$500,000 grant provides much needed early-stage startup funding for Kansas City region

KANSAS CITY, MO (MARCH 30, 2015) — Digital Sandbox KC was awarded an unprecedented second i6 Challenge Grant from the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. The three-year, $500,000 grant is being matched by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Missouri Technology Corporation, the UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management and Cobalt Ventures for a total of $1,150,000. Additional corporate support provides key resources and connections for the young companies in the Sandbox.

Digital Sandbox KC’s mission is to help launch new businesses and assist them in securing add-on funding.  Launched in February 2013, the highly successful proof-of-concept program has worked with more than 300 entrepreneurs and early-stage companies across the metro area.  To date, Digital Sandbox companies have raised almost $18M in follow-on investment.

“Our success so far is a direct result of the quality entrepreneurs in Kansas City and the overwhelming corporate and community support we’ve received,” said Jeff Shackelford, director of Digital Sandbox KC. “We’ve found that the Sandbox fills a critical gap for early-stage companies in the funding landscape for Kansas City.”

The new funding will continue support for early-stage proof-of-concept projects and expand to create a community-wide network of product development and testing resources. This clearinghouse will encompass prototype equipment and resources available through higher education, corporate, government and nonprofit channels. 

Results so far:

  • 46 proof-of-concept projects funded for area startups
  • 23 new KC-based companies created
  • 33 companies have secured follow-on investment
  • $17.7M million in follow-on funding
  • 181 new jobs created, nearly $5.5 million in total salaries
  • Just under $7 million in total sales
  • 18 patent applications
  • 4 successful exits

Another key outcome of the Digital Sandbox project was to encourage large corporations to participate in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Support from Hallmark, VML, UMB, Sprint, Cerner, RareWire, University of Kansas, Burke Payne Law and Union Station provided access to funding, mentors, product development support and marketing to which young companies would not traditionally have access. Several additional Kansas City organizations have committed to participate in the Digital Sandbox moving forward, including R2fact and Garmin.

Applications for Digital Sandbox KC are taken on a rolling basis. The Sandbox funding may cover expenses for project consultants, legal support, equipment and other market validation, prototyping and beta testing needs. For more information about Digital Sandbox KC, go to




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.