Fountain City Fintech welcomes new cohort of five companies

Kansas City’s ongoing fintech momentum deserves more than a nod from analysts and trend watchers, said Zach Pettet, announcing plans for an Oct. 15 demo day that’s already taking shape as a community celebration.

“We need an excuse to rally together and celebrate everything that’s happened over the past few months — especially in the fintech space,” said Pettet, managing director of Fountain City Fintech. “C2FO just had their big funding raise, PayIt is going wild, Fountain City Fintech is in Year 2, H&R Block picked up Wave. Kansas City just has so much freaking momentum.”

The event’s centerpiece remains the second cohort of Fountain City Fintech, which wraps its nbkc bank-based accelerator with the evening of presentations, as well as Kansas City barbecue and libations.

Click here for tickets to the Oct. 15 celebration, which is sponsored by LaunchKC, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Cambr.

“The five companies in our Year 2 cohort will have killed themselves for the past 75 days,” said Pettet, eager to show off the hard work of the companies, which came to the accelerator from across the nation. “We’re trying to run the best program that we can, while simultaneously thinking about there being no Techstars this year in Kansas City. The Sprint Accelerator has become less focused on tech with its developing partnership with Dairy Farmers of America. So we’re looking at this event as an outlet to really cheers tech entrepreneurship in Kansas City and all the progress we’ve made.”

Click here to read about Techstars Kansas City’s planned return in 2020.

Fountain City Fintech’s latest cohort builds on its inaugural predecessor’s success, said Megan Darnell, as well as an increasingly robust mentor network.

“As we’ve really solidified our connections to community members in Kansas City, they’ve gone above and beyond to be helpful and fill the gaps we had in resources from Year 1,” Darnell, the Fountain City Fintech program manager, explained.

Members of the first cohort also worked to legitimize the program and garner vetted quality companies for Year 2, she added.

“They helped spread the gospel,” Darnell said.

The result? 

“All of these companies are super impressive,” Pettet said. “The four that are from outside Kansas City are doing really important work that’s needed in the world, and don’t look anything like the other companies in their space. That’s a very important piece.”

Among the cohort members expected to present at demo day:

Tim Yu, Pluto

Tim Yu, Pluto

“The breadth and the depth of quality in these companies is amazing,” said Pettet, singling out Cupertino, California-based Pluto Money, which last week held the App of the Day spot in the Apple Store and since then has continued ticking up with total users across 1,500 college campuses now in the tens of thousands.

“We intentionally made sure we were taking on diverse viewpoints and interesting niche problems,” Darnell added. “And because of the work we’ve done to build the program, it was easier to select a quality cohort that just so happened to have diversity in gender, age, ethnic groups and backgrounds.”

Pettet called attention to Seattle-based cohort member Nav.It and the work its CEO is doing to change access to the fintech landscape.

Erin Papworth, Navit

Erin Papworth, Navit

“Nav.It is building specific to the female experience in the worlds of fintech and finance,” he said. “So much of the history of finance has been white men building for white men, right? And women have been left behind, as have a lot of socioeconomic, racial and gender groups.”

Donald Hawkins’ Kansas City-based startup Griffin came to the accelerator through nbkc’s entrepreneur in residence program, Pettet also noted.

Click here to read more about the new EIR incubator effort at nbkc.

“So it’s not just a matter of Fountain City Fintech picking up speed,” Pettet said. “We’re now starting net new fintech companies in Kansas City. That’s the goal of this whole thing at the end of the day. That’s why we’re trying to get the flywheel turning.”

A loud legacy

Henry Bloch won’t go quietly, Pettet said, detailing plans to honor the late H&R Block founder during the demo day event with a “Moment of Loudness.”

Henry Bloch, right, and his son, Tom Bloch, in 2015

“The brand of Henry and that side of entrepreneurship — giving back, caring about your community, taking care of your customers — is something that we really want to carry forward,” said Pettet.

Both leaders of Fountain City Fintech — Pettet and Darnell — graduated from the Bloch School at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the accelerator’s “finterns” — Salem Habte and Ali Brandolino — will soon advance from the school the bears Bloch’s name, Pettet said, noting a rich heritage and tie-in with the legendary entrepreneur.

“Henry is a really important part of the narrative of Kansas City and this momentum in fintech,” he said. “None of it happens without him — or people like Ewing Kauffman. But Henry started that first domino, pushing us in the right direction.”

 

Sustainability is focus of Cleantech Accelerator, powered by Black & Veatch, LaunchKC

Hyleme George, Director of the IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator Program for Black & Veatch, welcomes seven companies into the first cohort of the Ignite X Cleanteach Accelerator powered by Black & Veatch and LaunchKC.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – SEPT. 11, 2019 – Seven innovative technology startups – focused on sustainability solutions that range from artificial intelligence and next-generation analytics to autonomous heavy equipment and electric vehicle energy management – have been selected to join Black & Veatch’s IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator.

The seven startups include two Midwestern companies, one from Florida and four from the West Coast. The program is designed to accelerate the adoption of new sustainable infrastructure technologies and attract the best and brightest entrepreneurs from across the country to Kansas City for further development opportunities.

The program, powered by LaunchKC, is building partnerships that seek to drive sustainability gains through advances in renewable and distributed energy, mobility, agricultural technology, machine learning and AI, environmental services, and other solutions that add value to engineering services.

Picked from more than 120 applicants across the United States, the startups will receive equity awards, a 75-day period of collaboration with Black & Veatch and program supporters, and a startup showcase in November. They’ll gain valuable training and engineering insight to grow their business through collaboration with Black & Veatch professionals, as well as exposure and networking opportunities with experienced investors, supporters and clients in Kansas City and around the world.

LaunchKC is a 5-year-old grants competition for tech startups nationwide, in a joint venture of the Downtown Council of Kansas City, Missouri and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri. LaunchKC elevated its focus in 2019 to working in partnership with industry-specific verticals to support accelerator programs, including the IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator.

Today, 34 of LaunchKC’s grant winners over the past four years – or 90 percent – are still in business, posting milestones (as of year-end 2018) that include:

  • 275 full-time employees, up 65 percent since year-end 2018, with another 350 independent contractors above the FTE count;
  • $87.3 million in cumulative investment or follow-on funding – up 82 percent since year-end 2018;
  • 53 percent of all grant winners represent women or minority-owned businesses.

Black & Veatch, the largest engineering company in the Kansas City area, is a global leader in engineering, construction and consulting services for energy, water and telecommunications clients. Its IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator marks one the company’s boldest moves into the entrepreneurial arena of engineering services, following the creation of the company’s Growth Accelerator to explore new and emerging markets.

Startups joining the IgniteX Cleantech accelerator include:

  • Aware Vehicles, Kansas City, MO, which employs drones with smart mobile docking platforms, 4D spatial-spectral modelling and real-time analytics to address construction challenges as well as innovative imaging solutions for structural health monitoring;
  • Built Robotics, San Francisco, CA, which specializes in self-driving heavy equipment to make construction safer, faster, and more productive;
  • ecoSPEARS, Altamone Springs, FL, which uses green technologies to extract and destroy PCBs, dioxins and other chlorinated contaminants from the environment;
  • Electriphi, San Francisco, CA, which deploys a software platform for fleet and energy management that provides operational and infrastructure cost savings for light, medium and heavy-duty commercial electric vehicle fleets;
  • Extensible Energy, Berkeley, CA, which specializes in cloud-based software that controls flexible loads to reduce demand and time-of-use energy charges in small-to-medium buildings;
  • InfraLytiks, Urbandale, IA, which employes software featuring AI and machine learning based on images, complex data or text/financials;
  • NovoNutrients, Sunnyvale, CA, which uses energy from hydrogen to transform waste carbon into protein and other high value products for the aquaculture and animal feed industries.

Editor’s Notes:

 About Black & Veatch 
Black & Veatch is an employee-owned, global leader in building critical human infrastructure in Energy, Water, Telecommunications and Government Services. Since 1915, we have helped our clients improve the lives of people in over 100 countries through consulting, engineering, construction, operations and program management. Our revenues in 2018 were US$3.5 billion. Follow us on www.bv.com and in social media.

About LaunchKC

The nonprofit LaunchKC competition has awarded $2 million in grants to 38 tech startup businesses over four years. LaunchKC, a nonprofit initiative of the DTC and EDCKC, is fueled by the Missouri Technology Corporation, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and corporate, governmental and philanthropic organizations.

Media Contact Information

CHRISTOPHER CLARK, Black & Veatch, 913-458-2778

MIKE HURD, LaunchKC, 816-447-2136

 

Nueterra Capital selects 6 companies for Launch Health Accelerator

The Launch Health Accelerator powered by Nueterra Capital and LaunchKC officially got under way on Tuesday at its home base in Kansas City, MO. Representatives of all six cohort members join representatives of LaunchKC, the Downtown Council and the Economic Development Corp. for this Day 1 gathering.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – Sept. 11, 2019Six innovative technology entrepreneurs – focused on disruptive, yet sustainable solutions to improving patient care and lowering costs – have been selected to join the Launch Health Accelerator powered by Nueterra Capital.

The six businesses include four from the Kansas City region, one from Denver and one from San Francisco. The accelerator is designed to attract the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the globe to come to Kansas City for further development.

“We all agree that the current healthcare system is not sustainable and is in need of disruption. Through the Health Accelerator, we were seeking companies with fresh ideas that give rise to improving care and lowering costs that can be readily integrated into existing clinical workflows,” said Jeremy Tasset, Nueterra Capital CEO. Leawood, Kansas.

The accelerator, developed in partnership with LaunchKC – a joint initiative of the Downtown Council (DTC) and Economic Development Corp. (EDCKC) of Kansas City, Missouri – is designed for early-stage businesses deemed likely to disrupt and improve the current healthcare system. The goal is to build partnerships with entrepreneurs who have fresh ideas on how to make healthcare more accessible, with more predictable outcomes and transparent costs.

“I am very excited to welcome the first Launch Health Accelerator cohort. These outstanding companies were selected from nearly 200 applications received from all over the world,” said Don Peterson, entrepreneur in residence for the accelerator and a healthcare industry veteran.

“Choosing the best six applications was incredibly difficult due mainly to the amazing quality of so many of the entrepreneurs. Meritocracy won the day.”

The companies will receive equity awards, a 75-day boot camp of collaboration and development with Nueterra Capital and program supporters, and a Demo Day in November.

“They’ll gain valuable training and insight to grow their business through collaboration with Nueterra professionals, as well as exposure and networking opportunities with an experienced network of investors, supporters and clients in Kansas City and around the country,” Tasset said.

The Launch Health Accelerator boot camp – which began on Tuesday – is designed to expand and enhance awareness of the vast healthcare industry as it pertains to each of the selected companies. Weekly sessions with experts will cover an array of topics including legal, regulatory, provider practice constructs, payer preferences and priorities, consumer behavior, social determinants, and a review of successful and unsuccessful disruptions and innovations.

Peterson explained that cohort participants will each have one-on-one sessions covering a variety of topics like technology development, investment strategy, team-building, culture, compliance, sales and marketing, specifically designed to address each company’s unique needs.

“We are excited about the potential of this cohort, as well as the continued growth of the LaunchKC program with our partners at Nueterra Capital,” said Drew Solomon, competition chair of LaunchKC and senior vice president at the Economic Development Corp. of Kansas City, MO. “We have strived for the last five years to push Kansas City’s capacity for supporting emerging companies and technology.”

Nueterra Capital and LaunchKC opened the application window in late June in search of entrepreneurs dedicated to making healthcare outcomes more predictable, delivery more accessible, costs more transparent and technology that empowers more patients to be consumers of healthcare.

Companies selected for the 2019 Health Accelerator cohort include:

Healium by Story UP, Columbia, MO, is the world’s first virtual and augmented reality channel powered by brainwaves and heart rate. It allows the user to see their emotions control virtual worlds with their smart watch or brain-sensing headband. In peer-reviewed journals, StoryUP’s patented technology has been shown to reduce anxiety and increase feelings of positivity in as little as four minutes. Healium kits are used worldwide in areas of situational stress.

MedZEROKansas City, MOis a new employee benefit providing instant 0% loans for families throughout the U.S. who are struggling to pay their healthcare bills.  Employees can make payments ranging from $100 to $5,000 for medical, dental, vision, and pharmaceutical needs. MedZERO loans are repaid over 6 to 12 months through payroll deductions, and savings of up to 30% are achieved by maximizing the use of health savings accounts.

SickweatherKansas City, MO, knows where sick people are and where they will be up to 15 weeks in advance. It’s like a Doppler radar for illness. Their patented social listening technology detects illness trends in real-time at a hyper local level, in over 120 countries. That data is then modeled into 15-week forecasts and a threat level index called the SickScore.

Spoke Health, Denver, CO, helps healthcare organizations deploy and scale new care and payment models to tackle high cost care episodes from “ouch” to “outcome.” The Spoke technology platform powers a healthcare marketplace for high quality, low cost care that significantly reduces medical and administrative costs, enables cost transparency and improves consumer health, satisfaction and peace of mind.

TheraWe ConnectKansas City, MO, is a HIPAA compliant platform that bridges the gap between the therapy center and the home. TheraWe Connect reduces stress for families during their pediatric therapy journey by providing two-way messaging and video sharing that improves communication between therapy providers and parents.

WellBrain, San Francisco, CA, enables physicians and hospital systems to use evidence based non-opiate modalities such as mindfulness and other solutions in a B2B2C software-as-a-service model. Providers use iPads for tracking various inputs on patient’s health, movement, depression and anxiety and other factors to provide custom treatments or guided meditations in a physician tracked app for patients to use at home on smartphones.

As the 2019 cohort assembles for the start of the boot camp next week, Peterson was effusive when describing the potential of the program.

“Between now and the Demo Day on November 20th, we will have accomplished our mission if each cohort participant feels better equipped to face the extreme challenges of disrupting the behemoth healthcare space,” Peterson said.

***

About Nueterra Capital

Nueterra Capital is a venture capital firm that invests in early and growth-stage healthcare companies. Based in Leawood, Kansas, Nueterra was founded by a team of industry experts and entrepreneurs who are dedicated to transforming healthcare and how we invest in it. The Launch Health Accelerator was established this year.

About LaunchKC

LaunchKC is evolving from a grants competition for tech entrepreneurs (founded 2014) to a tech accelerator platform (beginning 2019) that works in partnership with industry-specific verticals, including the Health Accelerator. LaunchKC, a nonprofit initiative of the DTC and EDCKC, is fueled by the Missouri Technology Corporation, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and corporate, governmental and philanthropic organizations.

Media Contact Information:

JEREMY TASSET, Nueterra Capital, jtasset@nueterra.com, 913-387-0571

DON PETERSON, Launch Health Accelerator, drpemail@gmail.com, 913-269-4506

MIKE HURD, LaunchKC, mike@downtownkc.org, 816-447-2136

 

Nueterra joins forces with LaunchKC to fuel KC Health Accelerator

 

The Downtown Council (DTC), the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, (EDCKC) and Nueterra Capital announce the formation of Kansas City’s newest industry vertical accelerator – LaunchKC Health Accelerator powered by Nueterra Capitaldesigned for early-stage businesses that are working to disrupt the current healthcare system.

With national healthcare spending projected to grow to $3.6 trillion in 2019, up 4 percent from 2018, healthcare is an urgent priority for Americans. To keep up with the changing world, the healthcare industry needs to change the way healthcare is delivered and the way it’s consumed. Additional opportunity lies in payment reform, increasing transparency in pricing, as well as capitalizing on data and analytics. The LaunchKC Health Accelerator powered by Nueterra Capital aims to foster new ideas and support companies that are working on transformative solutions in each of these areas.

“We are delighted to announce this new accelerator,” said Drew Solomon of LaunchKC, a partnership between the DTC and EDCKC. “This continues the evolution of the LaunchKC grants competition into specific industry verticals, including the nbkc bank Fountain City Fintech accelerator and the Black & Veatch IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator.

“We’re also very excited to welcome Nueterra Capital as the investment sponsor. Nueterra has been on the front lines of reforming our healthcare system and we are looking forward to their leadership and investment experience across the spectrum of healthcare and medical services,” Solomon said.

“We all agree that the current healthcare system is not sustainable and is in need of disruption,” said Jeremy Tasset, Nueterra Capital CEO. “With the creation of the LaunchKC Health Accelerator powered by Nueterra Capital, we’re looking for companies with fresh ideas on how to make healthcare more accessible, with more predictable outcomes and transparent costs.

“I am hoping we see service and technology ideas that give rise to improving care and lowering costs that can be readily integrated into existing clinical workflows, and some that are truly disruptive, Tasset said.”

The new accelerator will start taking applications today (June 27, 2019) and will welcome its first cohort later this fall.

In addition to a minimum $50,000 equity investment from Nueterra Capital, companies accepted into the program will receive $10,000 in software development services from Full Scale, a LaunchKC partner; $5,000 in healthcare and business legal advice from Husch Blackwell, a sponsor of LaunchKC in each of its first five years; and with additional services like accounting, marketing and business mentoring from LaunchKC partners.

Solomon said each company will have the opportunity to be featured on Full Scale’s “Startup Hustle” podcast, one of the top 100 business podcasts on Apple. LaunchKC will continue to add other professional services throughout the application and judging phases.

“LaunchKC has been a catalyst for commercializing technology in Kansas City for five years. Husch Blackwell has been supportive of this initiative from its inception,” said Jeff Simon, Managing Partner at Husch Blackwell. “With the expansion of the program, the firm is proud to be their legal sponsor and partner to provide services to the future cohorts.”

In addition, LaunchKC announced today that local tech and healthcare entrepreneur, Don Peterson, will lead the new health accelerator as Entrepreneur in Residence.

“Don adds a wealth of experience and a track record of disrupting the healthcare industry with his most recent venture, Infusion Express,” Solomon said.

“I’m excited and honored to be a part of this new program. I love the fact that we’re integrating an outstanding venture fund into it right from its beginning,” Peterson said. “Nueterra Capital has an exceptional pedigree and a tremendous track record of investing in companies determined on making a positive difference in the industry.”

For information about LaunchKC, visit www.LaunchKC.org

For more information about applying to the LaunchKC Health Accelerator powered by Nueterra Capital, visit launchkc.org or call Drew Solomon 816-691-2135.

About Downtown Council

The DTC is a private, nonprofit, 501c6 membership organization that represents Kansas City’s best businesses, property owners, nonprofit organizations and stakeholders who are invested in the success of Downtown Kansas City, Missouri. To learn more, visit www.downtownkc.org.

About EDCKC

The EDCKC is a 501c4 agency that works to retain and grow its resident businesses, attract high opportunity companies to locate in the city, and attract and retain a skilled and diverse workforce and to ensure a vibrant Kansas City, Missouri, and growing, self-sustaining economy. To learn more, visit www.edckc.com.

About Nueterra Capital

Nueterra Capital is a healthcare-focused venture capital firm that invests in companies on the leading edge of healthcare reform. Nueterra Capital invests in healthcare providers, services, and technology companies whose business model reshapes the healthcare industry through advanced payment methods, innovative risk transfer models, data analysis, and advocating patient consumerism. Nueterra Capital has offices in Leawood, KS and Nashville, TN. To learn more, visit www.nueterra.com.

About LaunchKC

LaunchKC is evolving from a proven grants competition into a tech accelerator platform that will continue to leverage grants, as well as create new opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs, workers and the tech ecosystem of Kansas City. The accelerator platform is designed to attract scalable companies to the city in order to create more jobs and opportunities while growing the local economy. To learn more, visit www.launchkc.org.

LaunchKC is funded by the Missouri Technology Corporation, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and local corporate and philanthropic partners, including The Cordish Companies, JE Dunn Construction, the EDCKC, Husch Blackwell, KCP&L, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the William T. Kemper Foundation, Missouri Department of Economic Development and Port KC.

Black & Veatch unveils Cleantech Accelerator powered by LaunchKC

Hyleme George, Director of the IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator Program for Black & Veatch, reveals plans for its new Cleanteach Accelerator, powered by LaunchKC, on Wednesday.

Engineering and construction company Black & Veatch cemented its place in the Kansas City startup ecosystem Wednesday by introducing its IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator, powered by LaunchKC at a kickoff announcement event at Boulevard Beer Hall.

Black & Veatch, the largest engineering company in the Kansas City area, is a global leader in engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for energy, water and telecommunications. It’s IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator marks one of its boldest moves into the entrepreneurial arena of engineering services. The company recently created a segment of the company known as the Growth Accelerator, leveraging Black & Veatch’s core strengths to explore new and emerging markets.

Black & Veatch’s IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator, powered by LaunchKC will seek partnership with startups focused on renewable and distributed energy, mobility, agricultural technology, machine learning and AI, and other technologies or processes adding value to engineering services. The program will include equity awards, a 75-day period of collaboration with Black & Veatch and program supporters, and a demo day in November. The application is scheduled to open next week, and will be located on the IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator website.

“Partnering with LaunchKC is a natural extension of our effort to constantly challenge convention and advance the way we deliver value for clients,” said Hyleme George, Director of the IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator Program. “LaunchKC’s reputation for identifying attractive and innovative startups will ultimately result in access to a new and exciting pool of talent and great ideas.”

“The bottom line of the new platform is to attract scalable companies to the city to create more jobs and opportunities while growing our economy,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president, business and job development for the EDC.

Businesses who choose to participate in the Black & Veatch IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator, powered by LaunchKC will gain valuable training and insight to grow their business through collaboration with a top global infrastructure provider, as well as exposure and networking opportunities with an experienced network of investors, supporters and clients in Kansas City and around the world.

“The City of Kansas City, Mo. continues to build on its track record of smart city success. The City pioneered a range of public-private partnerships from 2015 through today to deliver critical infrastructure and data-driven policy evolutions. This allows us to explore new business models and engage entrepreneurs and firms across our ecosystem,” said Bob Bennett, chief innovation officer for the City of KCMO. “The commitment to the Cleantech vertical accelerator extends those efforts. The City and its partners are proud to support the development of new technologies in sustainability and data-driven systems management.”

Solomon explained that industry-focused business accelerators provide a more complete bundle of benefits for entrepreneurs, including seed investment, connections, mentorship, and educational components. The new LaunchKC programs will feature public pitch days to showcase each cohort of entrepreneurs. The events are designed to accelerate their growth.

“The accelerator platform will provide investors pathways to take equity stakes in early-stage businesses after grants have been awarded,” he said.

“The industry-focused business accelerator platform will continue to reward entrepreneurs with grants to help them in growing their businesses,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for the Downtown Council (DTC) and LaunchKC, “but will add more pathways to assist them in elevating their chances of success.”

LaunchKC, the 5-year-old grants competition for tech startups nationwide, will work in partnership with Black & Veatch to provide competition management, marketing and event services. LaunchKC is a joint venture of the Downtown Council of Kansas City and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City.

The nonprofit LaunchKC competition awarded $2 million in grants to 38 tech startup businesses over four years. Today, 34 of the grant winners – or 90 percent – are still in business, posting milestones (as of year-end 2018) that include:

  • 167 full-time employees; up 10-fold since 2015
  • $11.7 million in cumulative sales; up from $199,000 in 2015
  • $48 million in cumulative investment – up from $2 million in year one

LaunchKC is funded by the Missouri Technology Corporation, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and local corporate and philanthropic organizations, including the Kansas City Power & Light District, JE Dunn Construction, Google Fiber, Husch Blackwell, KCP&L, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the William T. Kemper Foundation, Lathrop Gage, Lead Bank, Missouri Department of Economic Development and Port KC.

LaunchKC evlevates grants program to accelerator platform

Drew Solomon, right, prepares to reveal the nine 2018 LaunchKC grant winners, during a ceremony at No Other Pub in October,

LaunchKC opens the next chapter of its evolution this week.

Over the past four years, LaunchKC has awarded $2 million to attract and retain 38 tech startup businesses in Kansas City. Beginning this week, LaunchKC will grow from a 5-year-old grants-based program into a tech accelerator platform that will feature advantages and opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and the tech ecosystem of Kansas City.

“The bottom line of the new platform is to attract scalable companies to the city to create more jobs and opportunities while growing our economy,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president, business and job development for the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) of Kansas City, Mo.

LaunchKC is a joint venture of the Downtown Council of Kansas City and the EDC.

Solomon explained that industry-focused business accelerators provide a more complete bundle of benefits for entrepreneurs, including seed investment, connections, mentorship and educational components. The new LaunchKC programs will feature public pitch days to showcase each cohort of entrepreneurs. The events are designed to introduce their polished business pitches, and open the door to accelerating their growth.

LaunchKC is working to support three KC-based industry-focused accelerators in 2019, including a second year with Fountain City Fintech (financial technology) with nbkc bank, a health tech accelerator that is currently in the works, and a CleanTech accelerator that will be announced on Wednesday.

To learn more about the LaunchKC strategy, check out today’s story in Startland

LaunchKC pivots to industry verticals, accelerators

LaunchKC is expected to focus on specific business verticals in 2019 — an effort to bring companies to Kansas City that can fill industry gaps.

A revamped version of the annual grants competition eventually would grow those verticals into individual accelerator programs, according to Jim Malle, business development officer at the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, which coordinates LaunchKC alongside the Downtown Council of Kansas City.

Decisions on awarding grant funding in each vertical in 2019, including the amounts of such grants, will depend on fundraising efforts, he said. The LaunchKC program previously has culminated in a pitch contest between 20 startups, with each vying for their piece of $500,000 in non-dilutive grants, rent-free office space, and the opportunity to build their new and emerging tech businesses in Kansas City, Missouri.

Programs like Fountain City Fintech — a new accelerator at nbkc bank that recently wrapped its inaugural cohort with a Demo Day last week — already have a proven track record of bringing companies to Kansas City, Malle said. Five of the six Fountain City Fintech startups plan to stay in the city after the accelerator’s completion, founders announced at Thursday’s Demo Day event.

Industry verticals to be supported by LaunchKC have yet to be confirmed, Malle added, but EDCKC expects to continue financially backing Fountain City Fintech, as well as providing administrative assistance for the next cohort to further the accelerator’s growth.

 

LaunchKC’s pivot to accelerators gives the chance for companies to spend a longer amount of time in the Kansas City community and give founders and executives more opportunities to engage with area assets, said Zach Anderson Pettet, managing director for Fountain City Fintech at nbkc.

“It seems like, economic development-wise, that’s going to be much more valuable,” he said. “The idea of a grant competition is great and free office space is great, but it’s hard even if you have free office space to really understand how much Kansas City has to offer. So I think things like accelerators provide more of an avenue to the community and provide more of opportunity for the companies to really put down roots.”

The experience with nbkc’s fintech program exceeded EDCKC’s expectations, Malle told the crowd Thursday evening at the Demo Day event.

Feedback from cohort members and others associated with the accelerator will help determine programming adjustments for future iterations of Fountain City Fintech, Pettet said.

“I’m overjoyed with how this Year 1 went and honestly I think we’re excited about next year,” he said, following the demanding program’s end. “We’re going to do it again, but there’s a lot of changes that we’re going to make.”

The fintech’s first-year success is a direct result of the cumulative efforts of the Kansas City entrepreneurial ecosystem, Pettet added.

“People have stepped up so intensely to help this program and really rallied around it,” he said. “I don’t think we wouldn’t be where we are today and had the success that we had last night if it weren’t for all the people in the city.”

KC innovation district platform introduced to GEW

Developing an innovation district takes a village, Kevin McGinnis told a packed room of Global Entrepreneurship Week attendees — a cross-section of Kansas Citians eager to learn more about how his proposed Keystone innovation district could re-shape diversity and inclusion efforts in the startup space.

“I’m not going to suggest that I’m bringing a bunch of Overland Park executives in to mentor the black community,” said McGinnis, CEO of the Keystone Community Corporation, attempting to clarify his plans during the GEW panel on emerging innovation districts.

 

Developers aren’t out to erase or diminish the heritage and history of the people who make their homes or businesses in the neighborhoods in and around 18th and Vine — the area the former Sprint executive and founder of the Sprint Accelerator intends to redevelop into an entrepreneurial hub, he said.

Click here to read more about the planned Keystone innovation district.

A series of diversity and community engagement programs are planned for the district, but have yet to be fleshed out, McGinnis added.

Speaking up during a question-and-answer period at the event, Nia Richardson, director of business development at DuBois Consultants, a Kansas City civil and structural engineering firm, challenged the generalities of McGinnis’ announced plans.

Ditching words like “diversity” and “inclusion” are a start, she said, encouraging the panel and attendees to directly address the reality than an innovation district would most impact the black community already living in the area proposed for redevelopment.

“It’s easy to be very specific [in what you’re doing],” said Richardson. “Be very intentional about making sure ‘I can grow black businesses and create more jobs’ to help combat the issues that you have [on the east side].”

The CEO and his partners are open to community-curated ideas and collaboration with local organizations as they navigate their role in diversifying the entrepreneurial ecosystem, he replied.

“We’re not there yet, and I’m not suggesting we have all the answers,” McGinnis said to Richardson, aiming to contrast the Keystone District proposal with fears of gentrification. “What I’m trying to create is a front door to the regional economy of innovation.”

All too often, diversity-led programming doesn’t know where to find a home in Kansas City, McGinnis argued. Establishing a centralized port of economic and entrepreneurial activity — like the Keystone District — could correct the course and provide a welcoming place for diverse and inclusive ideas and activities to flourish in Kansas City, he said.

“I’ve probably picked the most sensitive corridor in Kansas City,” McGinnis told the room, confident in his decision to redevelop in the area. “I’m willing to take [building the Keystone District] on and see what we can do with it.”

News of McGinnis plans for the Keystone District broke last month, shortly after his company secured its first parcel of land near 18th and Vine.

To stay abreast of the KC tech scene, stay tuned to the Startland News.

LaunchKC tops $2 million in grants to tech start-ups

2018 LaunchKC grant winners

LaunchKC judges awarded $500,000 in grants to nine tech start-up businesses on Friday, following a months-long competition designed to attract and retain tech entrepreneurs in Kansas City.

This year’s grants competition elevated LaunchKC to the $2 million mark in grants to 38 different entrepreneurs over four years.

“This is a tremendous milestone as we demonstrate our commitment to attracting, growing and retaining startup businesses in Downtown Kansas City,” said Mike Hurd, spokesman for LaunchKC, an initiative of the Downtown Council and the Economic Development Corporation.

The nine winners, including five from Greater Kansas City were selected Friday afternoon from a pool of 20 finalists. Each of the final 20 presented their business pitches that morning to LaunchKC judges and the Techweek Kansas City audience at Union Station.

Grant winners were announced Friday afternoon at a special LaunchKC / Techweek Kansas City awards ceremony at No Other Pub in the Power & Light District.

Ag Voice from Atlanta, GA, was only the second, $100,000 grand prize recipient in LaunchKC history. It is a mobile voice-interaction service designed for food and agriculture professionals to capture insights on the go. By using proprietary analytics and processing of raw voice files including captured time stamps and location data, users can improve productivity and workflow management, increase documentation accuracy, and gain valuable insights to optimize the use of resources in crop and animal production for a sustainability and environmental impact.

Another $400,000 was awarded on Friday in $50,000 parcels to eight entrepreneurs, including:

“Each of the 20 finalists were very strong contenders for LaunchKC’s grants, as well as for building strong, economically successful businesses,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president for business job development at the EDC and chair of the LaunchKC competition.

Today’s announcement marks the culmination of weeks of application reviews and scoring by a panel of more than 35 business and financial leaders, who volunteered their time to thoughtfully narrow the field from 586 applicants – up 32 percent from 2017 – to the 20 finalists who competed on Friday.

“LaunchKC attracted more than 2,000 applications from throughout the nation and the world in our four years of competition with tech entrepreneurs,” said Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council. “This year’s awards mean we have reached $2 million mark.

“We believe in entrepreneurship and we believe these start-ups have a better chance to success in Kansas City,” Hurd said.

In addition to cash grants, the nine winning applicants will receive a network of support, industry-specific mentor teams for each grant recipient; and opportunities to meet and learn from industry and entrepreneurial leaders in and around Kansas City – all designed to elevate their efforts to build high-growth, tech sector businesses and jobs in KCMO.

“LaunchKC is an economic game-changer in Kansas City through its support of start-up businesses. It creates jobs, attracts talents, unlocks value, and engages follow-in investors,” Solomon said.

LaunchKC is a nonprofit, civic engine in the Kansas City entrepreneurial space. It is an initiative of the Downtown Council and the Economic Development Corporation. The program is fueled each year by the visionary support of corporate, public and philanthropic partners. For 2018, the sponsor honor roll includes:

STRATEGIC SPONSORS

  • Missouri Technology Corporation and the City of Kansas City, Missouri

VISIONARY SPONSORS

  • The Cordish Companies / Power & Light District; Downtown Council of Kansas City; Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City; and the William T. Kemper Foundation

CONTRIBUTING SPONSORS

  • Husch Blackwell; KCP&L; and the State of Missouri, Department of Economic Development

EMERGING SPONSORS

  • Adknowledge; American Century Investments; BalancePoint; J.E. Dunn Construction; Google Fiber; ITEN; Lathrop Gage; LightEdge Solutions; Metropolitan Community College, Parson & Associates, RubinBrown; and Spring Venture Group

DOWNTOWN CIRCLE

  • Academy Bank; Country Club Bank; Generator Studio; Helix; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center; Park University; and the UMKC Bloch School of Management.

www.launchkc.org * @Launch_KC

NASA leader & LaunchKC Pitch Day are on tap for Friday

An executive from the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) will “launch” the annual LaunchKC Pitch Day with an opening keynote address on Friday, Oct. 12 at Union Station.

Kira Blackwell, Program Executive, Office of the Chief Technologist, NASA will speak to the audience at 8 a.m. Friday, immediately before the start of the LaunchKC Pitch Day in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station.

Blackwell will share insights into NASA iTech, a year-long effort to find innovative ideas that address challenges and fill gaps in five critical areas identified by NASA as having a potential impact on future exploration, including big data and data mining; artificial intelligence and autonomous robotic capabilities; revolutionary concepts for communications; medical breakthrough; and x-factor innovations.

The NASA-inspired keynote falls on the fifth and final day of the Techweek Kansas City conference. Friday is primarily focused on LaunchKC, the the final round of the fourth annual grants competition for tech startups that has been a part of the Techweek KC experience, since its first local conference in 2015.

“We are delighted to welcome Kira Blackwell and NASA to ‘launch’ the Pitch Day events,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president of business and job development for the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, and competition chair for LaunchKC.

The LaunchKC Pitch Day marks the final day of the annual grants competition. Beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, the 20 LaunchKC finalists will make their  business plan presentations to a panel of LaunchKC judges AND the Techweek Kansas City audience. Solomon said Blackwell has agreed to join the panel of judges.

“NASA iTech and LaunchKC are cut from the same innovative cloth – both are showcases for entrepreneurs who are looking to change the trajectory of the world through their innovative thinking and business plans,” Solomon said.

NASA iTech is a program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and works in collaboration with The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in support of the Agency’s Mission. This collaborative effort identifies and fosters innovative solutions that aim to solve challenges on Earth and also have the potential to solve some of NASA’s challenges agency-wide.

LaunchKC is a national grants competition designed to attract tech entrepreneurs to compete for non-dilutive grants and the opportunity to build their new and emerging tech businesses in Kansas City, Missouri.

“LaunchKC has attracted more than 2,100 applications from throughout the nation and the world during our four years of competitions,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council.

LaunchKC judges worked for six weeks to narrow the 2018 field of entrepreneurs from 586 applicants to the final 20, who will compete on the big stage this Friday, including:

  • AgVoice – Atlanta, Ga. – Ag Tech
  • Bluepoint2 – Leawood, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Boddle Learning – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Bungii – Overland Park, Kan. – Mobile Technology
  • Case Helper – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • Digs – Chicago, Ill. – Fin Tech
  • Erkios Systems – Kansas City, Mo. – Network Security
  • Just Play Sports Solutions – Lawrence, Kan. – Cloud Services
  • Listing, LLC – Kansas City, Mo. – Real Estate Tech
  • MindSport – Overland Park, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Motega Health – Lawrence, Kan. – Health Tech
  • OpenCities – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • PlaBook – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Project Ray – Yokneam, Israel – Mobile Technology
  • Realquantum – Overland Park, Kan. – Fin Tech
  • Ripe.io – San Francisco, Calif. – Ag Tech
  • SaRA Health – Kansas City, Mo. – Health Tech
  • SmartBridge – Bethesda, Md. – Health Tech
  • Strayos – St. Louis, Mo. – Data Analytics
  • Venture360 – Lee’s Summit, Mo. – Fin Tech

The LaunchKC / Techweek Kansas City schedule on Friday in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station will look like this:

  • 8 a.m. Keynote address by Kira Blackwell, NASA
  • 9 a.m.-12 p.m. LaunchKC Pitch Day of all 20 competition finalists
  • Noon-3 p.m. Judges meet in private to score presentations and decide who will receive grant money
  • 3:30 p.m. LaunchKC to announce winners of 2018 grant competition

Tickets to the LaunchKC Pitch Day – including Blackwell’s keynote address – are part of the Techweek Kansas City ticket package, and are available right here.

Also, make sure you download the Attendify app to view the entire week’s schedule and see the location of every session. We will have multiple sessions in multiple areas of Union Station. The Attendify app is the best way to confirm the location and time of the session you wish to attend. Link to App: https://attendify.com/app/nmy2xr/

 

LaunchKC is an initiative of the Downtown Council of Kansas City and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City. It is fueled each year by the visionary support of corporate, public and philanthropic partners. For 2018, that honor roll includes:

 STRATEGIC SPONSORS

  • Missouri Technology Corporation and the City of Kansas City, Missouri

VISIONARY SPONSORS

  • The Cordish Companies / Power & Light District; Downtown Council of Kansas City; Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City; William T. Kemper Foundation; and Techweek

CONTRIBUTING SPONSORS

  • Husch Blackwell; KCP&L; and the State of Missouri, Department of Economic Development

EMERGING SPONSORS

  • Adknowledge; American Century Investments; BalancePoint; J.E. Dunn Construction; Google Fiber; ITEN; Lathrop Gage; LightEdge Solutions; Metropolitan Community College, Parson & Associates, RubinBrown; and Spring Venture Group.

DOWNTOWN CIRCLE

  • Academy Bank; Country Club Bank; Generator Studio; Helix; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center; Park University; and the UMKC Bloch School of Management.

For more information, contact Mike Hurd at mike@downtownkc.org or visit www.launchkc.org and www.techweek.com.