FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jill Meyer, Senior Director, Technology Venture Studio
UMKC Innovation Center
Kansas City, Mo. (Jan. 4, 2021) — Digital Sandbox KC completed its fourth-quarter application cycle by adding six new companies to its roster, bringing the total number of startups awarded in 2021 to 20 and advancing the program’s mission to bring innovative ideas in the Kansas City region to life.
From diversity, equity and inclusion and skill-based ed-tech, to PAAS (Publishing as a Service), the latest companies selected for funding are building solutions in fast-growing industries. For Xreps co-founder Brandon Fuhr, receiving Sandbox funding opens up a pivotal opportunity.
“We have a Power Five conference NCAA Division I university ready to implement a pilot of XReps in 2022 and are thankful to have a local partner in Digital Sandbox KC providing these early-stage funds to help make that pilot a success,” Fuhr says.
“We’re thrilled to round out the year with six outstanding, new additions to the Sandbox,” says Jill Meyer, senior director of Technology Venture Studio at the UMKC Innovation Center. “We had a really strong quarter and saw the scalable, investment-worthy tech that some of our region’s most driven, innovative founders are building.”
Since the program’s inception in 2013, the Sandbox has provided project-development funding for 160 area startups, which has spurred an impressive $154 million in total follow-on funding.
Digital Sandbox KC is a proof-of-concept program that significantly and rapidly moves early stage entrepreneurs from concept to commercialization. It is a unique collaboration among private, public, university/research and philanthropic organizations.
“These six companies demonstrate the creativity and diversity of our region’s technology founders and problem solvers,” Meyer says. “We’re geared up to see even more tech in the new year and look forward to continuing to help innovators build viable, scalable solutions.”
Here’s more information on the six latest companies selected for Digital Sandbox KC support:
AZELLA — Grain Valley, Missouri
AZELLA is the only full-service SaaS marketing platform to include automated branding, dynamic website building, AI marketing and matchmaking for financial advisers.
“Gaining funding from Digital Sandbox KC is transformational for our growth trajectory,” says David Robertson, founder and CEO of Azella.” The investment will be used to accelerate development of our marketing platform to service thousands of financial advisers at scale. We could not be more thankful to have a program like Digital Sandbox KC in the area.”
InventXYZ — Kansas City, Missouri
InventXYZ is equipping high school students with cutting-edge, hands-on skills for the future. The company embeds real-world experiences in every high school so 100% of kids get immersed in hands-on STEM, computer science and artificial intelligence.
“The Digital Sandbox KC funding will allow us to kickstart our Mixed Reality curriculum and partner with professional game developers and motion capture animators,” says Nikil Ragav, CEO of InventXYZ. “Kids will get to learn how to make virtual-reality experiences from real professionals, like you would with MasterClass. In the process, students have to learn the history so they can make their recreation as accurate as possible.”
MoodSpark (aka Telememory) — Kansas City, Kansas
MoodSpark is a digital companion that detects sadness and uplifts with memories, conversations and video visits from friends, families and caregivers.
“Digital Sandbox KC funding is instrumental to the tools we are building for our at-risk senior population,” says Eliot Arnold, CEO of MoodSpark. “We are preparing to launch our latest product concept across the next 50 end users. We are confident this investment will help us accelerate commercialization and growth.”
SEPOW — Kansas City, Missouri
SEPOW is the “Yelp” for diversity, equity and inclusion. The company provides a tech-driven approach designed to mitigate instances of discrimination by equipping business with effective solutions and empowering users.
“Receiving proof-of-concept funds from Digital Sandbox KC is a dream come true,” says Aishah Augusta-Parham, founder and CEO of SEPOW. “SEPOW is now able to build our technology, test demand, avoid large capital losses, receive guidance to prepare for follow-on funding and accelerate toward commercialization.”
PageMaster (aka Pocketale) — Overland Park, Kansas
PageMaster is an online social marketplace that helps authors, literary agents and publishers gain more context on one another to reduce slush piles, unconscious bias and submission error through context and clarity.
“The average literary agent receives 5,000 to 10,000 queries from aspiring authors each year,” says Jaquan Sirls, founder of PageMaster. “Within that year, approximately 95% of queries are rejected, resulting in only three to five authors being selected from the remaining 5%. The Digital Sandbox KC funds are helping me build an MVP to dramatically increase those odds for creators in both traditional and industry-disruptive ways.”
XReps — Olathe, Kansas
XReps delivers Extended Reality (XR) training & gaming products aimed at democratizing access to elite football training for the youth market, transforming quarterback training and evaluation at all levels of football and providing unique experiences to football fans worldwide. This is accomplished via XReps’ patent-pending XR platform.
“Digital Sandbox KC funding is helping us accelerate the launch of our enterprise dashboard used by football teams and camps,” says Xreps co-founder and CEO Brandon Fuhr.
Digital Sandbox KC is honored to support these new awardees and is accepting new applications for its first-quarter 2022 cycle and presentations. Visit
digitalsandboxkc.org for more information and to submit your idea.
About Digital Sandbox KC
Digital Sandbox KC, a program of the UMKC Innovation Center, is an unprecedented partnership among private companies, universities, entrepreneurial support organizations and government agencies across the Kansas City region and is designed to spur the creation of high growth companies. The Sandbox provides proof-of-concept resources, including market validation, prototyping and beta testing support to develop digital technologies within new and existing businesses.
About the UMKC Innovation Center
From whiteboard to boardroom, the UMKC Innovation Center partners with the university and the community to spark entrepreneurial efforts within our region and across the country. With a suite of high-impact programs, the center helps emerging and existing business owners — whether they are students, faculty or community members — hone their business basics, evaluate commercialization opportunities and connect with the right resources at the right time. Innovation Center programs include the Missouri Small Business Development Center, Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Whiteboard2Boardroom, Digital Sandbox KC, ScaleUP! Kansas City, Growth360, SourceLink, MOSourceLink and KCSourceLink.