Jan. 22 — Wichita, Kan. — To reflect its continued progress and future-oriented vision, the e2e Accelerator today announced its new name, NXTUS; updated visual identity; and next major program, the NXTSTAGE Pilot Competition, supported by a $250,000 grant from the Talent Ecosystem Fund at the Wichita Community Foundation.
“To support founders and their young, growing companies, NXTUS serves as a nexus, fostering connections between entrepreneurs, investors, corporate partners and the community at large,” said Josh Oeding, NXTUS President and CEO. “We are constantly aimed at achieving the ‘next us’ – growing startups, strengthening our innovation culture and support systems, and creating a bright future for our region.”
NXTUS’s newest program, the NXTSTAGE Pilot Competition, is now live and open for applications. NXTSTAGE is aimed at propelling startups that have gotten off the ground, with deployable products in market, to their next stage of growth, by connecting them to mature businesses and regional partners looking to become customers for their innovations. The program will curate engagement between corporate partners and startups and end with an innovation showcase in the spring.
“NXTSTAGE is designed to boost the pace of technological transformation here and convey to startups far and wide that we are a market where innovative thinkers and young companies can thrive,” said Mary Beth Jarvis, NXTUS Executive Director. “We want to position Wichita as the ‘Pilot Capital of the World,’ where entrepreneurs can succeed by proving out their offerings in our region.”
A key component of NXTSTAGE is that the young companies selected to present their solutions to the industry partners will earn paid trips to Wichita. While in Kansas, they will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with decision makers, interact with innovation teams inside partner organizations, and get to know the community better. This component of the competition, as well as overall development of this unique innovation initiative, was made possible by the generous grant from the Wichita Community Foundation’s Talent Ecosystem Fund.
“We believe this program has the opportunity to transform both our region and the startups we bring here,” said Courtney Bengtson, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Wichita Community Foundation. “The intersection of local, forward-thinking companies and young, innovative tech providers from potentially around the globe aligns with our goal of addressing workforce issues and talent development in a way our community hasn’t seen done before.”
The pilot competition is open to startups around the world that have deployment-ready technologies. For the initial iteration of NXTSTAGE, the pilot competition will be seeking innovations able to add immediate value to businesses and communities in three focus areas: 1. FinTech – Banking and Financial Services, 2. Industry 4.0 – Advanced Manufacturing/Industrial IoT (Internet of Things), and 3. Community Health and Vibrancy.
Jarvis explained that NXTSTAGE is designed for corporations and startups to get the best out of each other. “The regional partners supporting this effort can take an innovation leap ahead by collaborating with startups offering new ways of thinking and operating. And the young companies can earn valuable market knowledge and much-needed revenue to push them to their next stage of growth and success,” she said.
Founding partners supporting the competition’s Banking and Financial Services track include Emprise Bank, Fidelity Bank and INTRUST Bank. They recognize technology is continually transforming how banks and financial services companies operate and are looking to drive innovation to benefit their businesses and customers.
Matt Michaelis, Chairman and CEO of Emprise Bank, said, “We are continually evaluating and implementing innovative technology that enables us to operate smarter, and connect with customers in personalized ways that offer the most timely and meaningful experiences. With this program, we’ll get a chance to engage early with a curated group of young companies developing products designed to help us empower our customers to thrive.”
The competition’s focus on Advanced Manufacturing/Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) is designed to provide the region’s diverse manufacturers with unique access to promising developments in advanced data analytics, machine learning, process efficiency and related areas.
“Our region is home to an impressive array of advanced manufacturers,” Sheryl Wohlford, President of Automation-Plus, said. “We’ve all grown and succeeded because we continually evolve to serve modern industries and customers. This competition will help us discover new, disruptive technologies and business models that will benefit our customers, and it will introduce these young companies to our community’s future-minded manufacturing companies.”
NetWork Kansas, a leading organization devoted to the growth of entrepreneurship and small businesses throughout the state of Kansas, is an initial supporter of NXTSTAGE and its Community Health and Vibrancy focus area. NXTUS will be recruiting additional backers, as well as community organizations ready to implement pilots, as promising applications come in.
“We believe innovation has the power to transform our region,” Erik Pedersen, NetWork Kansas’ Vice President of Entrepreneurship, said. “When we foster connections between young, sector-leading companies with Kansas communities to create real solutions, we can meaningfully and tangibly improve the health and vitality of our rural, urban and suburban populations.”
Applications for the competition are accepted online at https://www.f6s.com/nxtstage.