Kansas City is in the pipeline now, as the FourthWave Accelerator for women in tech recently selected a local founder for its cohort for the second consecutive year.
After her own valuable experience with the accelerator in 2021, Carlanda McKinney, founder of Bodify, encouraged her fellow Pipeline fellow Terri Foudray, founder and CEO of ConvIOT, to apply to the Sacramento-based program.
The five-year-old FourthWave accelerator had already proven impactful for Bodify, which addresses one of the apparel industry’s most costly conundrums — profit-shrinking returns from online orders — through a web-based platform that leverages computer vision and artificial intelligence to help digital shoppers find the best brands for their bodies.
“I tell people that — while they have programming to work on your actual company — I got more out of the work that they do on you as a founder,” McKinney explained about her FourthWave experience. “Because there are so many other programs — many of which I’ve been a part of — that do focus primarily on your company and your financials and your go-to-market and all of that. While that was helpful for me, it wasn’t groundbreaking or anything. But a lot of what we worked through on the founder level, I still refer to and lean on a lot today.”
Foudray was honored to be one of the 13 women tech founders in the current FourthWave cohort, she said, and would encourage other Kansas City women founders in tech to apply. Her company — ConvIOT, which improves productivity by leveraging factory floor data for real-time, prescriptive action — also is benefiting from the accelerator’s focused programing.
“I think participating in things like Pipeline and FourthWave give a different perspective on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it,” she noted. “Part of what Pipeline and FourthWave also deliver is exposure to other opportunities through the other cohorts and what they’ve done and found successful.”
Click here to learn more about the 2022 Pipeline fellows.
FourthWave is a great learning experience and opportunity to connect with experts in Northern California, Foudray said. There is no funding involved, but participants are connected to investors.
“It’s really interesting — the focus on your leadership style and how to work with people who have different work styles,” she continued. “So we’re really doing a lot of introspection and we have the opportunity for growth, relative to how we lead and how we engage with our colleagues and partners and customers.”
Much of the founder-level work revolves around the book “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership,” McKinney said.
“That book has changed so much about how I approach my company, how I approach fundraising, and just life in general,” she said. “There’s a lot of work around consciousness.”
McKinney already has noticed a change in Foudray during their Pipeline interactions since she started FourthWave, the Bodify founder said.
“It’s just really cool to see the progression,” she said. “Even watching some of her language change from our first Pipeline module to now. I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, that was a FourthWave thing.’ She’ll stop in the middle of a sentence sometimes, if it’s a limiting belief — which I had no concept of really what that was before FourthWave. But now when I say things, I even stop myself from saying certain things, and I can see her doing the same thing.”
‘Fitbit for industrial performance improvement’
Both Foudray’s and McKinney’s companies are now seeing momentum.
Overland Park-based ConvIOT — the word converge merged with IOT (Internet of Things) — is working with a local chemical manufacturer and has entered into partnerships with an industrial mixing equipment manufacturer and a wastewater management company, said Foudray.
“We are just at the point where we’re ready to start generating our first revenue and scaling with these partnerships,” she continued. “So they will sell, install, and service their customers with our software. That’s where we are and we’re also taking investors right now.”
The companies are using ConvIOT’s software application — which connects industrial data in one integrated and aggregated viewpoint — to improve efficiency in industrial mixing.
“It’s estimated the chemical industry alone loses up to $10 billion a year due to mixing issues,” Foudray said. “And mixing is integral to many industries, including cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, paint and coatings, chemicals. It’s a very complex process that involves a lot of physics. And by seeing what’s happening in real time, companies can improve capacity, throughput, product quality, safety, and get more reliable outcomes.”
The industrial mixing equipment manufacturer plans to sell ConvIOT’s software to its more than 3,000 worldwide clients, she said, many of which are Fortune 500 companies.
“They recognize the issue with mixing problems and they understand them very well,” she continued. “They even have a lab in New Hampshire — where they solve mixing problems for clients — and then clients implement them in their own manufacturing plants. Our software’s implemented in their lab.”
In addition, a wastewater management company will use the software to observe and manage the thousands of pumps and grinders it has installed, Foudray said.
“They’re going to be using our software to monitor that mixing equipment so they can perform maintenance before it goes down,” she added. “And they will be using our software to control the equipment. So when demand is low, turning the equipment off to save energy.”
Foudray — who started studying the Industrial Internet of Things in 2018 and co-founded the company with IOT visionary Perry Lea — said she has connected with a lot of companies interested in their software through recent events.
“We have been speaking at a couple of events, one of them being the Chemical Ventures Conference, where I had a roomful of chemical engineers in the audience,” she said. “And as I was presenting, they were all nodding their heads that, ‘Yep, this is a big problem that needs to be solved.’”
Bodify is undergoing a slight go-to-market pivot, McKinney said. Instead of going straight to consumers to find the best brands of clothing to fit their body, the company is going through multi-brand retailers like Macy’s, Nordstrom, or Stitch Fix.
Click here to learn more about Bodify’s beginnings.
“Initially, we were taking the approach of routing shoppers directly to brands, which made and still does make a lot of sense,” she explained. “However, we kind of piloted that and decided that a different more efficient way of going to market is to partner with multi-brand retailers. … Because it allows us to help them within their existing framework — only show shoppers which brands that that retailer carries that will fit.”
Bodify’s technology will serve as a filtering tool, she said, like how a consumer can filter by price, color, and size on many sites.
“But size is relative,” she continued. “You’re a different size in every brand. So if you could filter by the brands that would fit you and then by your size in each brand, that’s super helpful. And no one is doing that right now.”
Bodify is in talks with a few major international brands right now, McKinney said.
“I’m really excited about it,” she added. “It could be a game changer.”
Bodify is also opening its first pre-seed funding round this month, she shared.
“If anyone is interested in that space. I’m more than open to have conversations,” she said. “We’ve raised some money already, but it wasn’t attached to a round and it was non-equity funding. So this will be our first equity round.”
Being involved with the FourthWave Accelerator, McKinney noted, has opened up the whole West Coast network to those who don’t have ties to Silicon Valley. She now has connections to three investors in Oregon, through which she has gained connections to major brands.
“It just grows your network exponentially,” she said. “Because the women who run the org, the women who mentor it, and current and past cohorts, we all help each other. And they’re from everywhere. They’re from New York to California.”
This commentary 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.