Pipeline’s new class of fellows more accurately reflects the real diversity of the Midwest, said startup veteran Dusty Reynolds, introducing a virtual Pipeline audience to 13 entrepreneurs joining the group’s elite ranks.
“This is an absolutely stacked class,” said Reynolds, co-founder of Omaha-based RaceNote, founder of HeavyNote, and Pipeline’s 2015 Innovator of the Year. “I love the diversity that’s coming through. It’s something we’ve championed, and now we can look at our classes, year over year, and see that this isn’t the stereotypical Midwest organization that focuses on business. We want to celebrate that.”
A half-dozen top Kansas City founders — along with a prominent central Kansas entrepreneur familiar to Startland News readers — were among those revealed Thursday as members of the 2021 fellowship class following an intense interview process. They included:
- Dr. Shelley Cooper, SureShow, Kansas City
- Parker Graham, Finotta, Kansas City
- Miguel Johns, KingFit, Wichita
- Chris Jones, MatchRite Care, Kansas City
- Lauren Lawrence, Stenovate, Kansas City
- Nomi Smith, PMI Rate Pro, Kansas City
- Clarence Tan, Boddle, Kansas City and Tulsa
Companies led by Cooper and Smith were named to Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2021 list, while Graham, Lawrence and Tan all lead startups that were recognized on the 2020 list.
Pipeline — which serves as a regional network across the Midwest — also drew heavily from Nebraska and the eastern side of Missouri. Among those founders:
- Carissa Castro, Logica, Omaha
- Adriana Cisneros Basulto, Maxwell.app, Omaha
- Joshua Hample, Certified Cell, Omaha
- Christian Harding, VaxNewMo, St. Louis
- Robyn Rosenberger, TinySuperheroes, St. Louis
- Lucas Rydberg, phas3, St. Louis
“I love that the attention [in Pipeline] is on the person and not just the company,” said Reynolds, member president for Pipeline. “Because we’re more than just our companies.”
Thursday’s virtual event additionally showcased members of the 2020 Pipeline fellowship class who pitched Jan. 28 during a daytime contest to earn the titles of Best Pitch and Innovator of the Year. The latter honor is expected to be awarded in November in hopes the celebration of Innovator of the Year can be in person, organizers said Thursday.
Click here to read more about the 2020 Best Pitch winner, Brooke Mullen, founder of Sapahn.
The 2021 class will experience a version of the fellowship that was a somewhat traumatic first for their 2020 counterparts, said Reynolds, emphasizing the fellowship challenges posed by virtual convening during the ongoing pandemic.
“We were robbed of a lot of really good opportunities, so I think it’s OK to be vulnerable, to be honest with each other and just say that it was a really, really difficult year,” he said. “It made my heart smile to be able to see that everyone made it through and came out across the finish line really well.”
Watch Pipeline’s virtual announcement event below.
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.