Ideas and venture capital collide at InvestMidwest conference

InvestMidwest Thurs. April 2 at the Kansas City Downtown Sheraton. Photo by Philip Joens/ Missouri Business Alert.
InvestMidwest attracted entrepreneurs and investors from across the Midwest for its 16th year.  | Philip Joens/ Missouri Business Alert

Entrepreneurs from 44 companies across 12 states gathered Thursday to hawk their products and services to investors at the InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum in downtown Kansas City.

Twenty-one Missouri companies from the tech, life sciences and biotechnology sectors presented at the event, which gives entrepreneurs the chance to interact with potential funders and provides investors the opportunity to see companies they would like to invest in or already are funding.

St. Louis-based Pushup Social, a startup building technology to help companies and organizations foster social conversations on their websites, attended InvestMidwest. Dan Peskorse, Pushup Social’s vice president of business development, said his firm wants to change the way users engage with websites.

“What we want to do is we want to make sure that interaction is happening on your site so you don’t have to leave your site to get that peer validation,” Peskorse said. “So not only is it an actual community that  you can sign up for on your site, it also allows you to push those messages and those posts out to other social networks to drive traffic back to your site.”

Skyspec Co-Founder Danny Ellis attempts to fly a drone into a hallway's walls Thurs. April 2. at the Kansas City Downtown Sheraton. Photo by Philip Joens/ Missouri Business Alert.
Companies presenting Thursday included Skyspecs, which makes sensors for aerial drones. | Philip Joens/ Missouri Business Alert

Danny Ellis, co-founder of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Skyspecs, also came to InvestMidwest. In one of the venue’s hallways, he demonstrated his company’s technology, flying a drone and trying to cause it to collide with a nearby wall. But the drone, equipped with sensors developed by Skyspecs, would not crash.

“We like to say we make the eyes and brains for drones,” Ellis said. “As it’s flying, it can see obstacles and not run into them. Businesses want to deploy drones, but they can’t just hire a bunch of professional pilots. So we want people to fly around structures.”

Dan Broderick is vice president of BioGenerator, a nonprofit organization that supports and invests in bioscience companies in the St. Louis area. Several BioGenerator companies presented at InvestMidwest.

Broderick started attending the conference 14 years ago and said it allows investors to find great companies to invest in without the facing the same competition they might contend with elsewhere.

“The national investors who come here come because it’s not as competitive as it is competitive for the deals,” Broderick said. “On the West Coast, investors lose deals all the time. Here, if they put a bid on a deal, most likely they’ll get it.”

Companies split up into three rooms, and presentations began at 8:55 a.m. Less than three hours later, the last pitches were complete.

Broderick said that the compact nature of the conference, coupled with its pool of quality investors and companies, makes the event one of the best in the Midwest.

“It’s really the best Midwest venture capital showcase on an annual basis and has been for a decade or more, ” Broderick said. “This is really a good meeting.”

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