A (belated) midyear look at the “10 Silicon Prairie startups to watch”

One counts McDonald's among its account holders, another carries recognition from the SXSW Interactive Awards and another had its product featured on the PBS News Hour. Seven months ago, none of these milestones had been achieved, but we've seen quick progress and achievements. In January, I presented a list of 10 Silicon Prairie companies that

In May, the six-month old Zapier team made the move to Mountain View, Calif. after being accepted to Y Combinator.

One counts McDonald’s among its account holders, another carries recognition from the SXSW Interactive Awards and another had its product featured on the PBS News Hour. Seven months ago, none of these milestones had been achieved, but we’ve seen quick progress and achievements.

In January, I presented a list of 10 Silicon Prairie companies that I deemed “startups to watch in 2012.” My reasons for choosing the 10 ranged from experienced entrepreneurs as founders to noteworthy investors behind them, or just an interesting product that could possibly disrupt an industry. 

Today, we revisit that list just with a (belated) midyear check-in, catching up with the companies and pointing out what to keep an eye on in the months ahead. (Descriptions below from company websites.)


Kansas City, Kan.

“Leap2 is a mobile search app that delivers web, image, local and social results … and now we’re introducing ‘Living Search’.”

Co-founder: Mike Farmer

The eye-opener: The one-day high for searches performed is 25,000, according to co-founder and CEO Mike Farmer.

Keep an eye on: Leap2 released its Leap It feature Tuesday as part of version 3.0. The new feature uses Leap2’s “Living Search” platform, which allows searches to “live on” for a period of six hours, one day or one week. “We can always use apps rethinking how we’re using our mobile devices, especially for a category like search or discovery,” Erica Ogg of GigaOm wrote.

Links: leap2.com, AngelList, CrunchBase @Leap2App, Facebook Page and SPN coverage


Marion, Iowa

“Syncbak is a media technology company that has created an internet broadcast platform and live TV app for smartphones and tablets. Its technology enables broadcasters and studios to maintain territorial exclusivity while distributing live television content OTT to mobile devices.”

Founder: Jack Perry (@JackPerry_TV)

The eye-opener: The average Syncbak mobile viewer watches 20 minutes per day, according to the company’s founder and CEO Jack Perry.

Keep an eye on: After unveiling its app in January, Syncbak sealed contracts with broadcasters that put it in 10 beta test markets, including the San Francisco area. According to Sycbak’s website, it will launch in four more markets soon.

Links: syncbak.com, AngelListCrunchBase@SyncbakFacebook Page and SPN coverage


Iowa City, Iowa

“ActiveGrade is a standards-based gradebook that provides insight into student strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to target lesson plans, engage students individually and improve as a teacher.”

Co-founders: Michal Eynon-Lynch (@AGMichal), Riley Eynon-Lynch (@RileyLark) and Dan Sweeney (@FloatingBoxes)

The eye-opener: People signing up for trials and schools are requesting invoices for whole schools, according to co-founder Michal Eynon-Lynch.

Keep an eye on: “In addition to improving the program itself, we’ve been busy creating educational materials about Standards-Based Grading and will be leading professional development workshops at schools around the country this fall,” Michal Eynon-Lynch said in a recent email.

Links: activegrade.com@ActiveGrade and Facebook Page



Kansas City, Mo.

“Cognovant Inc. is a consumer health company specializing in mobile personal health record technology.”

Co-founders: Dr. Joe Ketcherside (@joeketch) and Stanley L. Pestotnik

The eye-opener: Less than two weeks after announcing its $500,000 seed round, Cognovant released its first product, PocketHealth.

Keep an eye on: Cognovant is developing modules for more complex medical problems, such as diabetes, and exploring potential partnerships with organizations who are seeking ways to engage patients in improving their health, according to co-founder and CEO Dr. Joe Ketcherside.

Links: cognovant.com and @Cognovant



Des Moines, Iowa

“Locusic is a music streaming service focused on local bands/musicians.”

Founder: Jake Kerber (@JakeKerber)

The eye-opener: Since January 4, Iowa and Minnesota artists added more than 650 songs to Locusic’s library, according to founder Jake Kerber.

Keep an eye on: Central Iowa and the Twin Cities will remain Locusic’s pilot markets as it improves its product over the coming months, according to Kerber, who said his company is taking a lean startup approach.

Links: locusic.com, @LocusicFacebook Page and SPN coverage


Omaha, Neb.

“Social media and news tracking solutions for campaigns, news outlets, advocacy groups, non-profits, political issues and more.”

Co-founders: Jimmy Winter (@JimmyWinter), Gordon Whitten (@AceMan101) and Shannon Schlappi (@DramaClub)

The eye-opener: VoterTide data has been used by Adweek, PBS News Hour, Businessweek and the Lincoln Journal Star.

Keep an eye on: As election day nears, VoterTide’s social media data and VoterTide Alerts should become increasingly important to candidates.

Links: votertide.com, CrunchBaseAngelList@VoterTideFacebook Page and SPN coverage


Columbia, Mo. (Currently Mountain View, Calif.)

“Zapier makes it easy to sync data between web apps.”

Co-founders: Bryan Helmig (@ByranHelmig), Wade Foster (@WadeFoster) and Mike Knoop (@MikeKnoop)

The eye-opener: In May, the then six-month old startup was accepted into Y Combinator’s summer class, prompting an immediate move to Mountain View, Calif.

Keep an eye on: Last week, Zapier released its developer platform, letting users and vendors add their own apps to their service instead of needing to wait on the startup to offer the integration.

Links: zapier.com, @Zapier and Facebook Page


Front Flip

Overland Park, Kan.

“Front Flip is a leading provider of customer engagement solutions that offer businesses a fun and easy way to connect with customers at the point of purchase and beyond.”

Co-founders: Sean Beckner (@SeanBeckner), Matt Beckner (@MatthewBeckner), Bart Janssen (@BartJ78) and Chris Horsefield

The eye-opener: Front Flip surpassed 200,000 registered users on its platform and is growing quickly, according to co-founder and CEO Sean Beckner.

Keep an eye on: It released version 2.0 of its business portal and app, which is currently being used by national brands such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Arby’s, Boston Market, Firehouse Subs and Hooters.

Links: frontflip.com, CrunchBase@FrontFlip, Facebook Page and SPN coverage


Kansas City, Mo.

“LiveOn enables you to capture your life and share it with the ones you love.”

Founder: Jonathan Whistman (@JWhistman)

The eye-opener: LiveOn was one of five finalist in the “technical achievement” category of the South by Southwest Interactive Awards. 

Keep an eye on: The startup has been quiet lately, but ealier this year founder and CEO Jonathan Whistman said LiveOn would announce when it hits 50,000 users. LiveOn also released its second version to kick off the year.

Links: liveon.com, AngelList, @LiveOn and SPN coverage


Sporting Innovations

Kansas City, Mo.

“Sporting Innovations, LP is focused on developing and deploying next-generation technology to support the sports and entertainment industry, as well as its patrons.”

Founder: Sporting Club

The eye-opener: Its Fan360 platform was awarded with the Product Innovation Award from TheStadiumBusiness Awards 2012. This award recognizes a product or service that has uniquely transformed and improved the way stadiums, arenas and sports venues do business.

Keep an eye on: “Increasingly, the news of our success and progress has led to many more market opportunities which we will pursue to expand the Fan360 platform globally,” Sasha Victorine of Sporting Innovations said in a recent email.

Links: sporting-innovations.com@SportingInnov, Facebook Page and SPN Coverage


Want to see more?

Keep an eye on these five as well:


Credits: Photo courtesy Zapier.


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