UMKC’s new ‘Digital Sandbox’ joins a growing list of startup incubators in Missouri

Jan 31, 2013

The University of Missouri-Kansas City's Innovation Center is starting a new program to help entrepreneurs build sustainable high-tech startups and create jobs.

Gov. Jay Nixon and top executives from Sprint, Hallmark, Cernert Corp. and other businesses will be at the university Friday to inaugurate the Digital Sandbox KC.

Kansas City is becoming a burgeoning center for tech startup activity. KC's enviable Google Fiber is one big draw, offering tech companies ultra high speed internet at affordable prices. But you can't build a tech economy on internet alone

"There will be 2.5 tech jobs for every person trained to fill those jobs," said KC city councilman Mike Burke in an interview with NPR member station KCUR this September. "The cities that are going to succeed are the cities that are going to attract, nurture, train, keep, steal talent."

The project is funded partly with a $1 million dollar federal grant from the US Economic Development Administration.

Digital Sandboxes in Columbia

Columbia competed for the Google Fiber project but lost to Kansas City. Yet there's still a lot of tech and startup activity in our town and there some institutions a lot like KC's Digital Sandbox that's making it happen. Here are a few.


Credit Museao

Museao, located south of town near Grindstone and Nifong, is a shared workspace owned by local startup guru Brent Beshore. There are a few traditional looking "offices" but most people are mobile, working on their laptops in the building's wide open space littered with armchairs and couches. In addition to work space, Museao houses networking-type events like Startup Weekend.

Brent Bishore's own AdVentures is based out of this space, but it also houses notable Columbia startups Book'd, Service Noodle and Rockupied.

University Small Business & Technology Development Center

Decidedly lower profile than the flashy Museao building, the SBTDC is housed in the basement of the University of Missouri's engineering building. The office offers free business counseling and economic research for entrepreneurs and mid-sized companies.

The Brent and Erica Beshore Downtown Incubator

The crowd outside the Downtown Incubator's grand opening this summer.
Credit Scott Pham / KBIA

Partly modeled after Museao, this shared workspace is located right in the middle of Downtown Columbia on the ground floor of the fifth street parking garage (KBIA covered its grand opening this summer). Inside, it's just desks and tables, but membership here gets you access to mentors (like Brent Bishore, who put up a lot of the money for the building) and Regional Economic Development, Inc., located on the same block.