Kansas City is suddenly home to a new, heavy-hitter-backed startup with a built-in $11 million in Series A funding, Nick Bowden announced Thursday.
Replica — a next-generation urban planning tool by Sidewalk Labs (itself a smart city firm owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google) — has been spun out into its own standalone entity, said Bowden, CEO and co-founder of Replica.
“Replica the product has become Replica the company,” he said in his announcement.
Click here to learn more about Replica.
Replica will continue to be led by Bowden and headquartered in Kansas City with its primary engineering office in San Francisco, he said, noting hiring plans for both offices.
In addition to continued work with Sidewalk Labs, Bowden referenced new partnerships with Innovation Endeavors, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund and Kansas City-based Firebrand Ventures as part of the Series A round.
“It’s a rare opportunity to invest in an exceptional CEO that’s leading the spinout from a major tech company like Alphabet,” said John Fein, founder and managing partner, Firebrand Ventures. “Even better, Replica already has significant traction in their market with an innovative product. The fact they’re headquartered in Kansas City made it a perfect fit for Firebrand.”
Replica — originally branded as the Model Lab — began more than two years ago to explore data gathering and modeling as a means of addressing large urban problems — specifically how people use streets, Bowden said. New mobility, rising housing costs, and aging infrastructure have accelerated the urgency to find better solutions, he added.
“We’ve been fortunate to meet with public agencies across the world, learning more about the data, tools, and processes they use to better understand the places they manage,” he said of the new company’s growth from its initial product concept. “These conversations, along with our early work in Kansas City, Portland, and Chicago, helped us refine our understanding of the challenges these agencies face everyday.”
A previous Techstars Kansas City mentor, Bowden was lauded by Lesa Mitchell, the program’s managing director and leader of Indianapolis-based Techstars affiliate, Heritage Group Accelerator.
“In case you didn’t notice: This is the biggest thing to happen in #KC since Google Fiber,” Mitchell said in a tweet.
Firebrand Ventures’ Fein — himself a former Techstars Kansas City managing director — also has known Bowden for years through the local startup community, he said, and his team is thrilled to back the new venture, as well as to co-invest with Revolution’s Rise of the Rest and Eric Schmidt, along with his partners at Innovation Endeavors.
Replica joins such companies as ScaleFactor, Dwolla and Automox in the 25-startup-strong Firebrand I Fund, which is a top-performing fund in the U.S., according to Cambridge Associates.
“We’ll continue investing out of Firebrand I through December,” Fein said. “We’re also very excited to start investing out of our new Firebrand II fund in January.”