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6 EARLY-STAGE COMPANIES ADDED TO DIGITAL SANDBOX KC PROJECT-FUNDING ROSTER

Posted on Oct 14, 2021

Digital Sandbox KC completed its third-quarter application cycle by adding six new companies to its roster, advancing the program’s mission to bring innovative ideas in the Kansas City region to life.

The latest companies selected for funding are building solutions in parenting ed-tech, esports, business intelligence and more.

For CuePlay founder Rebecca Simons, receiving the Sandbox grant is a game changer. “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,” Simons says.

To ensure caregivers and providers can deliver optimally personalized care to individuals with communication challenges, 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. 

“We’re thrilled to welcome this quarter’s innovators into the Sandbox family,” says Jill Meyer, senior director of the Technology Venture Studio at the UMKC Innovation Center. “Over the past year alone, we’ve seen just how impactful the Sandbox’s project funding and connections can be for entrepreneurs whose innovations are ready to take the next steps toward commercialization or venture capital.”

In 2021, startups that received early funding from Digital Sandbox KC had several public wins, including:

  • RFP360’s recent exit (founders David Hulsen and Stuart Ludlow) 
  • PMI Rate Pro’s acceptance into Techstars (founders Nomi Smith and Luke Landau)
  • Particle Space's $636K pre-seed round from local and regional investors (founder David Biga) 
  • SureShow's recognition as a local woman leader in STEM (founder Dr. Shelley Cooper) 
  • TripleBlind's $8.2M seed funding round (founders Riddhiman Das and Greg Storm) 

“Digital Sandbox KC provides critical next-stage support in KC’s pipeline of innovation, from innovators’ first steps with the Tech Venture class, to our area pitch competitions like Pure Pitch Rally through the Sandbox, Pipeline and beyond,” adds Meyer. “We need to continue to make this whole pipeline visible, accessible and equitable to our region’s innovators.”

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.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, the Sandbox has provided project development funding for 153 area startups, which has spurred an astounding $168 million in total follow-on funding. In the first three quarters of 2021, Sandbox has funded 13 companies in total, 38% founded by women, 23% by entrepreneurs of color.

“These six companies illustrate the vision and brilliance of entrepreneurs and innovators in Kansas City,” Meyer says. “We’re grateful to continue to fill an early-stage funding gap and help innovators build viable solutions that will get our region’s economy back on track.”

Here’s more information on the six latest companies selected for Digital Sandbox KC support: 

Bertelsen Education(Kansas City, Mo.)

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, Kan.)

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, Mo.)

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, Kan.)

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, Mo.)

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, Mo.)

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. 

“Funding from Digital Sandbox KC has helped legitimize our team to be seen as a true company, not just a side project,” says VRdojo CEO and lead designer Michael Eichenseer. 

Digital Sandbox KC is honored to support these new awardees and is accepting new applications for its fourth-quarter cycle and presentations. Visit digitalsandboxkc.com for more information and to submit your idea.