Applications for this year’s LaunchKC program are going vertical, said Drew Solomon, announcing plans for three industry-specific accelerators — two of which will launch new funding-rich demo days in the fall.
“We’ve always wanted to grow and expand not only the competition, but the program as a whole,” said Solomon, chair of the LaunchKC program. “Our [Fountain City FinTech] pilot project last year with nbkc bank helped illustrate that we have some core industries in Kansas City with great expertise. We also have a really good ecosystem of developing technologies.”
Along with an existing FinTech vertical at nbkc bank, the three accelerators are expected to include HealthTech and CleanTech focuses, he said, teasing an announcement this week on the corporate sponsor for the latter.
Updated: Click here to read about how Black & Veatch plans to change the world, with power from LaunchKC.
A goal is to provide funding to at least five companies per vertical, with awards starting at $50,000, Solomon said, meaning likely more than $750,000 invested in startups through the trio of accelerator programs.
“This equates to more dollars getting in the hands of companies, and more companies being awarded funding,” he said.
LaunchKC — coordinated by the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City and the Downtown Council of Kansas City — historically has served as a grants competition annually awarding as much as $500,000 to winners across a variety of industries. Its demo day and funding awards have been the widely anticipated finale of recent years’ Techweek Kansas City festivities.
Click here to read about the 2018 LaunchKC winners.
As the program expands, however, the demo days for the three accelerators will be standalone events, scheduled from September to December, said Solomon, emphasizing enhanced benefits to the industry-specific lineups.
“Instead of selecting a cohort of winners and trying to compare them across industries, what if we looked at it with an industry focus and tightened our competitions against really straightforward expertise?” he said. “That’s where we see the potential to create, move forward and grow this program.”
Targeted themes allow for a better-defined curriculum and focused opportunities for mentors and customers, Solomon continued, noting a balance of local minds and national best practices experts.
“One of the most significant growth areas in this for LaunchKC is that we’ve never before had the resources to provide a 75 or 95-day bootcamp for grant winners,” added Mike Hurd, director of marketing for the Downtown Council. “This accelerator model allows us to design a program that gives companies much greater support, educational and networking opportunities. It’s something we’ve really been itching to do for a long time.”
Winners will face the same residency expectations as previous years’ LaunchKC programs, Solomon said, with a goal to encourage a greater Kansas City presence for participating companies.
“They won’t just be coming for the accelerator period, but hopefully to stay in Kansas City long-term,” he said.
Applications are expected to open globally this spring.
Corporate-backed accelerator resources focused on industry-specific product absorption, commercialization, selling into a markets, and raising capital should help expand on LaunchKC’s established track record of winners who benefit from the program long after demo day, Solomon said.
“We’re really trying to leverage follow-on capital and investment,” he said. “Being industry-specific — and having these large corporate partners support these accelerators — will help us grow the velocity of follow-on funding that comes to these companies.”
The first four years of LaunchKC winners have raised $46 million in follow-on funding, Solomon noted.
“We expect the outpouring of this growth will yield even greater returns for our companies,” he said.
FinTech, CleanTech and HealthTech are just one step in LaunchKC’s growth, Solomon and Hurd teased.
“We’re starting with three verticals, but we’re also interested in AgTech and InsuranceTech and other core industries with strategic power here in Kansas City,” Solomon said. We’re looking for corporate partners to help us develop and extend these even further and more effectively.”