” emerge when like minded people shared the same working environment and started talking. This phenomenon started to build a community, united in their passion to become successful as entrepreneurs while also helping each other.
When we first launched our 12,000 square foot coworking space in the fall of 2010, (originally named “bizperc” (short for business percolator), later renamed Think Big Coworking), there were less than 400 coworking spaces in the world. At the time, we didn’t know much about coworking, so we traveled to other cities to take a better look. We met others who were also trying to figure out a better way to work, connect and grow their business. It was the early days for entrepreneur-led economic development, but together we all felt we were on to something.
In 2011, we grew to 18,000 feet. We helped launch a local chapter of an angel capital fund. We served entrepreneurs and began to learn what it takes to run a coworking space operationally. In late 2011, we began to work on the innovation challenges of emerging technology to address a city’s needs through the Gigabit Challenge, a Google Fiber inspired business plan and innovation competition.
In 2012, we started Think Big Ventures and made an investment into an early stage startup called EyeVerify. Later that year, we launched Think Big Accelerator with investment into companies as far away as New York and Los Angeles. We also conducted the Flyover Field Trip in which we took 10 notable midwestern companies (including EyeVerify, AB Pathfinder, LockerDome) to Silicon Valley.
In 2013, we conducted our first Open Innovation partnership with a Fortune 1000 company in the financial services / health tech sector. Later that same year, Phone2Action (Think Big Accelerator 2012 Class) won the SXSW Accelerator News Technology category. And before the year was over, Think Big would announce a partnership with Microsoft Ventures in which we would help them develop and invest in early stage technology companies building apps.
In 2014, we conceived the Kansas City Smart City project. After conducting a reverse innovation process called PRISM for the city and presenting the analysis, we began working with the City of Kansas City, Missouri and Cisco in earnest with a formal announcement of an official smart city project being made in Summer 2014.
In 2015, Think Big grew out of its 18,000 square foot facility and moved into The Globe Building, a 43,000 square foot building that it helped design, build and launch. Later that year, Think Big was recognized by the White House for its pivotal role in helping Kansas City win a $5 million TechHire grant, a grant focused on workforce development. Think Big also launched the Think Big Foundation, as we began to understand that our impact was more than just entrepreneurship, innovation and technology; we also were creating social impact. In 2015 we also helped design Baltimore based Spark Coworking, our first workspace advisory services project.
In 2016, the Kansas City Smart and Connected City project was launched. This $15.7 million-dollar public private partnership (P3) put Kansas City on the worldwide smart city map. Later that same year, EyeVerify would be acquired by Ant Financial (Alibaba) for $105 million, creating Think Big’s first exit. Think Big Foundation was renamed the Kansas City Social innovation Center, led by Kari Keefe. Think Big also launched Smart City Tech Summit, an innovation focused smart technology conference.
In 2017, Think Big won the “Emmy of Innovation Awards”, the Gold Edison Award, for its smart city innovation work. We also announced the sale of Think Big Coworking to Plexpod, exiting the coworking space as an operator, but not as a community builder or consultant. Also in 2017, Think Big helped create its first Labs company, Homebase, led by Blake Miller. The Kansas City Social Innovation Center serves approximately 600 youth in the Mayor James Hire KC Youth Program managed by KCSIC.
In 2018, Think Big launched Think Big Labs, a smart city and civic technology focused public-private partnership innovation lab.
Over the past 10 years, we have evolved as a firm that now advises the world’s most progressive minded cities, companies, innovators and entrepreneurs.
Through our specialized consulting services, Think Big Labs program and Think Big Network, we build smart cities, design and implement smart technologies, and help entrepreneurs and innovators create fresh solutions to the world’s toughest challenges by accelerating technology commercialization powered by human centered design principles. We brings people, ideas, processes and opportunities together to create more vibrant, smarter, globally connected high impact communities, ultimately creating jobs and economic growth.