Technology

The top Kansas City startups to watch in 2017

FitBark created an activity tracker for dogs.
FitBark created an activity tracker for dogs.

Kansas City’s burgeoning reputation as a hub for entrepreneurs isn’t just a result of loud cheerleading.

And that’s in large part because there is already an array of upstart young firms initiating innovation and driving disruption not only in their industries, but in society as a whole. To explore some of those companies, Startland News refreshed its annual list of top startups to watch in 2017.

The Startland team assessed more than 40 Kansas City startups. We arrived at this Top 10 ranking by evaluating each company’s team, current traction, potential to create jobs, societal and industry-specific disruptiveness and likelihood to create major news in 2017.

This isn’t an apples-to-apples list of what startups are making the most money. Rather, these are the companies we feel are best positioned to have a banner year in 2017.

Make sure to check out startlandnews.com to see the list in full.

C2FO

C2FO is without a doubt one of Kansas City’s most disruptive companies. Led by former UMB Bank CEO Sandy Kemper, the company created an online marketplace where buyers can negotiate with suppliers, earning quicker payments in exchange for discounts to free up cash that would be stuck in accounts receivable.

More than $1 billion per week travels through C2FO’s working capital trading platform. Now on the Forbes Fintech 50 list for two years running, C2FO’s consistent traction has allowed it to expand further into Europe and Asia.

Blooom

Leawood-based Blooom is addressing a massive problem, easing people’s confusion about saving for retirement. Millions of Americans don’t know what’s in their 401(k) plans or have any strategy for their investments.

The firm helps users grow their 401(k)s using a proprietary online tool that analyzes their accounts and shows their health through a flower in various growth stages. It then offers professional advice on how to allocate funds. In June, Blooom not only became the fastest robo-adviser to ever reach $300 million in assets under management, it snagged former FDIC chair Sheila Bair as an advisory board member. It now has 30 full-time employees.

Farmobile

Farmobile has a massive opportunity in the trillion-dollar farming industry with its agronomy hardware and software that together collect and present valuable farming data. The company’s hardware — a passive uplink connection that plugs into a tractor’s diagnostic port — is now being distributed by AGCO, a publicly traded, worldwide manufacturer of agricultural equipment. All information collected is owned by the farmer.

CEO Jason Tatge wants Farmobile to become the data company changing how farmers feed and fuel the world.

ShotTracker

Co-founders Bruce Ianni and Davyeon Ross are two entrepreneurial rock stars who love the game of basketball as much as creating innovative technology. For its first product, ShotTracker developed a wearable device for an individual basketball player. The device has three pieces — a wrist sensor, net sensor and mobile app — that track shot attempts, makes and misses. The firm’s second product can be used by entire teams to capture the same shooting metrics in real time.

ShotTracker continues to ink big-time partnerships. The firm landed Spalding, the largest basketball equipment provider in the world, and two high-profile investors: basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former NBA Commissioner David Stern.

PayIt

Procurement is a broken system delivering technology that’s often outdated by the time it reaches a government employee’s desk. But for Kansas City-based PayIt, what’s broken affords opportunity.

PayIt created a mobile and web app that streamlines citizens’ financial interactions with government agencies. PayIt has grown from easing the initial pain-point of working with the DMV to streamlining services for other government agencies, including permitting, taxes, licenses, citations and more.

In addition to winning a national pitch contest, PayIt recently was recognized as a top 100 government tech firm by GovTech.com. Previously the CEO of Saepio, CEO John Thomson seems fired up to fix the problem of financially interacting with government.

Athlete Network

Working with sports legends like Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry Rice and Warren Moon, Athlete Network made a splash after raising capital for its social network exclusively for athletes. A few weeks later, it announced that it had landed an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee to customize its platform for America’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

CEO Chris Smith said in July the company’s user base has grown more than 500 percent since the platform launched in January 2015.

SpiderOak

If the 2016 presidential election taught us anything, it’s that email isn’t secure. SpiderOak for years has been developing encrypted security tools that enable safer communication for teams and businesses.

Now with significant capital to fuel its growth, the company was also endorsed by Edward Snowden, a former contract worker who leaked classified information from the U.S. National Security Agency in 2013. The firm is focusing on one of the first-ever encrypted group chat and file-sharing tools, called Semaphor.

DivvyHQ

DivvyHQ spent 2016 lining up one high-profile client after another. Target, Lowe’s, DuPont, Mercedes-Benz and National Geographic are but a few of the companies using DivvyHQ’s content planning and collaboration platform.

The company nabbed the audience choice award for the top content creation, workflow and experience platform from the Content Marketing Institute. The platform will be getting a face-lift in 2017 that co-founders Brock Stechman and Brody Dorland think will make it even more attractive to customers.

Idle Smart

Idle Smart’s patented tech for the trucking industry is a brilliant piece of hardware: a “smart” thermostat for trucking fleets to save fuel, cut down on pollution and keep drivers comfortable.

The startup recently won $125,000 in a clean energy program and continues to grow. With solid traction and leadership, we’re expecting to see Idle Smart continue its growth and create news along the way.

FitBark

As more dog owners use FitBark’s activity tracker, more data become available for the company to sell to third parties or use in clinical settings. With a significant upside — not to mention an endless supply of adorable marketing content — 2017 is looking good for FitBark.

Bobby Burch is the editor of Startland News, a digital news service that reports on Kansas City technology and entrepreneurship. Follow Bobby on Twitter at @BobBurch and @StartlandNews

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