September proved to be a monumental month for Kansas City.Techweek returned to KC for the second year in a row and brought together thousands of people from the tech community to celebrate the exciting technology innovations and startup activity happening right now in the area. Perhaps the most notable moment of Techweek was not a scheduled event but rather the news of a Kansas City startup acquisition that sets the stage for what the startup community hopes to see more of in the future.
It was recently announced that Kansas City-based startup EyeVerify has been acquired for a reported $100 million by Ant Financial, the payments affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, according to Fortune. EyeVerify was co-founded by a group of inventors with backgrounds in computer science and engineering at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. EyeVerify is the creator and patent holder of Eyeprint ID technology which is used to verify identification by reading blood vessel patterns in the whites of the eye. The technology is said to be equally as accurate as fingerprint technology, which works 99.8 percent of the time. Most commonly used by banks and financial services, EyeVerify is integrated into apps and is used by millions of people across the globe to securely check balances, pay bills and access other secure information.
The acquisition should result in a hefty payday for local investors in the startup firm. According to the Kansas City Star and Startland News, the financial beneficiaries of the exit include investors from Mid America Angels, Flyover Capital, Nebraska Angels, Women’s Capital Connection, Think Big Partners, Sprint and other private investors, as well as the co-founders and employee stakeholders in the company. Twentyseven Global’s CEO Steve Roatch, also an EyeVerify investor, says “It would be hard to overstate the positive impact that EyeVerify’s acquisition will have on Kansas City. It is energizing for investors, and inspiring for entrepreneurs.”
EyeVerify’s exit is an undisputable win for Kansas City. When asked by the Kansas City Star about the acquisition, EyeVerify CEO Toby Rush said the firm plans to triple or quadruple in size. Currently, EyeVerify has no plans to relocate outside of Kansas City. The firm will remain in their office at 1712 Main in the Crossroads. Rush also said there are various expansion plans when it comes to product and markets. Their goals include hiring “hardcore” engineers and software developers.
For years, venture capital was extremely difficult to come by in Kansas City. But the game has changed, and early-stage investments in EyeVerify clearly paid off. This success story raises the bar for up-and-coming startups seeking funding from investors. One can hope that this news will also help bridge the gap between investors and the startup community by demonstrating the potential for astronomical returns on a successful of investment of venture capital.