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Ten Silicon Prairie startups to watch in 2013

Peter Meng (above), the founder of AdFreeq, recently participated in a St. Louis accelerator.

Eyes were on the Silicon Prairie in 2012 as the startup community in and around Kansas City, Omaha and Des Moines earned attention from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and other outlets. Startups like Dwolla, MindMixer and Hudl were mentioned in many of those stories, as their milestones have earned them a place in the public eye. But who will be the Silicon Prairie startups in those same stories in 2013?

For the second year in the row, I’ve put together a list of 10 startups to watch as they work to earn attention and, more importantly, traction. My reasons for choosing these startups range from the experienced entrepreneurs founding them to noteworthy investors backing them to the interesting, potentially disruptive products they offer.

Achievements of last year’s to-watch startups included admission into Y Combinator and recognition at South by Southwest Interactive. More than half of last year’s pack raised new funding.

Here are 10 Silicon Prairie-based startups to watch in 2013 (in alphabetical order):


Columbia, Mo.

Real-time classifieds

Why watch: Revealed at Launch in March, the Craigslist competitor later earned a spot in a St. Louis accelerator and a grant to develop its offering in China.

See: adfreeq.com, AngelList and @AdFreeq


Prairie Village, Kan.

Online marketplace for responsibly raised meat

Why watch: One the region’s most-hyped startups of 2012, the online marketplace is equipped with cash and a staff in Kansas City and San Francisco to roll out its online platform for meat producers, wholesalers and retailers.

See: aglocal.com, AngelList, @AgLocal and SPN coverage.

Crop Ventures


Agriculture tech startup

Why watch: Brothers with farming in their family history raised a $1 million seed round in 2012 to begin building products for the ag industry, which they believe is ripe with opportunity.

See: cropventures.com, @CropVentures and SPN coverage


Lincoln, Neb.

Hardware-software combo to prescribe weightlifting regimens and collect and analyze data from them

Why watch: With early customers that include Universities of Nebraska and Kansas, the Nebraska Global-funded startup can flex is muscles in its second year of operation.

See: eliteform.com, @Elite_Form and SPN coverage.


Lenexa, Kan.

Authentication software for mobile devices

Why watch: Toby Rush, who led the sale and later merger of his previous company, is now behind a startup that’s on a mission to make a Missouri-developed technology the standard for mobile security.

See: eyeverify.com, AngelList, @EyeVerify and SPN coverage.



West Des Moines, Iowa

Online marketplace for handmade goods going up against Etsy

Why watch: The Silicon Prairie’s New Startup of the Year is fresh off a holiday marketing push and ready to launch a new product its CEO said is “going to disrupt the craft fairs, art shows (and) farmers’ markets.”

See: goodsmiths.com, AngelList, @Goodsmiths and SPN coverage



Kansas City, Mo.

Maker of schoolwork management apps for students and teachers

Why watch: With a popular app for students, the startup’s three co-founders quit their day jobs in 2012 to add an app for teachers and enhance that app for students.

See: instin.com and SPN coverage.


Prairie Village, Kan.

Inventory management software for retailers of unique merchandise

Why watch: The startup capped off a year of honors and awards with a Series A round that will be used to enhance its technology and customer outreach.

See: invenquery.com and SPN coverage


RAZ mobile

Overland Park, Kan.

Fundraising app for mobile phones

Why watch: Launched by a former manager at Sprint, the mobile fundraising platform closed a Series A round in late 2012 to make hires, acquire office space and roll out product enhancements.

See: razmobile.com, @RAZ_Mobile and SPN coverage.



Kansas City, Mo.

Software that aims to make troubleshooting and support easier for software developers

Why watch: Matt Watson is tackling a problem he found while building his last startup, one that he sold to Autotrader.com for more than $125 million.

See: stackify.com, AngelList, @Stackify and SPN coverage.

Also keep an eye on…

Bloom (Omaha) – The social beauty store quickly hit a member milestone and closed a Series A round in 2012.

Bulu Box (Lincoln, Neb.) – With healthy New Year resolutions all around, the less than a year-old health and wellness subscription service could capture more customers in early 2013.

Hatchlings (Des Moines) – It’s the only startup on this list that’s been around for more than two years, but Hatchlings is here because it entered into what it called a “re-startup phase” in 2012 and this year plans to release a new game.

Montessorium (Sioux Falls, S.D.) – After a husband-and-wife team released an educational app in 2010, the duo went on to release three more and, in the last year, added two employees to its team. 

PaySafe (Omaha) – After expanding its service to new verticals in 2012, the online closing table could go even further in 2013.


Credits: Photo from rjonline.org.

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