Comeback KC Ventures Provides Funding, Support to Accelerate COVID Solutions in the KC RegionDavid Cawthon
The UMKC Innovation Center and KC Digital Drive are recruiting 20 fellows for Comeback KC Ventures, a new program that helps accelerate innovations, products or service lines that are solving needs exposed by the pandemic. Innovators, first-time entrepreneurs and established businesses can express interest and apply through this 5-minute survey.
“The public health crisis posed by COVID-19 ignited a need for rapid change and innovation,” says Jim Starcev, program manager with KC Digital Drive. “Comeback KC Ventures will help uncover and support local, early-stage innovations that are helping answer that call.”
What is a Comeback KC Ventures Fellow?
KC Digital Drive and the UMKC Innovation Center are recruiting 20 fellows for Comeback KC Ventures, a new program that helps accelerate innovations, products or service lines that are solving needs exposed by the pandemic, especially in the areas of public health, education and digital equity.
Comeback KC Ventures Fellows are entrepreneurs and innovators in the Kansas City bi-state area who are building new technology businesses or innovation-focused business lines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Who should apply?
First-time or seasoned innovators are welcome to apply.
Qualified fellows must be:
• pursuing a new business, product or service line in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic
• developing an innovation with potential for high growth that brings additional revenue and jobs to the KC region
• based in or have a significant business presence in the greater KC metro area
What happens once my innovation is accepted into the program?
Comeback KC Ventures wraps its fellows and their early-stage innovations in 360-degree support, resources and financial assistance to help accelerate COVID-related solutions.
Through Comeback KC Ventures, fellows may receive:
· One-to-one business coaching through the Missouri SBDC at UMKC
· Scholarships to ELEVATIONLAB Tech Venture and other innovation workshops focused on federal grants, startup boards and pitch prep and capital raise
· Opportunity to get application support and funding up to $20,000 for proof-of-concept project support with Digital Sandbox KC
· Tailored introductions to early-stage and venture capital investors
· Create and meet monthly with an advisory board to support growth
· Build community through peer-to-peer roundtables with other Fellows
· Opportunity to present your innovation at Comeback KC Ventures Innovation Showcases and Whiteboard2Boardroom webinars
· Media coverage and storytelling support to showcase the Fellows
· Mentorship from Senior Fellows and Kansas City community members
· Assistance in lead cultivation for first customers
· And other specialized support depending on the entrepreneur’s needs and stage
The program, funded by a SPRINT Challenge grant from the Economic Development Administration, is designed to wrap early-stage innovations in support, resources and financial assistance to accelerate COVID-related solutions in public health, education and digital equity.
Led by the UMKC Innovation Center and KC Digital Drive, the program will combine the business-building strengths of UMKC IC with the community engagement and discovery processes of KCDD to sprint toward 10 new businesses, 30 new jobs and $5 million in follow-on funding in an 18-month period that will start local and stay local to solve problems that COVID-19 has raised. To date, Comeback KC Ventures has hosted four discovery sessions to help source ideas, entrepreneurs and businesses, which have, in turn, surfaced more than 300 concepts that the program is helping shepherd to viable technology via entrepreneurial education, advisory boards and funding opportunities.
The project will:
• Uncover COVID-related community needs in education, health care and digital equity
• Identify technology-based solutions to those needs
• Create an expanding regiment of Venture Fellows, entrepreneurs who receive needed support to rapidly develop solutions to meet these opportunities
• Connect Venture Fellows with civic and community leaders to align product-market fit
• Provide much-needed, early-stage proof-of-concept support through Digital Sandbox KC to move ideas toward commercialization in the market
• Place a strong emphasis on developing minority- and women-business owners in the technology space
“Like the rest of the nation, Kansas City is still reeling from how the pandemic has affected lives and livelihoods,” adds Starcev. “Kansas City and the country need solutions to COVID-exposed problems.”
This has created a prime opportunity for innovations that can solve our most pressing issues.
“People wishing to start businesses right now can help,” adds Jill Meyer, senior director of the Technology Venture Studio at the UMKC Innovation Center. “There is no better time to put a focus on early-stage technology business development, especially when so many community needs have been laid bare. There is no better time to support the development of technology businesses, especially by people of color, to create jobs where they are needed.”
Learn more about Comeback KC Ventures and get involved at www.kcdigitaldrive.org/project/comeback-kc-ventures. Those interested in becoming a Comeback KC Ventures fellow are encouraged to express their interest through this survey.