Demo day is as much about looking forward as it is an examination of a startup’s journey through Techstars, Maria Flynn said, teasing new dollar deals ahead for the 2021 Kansas City cohort.
“There are already a number of investment commitments coming in, so we are focused on closing the investment rounds so the companies can accelerate their growth,” Flynn, managing director for Techstars Kansas City, told Startland News. “We are really proud of the progress that our founders made and very thankful to our mentoring community for all of the support.”
Ten startups — five of which hail from Kansas City — were featured in pre-recorded pitches Thursday afternoon before a live audience at The Truman during Techstars’ in-person demo day event. Founders were masked and on hand to answer questions from mentors, potential investors and invited community members.
The graduating class of entrepreneurs marked Flynn’s first Techstars cohort since taking on the leadership role, succeeding Lesa Mitchell, who now serves as Techstars general manager of the Americas and still plays an active role in the Kansas City accelerator.
Click here to view the individual companies’ video pitches, which debuted publicly during the demo day.
Kansas City startups in the cohort included:
- afloat, Kansas City (Sarah-Allen Preston, Laura McKnight, Olivia Lynn) — The gifting app that connects users to local businesses for curated same-day gifting.
- myAnIML, Overland Park (Shekhar Gupta) — Using AI to predict and track diseases in cattle.
- PlaBook, Kansas City (Dr. Philip Hickman, Tammy Buckner) — A reading technology that uses natural language processing, speech recognitions and artificial intelligence to teach children how to read.
- Rate Pro, Overland Park (Nomi Smith) — Rate Pro started out as PMI Rate Pro, which is a Kayak of private mortgage insurance. Rate pro is now a one-stop shop for monthly expenses for homebuyers.
- MoodSpark, Kansas City, Kansas (Eliot Arnold, Martin Bukowski) — Digital companion that detects sadness and intervenes with uplifting emotional memories, video visits and personalized conversation.
Because of Techstars, Rate Pro is now in a better position to scale and grow quickly and efficiently, said founder Nomi Smith — one of the standout pitchers during the 2020 Pure Pitch Rally and the leader of one of Startland News’ Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2021.
“Techstars was able to bring so many mentors and connections together to help our company hone in and validate our company’s future vision,” Smith said. “Techstars also truly helped us slow down to put mainframes around our business processes.”
The 13-week accelerator opened in early June and concluded this week.
Check out a photo gallery from Thursday’s demo day below, then keep reading.
“It feels good to complete demo day, now it’s time to get to running our businesses!” Smith said. “We have made so many friendships through the program and we cannot wait to see the growth of our companies and our teams.”
Techstars offered long-lasting support in countless ways, said Dr. Philip Hickman, co-founder and CEO of PlaBook.
“Providing excellent, mind-shifting content allowed us to grow as founders, build structure around our company, and surround us with mentors who are the best in their fields to help guild us,” he said.
Fellow cohort members from outside Kansas City included:
- AlgenAir, Baltimore (Kelsey Abernathy, Dan Fucich) — The first natural air purifier that reduces CO2 using an algae subscription service.
- BuckUp, Baltimore (Shoheb Punjani) — Sell tech in minutes — help your wallet and the planet.
- GoodRoads, Charlotte, North Carolina (Chris Sunde) — Solving the aging roads crisis by providing data-driven solutions to communities.
- Gradient Health, Durham, North Carolina (Ouwen Huang, Joshua Miller) — Develops medical imaging AI diagnostics and medical imaging AI infrastructure for sponsored research.
- NeuroGeneces, Santa Fe, New Mexico (Karen Crow, Jason Worchel, Paul Butler) — A seed-stage startup providing a scientifically proven safe and effective way to improve memory while you sleep.
In addition to founders’ video pitches, the event also featured a panel discussion on the future of artificial intelligence with Tanuj Gupta, vice president, Cerner Intelligence; Learie Hercules, CTO, Smart Warehousing; and Paul Allen, CEO and co-founder, Soar.com.