When Digital Sandbox KC launched in February 2013, we were committed to tackling one of the most important problems facing the United States: how can we encourage the creation of more startups?
This isn’t simply “a nice thing to do.” It’s an essential part of a healthy economy. After all, most job growth comes from startups. If you don’t count the positions created by new firms, U.S. net employment would be negative in all but a few years, the Kauffman Foundation has found.
At Digital Sandbox KC, our solution has been to help young tech companies get from the idea stage to commercialization—one of the trickiest transitions in the life of a new venture.
Through the Sandbox, early-stage companies have received advice from experts in technology, business and marketing, as well as funding for market validation, prototyping, beta testing and other proof-of-concept services.
In its first 12 months of existence, Digital Sandbox KC has worked with more than 160 early-stage entrepreneurs and has funded development projects for 37 area technology startups. Of the 37, 22 are newly created companies, and 19 have already received follow-on funding of
more than $7 million.
More importantly, these 37 early-stage companies have brought 125 jobs to our metro area.
Digital Sandbox KC has been an unprecedented partnership involving private companies, universities, entrepreneurial support organizations and government agencies across the Kansas City region. The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded a crucial $1 million grant. The Missouri Technology Corporation and several local corporations have devoted vital resources to the project, too.
That initial funding has been exhausted, which is why Digital Sandbox KC is working to build a sustainable, longer-term funding model for the program so that it can not only continue, but scale to even higher levels.
This unique partnership was itself a “startup,” driven by the idea that you can stimulate meaningful job creation and economic development through a program designed to help move entrepreneurs from concept to prototype to commercialization.
And I’m proud to say we’ve quickly proven our idea drives the desired results—new companies and new jobs for Kansas City.
Jeff Shackelford is the executive director of Digital Sandbox KC. To learn more about how Digital Sandbox is helping drive entrepreneurial growth, visit digitalsandboxkc.com