A popular grants competition that helped raise the profiles — and buoy the bank accounts — of dozens of Kansas City startups could be relaunching with renewed funding from the Missouri Technology Corporation, the agency announced Tuesday.
LaunchKC was named one of seven organizations to together receive more than $1 million in grant funding to support startups and entrepreneurship statewide through the Missouri Building Entrepreneurial Capacity (MOBEC) grant program. Digital Sandbox KC, a program of Tech Ventures Studio at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and eFactory in Springfield, also were among the awardees.
Click here to read more about eFactory’s plans for the grant funding.
“Entrepreneurship is vitally important to our state’s economy, and we’re proud to support up-and-coming businesses as they grow and create jobs,” said Gov. Mike Parson, R-Missouri. “Missouri is already home to world-class companies in technology and other sectors. For our continued economic success, it’s important to provide innovators with the tools they need to become the industry leaders of tomorrow.”
LaunchKC — an initiative of the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri (EDCKC) and the Downtown Council — historically has included a grants competition (in addition to a variety of accelerators and related programming) that creates new opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs, and the tech ecosystem of Kansas City. LaunchKC’s mission is to attract scalable companies to create more jobs and opportunities while growing the local economy.
“We have big program announcements on the horizon to build on LaunchKC’s momentum over the last several years,” said Jim Erickson, director of strategic initiatives for the EDCKC. “We’re confident that our trajectory will meet and exceed the expectations of the next generation of entrepreneurs in Kansas City, Missouri.”
The MOBEC grant is expected to be used to help relaunch the annual competition that will award 10 innovative, scalable, and job-creating startups with $50,000 non-dilutive grants, MTC said Tuesday. Because MOBEC grants require matching funds, additional fundraising remains to bring back the popular competition.
Competitors last took the stage in October 2018 during Techweek KC when emerging startups from Bungii and Boddle to PlaBook and Erkios Systems vied for top prize money. Many of the companies have since gone on to funding rounds in the millions, top-tier accelerators and headline-making moves.
MOBEC dollars are intended to expand the capacity of nonprofit organizations that support entrepreneurs to create more home-grown, high-tech companies. Through the MOBEC grant program, MTC makes strategic investments that expand the support system for entrepreneurs that are commercializing new technologies or that enhance the capacity of Missouri to grow its innovation economy.
Specific funding amounts for each awardee were not detailed.
In addition to LaunchKC, newly announced MOBEC grant recipients include:
Arch Grants is a nonprofit organization that provides $75,000 equity-free grants and pro bono support services to entrepreneurs who locate their early-stage businesses in St. Louis. Through its competitive Global Startup Competition, Arch Grants attracts and retains the most innovative entrepreneurs to the St. Louis region. The MOBEC grant will be leveraged to increase Arch Grants’ capacity to further their mission of supporting entrepreneurs.
The Codefi Foundation on Rural Innovation is dedicated to improving the quality of life by accelerating economic development through access to education, mentoring, technology, and capital, and providing increased and efficient internet, network, and technology connectivity and access to citizens and businesses. The MOBEC grant will help expand their programming across southern Missouri by launching a new pre-accelerator and venture investor network, as well as expanding the Redhawks Startup Fellowship to provide more high-quality interns and talent to startups.
Digital Sandbox KC brings ideas to life by providing expert feedback and project funding of up to $20K to help accelerate innovations toward commercialization. This includes, but is not limited to, access to technology, business and market experts for market validation, and prototyping and beta testing services. The MOBEC grant will provide funding for additional proof of concept projects to be completed over the next two years, generating additional investment and jobs for Missouri.
efactory serves entrepreneurs and business owners throughout southwest Missouri. The MOBEC grant will expand the delivery of Code Labs, a proven immersion training program to meet the needs of local employers and startups in southwest Missouri seeking to hire software developers. MOBEC will also expand delivery of the Youth Coding League, the only extracurricular coding program designed for middle school and junior high students. Youth Coding League uses innovative, project-based learning combined with a competitive youth sports model to introduce students to computer science in a fun, engaging way.
Lindenwood University’s Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneur Network (ITEN) supports both community-based and student entrepreneurs and innovators in the St. Louis region by delivering educational programs and events, curating corporate and community partnerships, offering experienced mentorship, and providing ecosystem wayfinding services. The MOBEC grant will allow ITEN to launch the Missouri Rural Entrepreneurship (MORE) Connection initiative. The goal of this initiative is to improve delivery and impact of support, capital, and other resources to Missouri’s rural entrepreneurs. The MORE Connection initiative provides more meaningful connection to peers and resources in Missouri’s metro regions.
MOSourceLink’s mission is to help entrepreneurs and small businesses across the state of Missouri grow and succeed by providing free, easy access to support and resources. MOSourceLink connects entrepreneurs and small business owners with a network of nonprofit resource organizations that provide business-building services. The MOBEC grant will support maintaining MOSourceLink-related programs accessed by more than 6,000 entrepreneurs each year.
“Entrepreneurial support organizations are responsible for providing the resources entrepreneurs need to grow their businesses in Missouri, and MTC is proud to support them,” said Jack Scatizzi, executive director of MTC said. “Financial support for these organizations is integral to ensuring the state’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems are maximizing their economic development impact.”
Click here to learn more about MTC’s impact.
To date, through MOBEC and other grant programs, MTC has partnered with more than 60 entrepreneurial support organizations in Missouri communities. MTC has also awarded a total of nearly $30 million in entrepreneurial-focused grants that have served thousands of small businesses.
In addition to providing grants to expand entrepreneurial capacity, MTC manages a state-sponsored venture capital fund that supports Missouri’s early-stage entrepreneurs through direct investment. In the last decade, MTC has invested $45 million in more than 140 high-growth Missouri technology companies. These companies have also raised more than $1.1 billion in additional private capital.