KC startup Blooom wins Kauffman Foundation’s One in a Million pitch contest

Blooom co-founder and CEO Chris Costello (center) accepts a $10,000 check presented by Kansas City Mayor Sly James after Blooom wins the Kauffman Foundation's inaugural One in a Million pitch contest on November 18, 2015. | Courtesy of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Blooom co-founder and CEO Chris Costello (center) accepts a $10,000 check presented by Kansas City Mayor Sly James after Blooom wins the Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural One in a Million pitch contest on November 18, 2015. | Courtesy of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

From an initial pool of 377 applicants, Leawood, Kan.-based startup Blooom emerged Wednesday as the winner of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural One in a Million pitch contest.

Blooom, which makes a web-based system for managing a 401(k) account, edged out four other finalists to claim the $10,000 grand prize.

The contest, announced in July, was open to startups that had presented at 1 Million Cups, an entrepreneurial event born out of the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation and now held each week in more than 75 cities.

Blooom, which was founded in 2013 by Chris Costello, Kevin Conard and Randy AufDerHeid, met that requirement. The startup makes an an online tool for 401(k) management that aims to make allocating funds within a retirement account easier for those who have little or no financial knowledge. Using the image of a flower to illustrate the health of an account, Blooom takes information from a user’s online investment provider to make suggestions for how funds should be allocated.

The program not only gives advice and shows how changes to certain inputs affect outcomes, but it also helps users adjust the equity-to-bond ratios of their accounts as retirement draws closer.

Blooom provides all of this for $15 a month for accounts with more than $20,000, or $1 a month for accounts with less than $20,000.

The company’s CEO Chris Costello, who presented during Wednesday’s final round, said Blooom is not trying to steal clients from financial advisers. Instead, he said, the company is trying to help people who have no idea what they’re doing with their retirement accounts.

On Wednesday, each of the finalists had six minutes to present. That was then followed by four minutes of questions from the judges — CEO Marcelo Claure, Techstars Chief Product Officer Nicole Glaros and Bay Area Growth Fund founder Miriam Rivera — and two minutes of questions from the audience.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James presented checks to the top three teams. Drybox, a self-serve kiosk that aims to save phones after they get wet, took home $5,000 for finishing second. SwineTech, a firm attempting to save the lives of piglets, won the $1,000 third prize.

The video below offers a glimpse of several of the startups that entered the inaugural One in a Million competition.


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