Flashing lights, thumping tunes and wild cheering. Oh, and a boxing ring, too.
How else would you celebrate and showcase eight of the hottest U.S. startups? That’s how Kansas City did it this week at Get in the Ring: The American Startup Clash.
The event at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation on Monday was among dozens of gatherings in the area and hundreds across the world that all are part of the foundation’s Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Drazil Foods from Minnesota, Mana Nutrition from North Carolina, PopVox from California and EyeVerify, Kansas City’s hometown representative, were among the final eight - out of nearly 300 startups that applied - vying for a chance to go to the global Get In the Ring finals in Rotterdam. The winner represents the United States later this week, competing for more than $1 million in angel funding in the final stage of this year’s competition founded by the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship in the Netherlands.
“Tonight we will see which one will deliver the knockout punch – or pitch,” quipped James Digby, emcee for the night and cofounder of Rockstart Accelerator, an award-winning startup incubator in Amsterdam.
Sprint was a proud sponsor of the first-ever U.S. Get in the Ring competition.
It’s a great way to draw attention to all of the wonderful entrepreneurs in the United States, as well as directing attention to Kansas City as a growing hub for startups and high-tech ventures, said Kevin McGinnis, a Sprint vice president.
Big companies have a lot to offer startups, and they can get a lot back in return, McGinnis said. When corporations help a fledgling venture refine technology or business approach, they can get closer to the latest advances an entrepreneurial spirit needed to bring breakthrough innovations to life.
This is why Sprint is teaming with Techstars to start the Sprint Accelerator for Mobile Health.
“We are looking for the best and the brightest as it relates to mobile health,” McGinnis said.
The startup founders weren’t the only ones caught up in the spirit of competition at Monday’s event. McGinnis said he wanted to see more companies work with entrepreneurs.
“I would like to throw out a challenge to all of my corporate peers,” McGinnis said. “I would challenge all of them to get more involved in this community.”
The Sprint accelerator will welcome its inaugural class next spring (if interested, apply here). Monday night, though, belonged to the eight Get In the Ring competitors.
EyeVerify has a technology that creates an “eyeprint” capable of providing biometric security for mobile devices instead of requiring a password. Toby Rush, an experienced entrepreneur who is EyeVerify’s CEO and founder, said his company has the right team and the right technology at the right time to be successful.
He was a crowd favorite and emerged as the judge’s top selection, sending him to Rotterdam for Friday’s global finals. Rush was grateful for the supportive audience and all those coming together to strengthen the entrepreneurial community in this region.
“Kauffman, you do so much for entrepreneurs in this city and in this nation,” Rush said. “I’ll see you guys in a week.”