2016 Kansas City Entrepreneurs We Admire
2016 was one hell of a year for Kansas City entrepreneurs. Some really cool things happened across the board, and this is our way of reflecting on others’ successes.
What we as an industry sometimes forget is how much of a schlep getting a company off the ground is. So anyone on this list is guaranteed not getting the props they deserve. Not that they’re not getting props, just that they could never get enough given how much of an enormous mountain they’re perpetually in a state of climbing.
Let it also be noted that not a single one of these companies are BetaBlox companies. Honestly, we thought about doing an essay that simply bragged about our favorite Bloxers – but thought that would dilute the credibility that this hat tip was supposed to represent. These entrepreneurs in many cases are our friends, mentors, or muses – but we do not own a single ounce of stock in anyone mentioned below. We’ve also put them in alphabetical order so as to emphasize that this is in no way some type of ranking.
So, without further ado – we present to you the Kansas City entrepreneurs that we admire the most:
This team’s thesis is simple: ex-athletes make better employees. These types of people know how to work on a team. They know how to sacrifice. They know how to set goals and slowly but surely attain those goals. AthleteNetwork helps companies source ex-athletes for employment at their firms. As if this team hadn’t already accomplished enough, they just inked a landmark partnership with The Olympics. We look forward to seeing what 2017 has in store for them.
This has been a banner year for Blooom; there’s not much left to say about them that hasn’t already been said. What we love most about them is they’ve taken a typically boring topic (401K’s), and added a professional amount of sex appeal to it. We find ourselves reading their tweets, following their Facebook updates, and quite frankly caring about our retirement more than we ever have before. They’re solving a problem that requires having an old soul to be passionate about it, yet doing so in a way that only marketers on the bleeding edge of storytelling could possibly do.
We consider DivvyHQ to be the foremost experts on social media and content calendars in the bi-state area. They publish white papers on the subject that are so good you’ll feel guilty for not having to pay for them. At their core, DivvyHQ is a content calendar for heavy volume social media teams. In other words, they help companies organize the content they’re going to publish; on what days; at what times; and to what platform. Gone are the days that a business can just steal a meme from Google, post it to their Facebook page, and call that a social media strategy. 2017 Will mark the year that companies of all sizes (including startups), will be required to post higher quality content with a more predicable cadence. DivvyHQ can help with all of this.
Like a handful of other people on this list, it’s hard to throw respect at these guys in a way that hasn’t already been done. So we’ll try to do so from a different perspective. Every book on entrepreneurship; every class; every cheesy article in Fast Company – they all attempt to clear a path for what they believe to be the typical steps to creating value. After enough people opine about their own paths, some obvious options appear. Never. And we mean never – have we seen anyone form a team, create a product, distribute said product, promote their company, and then ultimately have it acquired, in the way 2016 got to witness EyeVerify do it. They cleared their own path, and we applaud them for it.
Watching the evolution of FanThreeSixty over the years has truly been a blessing. If you want a lesson in what it means to be gritty leaders, look no farther than this team. They help professional sports teams utilize data to provide a better experience to their fans, while also being able to create and engage an even larger fan-base.
We almost consider HomeBase.ai to be an asset created underneath the umbrella of Think Big’s think tank. We’re not sure if they view it this way, but we do. Think Big has amassed such an impressive community of visionaries, builders, and hustlers that when they see an opportunity – they can borderline build all of it in-house. And that’s kind of what happened with this new startup. HomeBase.ai is a smart apartment and property management tool. They’re on the cutting edge of two incredibly fast moving trends, (a) smart, internet-connected, devices, and (b) the consolidation of residential living into more centrally located areas.
Roads. Debatably the most annoying and necessary evil that any city planner has to deal with. But what if roads could be smarter? Like, much smarter. What if the key piece of technology for self driving cars isn’t in the cars themselves, but in the roads themselves? And what if one of the largest cash-sucks of any city/state could turn into a profit center? Integrated Roadways has an answer for all of that. You might be thinking to yourself, how could a single startup in Kansas City be answering all those questions? The answer: Tim Sylvester, their founder.
One of the most important things that was ever taught to us in elementary school was the importance of the food pyramid; or at least what it stood for. Obviously science has evolved over the years to change the way we think about said pyramid, but it hasn’t changed the fact that we must be cognizant of eating enough fruits and vegetables. But let’s face it….eating healthy often tastes bad, isn’t fun, and can take up a good deal more time than simply going through a drive-thru. Life Equals has an answer to that. It’s essentially a shot of juice that contains half of your day’s recommended levels of vegetables. We’re going to be writing a lot about biohacking for entrepreneurs in 2017. Biohacking is essentially certain methods of exercise, diet, and supplements that set your body up for more effective work days. We believe that Life Equals is a perfect example of what we mean by a biohack. We’re confident they have in-mind a much larger audience (as in anyone that wants to be healthier), but we have to admit we see it as a tool for our busy entrepreneurs.
If you’re not addressing Niall as a force to be reckoned within the Kansas City startup scene, you’re not paying attention. We find this story to be fascinating because of the team’s background. Albeit they have a wide range of skill-sets, for the most part, they’re pixel-based designers and marketers. So not only can they make something beautiful, they also know how to promote it using modern tools that their predecessors can’t, or won’t. This design-based foundation has most definitely transcended off the computer and into manufacturing. Every nook and cranny of their business (whether we’re talking about the watches themselves, their marketing, their billboards, and even their story) is pure art.
PerfectCube is just one of those things that we personally wish was around when we started some of our first companies. They allow a business to take their sales data and visualize it in a way that makes it possible to actually do something with. Us nerds can stand on our soap box all day and sing the merits of data, but we’d be lying if we said that it was easy to make decisions based on said data if all it did was sit in a big and boring database. PerfectCube takes sales data and turns it into graphs, charts, and infographics that look like they were designed by a famous designer. They’re done that way because seeing the data makes it actionable, and intelligently advised action creates better companies. So bravo, PerfectCube.
This was a landmark year for ShotTracker. Very little can be written about them that already been written – so we’re going to attempt to come at it from a different angle. Quick recap of their year: made their product better, made more of them, sold more of them, raised a bunch of money, got a lot of great press, etc. But what’s not as obvious is how despite being in the midst of such an obviously busy year, there is not one time where the entrepreneurial city (including us), reached out to their founders for advice or mentorship (either Bruce or Davyeon), and they didn’t generously give it. They represent what it truly means to be a leader of entrepreneurs.
Stackify doesn’t get enough credit. First off, it’s founded by Matt Watson, who has an unwavering passion for empowering programmers across the world. Stackify does that by helping sniff out bugs in code prior to them becoming more problematic (layman’s elevator pitch). Secondly, we also admire how heads down they are. They don’t appear to come up for much air, which is inspiring. Only those who are truly paying attention notice they are acquiring paying customers from some of the biggest and fastest growing businesses in the world.
Startland News has an interesting problem that BetaBlox can majorly sympathize with. They’re a startup that reports on startups; which makes it hard to remember that they are, in fact, building something from nothing (much like the people they’re reporting on). But that’s the hallmark of a great startup: they don’t appear to be doing anything from scratch despite the fact that this is exactly what they’ve done. So we’d like to send a formal sign of respect to their team for truly being a startup, yet coming across with the grace and experience of a decade old firm. But most importantly, they’re helping redefine what it means to publish high-end content in a digital world. We doubt the other publishing houses in Kansas City aren’t taking notes.
“I’ve never seen anyone do more, with less” – Blake Miller speaking about the SquareOffs founding team. “Ditto” – us. Although we’re going with the whole ‘minimalist’ description of their company here – there’s not very many compliments that mean more to an angel investor than this one.
There you have it Kansas City – the startups that we admire the most, especially relative to what they accomplished in the last calendar year. If 2017 is half as valuable as 2016, Kansas City entrepreneurs will continue to add credibility to the claim that we are indeed, the most entrepreneurial city in America.