4 MU startups secure first investments from $2.1M accelerator fund

The Missouri Innovation Center has announced the first four startups that will receive investment through its $2.1 million Mid-MO Tech Accelerator fund, and more deals could be on the way soon.

Innovation center leadership has been screening startups that work with digital technologies, considering the product, team and market of each company that applies.

“All four of these had a good lineup with all three things,” said Bill Turpin, president and CEO of the Missouri Innovation Center, a Columbia organization that supports high-growth businesses and runs the accelerator fund. “All four are in huge, growing markets.”

The four startups are:

  • NVisionAg, which was founded by Peter Scharf, a plant sciences professor at the University of Missouri. The agricultural product uses aerial photos from planes, drones or satellites to generate data designed to help farmers optimize fertilizer application.
  • Recordly, an iOs application that enables users to instantly create and share annotated transcripts of audio interviews. Recordly was created by a team of MU students, including Sintia Radu, Anna Maikova, Iaryna Mykhyalyshyn and John Gillis, for the 2016 Reynolds Journalism Institute Student Competition, which Recordly won.
  • eSports LLC, a startup founded by Connor Hall, a 2016 MU graduate and professional gamer. The company created EloScout, a collegiate sports recruiting service that helps schools build varsity competitive gaming programs. Columbia College, which launched its own gaming team at the start of the fall semester, was the company’s first client.
  • AdSwapper, a personalized ad blocker that allows users to control the online ads they see, and earn money by doing so. Amos Angelovici, a serial entrepreneur and MU’s current entrepreneur in residence, is the startup’s CEO.

Turpin declined to disclose the amount of money each company received, but he said the maximum amount one could get in the first round is $50,000. He added that some of the companies hit that number, while others came close.

Turpin and his team plan to invest all $2.1 million from the fund over three years, which is why they were eager to complete the first four deals. Turpin said they are working to invest in 30 total companies, and success from one of the first four could help other startups down the road.

“The clock is ticking,” he said. “All of these we had known about for a while, and we had encouraged them to apply. We’re hoping that one of our early investments will be successful so we can go raise money for other things. An early success means a lot to the fund from positioning and ability to raise more money.”

Turpin attended Columbia Startup Weekend earlier this month to build relationships with some of the startups formed there and to encourage them to apply for funding. He estimated that he saw five teams at the event that could be candidates for investment from the fund.

In addition, Turpin said several more companies just applied for funding from the accelerator, which he said is seeing good deal flow from local startups.

“There’s nothing in our fund that says we have to invest in local companies, but our desire is to not invest outside of the area until we run out of good companies,” Turpin said. “Right now, I’m pretty optimistic for the next year, year and a half, or two, that we’ll be able to keep it with local companies.”

Turpin said he plans to hold a meeting of the accelerator fund’s investment committee before the end of the semester to determine which companies are next in line for investment. He said the goal is for four or more companies to receive funding, which could be announced in December or January.

Companies interested in applying for funding can do so through the Missouri Innovation Center’s website.

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