Editor’s note: The celebration event showcasing Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2020 was sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works with communities in education and entrepreneurship to increase opportunities that allow all people to learn, to take risks, and to own their success.
Ten of Kansas City’s most likely startup newsmakers shared the stage Thursday, celebrating their achievements so far, and learning more about the value of exposure through the nonprofit newsroom that named them Startups to Watch in 2020.
“Amplifying startups is gold for us in trying to gain traction with investors and sales channel partners,” said Sarah Hill, founder of Healium, one of the companies featured on the 2020 list. “So we share [Startland News stories] everywhere on our social sites and are just really appreciative of you all taking the time to learn more about our products and our company.”
Presented by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Thursday’s celebration brought founders — along with significant mentors and investors — into the spotlight for a showcase of the 10 companies featured on Startland News’ Startups to Watch list.
Startland News is a program of STARTLAND, formerly the Kansas City Startup Foundation, which seeks to activate a culture of innovation through storytelling, experiences, talent and real-world learning.
Click here to see the 10 Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2020.
Hill, a veteran broadcast journalist-turned-pioneer in using virtual reality as a healing technology, is keenly aware of the financial impact of even a single news or feature story on a startup, she told a crowd gathered at H&R Block’s World Headquarters for the event.
“If you averaged that every mention of a startup in a news publication has an earned media value for SEO, lead generation, discovery, or brand impression, it’s easy to see how Startland News is injecting huge value into our companies,” she said.
Assuming each story is worth $5,000 in earned media value to a company, Hill said, the 522 stories published by Startland News in 2019 would equate to $2.6 million in earned media value for the companies featured throughout the year.
Check out the gallery below of 2020 Startups to Watch winners, with award trophies crafted by Collective Ex, then keep reading.
Founders showcased on the Startups to Watch list face even greater exposure, noted Gerald Smith, co-founder of Plexpod, a company featured on the 2018 roundup of emerging newsmakers.
A 25-year entrepreneur who exited out of another company, the Plexpod leader initially struggled to wrap his head around calling his business a “startup” — until it earned a spot as a Startup to Watch, he said.
“What I experienced that next year is extraordinary,” Smith told the founders on the 2020 list. “What you’re fixin’ to experience is local support. You’re in the eye of everyone. This year will be an extraordinary time for you to lean into your community. Because that special thing about Kansas City … it’s full of champions.”
For Plexpod, its year as a Startup to Watch was an awareness campaign for the popular co-working space, he said.
“This is your window,” Smith emphasized. “Don’t think this is somehow just a reward for something — it’s the beginning of something good, and you need to lean into it.”
Champions can be found outside the bounds of Kansas City, said Tommy Felts, news director for Startland News, addressing the Startups to Watch audience.
“While we have a handful or more of out-of-town investors here in the crowd tonight, it’s worth noting that 53 percent of Startland News’ readership comes from outside the metro,” Felts said. “That’s curious readers in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — all watching your companies in 2020.”
Check out a gallery from the 2020 celebration below. Photos by Tommy Felts and Christian Toth.