Digital Sandbox KC Companies Continue to Scale as Program Expands

Digital Sandbox KC Companies Continue to Scale as Program Expands

Digital Sandbox KC Annual Report 2017
Digital Sandbox KC is where ideas take shape. For many startups, innovators and disrupters, it is the starting point in the Kansas City region, providing that critical step and just-in-time funding that turns viable ideas into scalable innovations.

Of the 90 projects funded, 60—that’s 66 percent—have secured more than $43 million in follow-on funding, a testament to the strength of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial spirit and the magnetic appeal of the entrepreneurs’ ideas.

And that’s not all, companies in the portfolio have created more than 536 jobs with more than $14 million in payroll and a collective $32 million in sales since the Sandbox’s inception.

Established in 2013, Digital Sandbox KC is a proof-of-concept program out of the UMKC Innovation Center that spurs the creation and commercialization of high-growth companies through project-based grants up to $25,000.

With total project funding of $1.8 million provided to 90 early-stage startups in the Kansas City metro region, the Sandbox has helped launch 46 new companies, 130 new products, 60 patent applications and 10 awarded patents.

“If we’re going to create jobs and grow our local economy, everyone needs to pitch in—universities, corporations, service providers, civic leaders, entrepreneurs. Digital Sandbox KC brings all those vital players together to create more startups who in turn create more jobs.” Mayor Sly James, Kansas City, Missouri  

Here’s a deeper look at the companies’ makeup and success:


Digital Sandbox KC Companies Continue to Scale as Program Expands

See the full Digital Sandbox KC Annual Report 2017.

In 2017, the Sandbox expanded into new areas and markets through partnerships with the cities of Olathe, Independence and St. Joseph. With support from GXP Investments and Cobalt Ventures, it launched the Energy Sandbox in 2016.

Updates on Sandbox companies

In less than five years, Digital Sandbox has done a tremendous amount to kickstart area companies. Here are a few highlights on how companies have scaled:

Happy Food Co.

Now available at 34 locations from grocery stores to corporate offices, Happy Food Co. has sold more than 50,000 meal kits. Based out of Olathe, Kansas, the food tech business offers on-demand meal kits loaded with local ingredients.


Aware3 serves more than 1,000 churches across the United States. Churches can improve communications and engagement with their congregation with help from the Aware3 church-branded mobile app.  


ShotTracker has raised more than $10 million to date and developed strategic partnerships with sporting equipment giants Spalding, Wilson, Under Armour and Nike. The sensor-based ShotTracker technology tracks all basketball stats and analytics for both practice and games.


LittleHoots mobile app has captured more than 325,000 memories from more than 60,000 users worldwide. With LittleHoots, parents can create a “digital memory box” for their kids and memorialize every photo, video and funny quote.

Get your business into the Sandbox

Digital Sandbox KC accepts applications on a rolling basis at their website. Many concepts that eventually received funding didn’t get it the first time around, so don’t hesitate to get your idea out there to start receiving feedback and guidance.

To help prepare for your pitch,check this out:

The next How to Pitch to the Sandbox event is coming up in March, keep your eyes peeled for details. (Our newsletter is a great way to keep up with KC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem).

This is close to what I need, but not quite. What else do you have for budding entrepreneurs?

Glad you asked. As the go-to for KC entrepreneurship, we can plug you into the right course, mentor, organization or group for your small business, startup, passion project, side hustle or idea in the making.

Just give us a call at 816-235-6500 or fill out your request over here at We’ll develop a Personalized Action Plan to help connect with resources and opportunities, so you can hit that next milestone.


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