Startup leaders’ needs — and the development of their ideas — don’t stop with the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), said Jill Meyer, announcing the latest round of funding selections for Digital Sandbox KC.
“We know our entrepreneurs are facing so much uncertainty in this current situation,” said Meyer, senior director of technology ventures at the UMKC Innovation Center. “We want to do our part to collectively champion these innovative companies.”
Digital Sandbox KC selected four companies for proof-of-concept support this quarter, continuing its commitment to fuel innovation in the Kansas City community, she added, noting the program rapidly moves early-stage entrepreneurs from concept to commercialization.
Specific funding amounts for each startup were not immediately disclosed, though companies can each request up to $20,000.
Newly-funded startups in the program include:
- PlaBook, Kansas City, Missouri (Philip Hickman) — PlaBook is an innovative reading platform that utilizes artificial intelligence, natural language processing, speech recognition, and AI emotion-recognition software to assist students with reading fundamentals, reading fluency and reading comprehension.
- PMI Rate Pro, Overland Park (Nomi Smith) — For decades, homebuyers have overpaid by the billions for private mortgage insurance, and loan officers have largely been unaware of all available options. In less than 30 seconds, PMI Rate Pro provides loan officers the most affordable PMI rate for homebuyers, with an average savings of $28 per month.
- The Guy Experience, Kansas City, Missouri (Jerren Thornhill) — The Guy Experience is the premium experience management company for the 21st-century guy. Date night and trip planning are made easy with unforgettable experiences. The all-in-one service app features a personal tech concierge, George, who creates “your day your way” by combining local experiences, food and premium transportation.
- SWOT, Overland Park (Max Schanker) — Started by three co-founders, Max Schanker, Nate Schanker and Nolan Blankenau, SWOT is a social media platform that ranks anything and everything to “see what others think” (SWOT). Users can share their specific interests; compare opinions with friends, celebrities and the aggregated world; and ultimately become aware of the world’s best of the best so they can maximize value.
“An entrepreneur without funding is like a painter without a paintbrush,” said PlaBook’s Hickman. “And during this ‘new normal,’ I’m grateful the Sandbox stayed true to its mission in providing resources and funding to companies like ours so that we can be the engine of economic development in Kansas City.”
Since its inception in 2013, Digital Sandbox KC has provided project development funding for 129 area startups, which has spurred more than $80 million in follow-on funding, according to the program.
“Now, more than ever, we need to support our early-stage companies with programs like Digital Sandbox KC,” said Meyer. “ … From an innovative reading platform to a product addressing the mortgage industry, all four of these [newly announced] companies demonstrate the creativity and ingenuity that will keep driving our economy.”
Click here to apply for Digital Sandbox KC’s second-quarter cycle.
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.