Kansas City goes by many names—Paris of the Plains, the City of Fountains, and now? Silicon Prairie. Thanks to an influx of startups and incubators, as well as increased connectedness throughout the metropolitan area because of Google Fiber and smart-city initiatives, Kansas City is quickly becoming known for its technology landscape. Whether companies are disrupting co-working, athletics, or souvenirs, these businesses are some of the most innovative startups from Kansas City.
There are vending machines throughout MCI but take a second look, because some aren’t filled with snacks but instead with bite-sized souvenirs. SouveNEAR puts items made by local artisans, such as T-shirts, dog treats, and cards in one place where they can be quickly purchased upon arrival or departure. Although the first machines were placed at the Kansas City International Airport, SouveNEAR has since expanded both east and west to New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, and California.
Sock101 is known for colorful socks that pay homage to Kansas City with hearts and the city’s logo. But they’re not just a local retailer. Sock 101 designs and manufacturers wholesale socks as a creative touchpoint for companies or for special occasions.
They also offer a Sock of the Month club, where subscribers choose one pair from three designs of the month, shipped directly to their doorstep. Featured on Project Runway: Fashion Startup in 2016, the company received investments from two top designers totaling $250,000.
Kansas City Baby Company
Two-year-old Kansas City Baby Company was started by a mother of four. After she was spending lots of time researching the best products for her children, she decided to open a highly curated one-stop-shop. Kansas City Baby Company stocks everything from cloth diapers to wooden teething toys, separating everything out in an easy-to-browse website. There’s even a Made in Missouri section for those looking to support local businesses.
When it comes to money, many people are at a loss on how to manage it. And even though it’s easy to contribute to a 401(k) plan, it’s much harder to understand what exactly you’re investing in—or what to expect in return. Enter Blooom. Before entering any agreements, link your 401(k) to Blooom for a free check-up. After they give you a diagnostic overview of your retirement-savings health, if you decide you’re in need of their services, Blooom will advise you yearly for a small fee. But instead of getting a transactional experience, the co-founders of Blooom set out to give customers a warm, personal experience you won’t get from big management firms or advisories.
Think of FitBark as a FitBit for dogs. Monitoring pet’s activity, heart rate, rest, and even the calories they have burned, the tracker is designed to keep your pet’s health top-of-mind. Even Animal Planet believes in FitBark’s mission and has invested in the company. A positive byproduct of customer’s using FitBark with their pets is the amount of data that has come from the fun—worldwide, the favorite time to walk dogs is 6 p.m.—to the informative —osteoarthritis typically reduces your dog’s activity by 30 percent. Even though the product is used in countries all over the world, FitBark fittingly calls Kansas City home, with headquarters located in the Animal Health Corridor.
Co-working spaces are not a new idea but they have grown exponentially in popularity over the last several years, both in Kansas City and across the country. Plexpod is yes, a co-working space, but it offers more than traditional office space, conference rooms, and cubicles. In addition to variously sized offices, Plexpod has a full range of amenities including a gym, kitchen, bar, gaming, and fresh coffee. But what sets it apart is how it brings business and creative outlets together under one roof with a podcast booth, dance studio, theater, and photography studio.
Going to an auto-body shop to get new tires or have your existing ones rotated is one of the most boring errands there is. Not much is ever waiting for you in the waiting room, other than stale or no coffee, 2002 People magazines, and whatever music happens to be playing, which is somehow always your least favorite kind. Enter Zohr, a tire shop on wheels that delivers to wherever you are whether you’re at your home or office. Most of Zohr’s services, which include flat-tire fixes, pressure monitoring, replacement, and rotation take less than two hours.
Food & Drink
Balance the Superfood Shot
All of us seem to have less time to do everything we need to in a day, let alone eat or drink everything we need to. Formulated with pure fruits and veggies, Balance comes in three types—Turmeric, Immunity, and Foundation—each of which has half the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables. Balance recently received more than two million dollars in funding, including from Dreampact Ventures, co-founded by a former chief sales officer of Anheuser-Busch. Packaged in a small bottle, Balance is easy to grab and drink on the go.
Beer lover Colin Elwell created DraftPak after a bolt of inspiration when wondering if there was a better way to tap a keg. His curiosity led him to create DraftPak, an easily portable and reusable system for kegs. Simple to use, DraftPak attaches to any keg, putting the beer of your choice on draft, making it easier to pour and more aesthetically pleasing. DraftPak does double duty as both a conduit and a cooler, instantly chilling beer and keeping it cold.
Happy Food Co.
Meal-planning kit company Happy Food Co. noticed that while meal kits like Blue Apron and HelloFresh aim to make people’s lives easier by sending weekly meals, daily life has too many variables. Ultimately, even with the best intentions, some meals from meal kits can still go to waste. That’s where Happy Food Co. comes in. Using ingredients from local sources, the company’s meals are purchased over the counter just with the next day or two in mind, making them far less wasteful than other companies. Since being founded in 2015, Happy Food Co. meals are available in approximately 80 retail locations across the metro including Price Choppers and Hen Houses.
Small-batch, handmade, and local, healthful beverage Tea-Biotics Kombucha is Kansas City’s entry into the rapidly growing kombucha drink market. Tea-Biotics is experiencing rapid growth itself, with clients including St. Luke’s Hospital, the Kansas City Royals, Sporting Kansas City, and the Kansas City Chiefs. At Tea-Biotics’ taproom in Lenexa two dozen flavors are on draft for sampling—in unique flavors including coffee and lavender—which have won it a legion of loyal fans.
Athlete Network is a social network exclusively for athletes. Some people might ask, “Aren’t there Facebook groups or Instagram accounts where athletes can bond?” Of course. But what the founder of Athlete Network, Chris Smith, identified was what all athletes have in common—a competitive drive both on and off the field. The Athlete Network provides tailored experiences to college students, professional athletes, and those who have retired or transitioned into other careers. The Athlete Network also provides exclusive content from the likes of Jerry Rice and Warren Moon.
As the home to some of the best sports teams in the country, it should be no surprise that ShotTracker is from Kansas City, too. The Magic Johnson-backed software outfits both regular basketballs and players with sensors as well as anchors wherever the game is being played. In combination, the three components provide instant feedback to players to help them improve their game. The software has spread in usage both locally and regionally, employed by UMKC, Kansas State, University of Kansas and beyond, including Texas Christian University, Oklahoma, and LSU. It’s even being used to track players in the NAIA’s Men’s National Championship Basketball Tournament.
Popular entertainment venues, including the escape room Breakout KC and ax-throwing bar Blade & Timber, are part of something bigger. They both fall under the parent company, Swell Spark, which is all about creating shared, interactive experiences. The founders have discovered success in unique ventures, and their latest output is Choir Bar, a hybrid choir/karaoke formed by a group of strangers in a location that changes regularly. Swell Spark has since expanded to Honolulu, Omaha, and Wichita, with plans for a Blade & Timber in Seattle soon.