Technology

Venture capital fund backs two local tech firms, adding to its KC-only portfolio

The KCRise Fund seeks to connect Kansas City area investors with startup businesses that have won backing from venture capital groups.
The KCRise Fund seeks to connect Kansas City area investors with startup businesses that have won backing from venture capital groups. File photo

A co-investment firm backing 12 other Kansas City tech startups with $6 million in venture capital has picked its next two investment targets.

With backing from Kansas City area corporations and families, KCRise Fund invested in PayIt, a "one-stop shop" solution allowing users to take care of government businesses from registering vehicles to paying utility bills.

The group also backed Main Street Data, a data analytics company helping farmers optimize their crop production.

KCRise Fund, led by Darcy Howe, was born out of the KC Rising initiative aimed at bolstering Kansas City's economic growth. The group invests in high-growth, early-stage technology companies exclusively in the Kansas City area — between Manhattan, Kan. and Columbia, Mo.

“We are somewhat unique in that our investors and our companies are all in the same town," Howe said.

Though it backs only hometown startups, KCRise Fund is often investing alongside large, established venture capital firms from New York, Chicago and Silicon Valley, Howe said. The group was founded in 2016 to spur investment in Kansas City.

KCRise Fund invests only in Kansas City area companies that are looking for at least $1 million and have an institutional investor in the fundraising round. Some companies find those big investors on their own. For others, KCRise Fund helps.

“We’re essentially matchmaking that," Howe said.

Overall, the 14 companies KCRise Fund is now backing have raised a collective $80 million, according to a news release. More than half of that money has come from investors outside Kansas City.

Companies like Main Street Data, which Howe compared to the car industry's J.D. Power, may seem like an obvious fit for Kansas City, Howe said. But the fund is backing Kansas City area companies across a variety of industries.

"We're finding some things ... could be built anywhere, but people are choosing to build them in Kansas City," Howe said.

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