We’re for the believers. The ones who don’t wait for opportunity — they create it.
We’re for the believers. The ones who don’t wait for opportunity — they create it.
Powered by a purpose to ignite Kansas City’s entrepreneurial spirit, LaunchKC searches nationwide for innovative, diverse early-stage startups looking to take their business to the next level. Each year, we invest $500,000 into startups, offering founders a chance to secure $50,000 in funding, and gain access to a host of support services – in exchange for headquartering their business in Kansas City, Missouri for at least one year.
We believe the promise of tomorrow starts with championing the people building it today. At LaunchKC, we look for companies that are:
For nearly a decade, LaunchKC has given early-stage startups the tools, resources, capital, and talent they need to thrive and grow. Each year, our grant recipients receive a share of a $500,000 investment and also receive:
LaunchKC grant recipients are required to relocate to Kansas City, MO for one year. Founders should not only be willing to relocate their company to Kansas City but should see significant value and opportunity in operating in our city.
Online applications for our Y6 grants competition cohort will open on August 7th, 2023!
Online applications for our Y6 grants competition cohort will close on September 17th, 2023!
After completing the online application, hundreds of applicants are narrowed down through three rounds of a highly competitive selection process. The first two rounds are completed by our team of judges.
The third and final round of judging is an in-person pitch in Kansas City as part of our LaunchKC Finals!
LaunchKC will announce our Y6 2024 cohort at a celebratory happy hour event at J. Rieger Distillery.
Selected companies will join LaunchKC’s Y6 cohort in person in Downtown Kansas City, MO for a year-long program.
Why should I enter the LaunchKC Startup Competition?
LaunchKC is a source of equity-free funding for early-stage startups and an opportunity to root your business within a growing entrepreneurial hub surrounded by a community of mentors, collaborators, and resources. LaunchKC companies receive $50,000 and access to an ecosystem of resources and support to help grow their business.
How is LaunchKC different from angel investors and venture capital firms?
LaunchKC is a nonprofit community benefit organization and does not take an equity stake in the companies to which we award grants. Our “return on investment” is the success and growth of our portfolio companies and their impact on the Kansas City region.
If I am selected for the LaunchKC program, what will I need to agree to?
LaunchKC Companies have five obligations they must agree to in order to receive the grant:
How has LaunchKC been successful in supporting startups?
LaunchKC has funded 44 companies since our first grants competition. Of these companies, 39 are still active, with 61% of those choosing to maintain operations in Kansas City. LaunchKC supports our portfolio companies with mentorship, helps to secure follow-on capital, assistance in hiring key talent, and access to our robust network of connections to the Kansas City community for business development. Collectively, LaunchKC companies have created more than 600 jobs in Missouri and attracted over $260 million in follow-on capital.
Why does LaunchKC award grants and not take equity?
Our mission is to advance economic development in the Kansas City region by attracting and retaining innovative entrepreneurs. Our model is an aggressive effort to inspire the next generation of employers, civic leaders, and philanthropists in Kansas City. Our return on investment is the creation of jobs and revenue generated by LaunchKC companies that contribute significantly to our region’s economic development.
How is LaunchKC funded?
LaunchKC is largely funded through the generous support of the State of Missouri and the Kansas City community – numerous individuals, corporations and foundations make up a significant portion of LaunchKC’s annual budget. In addition, LaunchKC also receives funding through the Missouri Technology Corporation.
When does the Competition take place?
The LaunchKC Grants Competition accepts applications once annually. The 2023 application window opens on August 7th and closes on September 17th.
What if I am a St. Louis startup?
If your business is located in the St. Louis area, we would encourage you to check out the Arch Grants Startup Competition –
The Arch Grants Startup Competition awards innovative, scalable, and job-creating startups with $75,000 non-dilutive grants (plus an additional $25,000 for companies relocating to St. Louis) and access to an ecosystem of resources in exchange for headquartering their business in St. Louis for at least one year. The application window for the 2023 Startup Competition is February 21 – March 31, 2023. For more information, please visit www.archgrants.org/competition.
What is the 2023 selection process?
Qualified applicants will have their applications evaluated by a panel of reviewers comprising LaunchKC staff, industry experts, entrepreneurs, past grant recipients, and business leaders. Reviewers will narrow the pool of applicants through three rounds of judging. Applications are evaluated in Round 1. Those moving to Round 2 will be asked to submit a video pitch. In the final Round, approximately 20 applicants will participate in in-person interviews.
Emphasis is placed on companies with high-growth potential that prioritize equity and see Kansas City as an ideal home for their business.
Finalists selected for the LaunchKC program will be notified in late October.
Who are the judges?
LaunchKC invites business professionals, industry experts, university leaders, entrepreneurs, past grant recipients, and supporters to serve as volunteer judges and evaluate applicants. These individuals lend their expertise to LaunchKC in a volunteer capacity to evaluate qualified applicants and determine which companies should be awarded grants.
What is the LaunchKC Finals?
The LaunchKC Finals is the week finalists are invited to Kansas City to pitch live in front of a panel of judges for final grant consideration. During this time, Finalists will have the opportunity to meet with the judging committee and network with previous LaunchKC founders.
How are the live pitches structured during the LaunchKC Finals?
Finalists will have 10 minutes to pitch and 20 minutes for Q&A in front of approximately 10 members of the judging committee.
Will my application be kept confidential?
LaunchKC will not broadcast applications to the public, but we utilize a wide array of judges to help evaluate each company. We recommend to all applicants that they not share confidential information including trade secrets and intellectual property in their application or supporting materials since we cannot guarantee confidentiality.
How will LaunchKC protect the materials submitted in the competition?
LaunchKC limits access to submitted application information to its staff and judging committee. Competition judges are seasoned professionals who are accustomed to dealing with confidential materials on a regular basis. While LaunchKC requests that all volunteer judges keep your information confidential, judges are comprised of a wide swath of technical experts, entrepreneurs, and sector experts, and LaunchKC cannot make any guarantee of confidentiality. We, therefore, ask that applicants not include any information in their application that they feel to be highly confidential, including trade secrets, intellectual property, and/or other confidential information.
Who is eligible to apply?
At LaunchKC, we look for companies that are:
The following companies are not eligible:
I have an idea, am I too early to apply?
LaunchKC is ideal for startups in their early stages where up to $50,000 and wrap-around support services will make a significant impact on the business. All applicants must be incorporated as a for-profit entity, and we require companies to be at least at the validated-idea stage, which would include having a minimum viable product, customer discovery, or some other market research to demonstrate that your idea has been validated.
What industries or markets does LaunchKC focus on?
LaunchKC is industry agnostic and we encourage startups from all tech-enabled industries to apply. Our portfolio includes companies in the following industries: agricultural technology, business-to-business products, business-to-business services, civic technology, clean energy, consumer services, cyber security, education technology, financial technology, health care, information technology, life sciences, logistics and transportation, medical device, mobile applications, social venture, and sustainability.
What criteria will you use to decide which companies will receive grants?
Staff and our judges will review the following:
Is LaunchKC only for Kansas City, MO based companies?
No, LaunchKC encourages startups from all over the United States and the world to apply for the grants competition. However, we are looking for companies that provide a compelling cast for how locating in Kansas City would benefit their business. Typically, 50% of awarded companies are based in Missouri prior to the program, and 50% of awarded companies are based across the United States and relocate to Kansas City for the LaunchKC program. All awarded companies will be required to relocate to Kansas City for at least one year. This includes the business headquarters, significant operations, and 51% of the Founding Team (or 1 Founder and 51% of the team).
If I am selected for the grant, when do I need to relocate to LaunchKC?
If you are selected for LaunchKC, you will need to be located in Kansas City, full-time, by January. The exact dates will be sent to you with your acceptance notification.
Do applicants need to disclose prior funding to the business?
Yes, applicants are required to disclose all sources of funding already received and/or committed in the application process.
What do I have to do to enter the competition?
Visit our application portal to apply.
Besides the funding, what else do you get?
In addition to receiving $50,000, you receive the following:
What does the LaunchKC team bring to the table?
The LaunchKC team comes from a wide range of industries and backgrounds, including PR, politics, running accelerators, economic development, digital marketing, and event planning. As long-time Kansas City residents, we have built up an extensive network with the area’s business and entrepreneurial communities. If you’re looking for something to do in your free time, we can help you with that as well – you’ll always have a new restaurant to try, a concert or sporting event to attend, or outdoor activities to participate in throughout the year.
What is there to do in Kansas City?
There is never a shortage of things to do around Kansas City, no matter the time of year.
We have a thriving and growing Downtown undergoing an incredible renaissance. Home to awarding-winning restaurants and bars, Downtown is also the fastest-growing residential area in the entire Kansas City region, creating a vibrant environment throughout the year. Downtown’s Crossroads Arts District has more than 400 local artists and 100 independent artist studios making it one of the most concentrated gallery districts in the country.
Kansas City is home to incredible live music venues, great places to golf, beautiful parks, and biking trails. And we’re very devoted to our professional sports teams, the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals, Sporting KC, and KC Current. Add to that a diverse and delectable food scene and a friendly vibe, you’re sure to fall in love with Kansas City.