KCSourceLink Kansas City Watch List 2020: Startups and Scaling Businesses

This year’s list of Kansas City startups and scaling companies are turning ideas, passions and dreams into great businesses … and on top of all that, they’re pivoting and innovating to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not only did every company on the KCSourceLink Watch List for 2020-2021 receive equity funding or grants in 2018 and 2019, or two investments or grants in 2019, but many also pivoted and shifted to fill a much-needed niche in 2020. Startups and scaling businesses have delivered beds and supplies to hospitals, leveraged a shift in remote work and digital to better serve customers and clients, launched new products to measure and monitor COVID-19 and one even helped contribute to a vaccine candidate.

By the way, we keep a rolling tally of companies that received funding in our monthly Show Me the Money series, along with other benchmarks that are helping Kansas City support entrepreneurship and new business creation with our annual WeCreate reports. Among these reports, WeCreate Capital tracks and monitors KC’s capital landscape to help improve entrepreneurs’ access to that capital as well as resources to help them find funding and leverage opportunities to pitch their company. And KCInvestED helps educate investors and funders about the opportunities to invest in early-stage Kansas City companies, like those in this Watch List.

Plus, we asked every company on the Watch List for information about their biggest moves in 2020, so you’re getting this information straight from the source. Know that this list isn’t a ranking, but it does highlight some of KC’s stellar new companies and KCSourceLink Watch List veterans and the amazing things they are doing to innovate, adapt and pioneer during the pandemic. This year, 16 companies are newcomers to the Watch List and are featured alongside 12 repeat businesses. One company has even appeared for a record six times on the list.

Many of these companies have used the KCSourceLink network to help give them lift. They might’ve used the UMKC Small Business and Technology Development Center for help with SBIR grants. Several are alums of Digital Sandbox KC, ScaleUP! KC and Pipeline Entrepreneurs. Others worked with coaches and mentors in LEANLAB Education, UMKC Entrepreneurship Scholars, Kansas Small Business Development Center, T-Mobile Accelerator, LaunchKC, KC Collective, the Missouri Technical Corporation, among many others.

There are even more organizations in the KCSourceLink network that helped these entrepreneurs and many, many others. Explore the Resource Rail and see who can help you along your entrepreneurial journey, no matter if you’re an innovative startup, a Main Street mainstay or a small, single-owner microenterprise. And just give us a call at 816-235-6500 or tell us what your business needs online, and we’ll craft your Personal Action Plan—your next steps and the organizations that can help.

So see how these KC startups and scaling businesses, despite the challenges, leveraged opportunities and the nonprofit business-building organizations to help them put their name on the map, provide help where it’s most needed and elevate Kansas City.



Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Justin Davis; Ryan Davis; Josh Parsons; Fabricio Solanes

BacklotCars is an online, wholesale platform that allows car dealers, auto finance companies and car rental companies to purchase and sell vehicles without having to attend in-person auctions.

Founded in 2014, BacklotCars has expanded throughout the Kansas City region, now serving dealers across 46 states. In 2019 the company received major funding support from New York-based software and consumer investment company Stripes to the tune of $25 million in a Series B funding round, in addition to the $8 million BacklotCar received after a Series A funding round in 2018.

In late 2020, the company announced KAR Auction Services of Carmel, Indiana, would acquire the company in a $425 million deal.


Boddle Learning Inc.

Kansas City, Missouri and Tulsa, Oklahoma

Founders and leadership: Clarence Tan; Edna Martinson

Boddle is an online gaming platform for kindergarten to 12th grade students that provides an adaptable learning tool for educators and parents to help students’ development in STEM. Boddle uses gameplay and technology to keep students interested and engaged in science, technology, engineering and math through a familiar format while creating actionable analytics for teachers.

The educational technology company was founded in 2018 and has garnered investments from AT&T Aspire, OHUBKC and others. The COVID-19 pandemic has created such a shift in remote learning that in August 2020, Boddle announced a move to Oklahoma after Atento Capital, an early stage investment firm in Tulsa, invested $350,000 in the company.

This is the company’s first year on the Watch List.


Overland Park, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Ben Jackson; Harrison Proffitt

Bungii is an app that puts a pickup truck at your fingertips to help move, haul and deliver large items around town. The company has been compared to popular ridesharing apps, but instead of moving people, it moves people’s stuff.

In 2018, Bungii saw revenue grow over 500% over 2017. It opened four new markets: Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami and Washington, D.C. The company maintained a Net Promoter Score (that’s a fancy customer ranking based on how likely your customers are to recommend your services) of 87; that’s 76 points above the industry average.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bungii’s users and business partners have been relying on same-day and next-day delivery to get the products they need to remain safe and healthy, like helping Mattress Firm transport additional beds to the local hospitals and delivering pallets of supplies to nursing homes and elderly care facilities.

With the B2B side of the company’s business model advancing, it welcomed its newest board member, Scott Coons, one of Bungii’s initial investors in 2017. Bungii co-founder Ben Jackson was also one of two people from Kansas City selected for Forbes 30 Under 30 class of 2020; the other awardee was Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. #JustSaying

This is Bungii’s second year in a row on the Watch List.


Daupler Inc.

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: John Bertrand; Ryan Rosenbaum

Daupler is a software platform that identifies infrastructure needs in underserved communities, ensures equitable distribution of city services, and bridges operational silos by integrating legacy software systems. Daupler now serves over 70 cities throughout the U.S. and is currently serving over half the population of Kansas.

COVID-19 has accelerated a trend of digital transformation for cities and utilities across the country. The demand for the company’s platform has increased considerably due to the renewed focus on continuity of operations and potential reductions in labor force.

This is Daupler’s first time on the Watch List.



Lenexa, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Harold Hess; Diana Greenberg

Enduralock offers the first permanently locking, high vibration resistant fasteners, that for maintenance, are reversible and reusable with a standard hex socket.

In July 2019, Enduralock was the NASA iTech CYCLE 1 Winner, a pitch competition that identifies cutting-edge tech for global innovations. Three Enduralock solutions were selected for the AFWERX Space Challenge in August 2020, an initiative made up of four challenges that focuses on integrated space and innovative technology all while maintaining security, agility and resilience.

At the start of the pandemic, Enduralock pivoted to focus on the defense and commercial space industries and also finalized its first two National Aerospace Standards.

This is the company’s inaugural year on the Watch List.

Fast Democracy

St. Louis (formerly Kansas City, Missouri)

Founders and leadership: Jill Kline; Anatolij Gelimson; Sara Baker

FastDemocracy is a legislative analytics platform that uses artificial intelligence to empower companies, nonprofits, advocacy organizations and individuals to have a better government relations strategy. FastDemocracy’s proprietary technology provides real-time bill tracking, actionable analytics and mobilization and engagement tools to give clients the ability to impact legislative action.

In 2018, FastDemocracy became part of Digital Sandbox KC and was a top prize winner at the Pure Pitch Rally. The company also launched its professional platform targeted toward government relations professionals. FastDemocracy Professional is integrated with the company’s free consumer-facing bill tracking system. Since then, FastDemocracy has acquired more than 1,700 subscribers, including state legislators, state agencies, large advocacy organizations, government agencies and nonprofits.

In 2019, FastDemocracy won an Arch Grant and relocated to St. Louis, while still maintaining strong connections to the KC community. The company was also named to the Capital Innovators Spring 2020 cohort. FastDemocracy’s revenue has been steadily climbing, and the company closed out the third quarter of 2020 as its strongest sales quarter yet.

This is Fast Democracy’s second year in a row on the Watch List.

Genesis Systems LLC

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Shannon B. Stuckenberg; David J. Stuckenberg; Steven L. Kwast; Erick Went

Genesis Systems LLC is developing the next generation in unlimited sustainable water resource technology. The company says its products aim to transform the GDP of nations, while increasing economic, political and social stability where water is a constraining factor.

This is the company’s second year in a row on the Watch List.

Healthy Hip Hop Inc.

St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri

Founder: Roy Scott

Healthy Hip Hop is an online platform powered by the arts and social interaction, infusing hip-hop culture, cutting-edge technology and positive attributes to improve learning environments; think of it as the “Sesame Street” of the 21st century.

Healthy Hip Hop won the 2018 Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Challenge and received a $20,000 first place prize. It also secured letters of intent with three school districts and raised a $500,000 pre-seed round. In 2019, the company landed a $50,000 Arch Grant and was accepted into the inaugural TechStars Social Impact Accelerator in Atlanta. As of fall 2020, Healthy Hip Hop was raising a $1 million seed round and had $600,000 committed.

This is the company’s third appearance in a row on the KCSourceLink Watch List.


HCI Energy

Lenexa, Kansas

Founder: Ray Ansari

HCI Energy provides a pre-packaged, turn-key industrial power solution that integrates renewable energy (wind, solar, and battery energy storage) to provide more efficient and economical power. The Hybrid Cube reduces our customers’ carbon footprint and offers clean, conditioned power to grid-tied or off-grid locations.

In 2019, Digital Sandbox KC provided HCI Energy with initial funding to help with engineering on one of the components of the Hybrid Cube. The Hybrid Cube is being adopted by wireless carriers as an alternative to traditional tower infrastructure, and it was deployed in the Bahamas as part of the wireless infrastructure rebuild after Hurricane Dorian.

This is HCI’s first year on the Watch List.


Helix Health

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Anurag Patel; Aaron Deacon; Kate Favrow; Jason Harper

Helix Health is a clinical business intelligence tool that helps hospitals and insurance companies allocate their resources to improve health and lower costs in chronic patient populations. The company uses AI to predict health outcomes and financial returns so clinicians can devote more time to making a difference.

In 2019, the company landed Digital Sandbox KC early-project funding, which opened doors to connections in the startup community, funding opportunities, investor networking and more. Helix Health also secured multiple endorsements, including funding from AWS’s Ignite Fast Track, Pure Pitch Rally and Full Scale. The company participated in Spencer Fane’s Startup Lab, qualified for Kansas Angel Tax Credits, joined the Pitch Perfect program and added its first clinical population.

During the pandemic, the company researched, collaborated with experts, and launched a product tuned specifically for COVID-19 and its related comorbidities. Additionally, Helix Health has formed new partnerships and added features to our company to help bring clients on more quickly.

This is the company’s inaugural appearance on the Watch List.


Lelex Prime

Olathe, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Brendan Reilly; Richard Neal; Dan Scott

Lelex Prime builds customized strategy, insights and tactics for many of the world’s leading brands’ marketing and product innovation initiatives. The company uses novel data sets, machine learning and human collective dynamics to model customers and test and optimize probable outcomes.

Digital Sandbox KC early-project funding allowed Lelex Prime to develop proof-of-concept technology, which helped prove that its core-automation framework theory was viable, increased its capacity to serve new clients and helped it plan for future iterations of tech automation.

The company also participated in the pitch process for the first investment from the Fountain Innovation Fund and was awarded, closing the seed round, which has added velocity to the company’s scaling efforts.

Lelex Prime has also leveraged help from other staple KC tech resources, such as the Enterprise Center in Johnson County, Techstars, Pipeline Entrepreneurs, KC Collective and the Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC. All this has helped the company to triple in size in 2020, and it’s poised to do the same in 2021.

This is the company’s first appearance on the Watch List.


Overland Park, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Bo Lais; Will Parrish; Vijoy Varghese; Lance Burton

Lula is a tech-enabled property maintenance service that’s designed to improve resident experience, eliminate the need for multiple vendors and reduce the costs for property owners, managers and real estate investors. By automating the maintenance process, Lula reduces the time it takes property managers and landlords to coordinate maintenance by 75%.

From 2019 to 2020, Lula’s revenue has grown more than 400%. This came after pivoting from serving homeowners to serving the property management industry. In the past year, the company saw continued month-over-month growth of 27%. Plus, Bo Lais was accepted to the Pipeline Entrepreneurs program as a 2020 Fellow.

Business slowed for Lula in March and April as new laws were being defined under the CARES Act to protect renters’ rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. This temporary dip allowed the Lula team to examine its business model and identify where it could add more value. The company realized that almost 20% of work orders could be de-escalated from emergency to non-emergency – or eliminated entirely. To this end, Lula is working to roll out a remote video maintenance de-escalation service by 2021 to help property owners avoid unnecessary service calls and realize more profits and help residents avoid contractors from entering their homes when it’s not necessary.

This is Lula’s first appearance on the Watch List.

Mobility+Designed Inc.

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Dan Alcazar; Max Younger; Liliana Younger

Mobility+Designed creates innovative crutches that deliver a radically improved end-user experience, among other benefits.

Due to stronger than anticipated interest in participation, its Series A round was expanded to $5 million. The additional investment is going toward the development and launch of its second product in September 2020 with a third product anticipated in early 2021. Commercial deals have been executed with two of the 10 largest medical device distributors in the world with others under discussion.

The company has appeared on the KCSourceLink Watch List every year since 2016, for a total of five times.


Mycroft AI

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Michael Lewis; Joshua Montgomery; Kris Adair; Derick Schweppe

Mycroft AI is an open source, custom, private voice assistant.

In 2019, the company closed an inside financing and recruited CEO Michael Lewis, who has also become one of the company’s largest investors. Lewis is a two-time entrepreneur who built Stellar Semiconductor (sold to Broadcom in 2000 for $160 million) and Cryptic Studios (sold to Atari in 2008 for $50 million).

This is Mycroft’s fourth appearance in a row on the KCSourceLink Watch List since 2017.



Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: John Thomson; Mike Plunkett

PayIt lets residents easily access government services from any device.

In 2020, PayIt launched new solutions in Virginia, Oklahoma and Alabama, as well as with numerous local government agencies. The company and its clients have been recognized with several awards. Founder and CEO John Thomson won StateScoop’s Industry Leader of the Year Award. He was also named a finalist of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2020 Heartland.

COVID-19 presented unique challenges to government agencies, and PayIt helped them respond quickly. PayIt’s flexible platform allowed many clients to shift essential services online. This move allowed government agencies to collect more than $2 million in much-needed revenue during the pandemic.

This is PayIt’s second appearance on the Watch List. The company’s first appearance was in 2017.


Phoreus Biotechnology Inc.

Olathe, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Randall Tosh; Dr. Michael Coe; Dr. John Tomich

Phoreus Biotech is a life science disruptor. Its two nanotechnology platforms are capable of revolutionizing human, animal, plant and environmental health.

In 2020, Phoreus Biotech completed a first seed round and opened a second; it entered into eight collaborative research and development agreements; and it negotiated its first licensing term sheet.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity for Phoreus Biotech to contribute to the development of a vaccine candidate. This is in partnership with one of the company’s collaborators.

This is the company’s first appearance on the Watch List.


PlanIT Impact Inc.

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Dominique Davison; Brian Corn; Wyeth Atchison

PlanIT Impact is a powerful building analysis SaaS platform. It’s technology delivers faster and easier cost-benefit insights for maximum energy, stormwater and water savings for the architectecture, engineering, construction and commercial real estate industries.

Since 2019, the company has hired key team members who are experts in the field, curated an elite advisory board of local and national industry leaders and made key investments in technology, including a public API that allows for integration into existing enterprise solutions. In 2020, PlanIT Impact unveiled new features on its building analytics software program to help architects, engineers, developers and property managers design and build greener structures.

This is PlanIT Impact’s fourth year in a row on the KCSourceLink Watch List since 2017.

Scollar Inc.

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Lisa Tamayo; John Kennedy; Dr. Frumi Barr

Scollar is a device-enabled open ecosystem designed to manage all aspects of animal care for all types of animals, from cats to cattle.

In the past year, Scollar secured a multi-year development partnership with Bayer/Elanco. It developed a personalized marketplace with thousands of pet products that can be ordered in the app for home delivery. And the team developed an in-app flea and tick tool that forecasts outbreak risk by ZIP code and suggests appropriate treatment.

In addition, Scollar finalized production of modular smart collars for Q4 pilots and customer delivery. The team also developed algorithms to make in-app, highly personalized suggestions for products and services.

Scollar has continued to grow during COVID-19 and pivoted its launch plans to adjust to a mostly digital model. Scollar has viewed the pandemic as a time to further enhance people’s relationships with their pets. With social isolation, anxiety and depression, these connections are more important than ever.

This is the company’s inaugural appearance on the Watch List.



Merriam, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Bruce Ianni; Davyeon Ross

ShotTracker is a sensor-based technology that provides comprehensive real-time stats and analytics to players, coaches and fans in practice and live games. ShotTracker consists of a player sensor, a sensor integrated into the ball (Spalding, Wilson, Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Baden and Molten) and court sensors placed in the arena. These sensors work together to provide data of the player and the ball in real time. ShotTracker also provides basketball statistics and analytics, including every stat in a box score in real time.

In 2018, ShotTracker partnered with the NCAA National Associations of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame classic for the first-ever NCAA basketball games with tech on the bench. ShotTracker also has great customers, including the University of Kansas, Baylor University, Kansas State University, University of Kentucky, University of Oklahoma, Marquette University, University of Nebraska and many others.

ShotTracker has one of the longest streaks on the KCSourceLink Watch List, appearing six times in a row since 2015.


Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Laurel Edelman; Graham Dodge; James Sajor; Michael Belt

Sickweather has developed the world’s first early warning system for commonly shared illnesses. It is the “first word” on the waxing and waning of infectious and environmental illnesses.

Sickweather has built, grown, and validated the largest illness crowdsourcing community of its kind — processing over 6 million reports of illness each month. The company uses a patented algorithm to track and map reports of illnesses, including the common cold, flu and COVID-19. Users of the application can tell what types and severities of sicknesses are breaking out in communities near their location.

Sickweather debuted on the KCSourceLink Watch List in 2019 and also made the list this year.


Spear Power Systems

Grandview, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Jeff Kostos; Dr. Joon Kim; Mitch Mabrey; Daryll Nottingham; Melody Sparrow; Jon Diller; Anthony Carey; Scott Marshall

Spear makes advanced lithium ion battery systems for uncompromising marine, industrial, defense and aerospace markets.

The last year saw many successes in the marine market, like the new all-electric Maid of the Mist ferries that service Niagara Falls. These wins helped Spear secure a significant round of funding from an international group of ecologically focused investors. In turn, this allowed Spear to expand its footprint in Kansas City with a second building. Additionally, the company opened offices in Norway, Belgium and Italy. It also plans to establish additional production in Belgium.

Spear was designated as an essential business during the pandemic, providing batteries to the U.S. Department of Defense, Spear was proactive during the pandemic.

This is the company’s first appearance on the Watch List.



Leawood, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Matt Watson; Craig Ferril

Stackify’s continuous application improvement tools provide an ongoing feedback loop at each step of the software development cycle so that bugs are found before production.

2020 was a good year for the company. In the 2020 Inc. 5000, Stackify ranked 794th as one of the fastest growing private companies in America. Software Review named the company as a champion in its annual Emotional Footprint Awards. (These awards are determined by the vendor’s relationship with users from the customer point of view.) Stackify was also named one of the best tech startups in Leawood by the Tech Tribune.

This is Stackify’s first year on the Watch List.



Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Lauren Lawrence; Lee Zuvanich

Stenovate is a project management tool for legal transcript professionals to organize and streamline workflow. The company largely serves small, women-owned businesses.

Stenovate got its start at Pure Pitch Rally, where it was only one of two companies to receive $25,000 in development credit from Full Scale, some cash and a series of benefits, such as Amazon Web Credits. The company also landed a $100,000 investment through the Fountain Innovation Fund and earned $20,000 in project funding from Digital Sandbox KC in 2019.

David Dillon (former CEO of Kroger Grocery Stores) and Dr. Shekhar Challa (an early investor in SoFi and Robinhood) are two of Stenovate’s most noteworthy investors.

Stenovate launched to the public in May 2020 during the pandemic and provided its platform free for three months. The startup officially began earning revenue on Aug. 1, 2020.

This is Stenovate’s first year on the Watch List.



Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Kaitlin Doyle

TheraWe bridges the gap between the therapy center and the home with a mobile application. The app improves communication, collaboration and care for families who have children with special needs.

The company landed Digital Sandbox KC funding in 2019, which helped it develop key features that aided in rounding out its MVP and opened doors to sales-channel partners and integration opportunities. It also leveraged LaunchKC and KC Collective for other opportunities.

This is TheraWe’s first year on the Watch List.




Kansas City, San Francisco, Memphis, Miami and London

Founders and leadership: Vijay Harrell; Justin Copeland; Mike Cating; Diane Chick

TradeLanes.co eliminates paper from commodity exporting. It applies data and machine intelligence to global trade execution to help companies trade more agilely and profitably.

The company closed a $4 million funding round in 2020, which will allow it to deepen the functionality of its platform and extend it to additional commodities. Its platform is currently focused on dairy, grains, meats, cotton, produce, specialty products, timber and mining/minerals.

TradeLanes has seen increased interest in its offering. COVID-19 made it even more apparent that large commodity exporters and traders need to make changes and to streamline by eliminating paper. Now more than ever, they recognize the value in digitizing to become nimbler and tapping data in real time to make better decisions.

This is TradeLane’s inaugural year on the Watch List.



Blue Springs, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Rhonda Dolan

Üdo is a new employee benefit for companies seeking meaningful ways to support their employee’s work/life balance and generate stark employee engagement. Üdo is an on-demand, personal assistant mobile technology that marries technology and live support to allow employers to give employees access to personal assistant services in a streamlined, effective platform.

The company has received early-project funding from Digital Sandbox KC, and its founder Rhonda Dolan was named the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019. The company has developed its MVP mobile app on iOS and is working on an Android version.

This is the company’s first year on the Watch List.


UpDown NightLife

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Joshua I. Lewis; Quintin Randle; Kirby Appollis; Mackenzie Smith

UpDown NightLife is a tech company that aims to enhance the nightlife experience for consumers by providing quick and easy accessibility to information regarding events, bottle service, specials and related news.

The company’s most notable accomplishment has been raising $100,000 to assist in the development of an app and was selected as one of the Top 30 Nightlife Blogs & Websites. Founder Josh Lewis has grown and groomed the UpDown team from three to nine talented individuals that contribute immensely to the company’s development.

This is the company’s inaugural year on the Watch List.

Venture 360/LIQUIFI

Lee’s Summit, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Rachael Qualls; James Pierce; LeBraun Premo

Venture360 empowers the venture capital world through an industry-leading, comprehensive software platform that helps companies and investors manage the complex world of venture capital. The company supports clients in more than 50 countries by streamlining back-office functions, offering transparency for investors and visibility across the portfolio.

In the past year, Venture 360 added a new tax and accounting services division. Through this expanded offering, clients have access to a full suite of administrative fund services, which offer support for everything from capital calls and distributions to document sharing, tax prep and filing, IRR and more.

Also a part of the Venture360 solution set, LIQUIFI builds markets for trading private stock for companies of any size, including employee stock ownership plans, venture capital, real estate investment trusts and sports teams.

The company also appeared on the KCSourceLink Watch List in 2014 and 2019.

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