A new Kansas City-based program is recruiting 20 fellows — from among the metro’s first-time entrepreneurs and established businesses — for an effort to help accelerate innovations, products or service lines that are solving needs exposed by the pandemic.
“The public health crisis posed by COVID-19 ignited a need for rapid change and innovation,” said Jim Starcev, program manager with KC Digital Drive, which is leading the program alongside the UMKC Innovation Center. “Comeback KC Ventures will help uncover and support local, early-stage innovations that are helping answer that call.”
The program is expected to combine the business-building strengths of the UMKC Innovation Center with the community engagement and discovery processes of KC Digital Drive to sprint toward 10 new businesses, 30 new jobs and $5 million in follow-on funding in an 18-month period that will start local and stay local to solve problems that COVID-19 has raised, organizers said.
Click here to express interest in applying to Comeback KC Ventures through a five-minute survey.
“Like the rest of the nation, Kansas City is still reeling from how the pandemic has affected lives and livelihoods,” Starcev added. “Kansas City and the country need solutions to COVID-exposed problems.”
Funded by a SPRINT Challenge grant from the Economic Development Administration, Comeback KC Ventures is designed to wrap early-stage innovations in support, resources and financial assistance to accelerate COVID-related solutions in public health, education and digital equity.
To date, Comeback KC Ventures has hosted four discovery sessions to help source ideas, entrepreneurs and businesses, which have, in turn, surfaced more than 300 concepts that the program is helping shepherd to viable technology via entrepreneurial education, advisory boards and funding opportunities.
Among the project’s goals:
- Uncover COVID-related community needs in education, health care and digital equity
- Identify technology-based solutions to those needs
- Create an expanding regiment of Venture Fellows, entrepreneurs who receive needed support to rapidly develop solutions to meet these opportunities
- Connect Venture Fellows with civic and community leaders to align product-market fit
- Provide much-needed, early-stage proof-of-concept support through Digital Sandbox KC to move ideas toward commercialization in the market
- Place a strong emphasis on developing minority- and women-business owners in the technology space
“People wishing to start businesses right now can help,” added Jill Meyer, senior director of the Technology Venture Studio at the UMKC Innovation Center. “There is no better time to put a focus on early-stage technology business development, especially when so many community needs have been laid bare. There is no better time to support the development of technology businesses, especially by people of color, to create jobs where they are needed.”
Click here to learn more about Comeback KC Ventures.