Startland News’ Startup Road Trip series explores innovative and uncommon ideas finding success in rural America and Midwestern startup hubs outside the Kansas City metro. This series is possible thanks to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which leads a collaborative, nationwide effort to identify and remove large and small barriers to new business creation.
One of downtown Wichita’s most historic buildings will soon house innovation — a move that has a former Silicon Valley startup sinking deeper roots in an emerging Heartland tech hub as it rapidly expands.
Knowledge as a Service, Inc. (KaaS), maker of Ringorang, inked a five-year lease agreement and strategic partnership with Bonavia Properties earlier this month, securing 5,500 square feet of office space within the historic Garvey Center Plaza along Douglas Place, the companies said.
As part of the deal, KaaS also received a financial investment from Bonavia in Ringorang — its gamified, microlearning platform that aims to improve human performance through habit formation.
“News of our recent partnership with Bonavia has accelerated our capital campaign,” said B.W. Barkley, co-founder and COO of KaaS. “We are activating multiple efforts to continue this growth.”
KaaS added eight new team members in 2021, including director-level positions and six employees from Wichita’s State University’s Shocker Career Accelerator. The startup now boasts more than a dozen team members with 11 working in Wichita — and it’s targeting to hire a total of 35 people by the end of 2022, Barkley said.
The new space at the Garvey Center — currently being renovated — is set to welcome KaaS in January 2022.
“KaaS’ vision for Wichita and ours align, representing a shift back toward emphasizing Wichita’s entrepreneurial spirit and a future that both innovates and disrupts,” said Nick Bonavia, CEO of the Wichita-headquartered property management company. “This long-term partnership accelerates our respective growth plans, and we look forward to a profitable and rewarding relationship with KaaS.”
KaaS is a transplant to Wichita, first moving to the “heart of the country” from San Diego in June 2021 when it set up shop inside the Groover Labs coworking and maker space. A solid landing pad for the startup, said Robert Feeney, co-founder and chief vision officer at KaaS, the space proved an ideal spot to lay the foundation for the business in the Midwest.
“When we first relocated to Wichita, we made Groover Labs our home base,” Feeney said. “We had two offices and dedicated desks that comfortably fit eight. With 11 local team members and our ongoing hiring of additional customer success coaches and sales representatives, we knew it was time to move to an exclusive office space. The partnership with Bonavia Properties makes it easier to turn on that growth switch.”
The KaaS team’s departure to the Garvey Center makes room for the next business looking to accelerate its growth, he added.
“KaaS is a case study in success for us,” said Tracy Hoover, co-founder of Groover Labs. “Businesses, entrepreneurs and startups come to Groover to grow, and when one leaves our space for a larger one, that’s a win for everyone.”
Click here to read more about momentum in Wichita’s tech and startup scenes.
Additional funds for KaaS’ expansion came through a Wefunder crowdfunding campaign and the Kansas Angel Investor Tax Credit program.
“The Angel Investor Tax Credit program is a win-win for both investors and entrepreneurs, incentivizing investors to fund startups by receiving 50 percent of their investment back in tax credits,” Barkley said.
Click here to learn more about the Kansas Angel Investor Tax Credit program.
“Bonavia and KaaS are similarly dedicated to investing in Wichita,” he continued.
“When we came from Silicon Valley, we made a commitment to be all-in in Wichita, growing our company, our product and making a difference in the startup community here.”
Two Wichita companies are already among those using KaaS’ software-as-a-service solution, Ringorang: flagship customer Mahaney Group — tapping the platform to focus on employee safety in the field — and Syndeo HRO — using Ringorang to reinforce its cybersecurity training. KaaS also contracted Syndeo as human resources provider.
“Our pipeline in Wichita is growing,” said Kathy Hughes, chief revenue officer for KaaS. “We have 22 opportunities with the potential for 12 being onboarded in the next three months. That’s more than 10,000 new users added to Ringorang’s SaaS solution.”
KaaS also recently closed a contract with Arizona Public Service in which Ringorang will be applied throughout the organization to more than 5,000 employees, the company said. Onboarding is expected to begin in January.
Click here to learn more about Ringorang.
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.
For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect at www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn