KCSourceLink Kansas City Watch List 2021: Startups and Scaling Businesses

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

Not only did every company on the KCSourceLink Watch List for 2021 receive equity funding or grants in 2019 and 2020, or two investments or grants in 2020, but many also pivoted and shifted to fill a much-needed niche. Despite the pandemic, companies have devoted more time to research and development, expanded their U.S. footprint, changed the way they support customers, fought COVID-19 by monitoring wastewater, found solutions for remote interactions and even launched new platforms.

By the way, we monitor 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 2021, 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, 15 companies are newcomers to the Watch List and are featured alongside 13 repeat businesses. One company has even appeared for a record seven 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.

2923 Comics / Vendors Assistant

Kansas City, Missouri

Founder: Juaquan Herron

2923 Comics creates comic books that represent underserved communities. The books also speak to the abuse of power as well as how to overcome that abuse.

Thanks to a microgrant from the Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC and Kansas Beat the Virus, 2923 Comics was able to pivot in 2020. First, the grant allowed the company to purchase books for the Kansas City, Kansas, School District. Secondly, it funded the development of an animated trailer based on the comic book “The Scarlet Knight: Defender of the Block.”

The pandemic meant not being able to attend comic conventions around the country. But a grant from Digital Sandbox KC empowered 2923 Comics to create VenBoo. This app helps vendors locate events – like comic cons – where they can promote their wares.

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


Air Traffic Awareness

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Kashif Hasnie; Merwan Abdelmajeed; Cameron Knight; Tonderai Kambarami

Air Traffic Awareness increases in-flight safety by helping pilots avoid mid-air collisions. Situational Awareness for General Aviation (SAGA) is the company’s patent-pending solution.

Despite the challenges of 2020, Air Traffic Awareness had a successful year. The pandemic meant the company could dedicate more time to product development and testing. A team of mentors and advisors focused on “visioneering sky safety.” The result? Final iteration and beta testing of the SAGA software solution.

In 2020, Air Traffic Awareness placed in several pitch competitions. It became the first Kansas City startup to be accepted by the MIT Enterprise Forum. The company received a grant from Digital Sandbox KC. And it completed Startup School with Y Combinator.

This is the first time Air Traffic Awareness has appeared on the Watch List.

AWA Technology LLC

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Austin Hausmann; William Walls; Adam Bronge

Nearly all diesel engines produced since 2010 require diesel exhaust fluid. However, the fluid itself has a short shelf life and is susceptible to poor storage conditions. AWA Technology has developed technology that can provide this necessary product more efficiently and avoiding costly waste. The technology has the potential to remove millions of tons of nitrogen oxide emissions and millions of single-use plastics from the distribution model.

After founding the company in 2019, AWA Technology’s leaders raised funding from Digital Sandbox KC and at the Pure Pitch Rally. This support moved product development and patent and trademark protections forward. And a microgrant from the Small Business Administration enabled the team to author a grant for military research projects and innovation programs.

Despite the pandemic, AWA Technology is in an aggressive product development and fundraising mode. This is the company’s debut on the Watch List.


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 6th grade students that provides an adaptable learning tool for educators and parents to help improve student outcomes. Boddle uses gameplay and technology to keep students interested and engaged in 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 in the company.

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

Daupler Inc.

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: John Bertrand; Ryan Rosenbaum

Daupler simplifies the way people communicate with local government and utilities. The company’s software and artificial intelligence triages issues in the community, dispatches staff, documents response data and engages citizens throughout the process. Serving populations from 300 to 300,000, the platform can provide value to cities of all sizes.

Daupler is not only ensuring equitable distribution of city services, but the startup also is bridging operational gaps by integrating with legacy software systems. Daupler nearly tripled its footprint in 2020 and is now deployed in over 100 cities in 25 states.

This is Daupler’s second year on the Watch List.



Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Brock Stechman; Brody Dorland; Nick Mallare

DivvyHQ is a platform that helps content and communication teams automate and simplify their work. The tool includes content strategy, planning, workflow and collaboration. DivvyHQ makes it easier for companies to plan, create and publish content.

In 2020, the company expanded its offerings. Thanks to new features, it’s now easier for customers to integrate with over 1,000 other platforms. There’s a new mobile app, and DivvyHQ launched a content request tool. And the company is working on an independent workflow functionality, which it will roll out soon.

The pandemic changed the way DivvyHQ sells, markets and supports its customers. The company provided creative payment and pricing plans to several customers. And the team transitioned so well to remote work that the company is moving to an all-remote workforce.

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



Overland Park, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Parker Graham; Brenden Smith

Finotta is an API-based solution that helps banks and credit unions overhaul their mobile banking. The result is a hyper-personalized user experience that helps financial institutions increase engagement and revenue.

After seeing the issues and limitations of mobile banking platforms, the company pivoted its branding and vision in late 2020. Previously known as Destiny, Finotta is focused on helping financial institutions connect to customers in a world where banking offices may be closed. Finotta has now launched its technology with banks and credit unions across the country.

This is Finotta’s inaugural appearance 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 third year in a row on the Watch List.


The George App

Kansas City, Missouri

Founder: Jerren Thornhill

The George App is an all-inclusive service app to make date night and guy-trip planning easier. The company’s voice assistant takes local experiences, restaurants and premium transportation and allows users to plan their day their way. Everything is prepaid through the app so you don’t have to worry about cost and how to get there.

In 2020, The George app was funded by a grant from Digital Sandbox KC and through a Kansas City private investor. Throughout the pandemic, The George App was able to scale because users want to be ensured that venues are safe and vetted, and restaurants and other venues benefit by bringing customers in the door.


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 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. In 2021, HCI has shipped units to Africa and with plans to ship to the Far East.

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



Drexel, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Dave Alburty; Andy Page

As the “Spotify of Sample Prep” InnovaPrep helps its customers broaden their detection of bacteria and viruses in the environment by developing faster, easier, and better tools for modern microbiology.

InnovaPrep’s second round of growth capital closed in April 2020 and secured ongoing SBIR grants (a NASA Phase 3 and a NOAA Phase 2). InnovaPrep joined the Black & Veatch Ignite-X Program 2020. The company received six utility patents granted in 2020 for a total of 26 granted and 20 more pending. InnovaPrep grew staff by 26 percent, increased product sales by more than 215%, scaled manufacturing capability by 300% and signed an agreement to develop and manufacture an OEM Product for a global partner.

InnovaPrep used its products to help fight COVID by enabling public health researchers and government agencies epidemiology efforts around the world. The primary application has been monitoring wastewater for community outbreaks, and InnovaPrep’s customers are government agencies, the military, commercial services labs and universities.

This is InnovaPrep’s first year 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.

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

The Market Base

Overland Park, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Jannae Gammage, Milad Ghasempour

The Market Base is the only marketing platform where small businesses can sign up and build a team based on budget and needs, for a monthly flat rate.

The company earned several accolades in 2020 and 2021, having earned early-project funding from Digital Sandbox KC and being named Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Superstar. The Markete Base also acquired a local consulting company in Kansas City. Additionally, the startup created the Launch and Sip KC Small Business Scholarship Program and formed a strategic partnership with Right to Start.

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

MatchRite Care

Kansas City, Missouri

Founder: Chris Jones

MatchRite Care LLC is a patent-pending software platform built using healthcare standards to allow patient record accessibility and promote communication between doctors and patients. MatchRite Care is a leader in pushing patient information across all EHR’s Electronic Health Records.

In 2020, MatchRite Care received grants from Digital Sandbox and WeWork. In 2021, the company will participate in the Pipeline Fellows Cohort, is a Coalition of Black Excellence Pitch Competition Top-10 finalist, and is rolling out MatchRite Lite to facilities.  By the end of 2021, health record companies will be able to integrate with MatchRite and use it as a utility tool for record sharing.

This is the company’s first year 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 went toward the development and launch of its second product in 2020 called Combo Stix, which are ergonomic crutches that switch from platform mode to forearm mode in a snap. Commercial deals have been executed with two of the 10 largest medical device distributors in the world with others under discussion.

The company has one of the longest streaks on the KCSourceLink Watch List, appearing every year since 2016, for a total of six times.


Particle Space

Kansas City, Missouri

Founder: David Biga

Particle Space helps individual and small property management businesses automate in-between tasks such as following up with a late tenant, preparing vacant lease, or processing maintenance requests. Particle Space partnered with Liberty Mutual to provide tenants access to renter’s insurance. The company processes more than $100,000 in monthly rent and serves property managers in more than 10 states.

In 2020, the pandemic expanded the need for remote technology capabilities and an increase in new users registering for the platform. The pandemic also caused the Particle Space team to think strategically on behalf of the property manager and better understand the remote interaction between property managers and tenants.

This is Particle Space’s first year on the Watch List.


PlanIT Impact Inc.

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Brett Krug; Dominique Davison; Brian Corn; Terry Dunn; Phil Bernstein

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 architecture, 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 fifth year in a row on the KCSourceLink Watch List since 2017.

PMI Rate Pro

Overland Park, Kansas

Founder: Nomi Smith

PMI Rate Pro helps future homebuyers save money on their mortgage payments. When homebuyers put less than 20 percent down to buy a home, they are required to pay private mortgage insurance. PMI Rate Pro provides a tool for mortgage loan officers to instantly compare mortgage insurance from all the national providers. PMI Rate Pro uses the

“Kayak” model for private mortgage insurance, which saves time for loan officers using the platform and ensures they provide the least expensive private mortgage insurance option to homebuyers.

The company launched during the pandemic and has successfully grown its customer base and now employs five full-time staff. PMI Rate Pro has helped homeowners as they have taken advantage of lower rates and purchased a home.

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



Olathe, KS

Founders and leadership: A.J. Mellott, Ph.D.; Heather Decker

Ronawk enables scientists to produce patient cells 3,600 times more efficiently for creating personalized therapeutics while reducing costs by more than 90 percent.

Ronawk spun out of the University of Kansas Medical Center in early 2020 after receiving funding from Digital Sandbox, KU Frontiers, and SHARPHub. Ronawk then closed its first fundraising round and moved into a manufacturing facility in Olathe.

Ronawk went on to make it to the Final Four of “The Coolest Thing Made in Kansas,” and was awarded a Manufacturing Grant by the Kansas Department of Commerce to produce the company’s T-Blocks to help researchers fight COVID-19. Ronawk ended 2020 celebrating the initiation of 30 product trials of its T-Blocks across the globe.

The company is an alum of the Wichita State University Shockers I-Corps program, UMKC E-Scholars, and Pipeline Entrepreneurs.

The pandemic created new opportunities for Ronawk, including a pivot from focusing on university researchers to Biopharma researchers in the latter half of 2020, which enabled the company to put its T-Blocks into the hands of Senior Scientists and Clinicians around the world to use in COVID-19 research efforts. These efforts led to new collaborations as well as technological discoveries that Ronawk is working to commercialize in late 2021.

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


Kansas City, Missouri

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

Scollar is an open platform ecosystem. It manages all aspects of animal care for all types of animals, from cats to cattle.

2020 forced the Scollar team to rethink how they collaborate. It also slowed production of the company’s smart collar. However, the challenging times inspired bigger dreams. The team itself expanded, as did its concept of how its products could benefit animal owners, communities, retailers and corporate partners.

In the last year, Scollar created and launched a flea and tick outbreak tool in partnership with Bayer Animal Health. The company also launched a multi-vendor marketplace of thousands of pet products in partnership with Animal Supply Company. And it moved into the new product introduction phase of its smart collar production process – without stepping foot in China.

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

The ShotTracker team poses for a photo on a basketball court


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.

In 2021, ShotTracker raised $11 million in financing from Evertz Technologies Limited and Verizon Ventures. It says it will use the fund to fuel deploying its tech across the Power 6 NCAA basketball conferences.

ShotTracker has the longest streak on the KCSourceLink Watch List, appearing seven times in a row since 2015.

Spear Power Systems

Spear Power Systems

Grandview, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Jeff Kostos; Dr. Joon Kim; Mitch Mabrey; Daryll Nottingham

Spear Power Systems designs and manufactures powerful lithium-ion energy storage systems. The company serves marine, aerospace, industrial and defense markets.

In 2020, the company secured a contract to supply Washington State Ferries with massive batteries for five Olympic-class vessels. It also developed an advanced battery system to be used in commercial space vehicles. And the company won a major marine development program funded by the European Union.

All of these wins came during a challenging time. But prudent financial management minimized the pandemic’s impact on team members.

This is Spear Power Systems’ second consecutive appearance on the Watch List.



Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Lauren Lawrence; Lee Zuvanich

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

The company got its start at Pure Pitch Rally. Stenovate 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.

Launching a business during the pandemic was a challenge. But Stenovate launched its subscription service in May 2020. The company officially began earning revenue on Aug. 1, 2020.

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

Dr. Shelley Cooper of SureShow


Kansas City, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Dr. Shelley Cooper; Dr. Moe Hamid

SureShow is a patent-pending platform. It replaces no-show medical appointments with billable telehealth visits.

In 2020, providers and patients embraced telehealth. But the pandemic also created an increase in patients who did not show up for scheduled in-person appointments. SureShow allows providers to fill those empty slots right away. And it helps patients find an open telehealth appointment quickly and easily.

SureShow received support from Digital Sandbox KC, Pure Pitch Rally and Velocity Lee’s Summit. The team participated in the Tech Venture class from ELEVATIONLAB™ at the Missouri Small Business Development Center. And it took part in the Women’s Academy Accelerator offered by Beta Boom.

This is SureShow’s inaugural year on the KCSourceLink Watch List.



Overland Park, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Max Schanker; Nate Schanker; Nolan Blankenau

SWOT is a social media platform where users rank anything to “see what others think.” Users share their interests, compare with friends and celebrities, and become aware of the world’s best of the best.

With the support of a Digital Sandbox grant, SWOT is now in a closed Beta test with 150 users and plans to open the Beta app in the coming months.

Recently, the team has finalized deals with major influencers to bring their followings to the platform upon launch. In 2020, the pandemic slowed progress. However, because food and entertainment industries were severely impacted by the pandemic, the experience allowed the team to understand the impact SWOT makes beyond those industries. Beta users adapted their content accordingly.

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


Team Cura

Overland Park, Kansas

Founders and leadership: Karen Hughey; Rob Hughey

Team Cura is an education technology company. It creates professional development and life-skills training.

2020 provided Team Cura with plenty of adversity. So, the mother and son leadership team decided to broaden their company’s offerings. Now, in addition to courses like time management and communication, Team Cura is also developing training curriculum for organizations that employ individuals with developmental disabilities.

The company’s most recent partnership is with The Golden Scoop, a 501(c)3 located in Prairie Village, Kansas. The popular ice cream and coffee shop provides innovative and meaningful employment for people with developmental disabilities. Team Cura created hiring, training and life-skills curriculum for employees.

This is Team Cura’s first appearance on the Watch List.


The TeleDentists

Kansas City, Missouri

Founders and leadership: Maria Kunstadter; Michael Sigler; Howard Reis; Leah Sigler

The TeleDentists is a 24/7/365 cloud-based dental consultation and referral system to treat and advise patients with urgent dental or oral care needs. The TeleDentists places virtual dentists in emergency rooms, health care clinics and at home or work by connecting them via any internet-connected computer or mobile device. This allows patients to access a dentist and get immediate help for their dental care needs. The TeleDentists also adds virtual dentists in urgent-care centers, walk-in retail clinics, assisted living facilities, senior living centers, and as an additional benefit for insurance companies and employee health care centers.

The TeleDentists was listed in Online Doctor as one of The 10 Best Teledentistry Companies of 2021.

This is the TeleDentists second year on the Watch List.



Kansas City, San Francisco, Memphis, Miami and London

Founders and leadership: Vijay Harrell; Mike Cating; Reese Giangola; Diane Chick

TradeLanes.co eliminates paper from global container shipping. This makes B2B container trade faster, easier and more profitable.

In 2020, TradeLanes closed a $4 million funding round. This enabled the company to deepen the functionality of its platform and extend to additional commodities. Now, TradeLanes focuses on dairy, grains, meats, produce, specialty products, timber and mining/minerals. It is expanding its services to other products in the near future.

Disruptions in international trade have meant an increase in the number of exporters that want to digitize and work with TradeLanes. To help meet demand, the company doubled the size of its team. Working remotely can make it difficult to maintain a close, collaborative culture. But the creation of a Chief Fun Officer position has helped keep the team engaged.

This is TradeLanes’ second year on the Watch List.

Thumbnail courtesy of Skies & Scopes via Unsplash.

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