About Us

Kauffman Laboratories for Enterprise Creation draws on the best of the Kauffman Foundation's programs that supported a wave of entrepreneurial activity and understanding, and promises a new set of major innovations designed to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs. The concept for Kauffman Labs evolved over many years as we studied, funded, and delivered entrepreneurship programs. The experience has provided an unparalleled base of knowledge regarding the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem that is key to accelerating economic growth and expanding human welfare. Kauffman Labs is a multifaceted approach designed to grow the American economy by catalyzing a movement of thousands of new entrepreneurs who are successful in building high growth, scale firms. By extending "the science of startups," Kauffman Labs will offer a new method for teaching and training entrepreneurs that draw on the practical experience of developing new businesses. As its name suggests, Kauffman Labs is a place for experimenting with new ways of bringing many more entrepreneurs into the fold and making them much more successful in producing high-growth firms. Bridging the worlds of learning and practice, Kauffman Labs is highly integrated, iterative, and networked.


Thom Ruhe is vice president of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. In this capacity, he directs the Foundation's programs addressing entrepreneurial education, mentoring, access to capital and fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems. Thom also holds the role of president of Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, a school dedicated to advancing experiential-based entrepreneurial education. Additionally, he oversees collaborative projects with innovative groups such as the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, Kauffman FastTrac, Startup Weekend, the Angel Resource Institute, and Invent Now. Thom also serves on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for fostering Entrepreneurship, is on the Board of Directors for the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program, and is a founding trustee for Innovation Fund America.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Thom was the founding chief marketing officer for JumpStart, a nonprofit economic development organization and seed stage investment fund created to invest in and accelerate the growth of high-potential, early stage companies. Before JumpStart, Ruhe served as president of Optiem LLC, where he led the growth of a nascent marketing practice to a nationally recognized interactive marketing, communications and public relations agency. Earlier in his career, he held positions in technology integration, marketing, finance, sales, and management. His experience spans founding several entrepreneurial endeavors. Thom is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a degree in management information systems, and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Plant A Fish Foundation.

Prentiss Earl III

Prentiss Earl III is an entrepreneur in residence with Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, an initiative of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where he supports Kauffman Labs’ initiatives to accelerate the creation and development of new high-growth firms. Earl previously provided business development and community relations for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Urban Entrepreneur Partnership (UEP), creating and executing a sales and marketing process to enhance the program’s effectiveness. He maintains a commercial photography business, PE3 Studios, based in Kansas City, Mo.

Prior to his work with the Kauffman Foundation, Prentiss served as director of marketing for American Performance Technologies in Kansas City, Mo., where he planned and implemented the company’s strategic marketing programs, including developing international outsourcing relationships. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from the University of Kansas and an MBA from MidAmerica Nazarene University.

Jennifer Kearns

Jennifer Kearns is Program Analyst of Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, an initiative of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she manages the operational and programmatic efficiency of the school dedicated to advancing experiential-based entrepreneurial education. She also is program officer over the Kauffman Labs Coding Classes that bridges the conversational gap between developers and founders. Before joining Kauffman Labs, Jennifer was an executive assistant and graphic designer for a worldwide oil and grease manufacturer. She has also delved into design and marketing for the trade show industry at Display Studios in Kansas City, KS. Jennifer graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in Graphic Design. She has continued her education at Johnson County Community College receiving a Certificate in Business Accounting.