Kansas City witnessed one of its biggest startup successes in 2016 with EyeVerify’s massive exit.
Stories like this bring Kansas City’s potential to the foreground. It validates that not only building a wildly lucrative business is possible but also that the area community can help make it possible.
While undoubtedly a triumph, EyeVerify is but one of many Kansas City startups with the potential to make similar, jaw-dropping headlines. And to enumerate some of those companies, Startland News refreshed its annual list of top startups to watch.
The Startland team spent upwards of 20 hours assessing more than 40 Kansas City startups. We arrived at this top ten ranking by evaluating each company’s team, current traction, potential to create jobs, societal and industry-specific disruptiveness and likelihood to create major news in 2017.
To be clear, this isn’t an apples-to-apples list of what Kansas City startups are making the most money. It’s also not to say that the local firms that do not appear on this list aren’t or won’t be successful. Rather, this is a list of the area’s most promising companies that we feel are best positioned to have banner years in 2017.
Without further ado, here are Startland’s top startups to watch in 2017.
Current employee count: 138
Founding year: 2008
Founder: Alexander “Sandy” C. Kemper
Amount raised: $100 million
C2FO is without a doubt one of Kansas City’s most disruptive companies. Led by Sandy Kemper, 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.
It’s not a sexy, consumer-facing product, but, simply put, the platform is transforming how some of the largest companies in the world are conducting business. As we previously reported, more than $1 billion per week travels through C2FO’s working capital trading platform. Now on the on Forbes Fintech 50 list for two years running, C2FO’s consistent traction in the last year has allowed it to expand further into Europe and Asia, including Austria, the Netherlands, Taiwan, China, India and Hong Kong.
Kansas City is in the midst of watching one of its next great success stories take flight.
Current employee count: 30
Founding year: 2013
Founders: Chris Costello, Kevin Conard and Randy AufDerHeide
Amount raised: $4 million
Leawood-based Blooom is addressing a massive problem in the United States, and that’s toppling people’s confusion with saving for retirement. Millions of Americans don’t know what’s in their 401(k) plan or have any strategy in their investments — therein lies the firm’s massive opportunity.
The financial tech firm helps users grow their 401(k)s using a proprietary online tool that analyzes their 401(k) and shows its health through a flower in various growth stages. It then offers ongoing professional advice on how to allocate funds.
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 is poised for a big 2017 and again earns a spot on our top startups to watch.
Current employee count: 29
Founding year: 2013
Founders: Jason Tatge, Heath Gerlock and Randy Nuss
Amount raised: $5.5 million
Agriculture is a more than trillion-dollar industry that employs millions around the globe. Despite that, there’s historically been a void when it comes to a simple data collection tool that creates value for the farmer — that is until Farmobile launched. The firm has a massive opportunity with its agronomy hardware and software that together collect and present valuable farming data. All data collected is owned by the farmer, who decides either to keep the information private, share it or sell to interested third parties. The company’s hardware — a passive uplink connection (PUC) — continues to gain recognition in the industry and is now being distributed by AGCO, a publically-traded, worldwide manufacturer of agricultural equipment.
Led by a team with deep ag experience, Farmobile has created a truly disruptive piece of tech that empowers farmers, which is driving its traction. What’s more, CEO Jason Tatge isn’t focused on a quick sale — he’s determined to see Farmobile become the data company changing how farmers feed and fuel the world.
Current employee count: 15
Founding year: 2013
Founders: Davyeon Ross and Bruce Ianni
Amount raised: $10 million
2016 was a big year for ShotTracker and we expect the company to maintain its momentum. Co-founders Bruce Ianni and Davyeon Ross are two rockstars that love the game of basketball as much as creating innovative technology. The two continue to ink bigtime partnerships, including the largest basketball equipment provider in the world and two high-profile investors: basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former NBA Commissioner David Stern. We’re expecting to see a few more slam dunks from the ShotTracker team in 2017 as it starts to focus more on providing its shot-tracking tech to entire teams.
Current employee count: 20
Founding year: 2013
Founders: John Thomson and Mike Plunkett
Amount raised: $5.8 million
Procurement is a broken system delivering technology that’s often outdated by the time it reaches a government employee’s desk. But for Kansas City-based PayIt, what’s broken also affords opportunity.
PayIt created a mobile and web app that streamlines citizens’ financial interaction with government agencies. As it’s added funding and team members, PayIt has grown from easing the initial pain-point of working with the DMV to streamlining services for other government agencies, including permitting, taxes, licenses, citations and more. In addition to winning a national pitch contest, PayIt recently was recognized as a top 100 government tech firm by GovTech.com. Previously the CEO of Sapieo, PayIt CEO John Thomson is used to growing firms and — based on his personal story of what brought about PayIt — he seems fired up to fix the problem of financially interacting with government.
6) Athlete Network
Current employee count: 25
Founding year: 2014
Founders: Chris Smith, Dirk Ochs and Eli Fisher
Amount raised: $2 million
Working with sports legends like Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry Rice and Warren Moon, this relatively little-known firm made a splash in Kansas City after raising capital for its social network exclusively for athletes. A few weeks later, the firm announced that it landed an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee to customize its platform for America’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes. CEO Chris Smith said in July the company’s user base grew more than 500 percent since the platform launched in January of 2015. Led by a team of former collegiate athletes, Athlete Network’s mission is to fuel athletes’ driven lifestyle. Their determination shines through, and we’re expecting a “W” for Athlete Network in 2017.
Current employee count: 42
Founding year: 2007
Founder: Alan Fairless
Amount raised: $8 million
If the 2016 Presidential election taught us anything, it’s that email isn’t the most-secure form of communication. SpiderOak knows that and for years the firm has been developing encrypted security tools that enable safer communication for teams and businesses. Now with significant capital to fuel its growth, the company was also endorsed by Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who leaked classified information from the U.S. National Security Agency in 2013. The firm is now focusing on one of the first-ever encrypted group chat and file-sharing tools — called Semaphor — which can help businesses, teams or even political campaigns securely communicate.
Current employee count: 8
Founding year: 2011
Founders: Brock Stechman and Brody Dorland
Amount raised: $3.15 million
An honorable mention on our 2016 startups to watch list, DivvyHQ spent the year lining up one high-profile client after another. Target, Lowe’s, DuPont, Mercedes-Benz and National Geographic are but a few of the companies using DivvyHQ’s content planning and collaboration platform. The company not only has been recognized by Fortune 500 companies as a top solution, but also by its peers. DivvyHQ nabbed the audience choice award for the top content creation, workflow and experience platform from the Content Marketing Institute. The platform will be getting a facelift in 2017 that co-founders Brock Stechman and Brody Dorland believe will make it even more attractive to customers.
9) Idle Smart
Current employee count: Undisclosed
Founding Year: 2011
Founders: Harry Campbell and Jeff Lynch
Amount raised: Bootstrapped
Featured as a top “under-the-radar” startup in 2016, Idle Smart’s patented tech for the trucking industry is a brilliant piece of hardware that not only saves fleet’s money, but also helps the environment. The firm created a “smart” thermostat for trucking fleets to save fuel, cut down on pollution and keep drivers comfortable. The lean, mean startup recently won $125,000 in a clean energy program and continues to grow around the nation. With solid traction and leadership, we’re expecting to see Idle Smart continue its growth and create news along the way.
Current employee count: 7
Founding Year: 2013
Founders: Davide Rossi, Sara Rossi and Fabrizio Filippini
Amount raised: Undisclosed
With its consumer product firmly established as the wearable for dogs, FitBark is entering exciting new territory that should allow it to significantly grow through partnerships. As more dog owners around the globe use FitBark’s activity tracker, more data becomes available for the company to sell to third parties or use in clinical settings. With an established B2C channel and a B2B play with significant upside — not to mention a seemingly endless supply of adorable marketing content — 2017 is looking good for FitBark.
Led by CEO Tim Sylvester, Integrated Roadways’ tech could transform the world as we know it, while simultaneously creating thousands of area jobs. Kansas, Missouri and Colorado already are using Integrated Roadways’ prefabricated concrete slabs that contain embedded components to provide connected cars wireless connectivity on roads, highways and interstates. Sylvester is as tenacious as he is passionate about revamping antiquated infrastructure — we’re excited to follow the firm’s journey.
Not all of Kansas City’s promising startups are in tech. Sock 101 has been at it for a few years and recently gained some well-deserved recognition on Lifetime’s “Project Runway: Fashion Start-up” in which the fashion startup landed $250,000 from two prominent fashionistas. With a la carte and “Sock of the Month Club” options, Sock 101 designs and ships a variety of quirky socks for men, women and kids. Companies and teams also can customize their own socks, which have been popular. Hoping to become a $10 million company within three years, Sock 101 posted sales of $1.5 million in 2015. Sock on, Sock 101.
Founded by developers, for developers, Stackify has consistently grown with the simple mission of helping techies perform better. A serial entrepreneur and angel investor, 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.
Like other startups on this list, Mycroft wants to change the world. Fresh off office openings in Kansas City and Silicon Valley, the firm has developed an open-source, artificial intelligence device similar to Amazon Echo. Employing natural language processing tech, Mycroft pairs an open-source and open-hardware approach to its development, allowing users around the world to create software or hardware add-ons. Developers are now attaching the Mycroft platform to anything from robots to refrigerators. Hearing Mycroft co-founder Joshua Montgomery’s vision for the company will give you chills.