The 65 proof-of-concept projects funded by Digital Sandbox KC in the past three years have created a total of 339 jobs with a payroll of $9 million; 34 new KC-based companies; and 55 new products. The companies collectively have raised over $28 million in follow-on funding.
The Digital Sandbox KC was designed to help companies validate new concepts leading to new business starts and follow-on funding.
Launched in February 2013 with a U.S. Commerce Department i6 challenge grant, Digital Sandbox is a highly successful proof-of-concept program that has worked with more than 300 entrepreneurs and early-stage companies across the metro area. Applications are now open at www.digitalsandboxkc.com.
Digital Sandbox KC staff recently completed the annual survey of companies. The results are impressive.
- 65 proof-of-concept projects funded for area startups
- $1.2M in project development funding
- 34 new KC-based companies created
- $28,275,304 in follow-on funding
- 49 of 65 (75%) receiving project funding have secured add-on investment
- 339 jobs created with more than $9 million in payroll
- $3,141,733 in sales for 2015. Collectively $16,737,921 in sales since inception (5 companies have crossed the $1 million sales mark)
- 55 products launched, 38 patent applications, 6 patents awarded
“We couldn’t be prouder of our Digital Sandbox KC companies,” said Jeff Shackelford, director of Digital Sandbox KC. “The program is doing just what we hoped it would do: create companies and jobs, and contribute to the local economy. We have the capacity to help several more local entrepreneurs and we encourage everyone to apply to the Sandbox.”
Some other findings from the survey:
- Digital Sandbox KC clients are a diverse group. Women are represented on 34% of the founding teams; 22% of founding teams have people of color and 5% have veterans.
- Many clients (74%) have taken advantage of training and incubator services offered by entrepreneurial support organizations. Nineteen have taken some version of FastTrac, 11 were in SparkLab and 10 came from the UMKC Bloch School of Management E-Scholars program.
- Sandbox clients are experienced and educated: 77% have previous experience in their industry; 46% have some college or a completed bachelor’s degree; 54% have graduate, medical or doctorate degrees.
“This program continues to fill a need in the Kansas City entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Maria Meyers, director of the UMKC Innovation Center (of which Digital Sandbox KC is a part) and founder of KCSourceLink. “Digital Sandbox KC bridges the gap from concept to commercialization, offering key connections and counsel as well as proof-of-concept support.”
Heading into year four, Shackelford noted the opportunities ahead. “We found a gap for support of early, early-stage companies in the digital space. We tested our concept and I think the results indicate that the Sandbox works,” Shackelford said. “Now, we’re looking to expand the reach of the program into other verticals, like the recently launched Energy Sandbox, and other local markets, like our partnerships with the cities of Olathe and Independence. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when we collaborate and combine resources to help early-stage entrepreneurs.”
In addition to i6 challenge grant funding, Digital Sandbox KC is supported by the Missouri Technology Corp. (MTC), the Kauffman Foundation, the UMKC Bloch School of Management, the city of Olathe, city of Independence Economic Development Council, Cobalt Ventures and GXP Investments (the Energy Sandbox).
“The state of Missouri is dedicated to advancing entrepreneurship, especially as it pertains to supporting the startup ecosystems throughout the state. By providing a strong foundation at the local level, our small businesses can access the resources they need to commercialize their ideas and services and create good-paying, in-demand jobs in science and technology,” said Bill Anderson, executive director of MTC. “Digital Sandbox has been an important partner in this mission and we’re proud to support innovation and employment opportunities.”
Digital Sandbox KC serves entrepreneurs with innovative concepts in information technology, which can include mobile apps, big data, software platforms, tangible products, hardware and health care IT. The maximum for project financing is approximately $25,000. The average award is about $19,000. Innovators with ideas in the energy space can apply to the Energy Sandbox.
The selection committee consists of individuals who routinely evaluate businesses including representatives from corporate partners, local and angel groups or other investors, accelerators and incubators. Technology and industry market specialists also assist in evaluating the submissions.