Two Kansas City area startups attract venture capital

08/20/2014 10:43 AM

08/20/2014 7:03 PM

Two Kansas City area startups have attracted fresh venture capital from investor groups to expand their businesses.

EyeVerify Inc., based in Kansas City, Kan., on Wednesday said it had lined up equity funding of more than $6 million from a Chinese security company, Qihoo 360 Technology, plus Wells Fargo and Sprint.

But the largest deal, also announced Wednesday, involved FarmLink. The Kansas City agribusiness company said it had obtained $40 million from venture capitalists, led by OpenAir Equity Partners. The other investors named were Thorndale Farm LLC, Don Walsworth, John Rose and Early Investments.

FarmLink recently launched a benchmarking tool that aims to more accurately show farmers the performance potential for their corn, soybean and wheat fields. The TrueHarvest Benchmark analyzes yield information on millions of acres and uses other publicly available data to give farmers crop production information.

“As the only provider of yield benchmarking in agriculture, FarmLink is changing how farmers measure performance and make investment decisions,” Ron LeMay, FarmLink’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. LeMay is a former Sprint president.

FarmLink said the investment funds came on the heels of the company’s partnership with the American Soybean Association. The partnership, called Operation Benchmark, will provide the TrueHarvest technology to the association’s members and other prospects, FarmLink said.

The company said its benchmarking system identified at least $11 billion in unrealized crop yield potential for U.S. soybean and corn farmers in 2013.

EyeVerify has patented biometric technology that uses “eyeprints” instead of passwords or fingerprints for identification on smart devices. The company designed software for mobile device cameras to capture images of blood vessels in the whites of the eye and match the image to confirm identity.

The investments bring EyeVerify’s total fundraising to about $10 million since it was founded, based on an idea developed by Reza Derakhshani, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Entrepreneur Toby Rush heads the company, which has brought the technology to market.

“No marketplace validation could be stronger than strategic investments by giants in the mobile space,” Rush said in a news release announcing the funding.

The new Series A funding round will allow EyeVerify to “drive mass adoption” of its technology into the financial service, mobile security, telecom, health care and government industries, company officials said.

EyeVerify reached international attention in 2013 when it won a Dutch-based entrepreneurial competition. It became an initial participant in the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator, an innovation boot camp for entrepreneurs working in the mobile security arena.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com.

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