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Money in the tank: Health tech startup lands Pure Pitch Rally’s biggest catch of the day

The support of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial community — and the “land sharks” at this year’s Pure Pitch Rally — means the world to MedCurate founder and CEO Ashley McClellan, she shared.

“They have just wrapped their arms around me as I’ve transitioned from corporate America to the entrepreneurship space,” she continued. “I’m very grateful for their belief in what I know can fix healthcare and really provide better care for our community.”

2023 Pure Pitch Rally contenders: Bart Patenaude, Creative Technology Concepts; Jonathan Ruiz, EB Systems; Jonathan Gregory, EzBizPortal; Jim Atwater, InReturn Strategies; Ashley McClellan, MedCurate; Matt Williams, Noonan; Craig Mason, Raise Health Innovations; and Topher Enneking, STATSdraft; photo by Nikki Overfelt Chifalu, Startland News

MedCurate took home $24,000 at Monday’s Pure Pitch Rally, including the $3,000 Lockton Innovators Award. McClellan was one of eight tech startup founders who pitched to an audience of so-called land sharks — investors who donate one or more $1,000 checks to the pitcher(s) of their choice. The crowd each year is a who’s who of high-profile startup founders, backers, and community members.

After 20 years as healthcare executive, McClellan left to start her tech startup, which works to solve staffing shortages in the field by utilizing white-label technology and expertise to support and develop the workforce of the future — all while helping healthcare providers and healthcare organizations save money by maximizing the gig economy. 

“Staffing in the workforce is the No. 1 challenge and cost for hospitals at over 85 percent of total costs,” she explained. “These staffing challenges lead to ethical dilemmas on a daily basis.”

McClellan is working with two beta sites right now and plans to launch in the next few months, she said.

“These funds will help us go to market with a broader audience,” McClellan noted. “This will allow us to expand the platform for larger health systems and beyond the KC region.”

Melea McRae, Crux KC, leans forward to announce a funding award during the 2023 Pure Pitch Rally at the Burns & McDonnell Global Headquarters Auditorium; photo by Nikki Overfelt Chifalu, Startland News

Craig Mason, Raise Health Innovations, pitching during the 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Taylor Wilmore, Startland News

Another health tech startup — Raise Health Innovations, which integrates with communication tools to analyze healthcare conversations in real time, prompting professionals to detect mental health conditions and deliver support sooner — received $23,000 during the pitch competition, including the $3,000 People’s Choice Award.

“Like me, half of you in this room and around the world have experienced a major mental health battle,” said Craig Mason, founder and CEO, who told the audience that he contemplated suicide as a teen. “But 75 percent of us with mental health needs get no help at all. And for those that do, the average time is 11 years from first symptom to first treatment.”

Many land sharks cited a personal connection to the startup’s mission, which Mason shared is important to helping shatter the stigma around mental health.

“It’s so great to hear people say that they’ve had these experiences, too, and want to help us get there,” Mason told Startland News after the land sharks announced which startups they chose to fund. “We’ve got a big mission and we just really want to go help people. Seeing everybody here also raise their hand to be part of it really is special.”

Monday’s event marked the eighth edition of the pitch competition, and the second hosted at the Burns & McDonnell campus. 

“We built this network so you can see us give, and so you can see how business is done in Kansas City,” Karen Fenaroli, founder of the Pure Pitch Rally, told Monday’s crowd.

With enthusiasm and the prospect of groundbreaking innovations, each company pitched their vision, aiming to win over judges and secure essential funding. Additionally, Plexpod granted a year’s worth of office space to all eight presenters.

Here’s who received Pure Pitch Rally funding:

(Editor’s note: Funding totals are based on amounts announced during the Pure Pitch Rally event. Final, official funding totals had not yet been released by organizers Tuesday morning.)

Ashley McClellan, MedCurate, 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Nikki Overfelt Chifalu, Startland News

MedCurate, Ashley McClellan: $24,000

MedCurate combines white-label technology and expertise through an app that provides healthcare professionals with increased control over their schedules by aligning provider demand with staffing requirements, helping organizations save money by maximizing the gig economy. 

Craig Mason, Raise Health Innovations, 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Nikki Overfelt Chifalu, Startland News

Raise Health Innovations, Craig Mason: $23,000

Raise Healthcare Innovation integrates with communication tools to analyze healthcare conversations in real time, prompting professionals to detect mental health conditions and deliver support sooner. 

“I challenge each of you to join us, and it’s critically important to raise the bar, raise the impact on mental health, because each life is worth it,” said Mason. “Let’s all rally together and ensure that everyone is really OK.”

Jonathan Ruiz, EB Systems, 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Nikki Overfelt Chifalu, Startland News

EB Systems, Jonathan Ruiz: $14,000

EB Systems leverages mobile apps, proximity-based sensors, and wearable Bluetooth devices to create real-time location and reporting systems. 

“This new Bluetooth infrastructure will give us a way to build highly precise and seamless proximity based applications, and I want the first of its kind system we build here in Kansas City,” said Ruiz.

Its innovative technology promises to revolutionize how cities and community entities manage and engage with crowds. 

Bart Patenaude, Creative Technology Concepts, 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Taylor Wilmore, Startland News

Creative Technology Concepts, Bart Patenaude: $8,000

Creative Technology Concept’s Zuture is an adhesive patch that closes skin with the precision of stitches and the speed of staples, all without needles or pain. 

“I was the guy standing over some poor little kid who split their chin up and I’m sticking needles in and they’re just terrified as people are holding them down. We can do so much better than that,” said Patenaude.

Matt Williams, Noonan, 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Taylor Wilmore, Startland News

Noonan, Matt Williams: $6,000

Noonan has developed a cutting-edge AI-driven mobile app called Noonan Caddie that delivers precision club and aim recommendations, transforming golfer doubts into decisive, informed shots.  

“Golf simulators produce incredible data that you just don’t get on a driving range, like how far the ball carries,” said Williams, “There is a huge gap between how people think they hit their shots and how they actually hit their shots.”

Jim Atwater, InReturn Strategies, 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Taylor Wilmore, Startland News

InReturn Strategies, Jim Atwater: $5,000

InReturn Strategies provides essential tools and data for forward-thinking companies seeking to link their products, services, and job opportunities with the disability community, as well as the broader network of their family and friends, constituting a substantial $13 trillion global market.

“Twenty percent of new employees are connected to our community,” said Atwater. “We are right in front of you, and until today you are unable to reach us. So, I need to work with you.” 

Jonathan Gregory, EzBizPortal, 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Taylor Wilmore, Startland News

EzBizPortal, Jonathan Gregory: $3,000

EzBizPortal’s marketplace and integrated operations platform streamline and automate processes between medical facilities and equipment vendors. Its innovation empowers healthcare providers to prioritize patient care. 

Topher Enneking, STATSdraft, 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Taylor Wilmore, Startland News

STATSdraft, Topher Enneking: $3,000

STATSdraft is a gaming app that uses analytics to help users build teams based on the disciplines they believe create a winning culture, ultimately deepening their understanding of and relationship with sports. 

“We’re confident this take on fantasy will draw new viewership and participation into women’s and youth sports by reminding fans that it’s how players work together as a team that takes them to the next level,” said Enneking. 

Click here to see winners from the 2022 Pure Pitch Rally.

Special teams

Kansas City Chiefs safety Justin Reid at the 2023 Pure Pitch Rally; photo by Nikki Overfelt Chifalu, Startland News

To kick off the 2023 Pure Pitch Rally, event founder Karen Fenaroli introduced Kansas City Chiefs safety Justin Reid, who studied industrial engineering at Stanford and started JReid InDeed to increase access to technology for students.

“I think it’s honestly something very special to have this opportunity for somebody to come and pitch their ideas and to get the ideas out to the community and the community to be able to respond accordingly,” Reid said.

Students from local high school entrepreneurship programs also were on hand at the event to help the audience deliver the People’s Choice cash prize. They will also be invited to join a larger group of students participating in the Reverse Pitch bootcamp in Spring 2024, an interactive real-world exercise in startup problem-solving.

Check out an extended photo gallery from Pure Pitch Rally below.