Editor’s note: Startland selected 12 Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list. The following is one of 2019’s companies. Click here to view the full, ranked list of Startups to Watch.
Signal Kit’s elevator pitch: Signal Kit is a community messaging platform for school districts to send in-app voice, SMS, email, and push notifications to their entire communities.
As historic wildfires tore through acres of land last year in the Golden State, an estimated 200,000 residents received emergency alert notifications from California school districts through Kansas City-ignited startup Signal Kit, said Matthew Miquelon.
Founding Team: Brady Simmons, Matt Miquelon, Tom Zagorski, Todd Jolly
Founding year: 2015
Amount raised to date: $4.5 million
Noteworthy investors: Simmons Family, Dominari EdTech Fund
Current employee count: 7
“We’ve helped save lives, we’ve helped impact communities,” Miquelon, one of Signal Kit’s founding team members, said of the impact the communication platform has had in emergency situations.
Alongside tremendous user growth, Signal Kit has seen another kind of transformation in the past year, noted Miquelon.
“[Signal Kit] has recently gone through some organizational changes where our founder is no longer with the company,” he explained. “Everybody on the team is [stepping up to lead] their own areas right now.”
Moves to restructure Signal Kit’s leadership team are being regarded as positive for the company’s future and ultimately will build a new kind of momentum for the company while promoting ownership among team members –– many of whom work remotely –– he added.
A sizeable dose of Signal Kit’s current momentum was gained through partnerships with school districts in California, Miquelon said, circling back to company successes in 2018.
“Landing that market and establishing some key channel partnerships in those marketplaces, as well as investments [has been positive] –– but, I would say probably the fourth, fifth and sixth largest school districts [in California] approaching us for pilots this year, that is what will put us over [the top.]”
Forecasting the year ahead, 2019 will be dedicated to furthering partnerships in California, while advancing talks of new deals with school districts in Kansas City –– the homebase near to the heart of Signal Kit’s founding team –– Miquelon said.
“I’ve personally been involved in the startup scene [in KC] for actually about 20 years, I hate to say it,” he said laughing. “What’s amazing is that as we maintain our base here in Kansas City and become very successful in another market –– I think our initial success and investments are further proof that the Midwestern work ethic, the Show Me attitude and economics of being based in Kansas City, are a unique benefit which generate innovative outcomes and products.”
Such a support system has helped Signal Kit gain confidence in establishing a client base outside of the region –– an often intimidating task –– added CEO Brady Simmons.
The days of Kansas City being considered flyover territory for startup success and capital raises are far gone, Miquelon said, citing his experience in the inaugural Sprint Accelerator cohort as the source of such an awakening.
“Most of the startups in that class still assumed they had to go to the Bay area to be successful,” he said. “I was arguing back then that the economics and the resources and the tech talent you have in this town gives you a much larger runway. You should stay here!”
A call to action by the company, Signal Kit is challenging Kansas City school districts to take a look at their platforms in 2019 and reach out to them with any interest in innovating their communications channels, Miquelon said.
Landing Signal Kit’s first hometown partner will be a top priority for Miquelon and Simmons over the coming months, agreed the pair.
The leaders hope Signal Kit can serve as an example for peer startups, empowering them to realize a Kansas City base doesn’t have to limit client reach, they said.