With a cohort of companies ranging from artificial intelligence to organic ice cream sandwiches, Sprint Accelerator demonstrates its strength by creating an environment where founders and their teams can learn and develop alongside disparate forms of innovation, Doug Dresslaer said.
“They’ve all started realizing they can work together — they’re all on the same side,” said Dresslaer, managing director of the Crossroads-based Sprint Accelerator. “For our IoT companies, all three are centered around connected living. So they’re talking about how they can build together. … It’s a diverse, almost strange, lineup of companies, but they all fit.”
The accelerator played host Wednesday evening to a meet-and-greet event with eight of the nine-member 2018 cohort’s companies. Kansas City-based Jarvis, formerly known as “Luxe Concierge” — an app that allows apartment residents to book housekeeping, cleaning or pet services — was unable to attend.
Culminating in a June 5 demo day event, the 90-day, mentor-driven program pairs startups with wireless carrier Sprint and agriculture behemoth Dairy Farmers of America to drive corporate partnership opportunities and to help the corporations incorporate new innovations.
Startland sat down with the cohort’s companies to hear their elevator pitches.
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“These are all startups. So the programming we bring in focuses on building these businesses from general terms of investment to social media. We just had a legal session on pitfalls around raising funds. We brought in someone who showed the companies how to build their investor deck,” Dresslaer said. “They all have those needs, and then our corporate sponsors — Sprint and DFA — bring resources that directly relate to their products.”
Participants so far have shown energy and enthusiasm about proving their concepts on the accelerator’s stage, he said, noting they often feed on each other’s excitement and experience.
“It’s also our biggest age range that we’ve ever had, with super young and seasoned entrepreneurs. So it’s fun to see them learn from each other,” Dresslaer said. “They go up to the older guys and say, ‘Hey! You’ve done this … How does it work?’ Many of them are really becoming good friends.”
Relationships built with corporate sponsors also are meaningful, he said. A member of the 2017 cohort, TradeLanes moved its headquarters from Miami to Kansas City to be closer to DFA and its emerging client base in the Midwest.
Three other former accelerator companies have relocated to Kansas City through the years, he said. Fitbark, a leader in pet wearables and a member of the accelerator’s first cohort, runs its global operations from the first floor of the program’s space in the Crossroads, Dresslaer noted.
“It’s not a specific goal of the accelerator, but we try to put companies in front of as much of Kansas City as we can, so that they see it’s a great place,” he said. “With our two corporate sponsors based in Kansas City, I think a good portion of these companies are going to have a presence here for a long time.”
Members of the 2018 class include:
• Cheddies (Francisco and Tomas Pergola, San Antonio, Texas) — a savory, crunchy and nutritious cheese cracker with 10 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbs, no artificial flavors or colors and 0 grams of sugar.
• Jarvis (Richard McCoy, Kansas City) — app allows apartment residents to book housekeeping, cleaning or pet services
• Keybot (T.J. Tavares, St. Louis) — helps landlords automate rental properties with proprietary keypad locks that gives or removes access to renters.
• MoPro Nutrition (Michael Moran, Birmingham, Michigan) — provides a protein-packed Greek yogurt, which is completely gluten and nut free.
• Pharm Robotics (Marinus Dijkstra and Alika Chuck, San Francisco) — helps administer vaccines and medicines to dairy cattle.
• Ripe.io (Raja Ramachandran, San Francisco) — taps blockchain technology to create transparency throughout the food chain.
• Sofihub (Rob Howdeshell, Melbourne, Australia) — uses artificial intelligence to give worried family members peace of mind about their aging loved ones; offering reminders, helpful information and contact for family members if it detects unusual behavior.
• SomaDetect (Bethany Deshpande, Fredericton, Canada) — focuses on revolutionizing dairy production by providing dairy farmers with useful data on their cattle.
• Too Cool Chix (Sharon Monahan, New York City) — all-natural, organic ice cream sandwiches with such names as “I Dream in Chocolate” and “The Beauty Bar.”