Opportunity Hub pulled out the big checks Friday, awarding two Kansas City edtech startups with $50,000 each as the accelerator nears its culmination at SXSW in March. Three winners from outside KC are expected to establish a presence in the metro as part of their awards.
Boddle — led by co-founders Clarence Tan and Edna Martinson — and PlaBook — founded by Philip Hickman — were among the five OHUB.KC companies selected to advance to the final stage of the intensive program: a high-profile demo day in Austin at the popular tech, music and education festival.
“We are so excited to be a part of the OHUB accelerator and represent Kansas City at SXSW,” said Boddle’s Martinson. “The support from the city and OHUB is helping us reach more schools and grow our team as we continue to work towards improving student outcomes.”
Click here to read more about how the five companies headed to SXSW were pared down from more than 100 to among 12 finalists through OHUB’s unique accelerator.
Boddle, which produces educational games for homework and tests that adjust to students abilities, was recently named one of Startland News’ 10 Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2020. Click here to read more about the newsmaking edtech company.
PlaBook, an innovative reading technology that uses AI to help learning outcomes, is a previous LaunchKC recipient — earning $50,000 in 2018 alongside Boddle in the former iteration of the grants competition, which was a partnership between the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City and the Downtown Council.
OHUB.KC itself is a collaboration between Atlanta-based Opportunity Hub and the EDC. Announced at a launch party in May, the accelerator aims to strengthen a more inclusive ecosystem, said Rodney Sampson, OHUB founder.
The three winning companies from outside Kansas City will help toward that goal, he said Friday.
“OHUB’s mission — on behalf of our partnership with EDCKC and its stakeholders (the taxpayers and corporate partners of KC) — was to help build the local ecosystem but also to attract new companies to Kansas City,” Sampson said, noting the three companies have each pledged to establish a physical presence in Kansas City by accepting the funding from OHUB and EDC. “So we are actually attracting founders here. They’re going to be growing their businesses.”
Those startups include:
- Forefront, St. Louis (Yulkendy Valdez) — B2B SaaS for building upskilled and connected global teams.
- Laundris, Austin (Don Ward) — A tech platform that helps hotels streamline inventory and asset management of linens through advanced tracking, reporting, and analytics.
- Musicbük, Atlanta (DuMarkus Davis) — Music education marketplace.
Once the companies arrive, OHUB.KC will work to create customer relationships between Kansas City corporations and the startups, Sampson said Friday.
“You can’t attract someone to a city, and then they get here and they can’t do business, right? So we’ll have to help them with their customer acquisition strategies,” he said.
And as part of the leadup to demo day at SXSW in Austin, the five OHUB.KC finalists will be guided by a familiar face in the startup ecosystem. Kevin McGinnis, CEO of the Keystone Community Corporation, has been tapped as an advisor, Sampson announced after checks were awarded Friday.
“We are building a team to insulate these founders while they are here on the ground,” he said. “Kevin is basically going to be nurturing these founders through the accelerator, making sure they get the right connections to customers, to capital resources to mentors.”
The March 16 OHUB demo day in Austin is part of a five-day OHUB experience at SXSW. Members of the OHUB.KC cohort are expected to return to Kansas City after the event for a special wrap-up celebration, Sampson said.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.