As plans to construct a downtown innovation campus move forward, Topeka continues to host — albeit virtually — a Plug and Play startup accelerator program focused on animal health and agricultural technology.
Plug and Play, which is based in Silicon Valley and partners with Topeka and local stakeholders to help some innovative startups grow, recently announced 10 startups from around the world have been chosen to participate in the second Plug and Play Topeka cohort of 2021.
“We are so excited to have 10 startups join the second batch of our animal health program in Topeka,” said Stephen Fay, Plug and Play’s director of corporate partnerships. “These are some of the most innovative startups we have seen in the region, and we are confident that they will bring some of the brightest ideas to the industry.”
The early-to-mid-stage startups chosen to participate in this fall’s three-month-long Plug and Play Topeka session include the following:
According to Lindsay Lebahn, manager of Topeka’s Plug and Play program, the 10 startups selected represent “a really fun group,” and their specialties range from wearable pet technology to sustainable packaging to delivery optimization and more.
“It’s so, so much more than just animal health, and it shows the diversity that our (corporate) partners are looking for,” Lebahn said. “Obviously, COVID has made times difficult when it comes to supply chain and when it comes to hiring, so you see some of that reflected in this batch.”
The latest session kicked off Thursday, Lebahn said, with a series of virtual events focusing on everything from business basics and pitch coaching to what it looks like to work with larger corporations.
This term should run through early November and is the second Topeka Plug and Play session that wound up being online, rather than in-person in Topeka, due to logistics complications stemming from COVID-19.
“We tried to do everything we could to make it in person,” Lebahn said, “but we’ve got three international companies. They were out completely just because of the travel. We have Virginia and New York, so there are a lot of people from pretty far (away). We ended up having to make the call.”
She looks forward to Topeka being able to welcome startups to the capital city for in-person programming in the near future, and the downtown ASTRA Innovation Center being stood up in the 600 block of S. Kansas Avenue is expected to serve as the hub for imminent on-site Plug and Play activity.
“We are so excited for the innovation campus,” Lebahn said. “That will definitely be a huge selling point. It’s huge for Topeka. It’s huge for innovation. … We’ll be able to offer these entrepreneurs and startups something truly special here in our own backyard.”