These Baltimore startups headed west for Techstars’ latest Kansas City accelerator

AlgenAir and BuckUp are looking to expand their networks, joining eight other startups for the latest cohort of the prominent accelerator network's latest program in the Midwest.

AlgenAir cofounders Kelsey Abernathy and Dan Fucich.

(Courtesy photo)

A pair of Baltimore startups are learning from Kansas City as part of the latest cohort of Techstars‘ accelerator in the Missouri metropolis.

Natural air purifier company AlgenAir and short-term loan company BuckUp are taking part in the summer’s three-month accelerator, which also offers support after the program via connections to the Techstars network. They join eight other companies from Kansas City, Charlotte, Raleigh and Sante Fe.

For BuckUp, getting into the accelerator was “great validation,” given that less than 3% of companies are accepted. There is also a strategic tie to Kansas City. Punjani said the startup is seeking to provide short-term funds for 100 million Americans who can’t get $400 for emergency expenses.

“I specifically chose Kansas City because it is the epicenter of payday loans headquarters,” said CEO Shoheb Punjani. “A lot of the Kansas City mentors and investors we are meeting understand the industry and have passion to build services which are better alternatives to the payday and pawn loans.”

BuckUp CEO Shoheb Punjani. (Courtesy photo)

BuckUp CEO Shoheb Punjani. (Courtesy photo)

The company, which launched in March 2020 and validated its model over the last year, is providing loans using the value of a device as collateral. Under the startup’s model, users can receive cash in exchange for the value of an existing device for a fee of $1 a day each day the funds are kept. The company is partnering with local businesses to house lockers, where the devices are dropped off by users. Then, the company provides cash via app.

AlgenAir makes natural air purification device the aerium, which uses algae to address indoor air quality. The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology-born company is working with Baltimore-based manufacturing partner American Bully Manufacturing and launched a subscription service.


“The purpose of this accelerator program is to work on our business rather than the day to day of working in it. While here we hope to identify, test, and validate the most critical assumptions necessary for our business development,” said cofounder Kelsey Abernathy. “The program will allow us to verify the solvency of our revenue models and prepare us for an initial seed round investment.”

At the accelerator, Abernathy said the company will be able to expand its network, given experts in manufacturing, supply chain and marketing as it seeks to scale production.

“Kansas City is also an important hub for architects and building designers so we can plant the seeds for future algal installations into energy efficient buildings,” she said.

We’ve long taken note of Baltimore’s ties to KC, which goes beyond their shared status as undersung startup cities. It was the first expansion site for coworking network Spark. Plus, multiple local companies have opened offices there and vice versa. The accelerator gives this entrepreneurial exchange another boost.

And there’s a chance for it flow both ways: Companies will soon have a chance to come to Baltimore to take part in a Techstars accelerator. Currently, applications are open for the first edition of the accelerator’s equitech program, which is launching in the city this fall. It’s expanding to Baltimore through a partnership with ecosystem-building org UpSurge Baltimore.

Companies: AlgenAir, Techstars
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