NXTSTAGE Pilot Competition Announces 2020 Finalists

NXTUS's innovation, talent initiative attracts global interest, forges on through pandemic

The NXTSTAGE Pilot Competition today announced 33 finalists spanning the three focus areas of its inaugural program: Financial Technology, Industry 4.0 and Community Health & Vibrancy.

During the first quarter of 2020, NXTSTAGE attracted 142 initial competitors -- from six continents, 35 countries and 20 states -- trying to get in front of prospective pilot partners and customers here.

"We are extremely encouraged by the traction NXTSTAGE has gained, despite the disruptions of the last few months,” said Josh Oeding, NXTUS President and CEO. "The value proposition is clearly resonating with startups, who are eager to collaborate with our local companies and organizations." The inclusiveness of the competition pool was also encouraging; applicants had 50 percent non-white founders overall and 20 percent of the startups had female founders; 15 percent, Black founders; and 15 percent, Hispanic founders.

"The program's dual goals -- to help promising young companies grow and to foster innovation in our existing businesses and community organizations -- are exactly what our region must focus on to attract modern talent and build a brighter, more nimble future out of this current crisis," said Oeding.

Because of its unique approach to attracting and retaining a tech-oriented workforce, the competition was made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Talent Ecosystem Fund at the Wichita Community Foundation. For now, NXTSTAGE finalists are getting introduced to Wichita virtually through online meetings and presentations. Plans call for bringing finalists to the area when restrictions don't impede the startups' ability to get to know the community better and meet face to face with local decision-makers.

NXTSTAGE's 33 finalists offer ready-to-use technologies deemed most promising to add value for local corporate and community partners looking to innovate. Not all NXTSTAGE tracks will proceed to awarding pilots in 2020, given COVID-19-related disruptions experienced by local manufacturing and community partners.

The competition's Financial Technology track has moved forward most quickly, as founding partners Emprise Bank, Fidelity Bank and INTRUST Bank aggressively implement new digital capabilities to benefit their businesses and customers.

In the second quarter, total NXTSTAGE applicants grew to 263, spurred by a reopening of the competition's Community Health & Vibrancy track on behalf of KMUW public radio. KMUW is seeking innovative tools to enable news and community engagement to reach the community, including currently under-served people, via innovative personalized delivery systems. Two finalists remain in competition for a pilot project with KMUW.

“For a first-year effort, launched at a time like this, to get this level of response and make this much progress is heartening,” said Mary Beth Jarvis, NXTUS Executive Director. “It certainly seems to affirm the tremendous potential for NXTSTAGE to drive our local innovation culture and help position us as the ‘Pilot Capital of the World,’ where young companies want to come and showcase their offerings.”

To learn more about the Pilot Competition and the 33 selected finalists, visit NXTSTAGE.io.



Categories: Entrepreneurship

Tags: Entrepreneurship, FinTech, Innovation, Startups