Digital Sandbox KC’s latest quartet of funded companies will help Kansas City build a better, more inclusive startup ecosystem, said Jill Meyer.
“We’ve always been keenly aware of the inequities in the tech ecosystem, especially for entrepreneurs of color,” said Meyer, who leads Digital Sandbox and is senior director of the Technology Ventures Studio at the UMKC Innovation Center. “Digital Sandbox KC has a strategic role to play, not only in advancing early-stage ideas but also in helping improve access to resources, experts and funding for entrepreneurs who have been traditionally and historically under-represented in the tech space.”
Founders included in the new round of funding include some of Kansas City’s emerging startup stars, as well as a serial entrepreneur with a specialty in autism-focused innovation. Specific funding amounts for each company were not immediately disclosed, though startups can each request up to $20,000.
“This funding will allow us to create a beacon of light to other entrepreneurs in the future,” said Juaquan Herron, a comic book entrepreneur who is among the funding recipients and who has been gaining momentum with 2923 Comics since debuting two years ago on the startup scene.
The Digital Sandbox proof-of-concept program works to move early-stage entrepreneurs from concept to commercialization. Since 2013, it has provided project development funding for 133 area startups, which has spurred more than $90 million in follow-on funding.
Newly-funded startups in the program include:
- MatchRite Care, Kansas City, Missouri (Christopher Jones) — MatchRite Care delivers personal health records to patients in a simple and clean format. Customers can access, store and manage their medical records from multiple providers, all in one software platform. Additionally, MatchRite’s patient-facing platform will allow future health care technologies to connect with patients and achieve true interoperability. (Click here to learn more about MatchRite Care.)
- PANDA Healthcare Technologies, Kansas City, Missouri (Jeff Blackwood) — PANDA Healthcare Technologies is the world’s first tool for an objective, biometric measure of the presence of autism in children as young as 12 to 18 months. With PANDA, universal screening for autism can finally become a reality and ensure that more children get the therapy care they need early in life. (Click here to learn more about one of Blackwood’s previous ventures.)
- Team Cura, Overland Park (Rob Hughey and Karen Hughey) — Team Cura’s Skills Beyond Drills online training helps high-achieving high school and college athletes broaden their performance training to include character-driven interpersonal skills. Student athletes benefit from attaining their competitive advantage on and off the field.
- The Vendors Assistant, Kansas City, Missouri (Juaquan Herron and Rodney McDuffie II) — Started by the founders of 2923 Comics, The Vendors Assistant is a tech application that helps everyday entrepreneurs turn their passion into a strategic business and allows small non-enterprise businesses to locate and book vending opportunities, secure travel accommodations and track expenses so they can strategically sell at events. (Click here to read more about Herron’s efforts with 2923 Comics and “The Scarlet Knight” saga.)
“With the Digital Sandbox KC funding, MatchRite Care will be able to finish development on our health care software and move quickly to our pilot phase,” said Jones, whose MatchRite Care garnered headlines as a competitor in the 2019 Pure Pitch Rally and OHUB.KC accelerator. “Because we are in the ‘new normal’ of the COVID-19 era, it is a necessity for patients to have immediate access to their health records.”
Click here to learn more about MatchRite Care’s inspiration: a medical delay that might have cost the life of Jones’ 5-year-old son.
Mid-pandemic is no time to give up on young startups and entrepreneurs, Meyer emphasized.
“Even as entrepreneurs are navigating a lot of obstacles right now, we want to continue to provide vital early-stage project funding to help local companies thrive,” she 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.