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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:

Drew Solomon, right, begins the LaunchKC awards ceremony on Friday afternoon at No Other Pub In the Power & Light District.

“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