At Techstars Kansas City demo day, startups pitch solutions to ‘real problems’

Nine founders of the Techstars Kansas City 2020 class pitched their companies to possible investors via Zoom on Thursday evening. Lesa Mitchell, managing director of Techstars Kansas City, said that this year’s class is a group with a common goal: solving “real problems.”

“Real problems are problems that everyday people have,” Mitchell said. “They are also problems that corporations have.”

The nine businesses started the three-month startup accelerator program in early June and capped it off with Thursday’s event, getting funding, mentorship and other resources along the way.

This summer marked a return to Kansas City for Techstars, which operates accelerator programs across the world, after a one-year hiatus. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the accelerator operated remotely.

Thursday’s event provided an opportunity for each startup to briefly pitch to investors and supporters.

Presenters included Courtroom5, a company created to address the expenses and unreliability of lawyers. Its mission is to teach people how to navigate the justice system through an automated legal toolbox.

Founder Sonja Ebron said that the product is more useful than ever given all of the legal issues that COVID-19 has created

“With all of the economic consequences of the pandemic, there’s going to be huge numbers of legal disputes,” Ebron said. “Most Americans won’t have a quality lawyer because they simply can’t afford (one).”

Another company from the cohort working to solve real problems, Cherry Blossom Intimates, makes lingerie for breast cancer survivors who have had a mastectomy. Founder Jasmine Jones said her company is the only intimate boutique that provides fully customizable lingerie with prosthetics.

“Most survivors shop the medical supply stores to get these items that they need,” Jones said. “We’re the first company that offers completely customizable, fully insurance-billable post-mastectomy prosthetics.”

Provider Pool, another of the companies in the cohort, focuses on solving problems for businesses. They provide an on-demand nursing platform for health care companies. Founder Janna Westbrook said the service improves how nurses are hired.

“The health care industry spends $20 billion on antiquated and patchwork staffing solutions from traditional staffing firms,” Westbrook said. “Our platform saves facilities money on labor and saves time.”

YearOne provides a similar service, but for coding students. The startup’s platform is designed to help companies find coders from groups traditionally underrepresented in tech jobs after they complete coding bootcamps.

Thursday’s event included a number of investors explaining how important it is to keep investing in early-stage companies. Mitchell echoed the sentiment.

“Early-stage companies are the backbone of the economy,” she said. “If we don’t focus on them, we all will lose.”

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