What a year it’s been for Kansas City startups.
From exits and capital raises to awards and partnerships, the area’s early-stage firms have kept Startland News plenty busy in 2016.
To mark that success, we’re revisiting a list we compiled a year ago relaying 10 startups that we believed were poised to make noise in the subsequent 12 months.
To compile the list, we evaluated dozens area firms based on their team, traction, disruptiveness and job-growth potential. Many of these companies — which played strongly to the metro’s economic strengths like ag, animal health, finance and technology services — made big headlines while others made more modest waves. In any case, we revisited each company to evaluate their latest trip around the sun.
Enjoy and keep an eye out for our next batch of top startups to watch in 2017!
2016 was so great for EyeVerify that its success has spilled throughout the region. Marking one of Kansas City’s biggest startup success stories, EyeVerify created international headlines in September when it sold to an Alibaba affiliate for more than $100 million.
The value of this exit is more than just monetary wealth for founders and investors in the biometrics firm — it’s a win for the Midwest. As EyeVerify set out on a global expansion, the area organizations that CEO Toby Rush tapped to grow his business — from angel investor groups to programs like Whiteboard to Boardroom and many others — can now leverage the story for years to come. Furthermore, it’s sent a signal to prospective but hesitant Kansas City investors that early-stage investing is ripe in the area.
Already 50 financial institutions and 450 million people use EyeVerify’s Eyeprint ID tech. Rush wants to make it 2 billion users in the next few years. There’s little reason to doubt they’ll accomplish it.
Some key partnerships, new investors and a successful product launch made 2016 a year to remember for basketball tech firm ShotTracker.
Led by serial entrepreneurs Bruce Ianni and Davyeon Ross, ShotTracker partnered with the largest basketball equipment provider in the world, Spalding, which teed up a high-profile launch of its team product at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. In October, the Merriam-based firm announced that basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former NBA Commissioner David Stern joined a $5 million investment round.
Working with some of the largest businesses in the world, more than $1 billion per week travels through C2FO’s working trading capital platform. That staggering figure, however, isn’t news for the financial tech firm — it’s been handling that much dough for more than a year.
That volume of capital, however, did enable C2FO to once again be featured on Forbes Fintech 50 list in 2016. And with clients like Amazon and Costco, C2FO’s consistent traction last year allowed it to expand further into Europe and Asia, including Austria, the Netherlands Taiwan, China, India and Hong Kong.
The company created an online marketplace where buyers can negotiate with suppliers, earning quicker payments in exchange for discounts to free up cash that would be stuck in accounts receivable.
Further bucking the notion that only the best financial tech firms hail from the East Coast, Blooom is blossoming into a startup with which to be reckoned.
In June, Blooom not only became the fastest robo-advisor to ever reach $300 million in assets under management, it snagged former FDIC chair Sheila Bair as an advisory board member. Now with 30 full-time employees, Blooom also earned the “Entrepreneur of the Year” award from the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.
Founded in 2013, Farmobile has continued to plow forward with its ag data hardware and software. In December, the farm data firm partnered with AGCO, a publically-traded, worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment. The deal allows Farmobile to expand distribution of its passive uplink connection hardware, which plugs into farming machines’ diagnostic ports to collect and store machine and agronomy data.
CEO Jason Tatge also made a promise to farmers that made a splash in the ag tech industry: a guaranteed $2 per acre return so long as farmers submit a completed electronic field record. The pledge — along with a new data dashboard for farmers — tills a promising 2017 for Farmobile.
2016 was a year of solid growth and accolades for Kansas City-based k12itc. A provider of cloud-based IT services to K-12 schools, k12itc kicked off the year with a prestigious commendation. The company won the Mr. K Small Business of the Year Award from the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce thanks to its sustained growth and mission to help K-12 schools.
In addition to the award, k12itc now serves more than 90 school districts in five different states. The firm also added seven staffers to its team of now 35 people.
A techie’s tech company, Stackify’s 2016 included not only big client growth but also a new application performance management product dubbed Prefix. Stackify founder Matt Watson said the firm’s APM tech is now used in more than 4,000 firms in 120 countries. Its offerings also now include support for the popular programming language, Java.
Thanks to its traction, the firm moved to a new, larger office in Leawood, Kan., that features some creative cubicles made of what appears to be large LEGO blocks.
Rex Animal Health
A 2015 graduate of the Sprint Accelerator, Rex Animal Health made headlines in September when it was selected to present at TechCrunch Disrupt. Rex CEO Amado Guloy faced off against 23 other startups that hail from around the world, including Austin, Brooklyn, Hong Kong, Lebanon, France and more.
The firm also opened a San Francisco office and partnered with Illumina, one of the largest genomics companies in the world. Rex, which collects animal health data from various sources for animal pharmaceutical companies, also has four new staffers.
2016 started with a bang for FarmLink. In January of 2016, it raised an additional $24.6 million for its farming tech, pushing its total raise to about $77 million with Kansas City-based OpenAir Equity Partners as its primary investor. A few weeks later, the firm announced that it split into two companies, with one focused on data analytics (FarmLink) and the other on machinery sharing (MachineryLink). The firm also added Dan Glickman, the former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, to its board of directors.
Already with an impressive client base that includes Hallmark, Lockton and Barkley, TeraCrunch in 2016 added another behemoth in Kansas City business. TeraCrunch — which created a marketing analytics suite to improve user acquisition, engagement and retention — added Sprint to its roster, helping the telecom giant with its predictive analytics tools. Led by CEO Tapan Bhatt, TeraCrunch in 2016 added a pair data scientists to its PhD-rich team.