Project funding for startups in Kansas City and St. Joseph
Four startups were tapped to receive project funding from the successful Digital Sandbox KC program, two in partnership with Innovation Stockyard in St. Joseph, Missouri.
“We continue to see a high volume of quality applicants with a wide range of concepts,” says Jeff Shackelford, director of Digital Sandbox KC. “This quarter’s companies range from a virtual learning platform for kids on the autism spectrum that was developed at the University of Missouri to a St. Joe-based startup making unique cocktail bitters.”
Digital Sandbox KC is a proof-of-concept program that significantly and rapidly moves early-stage entrepreneurs from concept to commercialization. It is a unique collaboration among private, public, university/research and philanthropic organizations.
The companies selected for support include:
iSocial is a virtual learning environment that lets children with autism learn and practice pro-social behavior in a safe, controlled space. iSocial is a research and evidence-based program focused on improving student interactions and was developed in conjunction with the University of Missouri and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurological Disorders.
“Digital Sandbox KC offers our business a unique advantage,” said Bob Etzel, CEO and founder of iSocial. “The local support, not only in terms of non-dilutive project funding but also in connections and resources, will help iSocial move forward now and for years to come.”
TravelHive is a social travel bookmarking and collaborative planning platform. Travelers can use TravelHive to bookmark inspirations from any website to create and share collaborative travel itineraries.
“This funding will allow us to take an important step forward in our entrepreneurial journey,” said Kim Naramore, co-founder of TravelHive. Both avid travelers, Naramore and co-founder Jillian Carlile know the pain points of travel planning and are excited to build their MVP and put their solution to the test with beta customers.
Carroll’s Irish Bitters is a St. Joseph-based startup making handcrafted small-batch bitters. In addition to timeless favorites, co-founders Brian Carroll and Christina Hitch are developing new bitters recipes and formulas for bartenders across the region.
“We greatly appreciate the support from St. Joseph and the Sandbox,” said Carroll. “This unbelievable opportunity will help us get our bitters to market and the company ready to scale sooner than we originally anticipated.”
Grant Company is an entrepreneurial communications and marketing company based in St. Joseph. Established in 2017, Grant Company offers a unique marketing and advertising model for agribusiness clientele in the KC Animal Health Corridor and across North America and Europe.
"Funding from the Sandbox gives us an opportunity to expand our internship program with universities across northwest Missouri, helping us to help students in their professional development and identify top talent to ensure the continued growth of our company," said Eric Grant, managing director for Grant Company LLC.
Carroll’s Irish Bitters and Grant Company received funding from the Sandbox partnership with the Innovation Stockyard in St. Joseph. In addition to up to $15,000 in project development funds, the Innovation Stockyard, located inside the Kit Bond Incubator in St. Joseph, will offer the two startups coworking space for three to six months.
“When we launched Digital Sandbox KC in 2013, we hoped to find 10 high-growth potential companies,” Shackelford said. “Now with more than 100 projects funded and more than $50 million raised in follow-on funding, we’ve proven by supporting early-stage ideas in Kansas City and surrounding local communities like Olathe, St. Joseph and Independence, we can drive new business starts and help create new jobs.”
Launched in February 2013, Digital Sandbox KC has worked with more than 500 entrepreneurs and early-stage companies across the Kansas City metro.
Based on February 2018 impact surveys, results for Digital Sandbox KC so far include:
- More than $1.9 million in project funding
- 108 proof-of-concept projects funded
- More than 580 new jobs created with more than $14 million in payroll
- $50.8 million in follow-on funding
Seeing the success of the program in Kansas City, the Sandbox has expanded into new areas and markets through partnerships with the cities of Olathe, Independence and St. Joseph. In 2016, Digital Sandbox KC partnered with GXP Investments to launch the Energy Sandbox, which provides project funding to entrepreneurs in Kansas and Missouri with energy-related concepts.
Ready to bring your idea to the Sandbox?
Digital Sandbox KC accepts applications on a rolling basis, here. Many concepts that eventually received funding didn't get it the first time around, so don't hesitate to get your idea out there to start receiving feedback and guidance.
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