Once the dust settled on the LaunchKC grant recipient announcement, the champagne bottles popped.
Founders from the 10 winning companies — parred down from a list of 500 — had reason to celebrate Friday afternoon between the promise of $50,000 and the chance to land some office space.
Of the 10 recipient companies, six come from the Kansas City metro area, including PopBookings, a company that CEO Erika Klotz affectionately calls “Uber for event staffing.” PopBookings, based in Kansas City, was the People’s Choice Award recipient of the LaunchKC grants.
“My initial reaction is pure shock and awe and thankfulness for the community here in Kansas City rooting for and supporting a hometown company,” Klotz said. She said the team had a social media plan to draw attention from friends, family and supporters to boost their chances of nabbing the people’s choice spot — and it worked.
The grant and office space couldn’t be coming at a better time for PopBookings as the business is about to be booted out of Spark Lab’s accelerator space. But as for the money, Klotz said her team “is putting it to work” toward product development.
Kansas City is familiar with other out-of-town startups that earned LaunchKC grants. HealthID CEO Angelo Pitassi Jr. recently spent March to June expanding his business in the Sprint Accelerator with Techstars’ help. HealthID helps users manage their medical data and share critical medical information with emergency responders.
“One of my first reactions when offered with the chance to be one of the companies in the Accelerator was ‘Kansas City? What am I going to do in Kansas City for three months?’ And then I got here,” said Pitassi Jr., who’s from Cranston, R.I. “Now, it would be crazy for us not to have a presence here in Kansas City.”
Pitassi knows he wants to hire with the money the company garnered from the Techweek competition, and he hopes to bring his Kansas City business presence “back to his second home” in the Crossroads: The Sprint Accelerator. Vert
HealthID isn’t the only Sprint Accelerator company to nab a LaunchKC grant. Vertisense, formerly Alcohoot, also went through the Techstars’ accelerator program and earned the funds on Friday. The company, which creates sensors to measure blood alcohol content and other health metrics, recently made its first hire in the Kansas City area.
Pycno founder Nikita Gulin called his company’s win “a massive opportunity,” as it gave him an outlet to try and bring his business into the United States from Santiago, Chile. The LaunchKC funding will help his company with development as they move further into the manufacturing of their sensor that helps collect data for farmers.