The selection of Bodify and Interplay for the latest round of Digital Sandbox KC funding doubles down on the proof-of-concept program’s commitment to bring diverse innovative ideas in the Kansas City region to life, said Jill Meyer.
“We’re always thrilled to welcome entrepreneurs with smart, scalable ideas to the Sandbox,” said Meyer, senior director of the Technology Venture Studio at the UMKC Innovation Center, which administers Digital Sandbox. “Being able to fund companies — particularly Black women-led companies — at this early stage ensures that we’re building an equitable pipeline of innovation in our region.”
What is Digital Sandbox KC? Digital Sandbox KC is a proof-of-concept program that significantly and rapidly moves early-stage entrepreneurs from concept to commercialization. It is a unique collaboration among private, public, university/research and philanthropic organizations.
What is Digital Sandbox KC?
Digital Sandbox KC is a proof-of-concept program that significantly and rapidly moves early-stage entrepreneurs from concept to commercialization. It is a unique collaboration among private, public, university/research and philanthropic organizations.
Bodify, founded by Carlanda McKinney, and Interplay, founded by Jonaie Johnson, join more than 140 startups that have received project development funding from Digital Sandbox since its inception in 2013. Those investments have spurred over $129 million in total follow-on funding, according to the program.
Specific funding amounts for Bodify and Interplay were not immediately disclosed, though startups can each request up to $20,000.
Click here to learn more about Digital Sandbox KC.
Learning from past ventures Aphrodite Bra and Raaxo helped McKinney discover a problem she could solve: Helping online shoppers avoid the frustration of finding the right fit. Enter her latest startup Bodify, a web-based platform that leverages computer vision and artificial intelligence to help digital shoppers find the best brands for their bodies.
“Over the past few months, we’ve gotten a lot of interest in what we are creating,” McKinney said. “Shoppers, potential retail partners and investment groups have taken notice, and the missing piece was having a product ready to go.”
Johnson — a student athlete and recipient of the 2020 Student Entrepreneur of the Award from the Henry W. Bloch School of Management’s Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation — created Interplay, a company that provides dog owners with a remote-control dog crate attachment that enables them to use a smartphone to interact with their pets.
Click here to read more about Johnson’s journey with Interplay.
“Receiving the Digital Sandbox KC grant is an essential milestone for my company, as it is my first major source of funding,” Johnson said. “It will help catapult Interplay’s overall development and growth.”
Data shows that firms started by Black women received only .0006 percent of venture capital funding between 2009 and 2017, according to digitalundivided’s Project Diane 2020.
“The latest additions to the Sandbox are building technologies solving real problems with a true potential to scale, showcasing what’s possible right here in Kansas City,” Meyer said. “Early innovations like these are exactly what our region needs — innovations that will create jobs and move our economy forward.”
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.