An interconnected, resource-rich startup ecosystem is paying off for Lelex Prime — contributing to the fast-growing artificial intelligence company’s development and boosting its chances to win the Fountain Innovation Fund’s first cash infusion, said Brendan Reilly.
“The Digital Sandbox helped us land this investment,” said Reilly, co-founder and principal at Lelex Prime, which joined the proof-of-concept program this spring. “With the Sandbox, we were able to make strides into becoming a tech company and building tech that is the foundation of our intellectual property (a big deal for investors).”
Lelex Prime is a fast-growing company with a platform that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning, applying social science to provide companies better, unbiased, and on-demand behavioral intelligence about their brand, product and industry.
Reilly also participated in the Pitch Perfect program at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County, he said, helping him hone his pitching skills and learn what investors want. ECJC manages both Pitch Perfect and the Fountain Innovation Fund.
The investment from the Fund, a bi-state economic development initiative, is expected to help Lelex Prime shorten the amount of time it takes the startup to provide intelligence to its partners, Reilly detailed.
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“To break through and scale you have to be better and faster than the competition, and this allows us to do just that,” he said. “We expect it to triple our Fortune 500 client list. That’s an aggressive goal, but we can get there.”
While financial details of the approved investment weren’t shared, the $5 million Fund was announced in June 2018 with the plan to annually — once capitalized — invest $50,000 to $100,000 each in six to 10 early-stage Midwest companies that have proof of concept, but are seeking market validation and their first few paying customers.
“We are thrilled to have Lelex Prime as our first approved investment,” said Maggie Kenefake, managing director for the Fountain Innovation Fund. “Lelex Prime is a perfect example of the kinds of high-potential, early-stage companies the Fund is designed to support. Its technology and market traction make it a compelling opportunity for the Fund and it’s poised to be a great success story for the Kansas City region.”
Reilly and co-founder Dan Scott agreed the team behind the Fund aligned with the vision for Lelex Prime — an important match for the startup’s leadership, which also includes co-founder Richard Neal.
“We’re excited to be working with the Fountain Innovation Fund team,” Scott said. “Their capital infusion, relationships, and mentorship really helps secure the future of Lelex Prime in preparation for our Series A. It’s so valuable for early-stage companies to have access to initiatives like this. We see them pushing Kansas City startups like ours to the next level.”
Lelex Prime itself already boasts a founding team worth believing in, Reilly and Kenefake said.
“We all have a lot of experience and have been able to generate significant traction in the marketplace with some of the biggest brands in the world,” Reilly said. “We are confident in what we do, but humble to know we don’t know everything.”
The Fund — known as an “evergreen” fund — taps tax-deductible donations to make its investments, and reinvests the earnings back into its investment efforts. It borrows its approach from other successful models in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.
The Midwest Seed Consortium, a bi-state economic development initiative, secured federal dollars to launch the Fountain Innovation Fund. The consortium includes ECJC, the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City (EDCKC), KC Sourcelink, OneKC for Women Alliance, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.