LaunchKC advances 20 businesses to competition finals

LaunchKC has selected 20 businesses to compete for nine grants totaling $500,000 at the LaunchKC grant competition at Techweek on Sept. 15. Steering Committee chair Rachel Merlo of Google Fiber is pictured during an address to Downtown Council members and stakeholders earlier this year.


LaunchKC announced today its selection of 20 tech entrepreneurs who will be in Kansas City in three weeks to compete for $500,000 in grants, and an opportunity to build their business enterprises here. The finalists were selected from a pool of 400 grant applicants.

The 20 contenders include 14 from the Kansas City metropolitan area; five from four U.S. states; and 1 international business from the Ukraine. Each will be in Kansas City in mid-September to compete for nine startup grants, during the Techweek Kansas City conference + festival from Sept. 11-15.

“It has been another strong year for applications to LaunchKC,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president of business development at the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, and competition chairman for LaunchKC. “We are very fortunate to have the immense support of our judges, sponsors and the Kansas City community in securing the final 20 who will compete for the $500,000 available in this year’s competition.”

LaunchKC is an initiative of the Downtown Council of Kansas City and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City.

LaunchKC is a global grants competition designed to attract tech entrepreneurs to compete for $500,000 in non-dilutive grants and the opportunity to build their new and emerging tech businesses in Kansas City, Missouri. This year, LaunchKC will award nine grants on Friday, Sept. 15, including eight $50,000 grants and one grand prize award of $100,000.

“LaunchKC has attracted nearly 1,500 applications from throughout the nation and the world during our first three years of competition,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council. “When we award the next $500,000 at Techweek, we will have reached $1.5 million mark in awards in just three years.”

Today’s announcement marks the culmination of weeks of application reviews and scoring by a panel of more than 35 business and financial leaders, who volunteered their time to thoughtfully narrow the field from 400 applicants from 19 states and five nations to the 20 finalists announced today.

The 20 finalists (alphabetically, by company name and team leader) for the Launch KC grants competition include:

  • Aware Vehicles: ZhiQiang Chen, Kansas City, Mo.
  • backstitch: Jordan Warzecha, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Blue Point 2: Liderman Duin, Leawood, Kan.
  • Cambrian Tech: Heather Spalding, Leawood, Kan.
  • H3 Enterprises: Roy Scott, Kansas City. Mo.
  • HerdDogg: Melissa Brandao, Longmont, Colo.
  • Hidden Abilities: Jamee Miller, Lawrence, Kan.
  • iShare Medical: Linda VanHorn, Kansas City, Mo.
  • MenuHunt: Beau Clinton, St. Joseph, Mo.
  • Miles: Lance Windholz, Overland Park, Kan.
  • Music Spoke: Jennifer Rosenblatt, Kansas City, Kan.
  • PlanIT Impact: Dominique Davison, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Play-it Health: Kimberly Gandy, Kansas City, Kan.
  • Redivus Health: Jeff Dunn, Olathe, Kan.
  • Sickweather: Graham Dodge, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Smart Bridge Health: Hua Wang, Washington, D.C.
  • TradeLanes: Vijay Harrell, Kansas City, Mo.
  • UniExo: Tatiana Holovachenko, Ukraine
  • Vytal: Jared Goering, McPherson, Kan.
  • Zitches: Bart Patenaude, Kansas City, Mo.

In addition to cash grants, the nine winning applicants will receive a network of support, including 12 months of free office space in Downtown KC; industry-specific mentor teams for each grant recipient; and opportunities to meet and learn from industry and entrepreneurial leaders in and around Kansas City – all designed to elevate their efforts to build high-growth, tech sector businesses and jobs in Downtown Kansas City.

“LaunchKC is built to be an economic game-changer in Kansas City, Missouri by supporting start-up businesses, creating jobs, attracting talent, unlocking value and engaging follow-on investors,” Hurd said.

LaunchKC is a nonprofit, civic engine in the Kansas City entrepreneurial space.

The program is fueled each year by the visionary support of corporate, public and philanthropic partners. For 2017, the sponsor honor roll includes:

Supporters: Missouri Technology Corporation; the City of Kansas City, Missouri

Visionaries: Husch Blackwell; KCP&L; The Cordish Companies / Kansas City Power & Light District; William T. Kemper Foundation; Techweek; UMB Bank; Downtown Council of Kansas City; Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City

Contributing: Burns & McDonnell; Lathrop & Gage: Lead Bank; Missouri Department of Economic Development; Polsinelli; Spring Venture Group

Emerging: Allied Global; J.E. Dunn Construction; Google Fiber

Friends: Adknowledge; ITEN; LightEdge Solutions

Supporters: Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center; Regnier Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurships; Think Big Partners; and the UMKC Bloch School of Business.