A global pandemic exposed both new challenges and the potential for disruptive solutions — putting Kansas City entrepreneurs at the forefront of rapid-fire change in the wake of an ongoing health crisis, said organizers of Comeback KC Ventures.
Nine additional Kansas City tech startups are joining the fellowship program, its leaders said Wednesday, expanding upon the initial cohort of seven companies announced in January.
“COVID-19 illuminated gaps that these innovators have leveraged,” said Charlotte Clark, project coordinator for UMKC Innovation Center’s Technology Venture Studio, which leads Comeback KC Ventures alongside KC Digital Drive. “Where others saw roadblocks, these founders saw great opportunities to become pioneers for new tech right here in Kansas City, creating more equitable solutions for those in need and expanding the possibilities of what innovation looks like in the region.”
The nine additions include startups that are commercializing new solutions to problems in health care, wellness, video communication, immunization records, venue booking, vaccine platforms and accommodations for traveling doctors.
An innovation showcase highlighting the fellows is planned for 3:30 p.m. May 18 at The Futures Group, 1801 Oak St. Click here to register for the in-person event.
The newest fellows in Comeback KC Ventures include:
- Bob Waddell and Jim Brown, MD Matchup — Focuses on the patient’s needs and preferences by creating a platform that matches patients to the right provider. During the pandemic, patients abandoned wellness visits and canceled clinic and elective surgery appointments, which allowed for minor health issues to be neglected or worsen. Now, approximately 64 million Americans would benefit from establishing a primary care relationship. MD Matchup is currently partnering with health systems and aims to work with insurance networks, provider groups and telehealth companies so patients everywhere can find a provider they can use and trust long term.
- Kenneth Yancy, NoW — A virtual meeting platform that allows for easy and secure video communication. During the pandemic, all meetings and events went virtual, and most of us turned to Zoom, where we consistently dealt with user experience issues related to security, forced updates and crashes. NoW is positioned to become a disrupter in the video conferencing space by providing customers a solid return on investment.
- Jessie and Jeff Pavalone, Venues Made Simple — Creating a tool for engaged couples to find, tour and book venues 100 percent online. Although most weddings were postponed during the pandemic, booking venues for post-pandemic events became almost impossible because the process relied on in-person contact. Venues Made Simple’s mission is to help small to mid-sized venues secure more weddings to help their business thrive and ultimately to help more people get married. This technology also lends itself to other types of businesses with similar needs if in the future, the company chooses to expand to other industries.
- Dr. Saroj Gupta, MyDigiRecords — Allows for vulnerable populations to manage their immunization records digitally. Because doctor’s offices were closed during the pandemic, these populations could not access their paper or electronic records, which caused individuals to either miss important vaccinations or take multiple doses, leading to adverse outcomes. MyDigiRecords aims to provide its SaaS and mobile platform to populations, such as foster children, homeless people, immigrants and elderly people across the globe.
- Dr. Courtney Younglove, Health Partners MD — Saves employers money in health care and disability costs by providing a disease-management platform that directly addresses obesity in employees. During the pandemic, obesity rates rose, and those infected by COVID-19 had higher morbidity and mortality rates. Health Partners MD is providing education and training to people with obesity as an employee benefit, which allows users to become healthier at no cost.
- Shapree Marshall, A Traveled Path — A platform that connects traveling medical professionals with local property owners to accommodate mid-term rental needs. During the pandemic, traveling medical professionals were in high demand but lacked the appropriate living facilities to rest from their long shifts. A Traveled Path will be expanding the pool of property owners so professionals with specific accommodation requests can find affordable places to stay.
- Nick Bennett and Dan Schwarzlander, VaccineAssist — A platform that allows vaccine providers to optimize their workflows and increase patient engagement by personalizing the patient-vaccine experience. During the pandemic, patients had difficulty understanding and adhering to CDC-based vaccine recommendations and providers didn’t have the infrastructure to scale vaccine offerings. VaccineAssist is a step toward developing innovative and patient-driven tools to keep patients informed and engaged with their pharmacy providers.
- Clifton Alexander, Perfect Day — A platform that ties health and wellness to the weather and encourages users to get outdoors. During the pandemic, the work/life balance changed, and those confined to their homes for long stretches of time became more sedentary. Perfect Day is adding creative ways for users to engage with the weather that will improve mental and physical health when starting new post-pandemic wellness routines.
- Jeff Blackwood, New Frontier Mobile Diagnostics — Provides patients and providers affordable and convenient diagnostic imaging services, which can include cardiac, vascular and OB/GYN procedures. During the pandemic, over 40% of patients delayed diagnostic care to avoid visiting hospitals. The company is in a pilot with local hospitals and plans to expand nationwide to direct primary care facilities, corporate clinics and home-based care providers.
Click here to see the first seven startups tapped for the accelerator.
Comeback KC Ventures is funded by a SPRINT Challenge grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Its goal is to wrap at least 20 local, early-stage innovations in support, resources, mentorship and financial assistance to accelerate COVID-related solutions, organizers said.
Click here to learn more about the fellowship.
The program is sprinting toward 10 new businesses, 30 new jobs and $5 million in follow-on funding in an 18-month period, culminating with an Innovation Festival set for August.
Click here to read more about the planned Innovation Festival.
Become a Comeback KC Ventures fellow
Comeback KC Ventures is seeking entrepreneurs and innovators in the Kansas City bi-state area who are building new technology businesses or innovation-focused business lines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
First-time or seasoned innovators are welcome to apply. Qualified fellows must be:
- pursuing a new business, product or service line in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic
- developing an innovation with potential for high growth that brings additional revenue and jobs to the KC region
- based in or have a significant business presence in the greater KC metro area
All fellows are encouraged to apply for Digital Sandbox KC proof-of-concept project support. An average of $20,000 in direct technical assistance is available per project.
Click here to apply to become a Comeback KC Ventures Fellow or recommend a business for support.
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.