Three emerging fintech startups with Kansas City ties have found new entrepreneurial support southwest of the metro.
Griffin, Destiny, and Bellwethr were announced as finalists in the Wichita-based, NXTSTAGE Pilot Competition, Wednesday — an effort designed to propel early-stage companies to the next stage of startup growth, largely through mentorship and connections to companies and regional partners who could serve as potential customers.
Startups involved in the competition will work toward launching pilot programs with industry partners.
Click here to read more about Destiny, one of Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2020; here to learn more about Bellwethr, one of the publication’s Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2019; or here for a look back at Griffin founder, Donald Hawkins’ time as entrepreneur in residence at nbkc bank.
Designed to better support the needs of entrepreneurs across multiple verticals — including industry 4.0 and community health and vibrancy — 33 finalists, spanning four countries and 14 states, were announced in total.
“We brought in tons of startups as applicants, and as we began whittling them down, the Midwest and our heartland region — Kansas in particular — showed really well,” said Mary Beth Jarvis, NXTUS executive director.
“You can tell by the list of finalists that we have really solid contenders in our own backyard — which is awesome and speaks to the quality of young companies that we’re breeding.”
Launched in early 2020, NXTSTAGE was made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Talent Ecosystem Fund at the Wichita Community Foundation. Click here to learn more about the program.
Of the three verticals, the program’s fintech track is moving at the most aggressive pace, Jarvis added, noting its backed by founding partners at Emprise Bank, Fidelity Bank, and INTRUST Bank — each holding an obvious interest in digital banking capabilities.
“They have been engaging and collaborating with our finalists for the last few months. So, we are looking toward a culminating step for that track as a whole in September,” she said, noting industry 4.0 and community health and vibrancy tracks will progress at their own pace.
Beyond industry interest, the COVID-19 pandemic could also be a factor in the rapid pace of the NXSTAGE fintech track, Jarvis said.
“There are incredibly nimble and resilient young companies out there. And we’ve just been really, really impressed with their ability to respond to a changing world,” she said. “COVID has accelerated it, but [credit] really goes to [the partners’ and companies’] leadership. Regardless of what battles were staring at them every day, over these past few months, they didn’t waiver and in fact, dug deeper in order to be able to move quickly with innovations that could really help them and their customers.”
Pilot winners in the fintech track are expected to be announced this fall, Jarvis said.
With nearly 300 startups vying for a spot in the competition, Jarvis and the NXTUS team couldn’t be happier with its inaugural run, she said, noting they’ve been particularly pleased with its diverse reach.
Twenty percent of applicants were female founders; 15 percent were Black; and 15 percent Hispanic.
“One of the great surprises embedded, for me, in this learning process is the number of female founders in the industry, 4.0 segment — advanced manufacturing, automation, data analytics — that was just rife with really, really solid offerings by female founders,” she said of the breakdown and program’s commitment to highlighting a broad range of innovators.
“A huge variety of humans are not just contemplating, but putting into action solutions that can really make communities better, stronger, more connected and healthier and that was really great to see.”