Comments Off on Kansas City Startup: Growing Gratitude Say Thanks With A Video0LikeLike 1,316
Do you remember back in the old days when breaking out the nice stationary to write a thank you note was common practice? I certainly remember my hand hurting back in the late 80’s after personalizing and handwriting a thank you card to everyone who had given me a Bar Mitzvah present.
Well now, thanks to technology, thank you cards are much easier.
Amy Marin Carlson spent years in education as a school administrator and a spanish teacher. She also spent some time in her career as a bakery owner. Now, she’s founded Growing Gratitude, a Kansas City based startup that encourages people to get personal and creative by sending short video thank you notes.
Marin Carlson is finding that there are many uses for Growing Gratitude, from traditional gifts, to client thanks. Marin Carlson said she wished that Growing Gratitude would have been around when her husband wanted to thank sponsors for his MS 150 bike ride.
This hard working entrepreneur came up with the idea when her oldest son turned 2. After his birthday party she was wondering just how to thank everyone. Obviously her son was too young to send cards himself and cards from her seemed to impersonal. A video card of sorts would get the point across. She could easily take a quick video of him playing with a new toy or present or wearing that sweater Aunt Greta sent. That kind of video would be worth more than 1000 words.
Marin Carlson went back to work, but two years later when she was at home with her second son she had some time to flesh out the idea that has become Growing Gratitude.
We got a chance to talk with Marin Carlson, check out the interview below.
Comments Off on Kauffman Foundation Official Leaving To Launch Match.com For Teachers0LikeLike 1,265
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is known for their vast support of startups and small businesses across the country. Through multiple sponsorships, partnerships, research, data initiatives and educational information, the Kauffman Foundation serves as the backbone to a web of startup events, and evangelical efforts across the country.
Munro Richardson, is stepping down from his position as the vie president of education at the Kauffman Foundation to pursue a startup of his own. According to the Kansas City Star, Richardson is teaming up with Alicia Herald the Executive Director of Teach for America in Kansas City, to launch what is essentially a match.com for teachers.
The startup is called myEDmatch.com and is expected to be a national job site with a social focus, and profile/resume highlights specifically for educators.
“It’s a mashup of LinkedIn, CareerBuilder and eHarmony,” Richardson said of the startup to the Kansas City Star. “It’s right at the intersection of education and entrepreneurship. It’s a for-profit opportunity that actually could be important in addressing a real problem.”
The key problem is that primary and secondary schools are spending too much time and resources on trying to fit teachers with their missions. They could be using that time for educating. With myEdmatch.com schools and teachers would have a better platform to see if they’re a better fit and use less resources.
So far there’s nothing quite like it on the internet. Teaches will be able to focus their efforts on finding real jobs in education and educators will be able to view teachers resumes and weed out candidates they may find on other sites that aren’t as qualified .
Both Richardson and Herald have the educational background to back this venture. Richardson is a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University as well as a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Herald holds an MBA from Washington University.
Richardson has been at Kauffman since 2002. He helped develop the Kauffman Scholars program and also helped launch the charter school. His last day at Kauffman is October 31st.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James recently announced an initiative to make Kansas City a destination for startups. Part of that initiative called for those in the private sector to contribute to the growing ecosystem. James is calling on private sector businesses to step up to the plate and donate unused office space, equipment and mentoring time for new startups.
Although he doesn’t own his own company and fancy’s himself an “entrepreneur wannabe”, British Kansas City implant Ben Barreth has responded to James’ is call in a major way.
Barreth has started a new project called “Homes For Hackers”. His program calls for residents in Kansas City to make homes available for hackers and startup founders, rent free, and utility free for three months to let them get their startups off the ground. Barreth didn’t just announce a program and put up a fancy website. He put his money where his mouth is so to speak, cashed out a retirement account and bought the first home for hackers himself.
The house Barreth purchased is also located in the Google Fiber district of Kansas City, which means that the hackers working on their startups will be able to do it with 1gb fiber.
Barreth ran into an initial stumbling block when he found out, that since he wouldn’t actually be living in the house, it was an investment property. What that meant was that mortgage lenders needed 20% down rather than the 10% down he had prepared for.
Barreth hasn’t launched his own startup yet (we would consider Homes For Hackers a social startup), and he’s had no successful exits yet. In fact he said he had to Google what “successful exits” meant. He’s just a guy who felt compelled to do this.
Three months rent and utility free should be enough time for relocating startups to lay roots in Kansas City so that when the times up they can continue to take advantage of the resources their, like Think Big.
Barreth says that the only thing that startups will need to supply for themselves is food.
Comments Off on Kansas City’s Think Big Accelerator Becomes Latest Microsoft Bizspark Partner0LikeLike 1,358
Kansas City’s brand new Think Big Accelerator has just announced that they are the latest partner in the Microsoft Bizspark program.
Think Big Partners and the Think Big Accelerator for emerging early stage, high growth potential startups just announced their first class of six startups last week. The six startups will participate in the accelerator program for 22 weeks of intense training to prepare the startups for a demo day to investors at the end of the session in January.
The six startups selected to go through the program received a seed investment between $18 and $25,000 dollars in exchange for 6-8% equity.
The six startups are:
H2OCloud (New York, New York): H2OCloud is a cloud-based application that connects music fans to bands in a mobile-based platform. H2OCloud helps bands create more revenue through better marketing, smarter asset management and improve the overall fan experience and artist-fan interaction.
inCharge (Kansas City, Missouri): inCharge is a kiosk-based mobile phone charging station that provides digital out-of-home targeted advertising to the consumer. inCharge’s initial focus is high teledensity overseas markets.
Kahootz (Kansas City, Missouri): Kahootz is a consumer-focused online calendar platform that provides users with easier ways to combine, share and manage all obligations and profiles on one easy-to-maintain social-based platform. Kahootz also enables user-controlled, privacy-enabled, permission-based business-to-consumer markets through event promotion syndication.
Keyzio (Kansas City, Missouri): Keyzio has been defined as the Match.com for real estate for two people who don’t know they are trying to find each other. The Keyzio platform connects people and helps them find, buy and sell real estate that may not normally be available through MLS.
Phone2Action (Los Angeles, California): Phone2Action uses location-based mobile technology to instantly connect constituents to their lawmakers making in-the-moment advocacy easier.
Weejay (Kansas City, MO): Weejay is a virtual jukebox application that allows customers to control music in particular venues through mobile devices. Weejay’s venue management feature dashboard enables total control of music for a specific venue and creates better revenue opportunities for venue owners to enhance the overall patron experience.
With the announcement of their partnership with Microsoft’s BizSpark program, these six startups will receive a higher level of Windows Azure cloud access, setting up each entrepreneur for success in the cloud. Microsoft BizSpark will also provide the six startups in the Think Big Accelerator program with consulting, insight, mentorship and expertise.
“We are excited to have Think Big Partners join our BizSpark Plus Partner Program,” said Mark Relph, Senior Director, Strategic and Emerging Business Team at Microsoft. “Think Big Accelerator startups have the potential to spur business growth in the Midwest. With Windows Azure, startups can save the cost of investing in IT infrastructure and only pay for technology resources as they use them. We look forward providing member startups with access to technology, resources and business connections.”
“The partnership we have developed with Microsoft will not only benefit the startups involved with the Think Big Accelerator program, but will also help to strengthen the entire Kansas City startup community,” said Herb Sih, co-founder of Think Big Partners. “We are excited to already provide Midwestern startups with the benefits of the Microsoft partnership, such as the Azure Cloud and Windows 8 App Kickstarts for developers. This is a great partnership for our startups, the accelerator and Kansas City entrepreneurs.”
Comments Off on Interview With Kansas City Startup: Truckily Accelerating At Ark Challenge0LikeLike 1,663
Food Trucks are all the rage these days. Most metropolitan areas now have a plethora of delicious food available in converted bread trucks. If you’ve ever been to Austin Texas, especially during South By South West we’re sure you’ve seen some great food trucks. When we were in Chicago for Chicago Tech Week lunch was catered by a dozen delicious food trucks outside the Merchandise Mart.
Aside from big events though, finding your regular food truck can be a tough task, especially when you have a limited amount of time for lunch. Or perhaps you’re in the mood for food truck food but you’re not sure about the cuisine. Well mobile food truck apps are becoming just about as hot as the food trucks themselves. In fact, Pennsylvania startup TruckyLove has incorporated both a food trick finder and a social network surrounding food trucks.
With Kansas City startup Truckily, it’s a little more cut and dry, but the guys behind Truckily have taken into consideration the diner and the driver.
As is with most of the other apps being built in the space, Truckily provides a function that allows diners to locate their favorite food trucks by name, or cuisine. They can also do a generalized browse type function where they can see what food trucks are around them.
On the driver side Truckily provides a function that allows food truck owners to find the best spot to set up shop.
Truckily is based in Kansas City but they’re currently accelerating at the Ark Challenge accelerator in Arkansas.
We got a chance to talk with Derek Kean one of the two co-founders of Truckily. Check out that interview below.
Comments Off on Kauffman Foundation Backs Silicon Prairie News0LikeLike 848
A big congratulations goes out to Jeff Slobotski and the team at Silicon Prairie News. Since 2008 SPN has been serving the high growth tech and startup community in the midwest with a concentration in a triangle between Kansas City, Des Moines and Omaha Nebraska. In addition to providing great news coverage for startups and entrepreneurs in the region, SPN has either hosted, sponsored or covered all of the major events in the region.
It’s their unwavering commitment to the startup community in that region which has sparked a major sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Kauffman Foundation sponsors start efforts, events and initiatives across the country. They are also a major research resource for startup, entrepeneurial and job data in the United States.
With its sponsorship, the Kauffman Foundation becomes the site-wide sponsor of siliconprairienews.com; lead sponsor of Silicon Prairie News’ flagship event series in Omaha, Des Moines and, new in 2013, Kansas City; lead sponsor of the 2013 Silicon Prairie News Awards; and lead sponsor for a new series of Silicon Prairie News’ events in California, New York and other entrepreneurial hubs that will target entrepreneurs who were raised or educated in the Midwest but have relocated to other parts of the country.
“This sponsorship aligns with the Kauffman Foundation’s mission to educate entrepreneurs by supporting efforts that provide the knowledge, skills and networks needed to start and grow businesses,” said Thom Ruhe, Kauffman Foundation vice president of entrepreneurship. “We are proud to support Silicon Prairie News as it recognizes successful entrepreneurs in Kansas City and throughout the region and celebrates the jobs and wealth they create for society.”
All in all the goal of most startups, and ecosystem supporters, like SPN (and nibletz) is to help spur economic growth and create jobs. To that end Slobotski plans on adding a full time staff in Kansas City, with an official launch in November.
“Today marks an important step in our organization’s future,” said Jeff Slobotski, co-founder and chief community builder of Silicon Prairie News. “Together, with the resources and support of the Kauffman Foundation, we are excited to continue building the region’s startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Last year, Chattanooga Tennessee became the first city in the country to have a 1gb fiber network that was available to all businesses and residents within a 600 square mile area. The gb fiber is the backbone to the city’s new grid so the connections automatically go to every residence and business within the footprint. It’s up to the business owner or resident whether they want to also tap that line for data, tv and phone.
Earlier this summer, Kansas City, was the first city to receive commercial 1gb fiber available to it’s residents through Google. Google offers a great introductory offer including low cost high speed internet access, 1 tb of cloud based services and even a tablet.
When Chattanooga lit up their “gig” they started calling the city “The Gig City” and immediately ramped up their efforts to promote entrepreneurism and startups across the city. They did this by increasing promotion of co.lab a coworking space, incubator and accelerator in downtown Chattanooga and by launching the first three month accelerator based on high bandwidth, rightfully called the GigTank.
Now, with their one gigabit internet in tow Kansas City is hoping to spur innovation as well.
Last week Kansas City Mayor Sly James announced the new Launch KC initiative aimed at growing small businesses and startups in Kansas City rather than just focusing on luring big business. James said “We can build Kansas City into the place, theplace, for startups to call home.”
Kansas City is calling on partnerships with existing private sector businesses to provide startups and entrepreneurs with resources like free office space and mentoring. According to Kansas City Public Media, the city plans to kick in funds to offset equipment costs and build out wifi downtown.
This seems like a good start for Kansas City but from a municipal level we’re hopeful that this is just a start.
Just over a decade ago Bostonian Ray Walters and his family moved west. They landed in the barbecue capital of the world, Kansas City. While Walters mannerisms and sports influences are definitely still intertwined with the north-east, for instance he still says Wicked Pisah and is a die-hard Red Sox fan, his culinary artistry is firmly planted in Kansas City.
According to Ray Ray’s Rub’s Kickstarter page, Walters’ real fascination with barbecue started 10 years ago at a restaurant called Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue. Walters’ a connoisseur of fine meat, fell in love at first bite with the succulent, slow cooked ribs that were served up at Arthur Bryant’s. Walters was determined to emulate the mouth-watering flavor and then tweak the recipe until it was his own.
Walters has been doing private catering for friends and family over the past decade, he even owns a pair of “Double D” slow cookers that he hauls on a trailer behind his pickup truck to deliver the goodness to his buddies. In 2010 Walters was the official caterer of the first Big Android Barbecue event in Austin Texas. Sure there are plenty of great barbecue joints in Texas but after some of the organizers (buddies of Walters’) tasted his world-famous barbecue the decision was made that for the next two annual events he would deliver the goodness.
Personally after trying his barbecue at that first Big Android BBQ event I was sold, and I’ve experienced North Carolina, Memphis and St.Louis Barbecue as well. Ray Ray’s is most definitely top-notch.
Walters insists there’s no real secret to his world-famous barbecue rub, he just keeps innovating and never stops learning.
If you’re questioning why we are running a story about a barbecue startup, why not? But for validation, a Washington DC based barbecue company called Pork Barrel Barbecue attracted an investment from ABC’s Shark Tank Shark Barbara Corcoran. By day Corcoran is a power real estate broker in the mean streets of New York City, but even she loves great Barbecue.
While Walters doesn’t have the luxury of pitching in the Shark Tank, he’s had the opportunity to cook for tens of thousands over the last decade, who’ve always asked him to package his famous rub and send it mail order. That’s exactly what he’s hoping to do if he reaches his modest goal of $10,000 on Kickstarter. Walters’ isn’t that far off. He’s already raised nearly $4,000 at the time of publishing with over 20 days left to go.
By day Walters is a tech writer for ZiffDavis publications ExtremeTech and Geek.com he’s also been an editor for Androidguys.com, host of the AGTN podcast, co-organizer of the Big Android Barbecue, Youth Pastor and more, but all the while, there’s been something literally cooking in his kitchen, his front yard and his head. Walters is simultaneously working on a book about Ray Ray’s Rub, which is included in perk packages over $50.
On the meat, Ray Ray’s Rub is full of great flavor and not too strong. Sure it would be great if Walters could find a way to actually ship his barbecue creations fully cooked and ready to eat. Who know’s perhaps after Ray Ray’s Rubs takes off he could get complete brisket and other dishes with the rub baked in, into stores across the country. For now though, it’s all about the rub.
Walters preaches about honesty, integrity and hard work which are the keys behind this startup he’s launching on Kickstarter. He has a great video that you can see below that isn’t fancy and doesn’t have a lot of effects but it’s honest and, you’ll love the way this north-east transplant says barbecue.
His Kickstarter entry is $1 and it goes all the way up to $2,000. He’s raising $10,000 to rollout 1000 bottles of rub, create the business, and expand his website. We’re willing to bet this will be one of the rare hard good food projects that gets over funded.
Kansas City has some great startups. One of them is Neighbor.ly a new civic crowdfunding platform. Nieghborly encourages people to get involved in the civic projects that they are passionate about. By crowdfunding for civic projects people can decide if they want to support a new neighborhood beautification project, or getting manholes replaced. Literally, that’s how the idea for Neighborly came about.
Jase Wilson, Neigbor.ly’s CEO and Co-founder was eating at one of his local favorite spots with the startups advisor Patrick Hosty. They got into talking about a recent bond referendum and a woman in a neighboring seat chimed in on the conversation. The conversation got heated and the issues at hand were sewer repairs and zoo animals. The woman was in favor of the sewer repairs but the same bond deal included new animals at the zoo. The woman wasn’t interested in the animals at the zoo. Hosty enjoys taking his daughter to the zoo and wasn’t concerned with the sewer repairs.
A light went off in Wilson’s head, an idea that would allow Hosty to support the zoo animals and the woman could support the sewer repairs.
The civic crowdfunding model is successful in Europe where people don’t quite think the way we do here in the U.S. The downside to civic crowdfunding in the US is those people who are sticklers about feeling the government and taxes should just handle all of these types of projects.
Earth to the people, that model hasn’t worked for years. The biggest capital projects get done while the smaller ones like the sewers and the zoo animals get tabled, time and time again, year after year. Civic crowdfunding allows citizens to get involved and take ownership of civic projects.
We got a chance to talk with Wilson about Neighor.ly in the interview below.
Comments Off on Kansas City Startup: Divshot Wins $25k in crowdfunder’s Crowdstart Contest In LA0LikeLike 1,096
Los Angeles based crowdfunding startup crowdfunder just completed their first Crowdstart contest. The seven week contest drew over 700 submissions, 74 contestants and 10 finalists. Kansas City startup Divshot emerged as the winner, taking home the $25,000 prize.
While we all know that the JOBS act was passed earlier this year and crowdfunding for equity won’t be implemented until the end of the year or early next year, Crowdfunder didn’t want to wait to start helping startups raise invaluable funds. For the prize money they teamed with Right Side Capital Management.
Divshot is a company that provides web designers with drag and drop tools for rapidly prototyping websites and designs. The concept was born just 90 days ago at a Startup Weekend event in Kansas City, home to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, who is the major backing behind the Startup Weekend brand of events.
“Opportunities for local fundraising are limited, not just here in Kansas City but everywhere around the country,” said Jake Johnson, Divshot co-founder. “Crowdfunder will enable us to tap into capital, education and resources through their online platform. What’s good for us is good for our local economy. We’re excited to be part of making a positive economic impact here in our own backyard.”
Now that the Los Angeles contest has come to a close, crowdfunder has just kicked off their Crowdstart Las Vegas contest. This time though, half a million dollars is up for grabs. The contest kicks off tonight at Startup Weekend in Vegas.
“We’re thrilled to be able to support entrepreneurs and innovation here and throughout the country,” said crowdfunder CEO Chance Barnett. “Divshot is just the beginning of the kind of nurturing, education and support that crowdfunder intends to provide. That’s why we’re hosting another startup contest, Crowdstart Las Vegas, which kicks off today at Vegas Startup Weekend where $500,000 is up for grabs by the Vegas Tech Fund.”
We told you about Kansas City startup AgLocal back in April. This innovative startup is connecting meat lovers with real meat, direct from the farm, effectively cutting out the middle man which is commonly the grocery store.
Real true meat lovers want to make sure they have the highest quality cuts of meat without the worry of chemicals involved in processing or trickery used to make the cut weigh more with additives and such that are commonly found in meat packaged at national food chains.
While the vegans and vegetarians of the world may not like the idea behind the Fairway, KS based startup, farmers love it. According to the Kansas City Business Journal, AgLocal has already signed up over 100 farms to be part of it’s direct to consumer network.
Founder Naithan Jones is hoping to grow AgLocal organically (no pun intended) and sees a vision where anyone in the US can pick up their mobile phone and use an AgLocal app to get the best meat delivered to their door.
AgLocal has secured a $1 million dollar seed round led by local investors OpenAir Equity Partners.
Jones left the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundations Aspiring Entrepreneur FastTrac Program to undertake starting AgLocal.
Jones plans on using the money to add more engineers, build out it’s technology platform and increase partnerships with local farmers.
Comments Off on Kansas Startup: FrontFlip’s Ken Miner Starts Team Kris For His Wife’s Fight Against Cancer0LikeLike 1,536
Back in April we reported on an innovative loyalty reward startup called FrontFlip. The Kansas startup, founded by Sean Beckner, takes a unique approach to rewards by offering virtual, mobile based “scratch cards”.
FrontFlip is currently available for both iOS and Android, and back in April they already had 725 merchants signed up.
While heavily entrenched in a national rollout for the Overland Park based FrontFlip, their director of national account Ken Miner got some terrible news on the home front. SiliconPraire reports that Ken’s wife Kris was diagnosed with Stage 4B Large Cell Lymphoma. It’s a very aggressive and intrusive form of cancer with a life expectancy of 1-3 years. Milner’s doctors advised a quick course of action including a bone marrow transplant.
Less than a month ago, on May 11th the Miner’s found out that out of 17 million people on the national bone marrow registry, not one of them was a match for Kris.
So while maintaining his full time position at FrontFlip, Ken decided to attack his wife’s Lymphoma the same way that an entrepreneur would attack and solve a problem by founding a startup.
Problem: Kris Miner needs a donor
Solution: Team Kris Miner
Almost immediately Ken dove into his contacts and first reached out to Joe Cox, the President of the Social Media Club of Kansas City.
“(Kris) wants to tell her story, to be able to help people. That’s ultimately what she wants. Now, I’m a little more selfish; I want to find a match to give her the best possible chance of living.”
Ken is hoping that he can get 1000 new registrants on to the registry. As of Thursday 103 people had already signed up for the registry. Ken set up a Facebook page and a custom landing page on the national registry site. Friends, family and colleagues have already taken to Twitter with the hash tag #TeamKrisMiner
SiliconPrairie has posted these ways to help:
To register for program, Team Kris Miner has set up a custom link that tracks their goal to 1,000 sign-ups: join.marrow.org/krisminer. They’re also aiming to raise $25,000 for the organization. Ken said the monetary support is meaningful, as well, as it costs the National Marrow Donor Program around $100 per test conducted.
Kanas City entrepreneur Barnett Helzberg Jr has gone from the diamond industry where he used his keen eye to spot beautiful diamonds and jewelry, to a new startup spotting phony invoices. This time around he doesn’t need to use his fine eye though.
PhonyInvoices is a startup designed for businesses to stop getting scammed out of paying phony invoices. Small businesses and large businesses alike know to well the invoice scam. Fake phone book companies, service companies and even law firms have been known to target businesses with fake invoices. The perpetrators are hoping that the person in accounts receivable doesn’t spot the fake invoice and sends a check the company’s way.
Helzberg formed the startup in February after decades of spotting fake invoices at his family owned and operated jewelry chain, Helzberg Diamonds.
“It obviously makes me a little angry — as hard as it was to make a profit — with businesses being defrauded every day,” Helzberg told the Kansas City Business Journal. “It only took me about 46 years to realize someone needed to be out there fighting this.”
PhonyInvoices tests a company’s internal controls and runs invoices against a database of known invoice scams. PhonyInvoices has already caught several questionable invoices that some of their member companies paid before joining the service.
Comments Off on Kansas Startups: Student Angels Is A Student Run Angel Fund0LikeLike 896
In most of the stories that we report on involving angel funds, venture capital, incubation, investment, or competition, the student is the recipient. We cover student startup challenges all the time. In Kansas, they’re doing things a little different.
At the University of Missouri in Columbia, fifteen students are running a $600,000 venture fund appropriately named “Student Angels”. The purpose of the fund is for the students to find, identify in and invest in potential high growth startup companies in Missouri. The fund is entirely student run and the money is real.
EternoGen was the first recipient of an investment from the Student Angels. The Student Angels invested $30,000 in the life-science/biohealth startup. EternoGen produces a product called Demelle which is a human tissue filter used in cosmetic, cardio-vascular and orthopedic procedures.
Student Angels isn’t a class, it’s more of an extra-curricular or a club. The students met twice a week in William Allen’s classroom. Allen serves as the faculty adviser for the program and is also the assistant professor of finance. The students in the program are a diverse mix. The team includes law students, MBA candidates, a journalism student, a biology major and a student from the psychology department, reports KansasCity.com
Even with their diverse roots though, the students unanimously decided to invest in EternoGen even though it’s not likely that the fund will see a return on that investment for a few years.
The seed money for the fund came from alumni donations as well as the Shelter Insurance Foundation. Allen is hoping to see the fund increase to a couple of million dollars so that the student run fund can invest in the six figure amounts that most startups need.
Missouri Student Angels aren’t alone there are similar programs at the University of Michigan as well as Washington University in St.Louis