Digital Sandbox KC provides critical proof-of-concept funding, mentoring, and connections to help founders build viable innovations ready for follow-on funding. Since our program’s inception in 2013, The Sandbox has provided project development funding for 148 area startups, which has spurred $154 million in total follow-on funding.
Digital Sandbox awards project grants four times a year. Of the companies funded in 2020, 33% were women, while 60% were entrepreneurs of color. Over the past year, our program has provided funding to over 25 startups building innovative solutions in the Kansas City region.
Meet the startups:
DeskSides - Shawnee Mission, Kansas
DeskSides will be a first-of-its-kind public relations disintermediation platform. This digital platform—costing per year what a PR agency costs per month—will streamline a stale process so brands and journalists can harmoniously conduct PR without the publicist.
“Old-fashioned public relations practices and pitching have not changed, even as the media industry continues to modernize,” said DeskSides co-founder Blish Mize Connor. “Our goal is to directly connect brands to journalists for half the time and cost. Your success with the press shouldn’t be determined by where your business is based. We want brands to be successful, whether they are in New York City or Kansas City. This could ease the burden on brands, reduce marketing costs and even lessen the environmental impacts that traditional PR travel once had.”
AskSAMIE by Accessible Living - Kansas City, Missouri
Accessibility should be everywhere, so the AskSAMIE team is building a web app that guides family caregivers and health care teams through simple but clinically powerful questions to help them order the right adaptive equipment specific to each older adult’s physical and environmental needs so they can live at home safely.
"Digital Sandbox KC’s funding will allow us to get our first version of the app completed and out to the public for use just as quickly as it can get built,” said Brandy Archie, co-founder of AskSAMIE. “Without this funding, it would have taken us much longer, as the whole project is currently being bootstrapped. I’m so grateful to have not only the financial backing but also the access to resources that will help us go to market successfully.”
Phog Labs - Overland Park, Kansas
Phog Labs is building unique, sports-driven games for virtual-reality platforms that will give customers fast-paced workouts from their own home. Phog Labs’ first game, “Wallball,” is best described as "3D Pong" and will be released on the Meta Quest VR platform later in 2022.
“Project funding from Digital Sandbox KC will allow us to add the necessary features to get our first VR game, ‘Wallball,’ to market,” said Phog Labs CEO James Flexman. “We are excited to launch our game on the leading VR platform, the Meta Quest 2, later this year.”
Empower Fresh - Independence, Missouri
Empower Fresh (eFresh), created by produce experts for produce professionals, is a cloud-based solution for produce department management to protect margins, reduce shrink and maximize produce sales. Empower Fresh provides customized business intelligence delivered directly into the hands of produce managers in a practical, easy-to-use format. The ideal user is the custodian of profit margins, waste management and competitive positioning. The eFresh solution delivers FreshXperts coaching and educational tips for the food handlers at store and corporate levels. It is a practical tool promising to deliver immediate return on investment while simultaneously keeping produce managers competitive in their marketplace.
“The funding we receive from Digital Sandbox KC will allow us to put into place the necessary app features for our development phase with 18 independent grocery stores,” said Anthony Totta, CMO Empower Fresh Co. “This is a very important step, as it is foundational for our entry into the market and improvement of the app.”
Venues Made Simple - Spring Hill, Kansas
Venues Made Simple is innovating the wedding industry by creating an online platform that simplifies how engaged couples find and book venues. This uniquely designed client relationship management tool will better help venues connect with brides and grooms, and the platform’s fully transparent process will simplify the lives of venues and engaged couples.
“We are so grateful to Digital Sandbox KC for allowing us to further our website’s development,” said Jessie and Jeff Pavalone, co-owners. “With this project funding, we will be able to implement more features that our venues have specifically requested, such as the ability to book new clients directly within our platform. The additional development will bring us one step closer to creating the ultimate one-stop shop for venue-client relationship management.”
Workplace Healing - Leawood, Kansas
Workplace Healing LLC created the revolutionary Human Recovery PlanTM Software Platform, a B2B SaaS tool, to provide corporate leaders, managers and care teams with the empathetic muscle necessary to support employees affected by life disruptions. The Human Recovery Plan relies on the unique balance of both head- and heart-based initiatives to restore an employee’s productivity following a grief event.
“Being selected as a Digital Sandbox KC’s fund recipient allows us to further enhance our software for expansion to additional corporate audiences,” said co-founder Mindy Corporon. “The recognition from the Sandbox’s strong network of local entrepreneurs and corporate leaders will continue to strengthen our brand and company growth model.”
Foothold Labs - Olathe, Kansas
The mission of Foothold Labs is to develop next generation rapid diagnostic systems that provide laboratory quality capabilities in the field for the military, health care technicians and first responders. Foothold Labs was funded through Digital Sandbox KC’s partnership with the city of Olathe and the Olathe Chamber of Commerce.
“Project funding from Digital Sandbox KC will allow us to purchase more of our NanoRev System prototypes, which allows us to quickly create more data for our projects,” said Foothold Labs CEO Sean McIntosh. “We can now spend more time on other aspects of our technology and business because of the Sandbox.”
DataSource - Kansas City, Missouri
DataSource is building a better and more efficient world through data by optimizing logistics networks and industries to reduce costs and carbon emissions.
“This money will be a game changer for DataSource,” said CEO Tyler Bolz. “It will allow the company to increase its rate of innovation and allow us to build interfaces that will bring our technology to the masses.”
DataAppraisal - Overland Park, Kansas
DataAppraisal’s automated proprietary solution helps companies discover the monetary value in their data assets, allowing them to engage in new revenue opportunities without the risk of being undervalued.
“We would be the first to market with a SaaS product in an area with no competition,” said CEO and co-founder Tam Tran. “In this nascent market, DataAppraisal Inc. strives to become the market leader, pursue investments and grow our customer base. There will be a strong focus on growth and customers to improve the predictive power of our proprietary algorithm.”
VaccineAssist - Lee's Summit, Missouri
VaccineAssist is a public health platform intended to create a personalized vaccine experience for patients and to help vaccine providers optimize their workflows and patient engagement.
“Assistance from Digital Sandbox will support the platform buildout aiming to enhance connectivity between patients and vaccine providers,” said founder and CEO Nick Bennett.
AZELLA - Grain Valley, Missouri
AZELLA is the only full-service SaaS marketing platform to include automated branding, dynamic website building, AI marketing and matchmaking for financial advisers.
“Gaining funding from Digital Sandbox KC is transformational for our growth trajectory,” says David Robertson, founder and CEO of Azella.” The investment will be used to accelerate development of our marketing platform to service thousands of financial advisers at scale. We could not be more thankful to have a program like Digital Sandbox KC in the area.”
InventXYZ - Kansas City, Missouri
InventXYZ is equipping high school students with cutting-edge, hands-on skills for the future. The company embeds real-world experiences in every high school so 100% of kids get immersed in hands-on STEM, computer science and artificial intelligence.
“The Digital Sandbox KC funding will allow us to kickstart our Mixed Reality curriculum and partner with professional game developers and motion capture animators,” says Nikil Ragav, CEO of InventXYZ. “Kids will get to learn how to make virtual-reality experiences from real professionals, like you would with MasterClass. In the process, students have to learn the history so they can make their recreation as accurate as possible.”
MoodSpark (aka Telememory) - Kansas City, Kansas
MoodSpark is a digital companion that detects sadness and uplifts with memories, conversations and video visits from friends, families and caregivers.
“Digital Sandbox KC funding is instrumental to the tools we are building for our at-risk senior population,” says Eliot Arnold, CEO of MoodSpark. “We are preparing to launch our latest product concept across the next 50 end users. We are confident this investment will help us accelerate commercialization and growth.”
SEPOW - Kansas City, Missouri
SEPOW is the “Yelp” for diversity, equity and inclusion. The company provides a tech-driven approach designed to mitigate instances of discrimination by equipping business with effective solutions and empowering users.
“Receiving proof-of-concept funds from Digital Sandbox KC is a dream come true,” says Aishah Augusta-Parham, founder and CEO of SEPOW. “SEPOW is now able to build our technology, test demand, avoid large capital losses, receive guidance to prepare for follow-on funding and accelerate toward commercialization.”
Pagemaster - Overland Park, Kansas
PageMaster is an online social marketplace that helps authors, literary agents and publishers gain more context on one another to reduce slush piles, unconscious bias and submission error through context and clarity.
“The average literary agent receives 5,000 to 10,000 queries from aspiring authors each year,” says JQ Sirls, founder of Pagemaster. “Within that year, approximately 95% of queries are rejected, resulting in only three to five authors being selected from the remaining 5%. The Digital Sandbox KC funds are helping me build an MVP to dramatically increase those odds for creators in both traditional and industry-disruptive ways.”
XReps - Olathe, Kansas
XReps delivers Extended Reality (XR) training & gaming products aimed at democratizing access to elite football training for the youth market, transforming quarterback training and evaluation at all levels of football and providing unique experiences to football fans worldwide. This is accomplished via XReps’ patent-pending XR platform.
“Digital Sandbox KC funding is helping us accelerate the launch of our enterprise dashboard used by football teams and camps,” says Xreps co-founder and CEO Brandon Fuhr.
Bertelsen Education - Kansas City, Missouri
Many parents struggle through the transition to parenthood, and they want information that is quick and practical. Bertelsen Education is developing an app that uses artificial intelligence to gamify parental education. Imagine a Noom meets Duolingo-like app, developed for parents, with daily bits of information and a game allowing parents to build their confidence.
“As we are developing an app, these Sandbox funds will allow us to create an MVP and get feedback from customers quicker than we would be able to on our own – allowing us to help more parents in their transition to parenthood,” says Jill Berletson, founder of Berletson Education.
Bōzt - Overland Park, Kansas
Bōzt (pronounced boast) is a social application for sharing and discovering new places to get great food with people you know and trust.
“The Bōzt team is incredibly excited to be working with Digital Sandbox KC as we move forward with our V2 release,” says Leo Esposito, founder of Bōzt. “We couldn’t have gotten where we are without their amazing feedback and support.”
CuePlay - Kansas City, Missouri
CuePlay is a patent-pending technology that allows hobby sports enthusiasts to locate, reserve and pay for table time through mobile app-based payments, avoiding cash and coins entirely. CuePlay is the only product servicing the hobby sports industry and currently focuses on billiards tables but can also be incorporated into air hockey, foosball and shuffleboard tables.
“Winning Sandbox project funding is a game changer for CuePlay Inc.,” says Rebecca Simons, founder of CuePlay. “It allows us to finish the development of a beta app and get it to the over 200 pre-registered customers and businesses signed up for the beta test group. I'm so grateful Kansas City has programs like this one available to the startup community.”
KNIMO - Overland Park, Kansas
KNIMO, short for Knowledge in Motion, is developing a collaborative intelligence solution to help marketing and sales organizations quickly capture, curate and surface organizational knowledge. Using its proprietary technology, KNIMO captures an organization’s knowledge base, contributed daily through channels like Teams and Slack – enabling marketing organizations to proactively present specific knowledge needed to move opportunities to closure.
“By capturing these one-and-done conversations within a company’s collaborative channels, we can proactively create, synthesize, deliver and measure net new content used to drive opportunities forward,” says KNIMO founder Jason Reid. “This is an industry game changer.”
SeeinME - Lee Summit, Missouri
An inability to connect with a person who experiences communication challenges frustrates providers, promotes anxiety in family members and ends in isolation for the individual. SeeInMe enables family members to share a personality profile for loved ones ranging from preverbal infants to those with special needs to elderly victims of stroke and dementia, enabling truly person-centered care across numerous settings.
“We are immensely grateful to Digital Sandbox KC for providing funding for SeeInMe,” says Risa Stein, founder of SeeinME. “Rather than having to utilize a preconstructed platform with multiple constraints, we can now create our platform in a way that will empower parents and communication-challenged individuals while simultaneously creating maximum value for our business customers.”
VRdojo - Kansas City, Missouri
VRdojo is building Dust, a VR e-sport that collects all popular VR gameplay styles into a cross-platform and free-to-play game – the Overwatch of VR. Dust is built on an extremely scalable networking system that distributes network load among users such that tens of thousands of people can all share the same virtual space at one time. Professional matches, music festivals or any massive event can take place in a virtual stadium filled with fans from across the globe.
B1rdOne - Kansas City, MO
B1rdOne is revolutionizing the way field operations are conducted. Using cutting-edge tools such as drones, augmented reality and real-time communication – B1rdOne is closing the communication gap for first responders and life-saving resources.
BryghtLabs - Olathe, Kansas
BryghtLabs builds AI-injected games – merging entertainment and education into novel hardware products. The startup’s launch product, ChessUp, is the most-funded chess product in crowdfunding history with over 6,000 units pre-ordered.
Kadogo - Overland Park, Kansas
Kadogo helps users turn everyday purchases into charitable donations. The company’s platform makes it simple for everyone to donate their spare change, cashback rewards and more to nonprofits.
Love Lifesciences - Overland Park, Kansas
Love Lifesciences is developing a series of injection safety devices which will improve the patient experience when injection medications are required for care. The injection process is tedious, can induce unnecessary pain and frequently evokes anxiety and fear. MultiPen will allow for a better injection experience, providing patients complete injection control while limiting opportunity for error.
SaRA Health - Kansas City, Missouri
SaRA Health provides personalized injury and fall prevention paths through its platform to high-risk populations like first responders and senior citizens. The company’s customers – corporate wellness providers, home health and PT clinics – apply their content directly to patients or provide SaRA Health with their content and mapping, which the company subsequently "codes" into a fully digital patient experience.
VEEPER - Kansas City, Missouri
Veeper builds personalized loyalty programs for online stores and tracks customers’ shopping habits to apply the optimum discount that gets them to buy more. The company’s MVP saw a 14% net increase in 30 launch partners’ average order value.
Bodify - Overland Park, Kansas
Bodify is a web-based platform that leverages computer vision and artificial intelligence to help online shoppers find the best brands for their bodies. This both improves the shopping experience and reduces returns seen by online retailers. The company believes that by helping shoppers make better decisions up front regarding what to buy, the purchases they make stay purchased.
Interplay - Kansas City, Missouri
Interplay helps create digital crating experiences by providing dog owners with a remote-control dog crate attachment.
Splitsy - Lenexa, Kansas
Splitsy is a patent-pending mobile application that allows users to automatically split large shared bills without the need for P2P transferring services. Splitsy solves this problem through intuitive software unlike any other available on the market today.
Audo AI - Kansas City, Missouri
Audo AI transforms the way media is produced by combining media processing technology with cutting edge artificial intelligence. Audo's resulting tools will radically improve every stage in content creation from capturing and enhancing to editing and distribution while empowering creators and businesses with software that is simple to use, affordable and powerful.
LeadSigma - Lenexa, Kansas
LeadSigma is a sales-tech platform that plugs leaky sales funnels by connecting online forms (websites, landing pages, and/or digital lead forms) to business phones and by giving the business an actionable game plan for future follow-up activities, LeadSigma creates revenue generating conversations with new customers in a matter of seconds and ensures that businesses know exactly when and how each sales follow-up action happens.
Air Traffic Awareness - Kansas City, Missouri
Air Traffic Awareness provides patent-pending solutions that enhance situation awareness for general aviation to increase in-flight safety to avoid midair collisions. Its solutions leverage the ADS-B technology, which is geared to replace the secondary RADAR system in all aircraft. As of Jan. 1, 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration requires every aircraft to be outfitted with an ADS-B out. This opens up a market for real-time applications, like Air Traffic Awareness, to be compatible with every aircraft in the U.S.
AWA Technology LLC - Kansas City, Missouri
NORDEF has developed technology to produce diesel exhaust fluid on-demand in an as-a-service business model. The result is the potential removal of millions of tons of harmful NOx emissions from upstream logistics and millions of tons of single-use plastics from landfills, while providing high-quality, long-life diesel exhaust fluid. The company plans to disrupt a more than $30 billion market.
The Market Base - Overland Park, Kansas
The Market Base is marketing software that eliminates the hiring process and high cost of working with an expert marketing team. In less than 10 minutes, a business owner can build a team and start a full marketing campaign for less than $18 a day.
SureShow App - Kansas City, Missouri
SureShow is solving a problem physicians often face: the loss of revenue for no-show appointments. When appointments are missed, SureShow’s platform sends alerts to the physician and to the patient’s mobile device and invites the patient to participate in virtual services directly with a doctor, among other features for patients and health care providers.
MatchRite Care - Kansas City, Missouri
MatchRite Care delivers personal health records to patients in a simple and clean format. Customers can access, store and manage their medical records from multiple providers, all in one software platform. Additionally, MatchRite's patient-facing platform will allow future health care technologies to connect with patients and achieve true interoperability.
PANDA Healthcare Technologies - Kansas City, Missouri
PANDA Healthcare Technologies is the world's first tool for an objective, biometric measure of the presence of autism in children as young as 12 to 18 months. With PANDA, universal screening for autism can finally become a reality and ensure that more children get the therapy care they need early in life.
Team Cura - Overland Park, Kansas
Team Cura’s Skills Beyond Drills℠ online training helps high-achieving high school and college athletes broaden their performance training to include character-driven interpersonal skills. Student athletes benefit from attaining their competitive advantage on and off the field.
The Vendors Assistant - Kansas City, Missouri
Started by the founders of 2923 Comics, The Vendors Assistant is a tech application that helps everyday entrepreneurs turn their passion into a strategic business and allows small non-enterprise businesses to locate and book vending opportunities, secure travel accommodations and track expenses so they can strategically sell at events.
PlaBook - Kansas City, Missouri
PlaBook is an innovative reading platform that utilizes artificial intelligence, natural language processing, speech recognition, and AI emotion-recognition software to assist students with reading fundamentals, reading fluency and reading comprehension.
“I am honored to be a recipient of Digital Sandbox KC,” said Dr. Philip Hickman, CEO and founder of PlaBook. “An entrepreneur without funding is like a painter without a paintbrush. And during this ‘new normal,’ I’m grateful the Sandbox stayed true to its mission in providing resources and funding to companies like ours so that we can be the engine of economic development in Kansas City.”
PMI Rate Pro - Overland Park, Kansas
For decades, homebuyers have overpaid by the billions for private mortgage insurance, and loan officers have largely been unaware of all available options. In less than 30 seconds, PMI Rate Pro provides loan officers the most affordable PMI rate for homebuyers, with an average savings of $28 per month.
“With Sandbox funding, we can improve our website interface as well as build direct API access to mortgage lenders' and banks' loan origination systems,” said Nomi Smith, CEO of PMI Rate Pro. “This funding will make it possible for loan officers to save money for their clients quickly and efficiently.”
SWOT - Overland Park, Kansas
Started by three co-founders, Max Schanker, Nate Schanker and Nolan Blankenau, SWOT is a social media platform that ranks anything and everything to see what others think. Users can share their specific interests; compare opinions with friends, celebrities and the aggregated world; and ultimately become aware of the world's best of the best so they can maximize value.
"We are extremely grateful to have been awarded the Digital Sandbox KC grant,” said Max Schanker. “While the grant itself will help us get to market much faster, we are even more excited to just be a part of the Sandbox family, with all of the other companies that are actively improving the startup community in KC."
The George App (The Guy Experience) - Kansas City, Missouri
The Guy Experience is the premium experience management company for the 21st-century guy. Date night and trip planning are made easy with unforgettable experiences. The all-in-one service app features a personal tech concierge, George, who creates “your day your way” by combining local experiences, food and premium transportation.
“Digital Sandbox KC embodies the spirit of true entrepreneurship and has provided me with the platform to inspire other entrepreneurs who dare to take the road less traveled,” said Jerren Thornhill, founder of The Guy Experience.