Once on the verge of departing its hometown, Kansas City-based Little Hoots recently raised funds to boost development of its app, allowing the startup to remain in the City of Fountains.
“We’re so happy we don’t have to leave Kansas City.” – Lacey Ellis, CEO of Little Hoots
Led by CEO Lacey Ellis, Little Hoots’ memory-keeping app struggled to find traction with Kansas City area investors, which nearly forced the company to move to find needed seed capital. But after months of determined efforts, Ellis found three angel investors — two of which are located in the Kansas City area — that will be vital to the firm’s future, she said.
Little Hoots raised $450,000 from the Bernstein Family, of the Kansas City-based agency Bernstein-Rein, Kansas Citian Byron Clymer, CIO of Freightquote, and Diane Sonnenstein, founder of Portland-based Lemon Drop Gifts. Each investor brings strategic value to the company, Ellis said.
“We’re so happy we don’t have to leave Kansas City,” Ellis said. “It’s always been what we wanted — to find investors in Kansas City because we believe this is the right place to build this platform.”
Now available on iOS platforms, the Little Hoots app allows parents to memorialize their kiddos’ quotes, create a “memory tile” for it and then share the comment on Facebook or Instagram. More than 50,000 people have downloaded the iOS app, Ellis said, and users have created more than 145,000 memory titles. Little Hoots previously worked with the likes of the Today Show and Huffington Post to share kiddos’ cute quotables.
But now with an injection of capital in its coffers, Little Hoots plans to offer users new services and products, including an Android app. The company also is creating a “Family Circles” service to allow users to more easily share kids’ quotes with family and friends to make products such as pillows or books featuring comments, photos and audio clips.
As part of the raise, Little Hoots plans to move from its Office Port location in the Crossroads to the Bernstein-Rein office in the west Plaza. Having the Bernstein family as investors offers a number of strategic advantages, Ellis said, including a partnership to offer Little Hoots’ services.
“This is a huge opportunity for us having them come on board,” she said. “It’s really a dream come true. It’s such a good fit. They really love what we’re doing. They want to help us find opportunities.”
The Kansas City investors sharing their identities is rather remarkable for the area. Frequently, investors in the area remain anonymous when they join seed rounds, presumably to avoid solicitations.
“We’re incredibly grateful to find (the funds) and stay here in Kansas City and build it here,” Ellis said. “Our number one goal is to make the most compelling memory-keeping platform on the planet. And they (the investors) believe in us and our mission.”