By Kevin Collison
A Techweek packed with speakers, panel discussions and even a mayoral forum culminated Friday in a ceremony that rivaled the Golden Globes for giddy anticipation as $500,000 in grants were announced to promising startup firms.
As families and friends gathered with entrepreneurs in booths at No Other Pub with a beer or two to eagerly await the results, the fourth annual downtown event that drew an estimated 5,000 people to Union Station last week came to its conclusion.
The winner of the LaunchKC Startup Grants grand prize of $100,000 was AgVoice, a firm based in Atlanta, that has developed a “voice to data” platform to allow agricultural professionals to record observations while keeping their hands free for other tasks.
“This grant is validation that Kansas City is one of our favorite cities,” said Aaron Gobin, co-founder of AgVoice. “We look forward to growing our presence here.”
That’s just what organizers hoped to hear.
“Our overall goal is if a business is not in Kansas City, they’ll bring the business here with the support not only of the grant money, but mentors and classes,” said Tommy Wilson, program manager for the Downtown Council.
“We want Kansas City to be a hub for tech startups. This class will come to Kansas City and mold businesses here and we hope they’ll stay in Kansas City and grow those businesses.”
The five days of Techweek sessions started Monday, and were capped that day by a mayoral candidate forum. And for the first time, two other big local tech events also were held during the week, the Techstars Kansas City Accelerator and the Big Data Summit.
The LaunchKC grant-award process began last summer with 568 firms responding. That number was whittled to 20 finalists who then were interviewed by judges Friday morning to determine the grant winners.
“We had an incredible pool of applicants to choose from,” Wilson said.
This year was the first time the finalists were announced at a bar, a move to provide a more festive atmosphere for the awards event.
In addition to AgVoice, eight other firms received $50,000 grants each to continue building their ideas: Boddle Learning, Kansas City; Bungiii, Overland Park; Digs, Chicago; Erkios Systems, Kansas City;
Just Play, Lawrence; PlaBook, Kansas City; Strayos, St. Louis, and Venture360, Lee’s Summit.
Don’t miss any downtown news, sign up for our weekly CityScene KC email review here.