Traction, new pilot tests and funding rounds were among the milestones met and revealed by a handful of Techstars KC startups at the accelerator’s inaugural demo day celebration.
The 2017 Techstars KC class features a variety of industries — from edtech and artificial intelligence to virtual reality and food. Five of the 10 companies hail from Kansas or Missouri.
Based in Boulder, Colorado, Techstars is a global accelerator firm with 32 programs across the globe, in such cities as Los Angeles, New York City, London and Paris. Programs typically culminate in a celebratory demo day in which participating startups pitch to the community and investors. In exchange for 6 percent equity, Techstars startups receive $120,000, participation in the three-month accelerator program, as well as access to an impressive network of mentors and Techstars’ global network.
Here are details on the firms that pitched and some announcements they made at the event, hosted at the Folly Theatre. Check out photos from demo day below the story.
Ampogee (Greensboro, North Carolina)
Ampogee created a software-as-a-service platform that “gamifies” the manufacturing industry, to engage and motivate employees to work smarter and harder. The application is customizable and includes dashboards and analytics for both employees and leadership teams.
Led by co-founders Jonathan Woahn and Brian Lopatka, Ampogee’s platform is being used by six corporations since its launch in 2015. In addition, Ampogee announced Thursday it has begun pilots in three Kansas City-area companies: the Bayer Corporation, Sekisui XenoTech and WireCo WorldGroup.
Vector Legal Method (Kansas City, Missouri)
Vector Legal Method offers a comprehensive litigation case management, collaboration and analytics application. The firm’s vision is to be the top litigation management platform in the world, Vector Legal CEO Thadd Hale said.
Hale announced Thursday that the firm plans to pilot its tech at Cerner and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas in January. Vector Legal also recently closed an oversubscribed seed round of $1.1 million.
GRIT Virtual Construction (Wichita, Kansas)
GRIT Virtual Construction creates virtual reality software for architects and contractors that simulates construction. With the rise of virtual reality and augmented reality technology, CEO Chris Callen said what is 3-D should stay 3-D.
The firm plans to release its beta product in the spring of 2018. Callen announced Thursday that GRIT Virtual has partnered with Kansas City-based McCownGordon Construction and JE Dunn Construction to pilot its technology.
NexusEdge (Santa Monica, California)
NexusEdge co-founders Shanti Akkineni and Eddie Lin built an artificial intelligence platform to facilitate lifelong learning and help fill the middle-skill job gap. Already partnered with LinkedIn and several California-based community colleges, NexusEdge announced Thursday it plans to continue work in the Kansas City area after the Techstars program thanks to Blue Valley CAPS.
“Thank you so much Blue Valley CAPS,” Lin said on the Folly Theatre stage. “You do a great job preparing your students for their career and we look forward to working with you in the future.”
TeacherTalent (Austin, Texas)
TeacherTalent uses big data to predict teacher effectiveness, and to match the best teachers with schools. Launched in 2017, the firm’s algorithm recognizes every teacher in the United States and pulls in data from more than 10,000 sources.
In addition to making a Kansas City hire, the firm revealed Thursday that the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation has announced an investment in its technology. Via the partnership with the foundation, TeacherTalent is implementing its tech in 30 Kansas City area school districts. CEO Michael Barnes said the firm plans to expand to Kansas soon.
CasaIQ (Kansas City, Missouri)
Led by the former CEO of Brightergy, Adam Blake, CasaIQ is a smart home solution for multi-family properties. The platform offers property owners and landlords with digital tools that can reduce a property’s operating cost. Launched this summer, the CasaIQ mobile app gives tenants control over utilities.
With more than 9,000 apartment units under contract, the firm is currently hiring software engineers in the Kansas City region.
KOMBINE AI (Toronto, Ontario)
Co-founded by Shea Balish, KOMBINE AI is an athlete development platform leveraging computer vision, artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve athlete health and performance.
The tool can be used for athletes, coaches, trainers and professionals to diagnose and predict improvement opportunities, Balish said. The firm announced Thursday it established a paid pilot with the Kansas City Royals’ Urban Youth Academy.
Somatic Labs (Phoenix, Arizona)
Somatic Labs is designing for a future without screens, said CEO Shantanu Bala.
The patented haptic feedback technology offers software and hardware products that aim to enable a future of wearable devices that leverage human feeling and touch. The firm launched its first wearable device Moment that aims to improve a user’s sense of direction, inform perception of time and assist in staying present. The device is now available for $245.
Hanzo (Kansas City, Missouri)
Hanzo created a next-generation e-commerce platform designed to help companies quickly scale and make money. CEO Zach Kelling said that the firm allows small businesses to differentiate themselves and establish their brand in ways that Amazon, Etsy and Kickstarter cannot.
With 23 companies as beta customers, the firm has helped early adopters generate $42 million in sales, Kelling said. During the Techstars KC program, Hanzo onboarded ten new companies as clients.
Planetarians (Kansas City, Missouri)
Planetarians developed high-fiber, vegan, protein-based snacks. Co-founders Aleh Manchuliantsau and Anastasia Tkacheva launched the firm’s sunflower bran snacks in May, with offerings including cereal, chips, puffs and other snacks.
With the goal to decrease food waste and obesity, Planetarians patented its snack-making process and plans to release more products on Amazon this fall.