In less that 24 hours, Kansas City has learned that it will have a new pair of major accelerator programs in 2017.
The Sprint Accelerator announced Thursday morning that, while it’s retained its name, the program has undergone a significant evolution that hopes to foster meaningful partnerships between startups and Kansas City corporations.
Among a host of changes, the accelerator will adopt a “cluster” approach that taps the Kansas City area’s economic strengths, including ag and digital technology. The 2017 program will also feature new corporate partners — including the Dairy Farmers of America and Virgin Mobile — but will notably not include Techstars.
Sprint will continue to finance the program, which will be hosted at its swanky Crossroads Arts District office.
With support from Sprint, the Boulder-based firm led three mentor-led accelerator programs in Kansas City from 2014 to 2016 that fostered startups in mobile health and tech. Techstars revealed Wednesday that it’s sticking in Kansas City to launch Techstars Kansas City.
Sprint Accelerator founder Kevin McGinnis said he’s excited to launch the refocused 90-day program for a variety of reasons, including its goal to encourage corporations to engage with the broader entrepreneurial community.
“One of the more exciting things about having a multi-cluster accelerator like this is the opportunity for collaboration among the partners,” said McGinnis, who’s also the CEO of Sprint subsidiary Pinsight Media+. “What we really wanted to focus on — and this was a goal with the Sprint Accelerator from the beginning — is how we can get more corporations engaged in the community.”
Unlike the Sprint Accelerator in years past, the 2017 program will not make a financial investment in participating startups. The startups, however, will still receive “unprecedented resources,” the accelerator said in a release.
It’s also not a “mentor-led” style program, McGinnis said. He said that the accelerator will identify startups whose missions align with corporate participants’ strategic goals in hopes to produce partnerships.
McGinnis added that the partnership approach will benefit the area economy.
“The organizations that are a part of the program will see an acceleration of their strategic interest — whether in business development, innovation in technology or in some other part of their business,” he said. “That should be better for the community because you’ll see the clusters grow stronger. And there’s a greater likelihood that these (startups) will want a team here because they’re developing a meaningful product and business relationship with the companies in the program.”
For the digital tech cluster, McGinnis said that Sprint, Virgin and Sprint subsidiary Pinsight Media+ will look for startups focused on data analytics, advertising technology and omni-channel services.
For the ag tech cluster, McGinnis said he’s particularly excited that Kansas City’s largest private employer, Dairy Farmers of America, is on board. There are a wealth of opportunities for startups to collaborate with DFA, he said, noting that the company hopes to find ag tech startups that can improve its operations with more than 8,000 dairy farms. Ag tech companies in product testing, data management, herd health and management, sustainability and traceability are encouraged to apply.
McGinnis illustrated the opportunities with DFA by analyzing its operations.
“Think about their organization,” he said “They serve 14,000 dairy farmers. They have to remove products from cows twice a day, process it, work through all the logistics and supply chain elements and the get it to the customer within an expiration window. They’re one of the largest logistics companies and use an amazing amount of technology as part of that process and they’re looking for innovation.”
Set to begin on April 3, the 2017 Sprint Accelerator program is now welcoming applicants. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31.