A curbside recycling service is expected to be the first startup to receive Digital Sandbox KC proof-of-concept funding through the Innovation Stockyard incubator.
Toss it Curbside, a service with which customers place unwanted items on their curbs to be recycled or donated, plans to use the funds and the St. Joseph-based incubator program to optimize its web functions and expand to new markets, said co-founder Aaron Brennan.
“We’re incredibly grateful for the support from St. Joseph and the funding from the Sandbox,” Brennan said in a release. “We’re expanding rapidly. This funding will help get our business to the next step and fit the needs of our customers.”
With a focus on animal health technology, Innovation Stockyard is located within the Christopher S. Kit Bond Science and Technology Incubator on the Missouri Western State University campus. In addition to traditional office space, startups have access to wet lab space where they can partake in chemistry and biology.
In June, Innovation Stockyard established a partnership with Digital Sandbox. The program provides startups with up to $25,000 in non-dilutive grants for proof-of-concept resources, such as prototyping, beta testing and market validation. In addition to Kansas City and St. Joseph, the program has also entered partnerships with the cities of Olathe, Kansas, and Independence, Missouri.
The partnership expands entrepreneurial resources available to northwest Missouri startups, said Ronan Molloy, president of Innovation Stockyard.
“The St. Joseph Sandbox is a great opportunity for early-stage entrepreneurs,” Molloy said in a release. “Based on the quality of the applications so far, we believe we have another arrow in the quiver for entrepreneurship in St. Joseph.”
Since its launch in 2013, Digital Sandbox has worked with more than 500 early-stage companies across the Kansas City metro and surrounding areas. The program has provided more than $1.7 million in project funding, spurred $38 million in follow-on funding and created more than 480 new jobs.
Digital Sandbox director Jeff Shackelford sees a lot of talent in St. Joseph area entrepreneurs.
“As expected, there are creative, innovative entrepreneurs across the state of Missouri,” Schackelford said in a release. “The partnership with Innovation Stockyard allows us to reach early-stage entrepreneurs in northwest Missouri and help move them forward to create new companies and areas jobs.”
Digital Sandbox is partially funded by the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC), a Missouri government program with an uncertain future. The agency’s budget was cut substantially from nearly $23 million in 2017 to $3.4 million in spending authority for 2018. Many area businesses credit their growth rate to MTC funds.
More recently, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ office released a report suggesting MTC’s existing programming be replaced with a privately-managed innovation fund.