A wild impulse, Barreth admits. Two months ago, when he raised the idea to his wife, "both of us just busted out laughing."
A home for hackers, Barreth dubbed it - heck, he'd even cover utility costs.
(To the most gifted of geeks, the term "hacker" means nothing deviant. It applies to anyone willing to spend all night immersed in computer coding - for creative purposes, not illegal ones.)
"We want to be an innovative city? Let's make it easier for these young people to move here and start a business," said Barreth. He attributed part of his thinking to being a devout Christian, striving to do good, though he acknowledged:
"There's a cool factor. I'm really pumped about fiber."
The fiber being installed around Hanover Heights should make Demarais' laptop operate a little smoother. But he could have stayed in Boston, where his partner in the startup plan remains. Or he could have plunged into debt trying to launch a business in the Silicon Valley.
He thought of going to Chile, known for its broad incentive programs for startups. Then he stumbled upon Barreth's blog, urging Kansas Citians with spare bedrooms or empty basements to make "Homes for Hackers." (Go to homesforhackers.com for details.)
"This allows me to not have to raise money right away," Demarais said. "We still have a lot of work to do in developing our idea. ...
"But I don't have to work all day at Starbucks just to survive."
He hopes the tight-knit culture of Kansas City's techies, all buzzing about Google, will help him network and approach potential investors more directly than he could have in places better known as high-tech breeding grounds.
In the Boston area, where Facebook was born, "it's too noisy," Demarais said. Venture capitalists are swarmed by college students angling to launch "me-too companies ... It's like, 'We're the new Pinterest, but specifically for football.' "
Remember, this kid is out to revolutionize manufacturing.
It might not be so easy. Local entrepreneurs have long complained about access to private investors and the biases tech journals harbor against flyover country.
In May, the Mayors' Bistate Innovation Team, co-chaired by former mayoral candidate Mike Burke and Kansas City, Kan., school Superintendent Ray Daniels, issued a 37-page "playbook" for utilizing Google Fiber.
As these reports tend to go, the language was heavy on terms such as "America's Digital Crossroads" and "metropolitan Internet ecosystem," but light on how it all gets funded.
Beyond citing practical ways to improve life in Kansas City - such as threading super-speed connections through schools and libraries - the planners threw everything at the wall in hopes of drawing the notice of outside corporations, trade associations, researchers and grant-givers.
The possibilities outlined in the playbook include:
-"Digital Arts." Ultra-speed fiber, when strung beyond Kansas City, may allow performing arts centers in far-off locations to present concerts and plays jointly - sharing audio and video in perfect sync.
-"House of the Future." The mayors' team imagined this place to be a gigabit-connected demonstration home, stocked by whiz-bang product vendors, to help residents, homebuilders and real-estate agents understand how we might live tomorrow.
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