NASA leader to deliver keynote at LaunchKC Day

Kira Blackwell, NASA.

An executive from the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) will “launch” the annual LaunchKC Pitch Day with an opening keynote address on Friday, Oct. 12 at Union Station.

Kira Blackwell, Program Executive, Office of the Chief Technologist, NASA will speak to the audience at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, immediately before the start of the LaunchKC Pitch Day in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station.

Blackwell will share insights into NASA iTech, a year-long effort to find innovative ideas that address challenges and fill gaps in five critical areas identified by NASA as having a potential impact on future exploration, including big data and data mining; artificial intelligence and autonomous robotic capabilities; revolutionary concepts for communications; medical breakthrough; and x-factor innovations.

The NASA-inspired keynote falls on the fifth and final day of the Techweek Kansas City conference. Friday is primarily focused on LaunchKC, the fourth annual grants competition for tech startups that has been a part of the Techweek KC experience, since its first local conference in 2015.

“We are delighted to welcome Kira Blackwell and NASA to ‘launch’ the Pitch Day events,” said Drew Solomon, senior vice president of business and job development for the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, and competition chair for LaunchKC.

The LaunchKC Pitch Day marks the final day of the annual grants competition. Beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 12 the 20 LaunchKC finalists will make their  business plan presentations to a panel of LaunchKC judges AND the Techweek Kansas City audience. Solomon said Blackwell has agreed to join the panel of judges.

“NASA iTech and LaunchKC are cut from the same innovative cloth – both are showcases for entrepreneurs who are looking to change the trajectory of the world through their innovative thinking and business plans,” Solomon said.

NASA iTech is a program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and works in collaboration with The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in support of the Agency’s Mission. This collaborative effort identifies and fosters innovative solutions that aim to solve challenges on Earth and also have the potential to solve some of NASA’s challenges agency-wide.

LaunchKC is a national grants competition designed to attract tech entrepreneurs to compete for non-dilutive grants and the opportunity to build their new and emerging tech businesses in Kansas City, Missouri.

“LaunchKC has attracted more than 2,100 applications from throughout the nation and the world during our four years of competitions,” said Mike Hurd, marketing officer for LaunchKC and the Downtown Council. “When we award the next round of grants on Oct. 12, we will reach the $2 million mark in awards.”

LaunchKC announced its list of 20 finalists on Tuesday of this week. Judges worked for six weeks to narrow the field from 586 applicants to the final 20, who will compete on the big stage at Union Station on Oct. 12.

The finalists for the LaunchKC grants competition include:

  •  AgVoice – Atlanta, Ga. – Ag Tech
  • Bluepoint2 – Leawood, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Boddle Learning – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Bungii – Overland Park, Kan. – Mobile Technology
  • Case Helper – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • Digs – Chicago, Ill. – Fin Tech
  • Erkios Systems – Kansas City, Mo. – Network Security
  • Just Play Sports Solutions – Lawrence, Kan. – Cloud Services
  • Listing, LLC – Kansas City, Mo. – Real Estate Tech
  • MindSport – Overland Park, Kan. – Health Tech
  • Motega Health – Lawrence, Kan. – Health Tech
  • OpenCities – Kansas City, Mo. – Cloud Services
  • PlaBook – Kansas City, Mo. – Ed Tech
  • Project Ray – Yokneam, Israel – Mobile Technology
  • Realquantum – Overland Park, Kan. – Fin Tech
  • – San Francisco, Calif. – Ag Tech
  • SaRA Health – Kansas City, Mo. – Health Tech
  • SmartBridge – Bethesda, Md. – Health Tech
  • Strayos – St. Louis, Mo. – Data Analytics
  • Venture360 – Lee’s Summit, Mo. – Fin Tech

The LaunchKC / Techweek Kansas City schedule on Friday, Oct. 12 in the Extreme Screen Theatre at Union Station will look like this:

  • 9 a.m. Keynote address by Kira Blackwell, NASA
  • 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. LaunchKC Pitch Day of all 20 competition finalists
  • 12:30-2:30 p.m. Judges meet in private to score presentations and decide who will receive grant money
  • 3:00 p.m. LaunchKC to announce winners of 2018 grant competition

Tickets to the LaunchKC Pitch Day – including Blackwell’s keynote address – are part of the Techweek Kansas City ticket package. Techweek will run Oct. 8-12 at Union Station.

LaunchKC is fueled each year by the visionary support of corporate, public and philanthropic partners. For 2018, the sponsor honor roll includes:


Missouri Technology Corporation; the City of Kansas City, Missouri


Husch Blackwell; Kansas City Power & Light District / The Cordish Companies; Downtown Council of Kansas City; Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City; KCP&L; William T. Kemper Foundation; Lead Bank; Missouri Department of Economic Development


Dunn Family Foundation; Google Fiber; Lathrop Gage, Polsinelli; Spring Venture Group


Adknowledge; American Century Investments; Balance Point; ITEN; LightEdge Solutions; Metropolitan Community College, Parson & Associates, RubinBrown


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

For more information, contact Mike Hurd at or visit and