The month of August is host to Startup Week Across America, a time “for senators and representatives to discover local startups and open up the conversation about the role that entrepreneurs play in the overall economy.” We couldn’t be more excited to continue to share the amazing startups in Kentucky that are transforming innovation in the state, to raise awareness not only among government officials but among you, the readers! So, in no particular order, here are the 8 Kentucky Startups That Need to Be on Your Radar:
Fooji was founded in 2015 by Gregg Morton and and Erik Zamudio. We might be a little biased because our own Evan Knowles was the first to join the co-founders and Nate Antetomaso was a marketing manager for the company, but Fooji’s glowing logo lighting up Short Street at night may just be a symbol of the coolest brand in Lexington. The company has raised $3.6 million to date on its continual quest to change how consumers interact with brands. Fooji burst into the advertising space by scaling experiential marketing for the first time by connecting social media with on-demand delivery services. Fooji’s client list is as good as it gets with the likes of Disney, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and T-Mobile; proving they are without question on to something special. As Lexington’s tech scene continues to mature, Fooji is evolving along with it and continuing to prove the model of physical experiences delivered as a marketing channel.
You could technically say that Xometry is a Maryland company, but since it has an office in Downtown Lexington employing about 40 people that began as local startup MakeTime, we’re going to count it here. In order to continue to scale its platform deemed the “Uber for Machining,” Xometry acquired MakeTime in 2018 to make 3D printing and custom machining more flexible and accessible than ever before. Their disruptive marketplace consists of thousands of manufacturers, instant quoting, and a ton of custom tools like 3D printers, laser cutters, injection molders, and more. With major investors like BMW, Foundry, and GE investing $118 million and growing partnerships with the likes of Alibaba, Xometry is sure to continue to disrupt the manufacturing space. Make sure to keep an ear open for our episode with MakeTime’s Founder, Drura, very soon!
El Toro was founded in 2013 by Dan Kimball, Sean Stafford, and David Stadler. The Louisville, KY-based ad tech company recently announced a $2 million expansion into NuLu and the addition of 60 new jobs to its workforce. El Toro uses a one-to-one, 100% cookie-free IP targeting solution to target individual households with tailored ads and digital messages. Their technology has been used in over 2000 political campaigns, by Mercedes-Benz, Brown-Forman, and many other clients. El Toro has previously been ranked the No. 13 Fastest Growing Company on Deloitte’s 2017 Tech Fast 500, 2015 Emerging Company of the Year, and Best Place to Work in Louisville 2015, 2016, and 2017. It’s no surprise they’re on the up and up!
San Francisco's Y Combinator is quite possible the gold standard in startup accelerators. In fact, only 1% of all applicants make the program. Louisville’s WeatherCheck is the first and only of these applicants to get in from Kentucky. We recently had the company’s Co-Founder and CEO, Demetrius Gray, on an episode where he discussed WeatherCheck’s ability to report data to insurance firms and homeowners on potential damage due to weather related events, allowing for proactive action and improved customer service. WeatherCheck puts power in the hands of insurance providers to deliver exceptional knowledge to the customer, as opposed to the customer going through out-dated and clunky claims processes. In our discussion with Demertius, it was clear the company is growing very rapidly and will soon be one of Kentucky’s standout tech companies. We can’t wait to watch them transform the insurance space.
If you’re in Kentucky, chances are you’ve heard of AppHarvest. The company founded in 2017 has now broken ground on their flagship project in Morehead: the world’s largest greenhouse. The greenhouse will provide hundreds of jobs to Appalachia while ensuring a year-round growing season for fresh fruits and vegetables in a location that is has 70% of the US population within a day’s drive (therefore cutting shipping costs and delivering fresh products). After raising 82M dollars from funds like Rise of the Rest, Equilibrium Capital, and ValueAct, the startup is bringing massive awareness to the US’s less than ideal food system and massive opportunity to a region that desperately needs it. Middle Tech will feature an episode with Jonathan Webb, the company’s Founder and CEO, this month.
After just launching in February of this year, Truman’s has already scooped up national press coverage and dedicated fans nationwide. Founded by two ex-Big Ass Fans executives, Truman’s flips the cleaning industry on its head by selling direct-to-consumer, online, and eco-friendly. As it stood before, 90% of typical home cleaning solutions are water, wasting untold energy in shipping across the world from factories to distributors to retailers. Because Truman’s customers add the water at home to their fully recyclable concentrate cartridges, Truman’s uses 96% less plastic and much more efficient supply chain practices than a typical cleaning product. As they say, they’re the “coolest cleaning company on the internet, probably.” Check out our episode with Co-Founder and CMO, Alex Reed.
Braidy Industries is primed to change the aluminum industry with its 2 million square foot aluminum rolling mill, Braidy Atlas, to be constructed just outside of Ashland, Kentucky. The company has discovered an aluminum technology that increases the strength of aluminum sheets by 20%, and its mill will produce up to 600 jobs once operational. Braidy has formed a strategic partnership with one of the largest global aluminum producers, Rusal, in order to secure funding needed for the $1.7 billion dollar investment. In addition to creating state-of-the-art low cost aluminum production, the partnership with Rusal will advance Braidy Atlas to have the lowest carbon footprint in the industry. If that wasn’t enough, Braidy Industries is also set to manufacture the strongest and lightest metal alloy in the world for use in everything from household goods to automobiles and rockets. We’re excited to watch them transform the region and the metallurgy world!
Founded in 2014 by Twyman Clements and Kris Kimel, Space Tango is exploring the next frontier for discovery and innovation in microgravity in order to eventually create new industries and improve life on Earth. Working directly with NASA, SpaceX, and others, Space Tango has been involved in at least 13 missions to the International Space Station. Most of the work revolves around “Exomedicine,” the study of any biological process in the absence of gravity. While this may seem theoretical in nature, Space Tango’s impact could become very real very soon: some experiments have shown evidence that cancer cells have a very hard time replicating in zero gravity. As one of only 8 private commercial firms in the country that have access to the International Space Station, Space Tango places Kentucky directly in the middle of the new space age.
Kentucky is clearly home to innovative companies in diverse industries and with varied focuses. These are only a handful of countless difference-makers in the area, but if you know a startup that should be on our radar let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org! We’re excited to keep sharing the stories of entrepreneurs and innovators in the region!