Digital Sandbox funding is a game-changer for CuePlay — one of six companies selected for the proof of concept program’s latest cohort — said founder Rebecca Simons, who first launched the idea two years ago at Techstars’ Startup Weekend in Kansas City.
“It allows us to finish the development of a beta app and get it to the over 200 pre-registered customers and businesses signed up for the beta-test group,” Simons said.
Digital Sandbox KC announced on Wednesday its third-quarter roster of companies earning funding, selecting solutions in parenting ed-tech, esports, business intelligence and more, said Jill Meyer, senior director of the Technology Venture Studio at the UMKC Innovation Center.
“These six companies illustrate the vision and brilliance of entrepreneurs and innovators in Kansas City,” she said. “We’re grateful to continue to fill an early-stage funding gap and help innovators build viable solutions that will get our region’s economy back on track.”
Specific funding amounts were not immediately disclosed, though startups can each request up to $30,000, according to the program. Digital Sandbox KC is a proof-of-concept program that significantly and rapidly moves early-stage entrepreneurs from concept to commercialization.
The newly announced companies chosen for support include:
- Bertelsen Education, Jill Berletson (Kansas City, Missouri) — Many parents struggle through the transition to parenthood, and they want information that is quick and practical. Bertelsen Education is developing an app that uses artificial intelligence to gamify parental education. Imagine a Noom meets Duolingo-like app, developed for parents, with daily bits of information and a game allowing parents to build their confidence.
- Bōzt, Leo Esposito (Overland Park) — Bōzt (pronounced boast) is a social application for sharing and discovering new places to get great food with people you know and trust.
- CuePlay, Rebecca Simons (Kansas City, Missouri) — CuePlay is a patent-pending technology that allows hobby sports enthusiasts to locate, reserve and pay for table time through mobile app-based payments, avoiding cash and coins entirely. CuePlay is the only product servicing the hobby sports industry and currently focuses on billiards tables but can also be incorporated into air hockey, foosball and shuffleboard tables.
- KNIMO, Jason Reid (Overland Park) — KNIMO, short for Knowledge in Motion, is developing a collaborative intelligence solution to help marketing and sales organizations quickly capture, curate and surface organizational knowledge. Using its proprietary technology, KNIMO captures an organization’s knowledge base, contributed daily through channels like Teams and Slack – enabling marketing organizations to proactively present specific knowledge needed to move opportunities to closure.
- SeeinME, Risa Stein (Lee’s Summit) — An inability to connect with a person who experiences communication challenges frustrates providers, promotes anxiety in family members and ends in isolation for the individual. SeeInMe enables family members to share a personality profile for loved ones ranging from preverbal infants to those with special needs to elderly victims of stroke and dementia, enabling truly person-centered care across numerous settings.
- VRdojo, Michael Eichenseer (Kansas City, Missouri) — VRdojo is building Dust, a VR e-sport that collects all popular VR gameplay styles into a cross-platform and free-to-play game – the Overwatch of VR. Dust is built on an extremely scalable networking system that distributes network load among users such that tens of thousands of people can all share the same virtual space at one time. Professional matches, music festivals or any massive event can take place in a virtual stadium filled with fans from across the globe.
Click here to read more about VRdogo founder’s work at UMKC’s new innovation studio.
“We’re thrilled to welcome this quarter’s innovators into the Sandbox family,” Meyer said. “Over the past year alone, we’ve seen just how impactful the Sandbox’s project funding and connections can be for entrepreneurs whose innovations are ready to take the next steps toward commercialization or venture capital.”
In 2021, startups that received early funding from Digital Sandbox KC had several public wins, according to the program, including:
- RFP360’s recent exit (founders David Hulsen and Stuart Ludlow)
- PMI Rate Pro’s acceptance into Techstars (founders Nomi Smith and Luke Landau)
- Particle Space’s $636K pre-seed round from local and regional investors (founder David Biga)
- SureShow’s recognition as a local woman leader in STEM (founder Dr. Shelley Cooper)
- TripleBlind’s $8.2M seed funding round (founders Riddhiman Das and Greg Storm)
“Digital Sandbox KC provides critical next-stage support in KC’s pipeline of innovation, from innovators’ first steps with the Tech Venture class, to our area pitch competitions like Pure Pitch Rally through the Sandbox, Pipeline and beyond,” Meyer added. “We need to continue to make this whole pipeline visible, accessible and equitable to our region’s innovators.”
Since the program’s inception in 2013, the Sandbox has provided project development funding for 153 area startups, which has spurred an astounding $168 million in total follow-on funding. In the first three quarters of 2021, Sandbox has funded 13 companies in total, 38 percent founded by women, 23 percent by entrepreneurs of color.
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.