Kansas City innovators get support to accelerate KC’s comeback from COVID-19.
Seven Kansas City tech startups have taken the leap to launch new technologies and startups in response to challenges posed by COVID-19 — and have received technical and financial assistance through Comeback KC Ventures.
These innovations were conceived after two years of the coronavirus pandemic revealed and ignited a need for rapid change and innovation in education, public health and digital equity. Parents of young children needed help figuring out how to parent during a pandemic. Elite student athletes wondered if scouts would ever see them play. Nonprofits struggled with fundraising in the new, virtual, normal. Many of us put our physical and mental health on hold as COVID-19 cases escalated. And when we did re-emerge from our homes, we worried about viral transmission, especially in confined public spaces.
“The pandemic ushered in a new normal that we all have to learn how to navigate–and showed us, clearly, where people are being left behind,” says Charlotte Clark, project manager for UMKC Innovation Center’s Technology Venture Studio. “These founders have quickly leveraged those lessons to disrupt the status quo in health care, in education, for nonprofits, for students, for parents—all to build new on-ramps that provide greater and more equitable access to solutions we all need.”
Comeback KC Ventures, funded by a SPRINT Challenge grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, will wrap at least 20 local, early-stage innovations in support, resources and financial assistance to accelerate COVID-related solutions. Led by KC Digital Drive and the UMKC Innovation Center, the program will sprint toward 10 new businesses, 30 new jobs and $5 million in follow-on funding in an 18-month period.
“From ideating sessions to business canvas workshops, the Kansas City community has really rallied around this call for innovation,” says Aaron Deacon, managing director for KC Digital Drive. “We are excited to see these entrepreneurs take that next step to launch and commercialize innovative solutions.”
Meet the first seven Comeback KC Ventures Fellows
These innovators are commercializing new solutions to problems in education, equity and accessibility in health care, youth sports, air quality, mental health support and charitable giving.
- Jill and Justin Bertelsen, Founders of Bertelsen Education and Crib Coaching
During the pandemic, parent support services had to adjust their delivery methods due to the inability to be in face-to-face contact with their clientele. Crib Coaching bridges the gap between the organizations who want to serve and the parents who need the help. cribcoaching.com/
- Dr. Shelley Cooper, Founder of Diversity Telehealth and Come On Now!
Many patients were afraid to see the doctor during the pandemic, and this resulted in increased medical emergencies and delayed wellness checks, especially for younger children. Come On Now! notifies customers about no-show openings at a medical office so that they can take advantage of the open spot. diversitytelehealth.com
- Brandon Fuhr and Joel Stephens, Founders of XReps
During the pandemic, many high schools and universities had shortened or canceled seasons, resulting in student athletes having fewer opportunities to showcase their abilities and for scouts and teams to evaluate talent. XReps enables virtual coach-assisted training to a larger population of players and allows private coaches to expand their reach and enhance recruitment. xreps.io
- Ryan Grobler, Founder of IAQuality
During the pandemic, airborne pathogens and particulates were at the forefront of discussion, especially in public indoor areas. IAQuality provides a portable device and filtration unit that is ready for residential and commercial use. iaquality.com
- Eliot Arnold and Martin Bukowski, Founders of Moodspark
During the pandemic, there became an increased need for solutions to support our caregivers who suffered from loneliness, anxiety and depression. Moodspark is a digital companion that detects sadness and uplifts its users with memories, conversations and video visits from loved ones. moodspark.ai
- John Black, Founder of MediView
During the pandemic, health care professionals couldn’t collaborate and make decisions for patients in non-critical cases. MediView, a surgical navigation medical device, uses augmented reality for bedside and interventional procedures. mediview.com
- Quest Moffat and Alejandro Andrade Salazar, Founders of Kadogo
During the pandemic, nonprofits were no longer able to host large-scale give days to promote fundraising campaigns. Kadogo, a charitable giving platform, turns everyday transactions into charitable donations. kadogo.co/
Become a Comeback KC Ventures Fellow
Comeback KC Ventures is seeking entrepreneurs and innovators in the Kansas City bi-state area who are building new technology businesses or innovation-focused business lines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
First-time or seasoned innovators are welcome to apply. Qualified fellows must be:
- pursuing a new business, product or service line in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic
- developing an innovation with potential for high growth that brings additional revenue and jobs to the KC region
- based in or have a significant business presence in the greater KC metro area
All Fellows are encouraged to apply for Digital Sandbox KC proof-of-concept project support. An average of $20,000 in direct technical assistance is available per project.
Apply to become a Comeback KC Ventures Fellow or recommend a business for support at https://www.kcdigitaldrive.org/project/comeback-kc-ventures/
Become a Comeback KC Ventures Advisor or Mentor
Comeback KC Ventures also welcomes technical advisers, mentors, investors and others who are willing to provide support for and help advance these innovations toward commercialization. Interested individuals should apply at https://airtable.com/shrxODeUQWcL7wKLg.
About Comeback KC Ventures
Comeback KC Ventures is funded through an 18-month SPRINT Challenge grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and administered by KC Digital Drive and the University of Missouri-Kansas City Innovation Center.
About Comeback KC Ventures Fellows
The Fellows program supports select businesses that can solve issues related to COVID, create new jobs and find additional investment by October 2022. The program is designed to include everyone from first-time entrepreneurs to established businesses building new product and service lines. Types and levels of funding and support may differ depending on the stage of the business and the experience of the entrepreneur. To learn more about the Comeback KC Ventures Fellows Program or to apply online, visit https://tinyurl.com/comebackkcfellows.
About KC Digital Drive
KC Digital Drive is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote a more equitable Kansas City through digital leadership, to maximize technology use by diverse communities, and to spur the development of technology solutions for vexing public problems. kcdigitaldrive.org.
About the Technology Venture Studio at the UMKC Innovation Center
The Technology Venture Studio, a program of the UMKC Innovation Center, delivers a strong suite of programs to support business owners in creating and growing new technology businesses. The studio also plays a key role in the region by facilitating connections between companies, regional research centers, investors, educational programs and mentors, creating support and connections that lead to new business growth. umkcinnovates.com/tech