Top 10 Kansas City startups spread across two states
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Photo Courtesy VisitKC.com

A big area stretching across big cities and big farmland has started hatching some companies with big ideas.

The Kansas City metropolitan area spreads across 15 counties and two states, Kansas and Missouri. Kansas City Missouri anchors the area with a population close to half a million out of the 2.3 million in the sprawling and still-growing area. Kansas City Kansas, the third largest city in that state, has almost 150,000 residents, and sits at the junction of the Missouri and Kansas rivers.

Latest big success story? EyeVerify, a biometric security company, exited with $100 million bucks from Ant Financial, the payment affiliate of Alibaba Holding Group. Alibaba, considered the Amazon (or bigger) of China, has the resources to buy any company anywhere. Their acquisition of EyeVerify in Kansas City in 2016 cemented KC as the home of hot startups galore.

Groups such as the Kansas City Startup Foundation and Forward/KC support, encourage, and mentor the startups. Where rivers come together, people come together. Many of those people, at least in the Kansas City area, start innovating.

C2FO

Photo Courtesy C2FO

Back office accounting details get labeled “boring” immediately by almost everyone not wearing a green accountant’s eyeshade. C2FO jazzed up the back office by disrupting working capital management by turning it into a marketplace for buyers and sellers of approved invoices. Buyers can get their money faster, and suppliers can get paid earlier at a slightly discounted rate when they need cash in hand.

Still bored? Not when you see the funding total: $100 million in six rounds from a total of eight investors. The company started their project in early 2008 and attracted $3.6 million of Series A money in March of 2011. Venture and Series D funding of $40 million each swelled the investments in June and August of 2015. You may be bored, but smart venture capital groups seem extremely excited.

ShotTracker

Photo Courtesy ShotTracker

Everyone knows the Internet of Things will impact lives in a variety of areas. But who knew the “things” could be basketball players? ShotTracker, that’s who. Three components make up the system: a wearable sensor tied into player shoelaces or their wrists, a sensor-optimized ball, and permanently-mounted sensors around the court. In real time, every location of players and ball for every second streams to computes or tablets.

Starting in 2013, ShotTracker moved fast and received $5 million in seed capital in October of 2016. Critical detail: some of the investors. If your startup does sports, then investors like Magic Johnson and former NBA Commissioner David Stern become the all-stars of your investor list.

Blooom

Photo Courtesy Blooom

Every day, workers cringe at all the news complaining about the poor state of their retirement accounts. Have a pension? Maybe not, says doom-and-gloom financial experts. This is where Blooom and their first-ever, web-based automated retirement funds adviser comes in. The tool analyzes and gives feedback on your mix of investments, hidden fees, and future considerations.

Founded in early 2013, Blooom’s financial background makes sense when you see some of their investors. Besides some regular VC groups like TTV Capital and Gibraltar Ventures, UMB Banks and Nationwide Insurance also pitched in to the tune of $13.15 million in two rounds, October 2015 and February 2017.

Front Flip

Photo Courtesy Front Flip

Too many retail locations have too few customer feet in too many square feet of store. Sure, online shopping is fun, but touching your potential purchases makes a connection a screen can’t. And Front Flip drives customers to their favorite stores and food purveyors with modern age loyalty programs running on smartphones.

Just a few months after starting in 2011, Front Flip grabbed $3.95 million in Series A funding, followed by $3.75 million in early 2013. That’s a fast start, which will be important if they have to rescue retail single-handedly. Or at least help.

PayIt

Photo courtesy PayIt

Who loves paying state and local government fines, fees, tickets, utility bills, and even your DMV license costs? Nobody. The experience is only made worse when the bureaucrats make payments difficult, awkward, and annoying. And that’s exactly what PayIt works to fix: using smartphones to make sending money to various government entities as easy as you send it to Amazon or Starbucks. Less fun, perhaps, but just as easy.

It didn’t take investors long to see the promise of PayIt. $4.5 million in Series A funding arrived in early 2016, just three years after Michael Plunkett and John Thompson cofounded the company together. Being recognized as one of the Top 100 government tech firms by GovTech.com doesn’t hurt, either.

Farmobile

Photo Courtesy Farmobile

We love to eat, so we appreciate farmers. But now farmers can harvest more than just French fries (is that how it works?) – they can harvest a wider range of valuable data about fertilizer application rates, planting, spray rates, and even grain moisture. All this is thanks to Farmobile and their PUC (Passive Upload Connection) that sends EFR (Electronic Field Records) to the farm’s cloud data storage data account.

Tractors and plows met cloud data acquisition, and Anterra Capital saw $5.5 million advantages in their Series A funding. Farmobile started in 2013, and the funding came at the end of 2015, so their potential sprouted quickly.

SpiderOak

Photo Courtesy SpiderOak

It’s tough to stand out in the crowd of cloud-based backup services. Thanks to affordable cloud infrastructure, it seems every vendor in the world sells, or gives away, cloud storage. But SpiderOak not only made it into the top tier of consumer and business backup companies, they have enhanced their encryption game with encrypted file sharing and encrypted chat. Who says so? Edward Snowden, NSA nightmare, who knows about secrets and hacking them.

SpiderOak started in 2007, as did many of their competitors, but they did well enough to attract $2 million in July of 2013 and $3.5 million in May of 2015. Another bag of money arrived in October of 2016. While officially undisclosed, Kansas City newspapers put the amount at $2.5 million. Better encryption apparently means better investments.

DivvyHQ

Photo Courtesy DivvyHQ

Websites started small and easy but have exploded into giant globs of complexity and critical function for companies large and small. But the large companies have particular issues managing content and workflow, which DivvyHQ addresses with one application to stay on top of website presentations and the scheduling and workflow and project management to keep web users and customers happy.

It took DivvyHQ co-founders Brock Stechman and Brody Dorland two years, from their start date of June 2011 to August 2013, to get their first seed funding (undisclosed amount). But in June 2015 Blossom Street Ventures and Dundee Venture Capital gave their seal of approval to the tune of another $1.8 million. Another $540K arrived at the end of 2016.

Stackify

Photo Courtesy Stackify

Programmers today not only have to develop applications, they must monitor and improve them constantly. Enter Stackify, one of the new breed of tool companies that focuses on APM, or Application Performance Management. Wringing useful data from application real-time and error logs sounds can be deadly difficult by hand, but amazingly useful when done automatically.

Right out of the starting gate, Stackify hit the track running with $2 million in seed funding in January 2012, when they opened their doors. A year later, another $5 million arrived, followed exactly two years later by another $5 million. Both rounds hid the names of investors, but stacking up $12 million in funding over five years looks nice for continued success.

Mycroft

Photo courtesy Mycroft

We’re familiar with Siri from Apple and Amazon’s Alexa and now Echo, and even Google’s “Hey, Google,” assistants powered by artificial intelligence, but those are all corporate systems. Helpful, yes, but the help comes at the prices of sucking away all your privacy. Mycroft AI Inc., promises an Open Source alternative, one many customers will embrace for privacy’s sake alone.

Getting a boost by oversubscribing their Kickstarter campaign ($127,520 for a $99,000 goal) helped Mycroft co-founders Kristie Adair, Joshua Montgomery, and Ryan Sipes get rolling. Leveraging the Open Source Linux operating system and low cost Raspberry PI hardware, Mycroft was asked to join the famous Techstars accelerator.  After Kickstarter, another $370K plus an undisclosed amount keeps the lights on.

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James Gaskin

About James Gaskin


James writes books, articles, and jokes about technology, and consults for those who don't read his books and articles.

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  • Jimmie Grassi

    James, great share! KC =The digital prairie. You might look into Pramata. I would have loved to see us included.