Digital Sandbox KC Announces Leadership, Processes

Digital Sandbox KC Announces Leadership, Processes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Digital Sandbox KC, an unprecedented partnership among private companies, universities, entrepreneurial support organizations and government agencies across the Kansas City region, today announced key details of the effort to spur development of local IT-related start-up businesses.

The project, led by the Innovation Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has named a veteran technology entrepreneur as its director: Jeff Shackelford, the co-founder and founder, respectively, of two companies: Birch Telecom, and Tech Guys, Inc.

Maria Meyers, director of the UMKC Innovation Center and one of the leaders driving the Sandbox concept, announced the 15-member Advisory Board to Digital Sandbox KC. The full list is below.

Gov. Jay Nixon joined top executives from Kansas City corporate icons Hallmark, Sprint, UMB Bank, Cerner, VML, RareWire and more at the announcement event at Union Station, where Digital Sandbox KC will be housed. At the Sandbox, technology innovators and entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to brainstorm and problem-solve with top people from the private sector corporate partners to find marketable applications for new discoveries, as well as “orphan technologies” from both corporate- and university-based development labs. The corporate partners will also bring their technological hurdles to the Sandbox, and brainstorm with peers and experts to develop solutions.

Digital Sandbox KC is unique among economic development and entrepreneurship efforts in that it is supported by a wide array of private sector partners as well as economic development agencies, non-profit groups and universities. Corporate partners will provide boots-on-the-ground mentoring and advising from top executives. Digital Sandbox KC is a key initiative in the effort to brand Kansas City as “America’s Most Entrepreneurial City.”

UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton said the involvement of private sector corporate partners in Digital Sandbox KC will be a key element in its success – and a sign of those partners’ commitment to civic leadership.

“Today, our civic and business leadership is coming together in a way that is truly unprecedented,” Morton said. “Kansas City was built by entrepreneurs. They started out as acorns, full of potential, and eventually grew into mighty oaks. And as they grew, this community grew with them. Now, they are dedicating themselves to nurturing a new generation of seedlings. They are providing support to help cultivate those who will eventually sit with them as peers at the table of civic responsibility.”

In terms of eligibility, all ideas related to IT are welcome; but the Sandbox will have four key focus areas:

  • data center and cloud operations
  • big data and data analytics
  • mobile applications, and
  • data security

Eligible applicants include emerging, startup and established companies and technology transfer offices, both corporate and academic. Digital Sandbox KC is also open to established companies seeking to add value to a “shelved” technology – a technology that will not be further developed inside the company, but may have relevance in the market.

People from outside of the Kansas City region are encouraged to apply, but any operations associated with technology development and establishment of resulting business or business expansion must be located within the Kansas City CSA.

The Sandbox offers proof-of-concept funding to support early-stage commercialization processes, such as prototyping expenses. It will also offer visibility and access to corporate resources and a variety of organizations that provide support. If people are not chosen specifically for the Sandbox program, KCSourceLink will do its best to get them placed with others who might provide assistance.

The deadline for the first round of applications is midnight March 1, 2013.

Digital Sandbox KC Advisory Board:

  • Representing Industry
    • Kevin McGinnis, VP Product Platforms, Sprint Nextel
    • Mike Jackson, Senior VP and CTO, UMB
    • Mark McClendon, Partner & Managing Director, Technology, VML
    •  Paul Barker, VP and General Manager, Hallmark Digital
    •  Bill Graff,   Sr. VP, Cerner Technology Services, Cerner.
    •  Clay Patterson, Managing Director, Cerner Capital


  • Representing Entrepreneurs
    • Kirk Hasenzahl, Co-Founder and CEO, RareWire
    • Kevin Fryer, Managing Director, SparkLabKC

  • Representing Economic Development organizations
    • Pete Fullerton, President and CEO, Economic Development Corp. of KC
    • Jason Hall, Deputy Director, Missouri Department of Economic Development
  • Representing Universities
    • Kevin Truman, Dean, UMKC School of Computing & Engineering
    • Julie K. Goonewardene, Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, University of Kansas
  • Representing the Philanthropic community
    • Cameron Cushman, Manager in Entrepreneurship, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
  • Representing the Civic community                        
    • Mike Burke, Vice-President/Director, King Hershey, PC
    • Jerry Baber, VP and CFO, Union Station Kansas City, Inc.

 Digital Sandbox KC is the result of a U.S. Department of Commerce $1 million grant to create a proof of concept center to spur development of information technology–related start-up businesses in the Kansas City region.

The grant was obtained by a UMKC-led consortium, one of the winning teams in the third round of the federal i6 Challenge. The i6 Challenge is a multi-agency federal grant that encourages and rewards innovative, groundbreaking ideas that accelerate technology commercialization, new venture formation, job creation, and economic growth across the United States.  The awards are highly competitive and only one award is made in each of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency’s multi-state regions. 

Consortium leaders anticipate that the Digital Sandbox will generate a minimum of 10 new high-growth companies with either follow-on funding or at least $1 million in revenue each within two years of the launch.

About the UMKC Innovation Center

From whiteboard to boardroom, the UMKC Innovation Center partners with the university and the community to spark entrepreneurial efforts within our region and across the country. With a suite of high-impact programs, the center helps emerging and existing business owners hone their business basics, evaluate commercialization opportunities, and connect with the right resources at the right time. Innovation Center programs include the Small Business & Technology Development Center, Procurement Technical Assistance Center, U.S.SourceLink, KCSourceLink, Artist INC KC, and MOSourceLink.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City, one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).

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