LaunchKC, co-founded by the Downtown Council (DTC) and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, (EDCKC) are pleased to announce the 2024 grants program cohort. This cornerstone program aims to create a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in downtown Kansas City, Missouri by providing non-dilutive grants, free office space, a curated curriculum, and networking opportunities to early-stage tech companies.
After a nationwide search for innovative and diverse early-stage startups, six winners have been selected out of roughly 100 applicants, to receive $50,000 grants and access to a host of support services.
Every entrepreneur LaunchKC works with has the potential to become the next big headquarters in Kansas City. The focus of this initiative is to support these growing early-stage companies so they can have the greatest economic impact in our downtown for years to come.
A diverse panel of reviewers comprised of LaunchKC staff, industry experts, entrepreneurs, past grant recipients, and business leaders, reviewed all applicants and narrowed the pool through three rounds of judging. In the final round, 13 applicants participated in in-person interviews and of those 13, these are the winning companies:
- CodeAlgo Academy (Co-founders – Triumfia Houmbie Fulks & Sedric Hibler) – The first Black female-led 3D Computer Science gaming platform in Missouri, teaching K-8 students how to code, making learning fun and tailored. CodeAlgo allows students to stay ahead and be ahead by providing them with real coding language through gamification.
- According to co-founder, Triumfia Houmbie Fulks, “The LaunchKC grant is going to allow CodeAlgo to make their platform available to hundreds and thousands of users here in Missouri.”
- Foresight (Founder & CEO – Jannae Gammage) – A tech platform featuring an AI-powered lending assistant specially trained to streamline administrative work across the lending cycle, including evaluation, eligibility and document verification, macro and micro economic data, and more. Foresight is currently tackling a big problem: addressing capital access issues for small businesses aiming to bridge gaps with vendors. She noted that 74 percent of submitted applications are incomplete or incorrect, revealing a large knowledge gap.
- “We are super proud to finally come out of stealth mode and unveil the Foresight rollout to around 200 banks over the next six months which represents around $100 million that will be poured into small businesses all over the nation, said Gammage, founder of Foresight. We’re super grateful for LaunchKC as the $50,000 will allow us to focus on bringing $10 million of that right into our backyard Kansas City.”
- Heft IQ (Founder – Learie Hercules) – An AI-driven supply chain advanced analytics platform.
- “We are Heft IQ. We do all the heavy lifting, all of the AI-driven inventory optimization, and everything else that Amazon.com uses to compete with your brand,” said Hercules, founder of Heft IQ. We’re looking for brands, we’re looking for other logistics companies, and we’re looking for investors who are aligned with our vision to build the operating system of the supply chain right here in Kansas City.”
- Lotus TMS (Founders – Holly Andra Small & Neelima Parasker) – A women-owned Cloud-based Transportation Management Software created by and for draymen. Easily customize tables, tags, and permissions with an intuitive interface to streamline and transform trucking operations.
- “Our incredible team has created a robust state-of-the-art streamlined, easy-to-use transportation management software for intermodal trucking that both the 27-year-old and the 77-year-old in the office know how to use and love to,” said Small.
- Raven Space Systems (Co-founders – Blake Herren & Ryan Cowdrey) – Raven Space Systems is creating the first entirely 3D printed reentry capsules for affordable and accessible return of cargo from space.
- “What I’m holding in my hand is the world’s first 3D printed object that would survive free entry from space,” said Herren, co-founder of Raven Space Systems. This technology is a breakthrough in composite manufacturing, and we will be scaling it up in the next year.”
- SaRA Health (Founder & CEO – Steven Coen) – A “stress-free” and “simple” platform that turns practice leaders and owners into heroes for their providers and patients while improving the viability of their businesses.
- “At SaRA, we help physical therapy practices get their patients on a steeper road to recovery,” said Coen, co-founder of SaRA Health. “They do it quicker. They do it at a lower total cost to the system, while still providing better margin to the PT practice. Today, we have 54 across 30 states including three of the largest physical therapy practices in the US,” said Coen. Thanks to this LaunchKC grant that’s going to allow us to further build out our product and our sales.”
The winning companies were revealed at the LaunchKC Liftoff celebration on November 14th to officially kick-off the cohort’s year-long programming experience. Each company will receive complimentary office space at Plexpod in 2024.
“It takes time to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Tommy Wilson, Director of Business Recruitment & Research for the Downtown Council. “We’ve proved over the years that our efforts and the impact these companies are having translates directly into new jobs, an influx of capital, and a vibrancy that doesn’t happen overnight.”
LaunchKC does not take equity in the companies that the non-profit community benefit organization supports.
“Today’s startups are tomorrow’s job creators and economic engines,” said Jim Erickson, Director of Strategic Initiatives for EDCKC. “We are proud that LaunchKC companies have created close to 1,000 jobs and attracted over $400 million of follow-on investment for Kansas City”.
The six winners join the other 109 companies LaunchKC has funded since the first grants competition held in 2015. In addition, 67% of the companies LaunchKC has funded are female and/or minority-led.