Right now, the superfast Google Fiber internet service is only available in Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS, and it’s only running to homes, not businesses. But one KC couple who want to see the city as a tech hub are renting out a room in their house for $49 a night to tech entrepreneurs who want a taste of the fastest internet speeds available to mortals on this side of the world.
The Homes for Hackers house is a four-bedroom Kansas City abode where a group of entrepreneurs have bedded down to incubate their tech startups on an honest-to-goodness Google Fiber connection. But only three of those bedrooms are taken. The fourth one is available for rent at a price of $49 via the online vacation rental site Airbnb.
Local web developer Benjamin Barreth and his wife own the house, and they allow tech-company founders to stay there rent-free for up to three months. The idea is to attract a startup scene to Kansas City, with Google Fiber as the bait. Barreth is paying the mortgage, the electrical bill, and, yes, the Google bill out of his own pocket. So he’s decided to rent the fifth room to “fiber tourists” in a bid to help cover the cost.
The house is part of a larger movement to create a startup scene around Google Fiber. There’s another house just six doors down that’s renting working space to entrepreneurs, and across the street from that, there’s an office building renting space to a trio of startups — though it can’t offer them fiber. Barreth says that within a two-block radius of his house, there’s a startup incubator, Google’s own fiber operations office, and a couple other startups that have their own houses. He says about 13 companies are based in this little sliver of the neighborhood.
Barreth and Matthew Marcus, the owner of the other house, call it “KC Startup Village.”
It’s also called Hanover Heights, an older neighborhood with inexpensive homes that happens to be the first and only neighborhood with Google Fiber. The neighborhood is within walking distance of the bars and coffee shops of the West Port neighborhood and the upscale shops in the nearby Country Club Plaza, and that’s probably why its also home to many students. “It’s one of the most urban, walkable areas of Kansas City,” Barreth says. “Most of KC is not like that. It’s really spread-out, and you have to drive everywhere.”
Barreth says the entrepreneurs working out of Marcus’ house are local and don’t live in the house. The Homes for Hackers house is the only live-in entrepreneur experiment in the area that Barreth knows of, and he’s only letting people from out-of-town stay there. Barreth says he isn’t trying to turn a profit. He’s just trying to bring more jobs to Kansas City.