New model serves early-stage businesses by providing key resources, funding specific projects

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (March 4, 2014) — Digital Sandbox KC announced today it has successfully helped 19 start-up companies raise $7 million in investments since early 2013, surpassing its goal six months early. Digital Sandbox KC provides early-stage technology companies with resources to help them grow.   

“Unlike traditional business incubators and investors, our assistance isn’t in the form of equity or a loan,” said Jeff Shackelford, director of Digital Sandbox KC.  “Instead, we can fund a vendor to do a project that could dramatically shift a company’s path to development.”

For example, Digital Sandbox KC has funded a patient trial for a medical startup, provided software coding assistance for a real estate app, and underwritten a contract CIO consultant for a cloud-based professional services company.

“Because we’re not a business plan competition, we can help lots of very early-stage businesses that may have a great idea but need specific resources to launch,” continued Shackelford.  “And our region’s largest companies like Sprint, Hallmark and Cerner are part of our program, giving our entrepreneurs access to invaluable knowledge and contacts.”

Since its inception in February, 2013, Digital Sandbox KC has worked with more than 160 companies and has funded projects for 37 area technology startups, 19 of which have received follow on funding and now provide 125 jobs to the metro area. These companies represent a range of industries, including health care IT, data security, creative mobile apps, big data, consumer products, technology platforms and more.  Click here to see a full list:

“I think the secret to Digital Sandbox’s success is the broad range of resources we’ve been able to engage with these start-up companies,” said Maria Meyers, CEO of KCSourceLink, a program of the Innovation Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which submitted the grant for Digital Sandbox KC. “It starts with the evaluation of the innovations and then matching all of them to resources that can help them take the next step. We help the founders really focus on the barrier to progress, and then help them figure out how to overcome that challenge.” Meyers added, “Many programs in this space are able to provide a single, helpful solution…we are able to direct founders to whichever solution will be most helpful, drawing upon the entire, rich network of resources in Kansas City.”

The pilot program was originally designed to help at least 10 companies secure significant investment during the two-year grant cycle, which ends in September 2014. The Digital Sandbox KC team is seeking to raise additional funds to continue its work.

About Digital Sandbox KC

Digital Sandbox KC is an unprecedented partnership among private companies, universities, entrepreneurial support organizations and government agencies across the Kansas City region designed to spur the creation of high growth companies.  Digital Sandbox KC provides proof of concept resources including market validation, prototyping and beta testing support for development of digital technologies within new and existing businesses. Initial funding came through a $1 million federal i6 Challenge Grant sponsored by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, matched by $500,000 from the Missouri Technology Corporation and local corporate partners.

The Sandbox was developed by KCSourceLink through the collaboration of partners such as: corporate (Sprint, Hallmark, UMB, VML, Cerner, RareWire, SparkLabKC), academic (UMKC, University of Kansas), nonprofit (Enterprise Center of Johnson County; Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute; Union Station, Inc.; KCNext), public (Missouri Technology Corporation, Mayors’ Bistate Innovation Team, Economic Development Corp. of KC) and philanthropic (Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation).

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