Start Me Up
An A-to-Z primer on the evolving startup scene
Biogenerator (BioSTL)
Year Founded: 2003 Background: To date, BioSTL has invested $11 million to grow and launch biotech companies, including NeuroLutions, which engineers brain-computer technology, and YourBevCo, which has developed a way to remove allergenic beverage ingredients. Success Stories: BioSTL is helping attract large, established international companies to town, including Israeli biotech firm NRGene.

Capital Innovators
Year Founded: 2010 Background: Founder Judy Sindecuse wanted to support St. Louis’ existing tech talent pool. Capital Innovators provides $50,000 in seed money, mentorships, and help with locating angel investors. Success Stories: You’ve undoubtedly heard of Dabble, LockerDome, and Pixel Press. LockerDome—along with Systematic Revenue, Aisle411, and Bonfyre—has been cited as one of the city’s top startups.
Year Founded: 2013 Background: Rather than focus on a specific area of tech, Prosper (see the letter P) aims to close the gender gap by nurturing women-led startups. It provides $50,000 to $100,000 in startup funds, mentorship, pitching sessions with investors, and ongoing support. Success Stories: Most of the attention has come from the accelerator’s singular nature; it’s one of the few focused specifically on women.

Year Founded: 2013 Background: To support emerging fintech (financial tech) companies, it provides $100,000 in startup funds, mentorships, and connections to financial services, including banks and money managers. Square co-founder Jim McKelvey is one of the general partners. Success Stories: CitiBank recently praised Fluent, a network that streamlines the flow of money between banks and businesses. Hedgeable, an automated investment-management system, took top honors at last fall’s Finovate conference in NYC.

Stadia Ventures
Year Founded: 2015 Background: Offering funding, business boot camps, and mentorships, the sports-centric accelerator (see the letter S) caters to entrepreneurs, investors, industry partners, and athletes. Success Stories: Among its inaugural class was St. Louis–based startup Rookies, which offers personalized baseball cards.

The Yield Lab
Year Founded: 2014 Background: The focus is on ag tech. Its portfolio includes Cryocyte, which assists in fine-tuning the freezing of fish eggs for aquaculture, and AgVoice, a voice-activated mobile platform for farmers. The Yield Lab provides $100,000 in funding, as well as mentorships and connections in the financial and agriculture sectors. Success Stories: Yield is young, so there are no big breakouts yet. But as the St. Louis Business Journal reported last year, it’s much easier for ag tech firms to find venture capital. Yield’s proximity to such companies as Monsanto and Novus seems to position it for a bright future.

Two of St. Louis’ biggest biomedical organizations are also the region’s oldest: The Center for Emerging Technologies (see the letter I) and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center were both launched in 1998. CET, the centerpiece of the Cortex district, incubated successful startups Sterotaxis, Orion Genomics, and BacterioScan. And in 2009, the Danforth Center opened the Bio-Research & Development Growth Park; its focus is creating the perfect ecosystem for up-and-coming biomed companies by giving them the opportunity to mix with academic scientists in a high-tech environment.
Flat craft beer is the worst. SYNEK offers you the ability to tap it—and keep it fizzy—right from your kitchen counter. Solving this beer tragedy earned the startup $650,000 in support.
Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria
In 2014, Katie Lee-Collier and Ted Collier raised $43,000 on Kickstarter to open a restaurant in Rock Hill. Today, it’s among the busiest in town.

Tuscany: Expand the World of Viticulture
Watching grapes grow can be as dull as watching paint dry. But this tabletop game of agricultural strategy excited enough potential players to vault it far beyond an initial goal of $20,000—eventually raising more than $450,000.
Dennis Lower
The inaugural Murmuration festival, September 23–25, promises to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The event will mix science, art, and music. That multidisciplinary approach sums up the philosophy of Cortex president/CEO Dennis Lower, who’s spearheading the event alongside LouFest founder Brian Cohen. Under Lower’s leadership, Cortex has not only incubated startups but also remained focused on the larger picture, including retail, restaurants, and events in the CWE and midtown.
Open Data STL Meetup
When: Monthly
Where: Lammert Building, T-Rex

National Day of Civic Hacking
When: June 4

Strange Loop Conference
When: September 15–17
Where: Peabody Opera House

When: October 21–23
Where: Chaifetz Arena

One of the biggest hurdles for St. Louis’ startup scene has been scaling up—turning venture capital investments in the thousands to those in the millions, the kind of money needed to build a business that can compete on the coasts. One of the first organizations here to come up with that kind of cash was Cultivation Capital. Here’s a look at its impact, by the numbers.

$31 million: Total invested by Cultivation Capital since 2012

37: Companies receiving that funding

230: Investors who contribute to Cultivation Capital

1,150: People employed by companies in CC’s portfolio

This year marks the fifth in which nonprofit Arch Grants—which has garnered buzz from Forbes, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal—has given startups $50,000 in exchange for moving to St. Louis. Here’s a look at what some of those entrepreneurs have been up to since their year in the program.

Companion Pharma (2012)
Harry Arader’s company didn’t succeed, but he’s since become a leader in the local startup scene, founding entrepreneur development program BioSTL Fundamentals.
Eateria (2013)
Ola Ayeni has not only grown his digital loyalty– marketing business but also opened a co-working space, Claim, and a coding bootcamp, Claim Academy.

Label Insight (2012)
This company moved from Chicago to St. Louis and became deeply entrenched in the local startup scene, working with not only Arch Grants but also T-Rex, Capital Innovators, and Cultivation Capital. The company now has offices in both Chicago and St. Louis.

Obsorb (2012)
Marshall Haas (see the letter X) sold his company during its year with Arch Grants, and he briefly moved to Canada to oversee the transition. Now he’s back and has started a new business, Need/Want, which is on pace for $3 million in revenue this year.

Lately, the national media has been fawning over the St. Louis startup scene (see letter Q for a few examples). All of the attention made us wonder: Does St. Louis live up to the hype? Or is it more sizzle than substance? We asked those questions of people who should know—entrepreneurs who’ve worked both here and in more traditional tech hubs.
Roberto Garcia moved from Austin to St. Louis and launched Listo, an app that would let you listen to movies in any language. In Austin’s more crowded startup community, a company had to be pretty successful before anyone noticed. Here, Garcia found that someone with just an idea could find help. “In St. Louis, you really feel the wind at your back and the community support,” he says.

Jan Christian Andersen co-founded Pushup Social, which builds social media hubs for websites. The company started in St. Louis before expanding to Silicon Valley. Andersen says sometimes St. Louis can be too supportive, wasting scarce resources on companies that should be allowed to die. “Sometimes we are afraid to walk our baby out back and put it down,” he says. St. Louis is full of smart businesspeople, but they don’t always understand tech. It takes Andersen 30 seconds to explain his concept in San Francisco, compared with 30 minutes here. “It’s like having to explain to my mom how Facebook works.” Of course the amount of capital in play here pales in comparison to that in Silicon Valley. But St. Louis has an advantage when it comes to costs. Office space and talent are cheaper here, making a startup’s funding go further. “For early-stage companies, there are a number of reasons to be in St. Louis.”

So what does Andersen think of our original question: Is St. Louis overhyped? “I don’t know that we’re overhyped—just, my personal philosophy is to not get too caught up in the hype. We have to be proud of our success, but we have to also understand that there is a lot of work left to be done.”
The terms incubator and accelerator (see letter A) are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are key differences: Whereas accelerators give established companies quick hits of cash and guidance in exchange for equity, incubators work with earlier-stage entrepreneurs, turning ideas into businesses by providing mentorship, office space, and even legal services.
Center for Emerging Technologies
CET was Missouri’s first innovation center (see the letter B). Since a $5 million renovation last year, it comprises more than 92,000 square feet of office and lab space in midtown.

Founded in 1999 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, CIC’s St. Louis outpost aims to “allow you to focus on growing your business while we take care of the rest,” a list that includes stocked kitchens, conference rooms, internet, printing, concierge… Nearly 21,000 cups of coffee are made there each month.

Helix Center Biotech Incubator
Operated by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, Helix offers emerging life sciences companies not only lab and office space but also “nurturing, mentoring, financing, and collaboration.”

Innovative Technology Enterprises
Based at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, ITE uses the school’s resources to help launch startups in chemistry, life sciences, nanotechnology, and IT.

Housed in a multi-level Wash. Ave. space, T-Rex boasts an unparalleled roster of more than 100 startups (see also the letter T), creating an environment ripe for collaboration.

Jack & Jim
You can’t talk tech in St. Louis (or anywhere on earth, really) without mentioning Jack and Jim—Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square, Jim McKelvey of Square and LaunchCode. Square recently opened an office here, in the pair’s hometown, and plans to hire 200 employees. The CWE office is the company’s fourth location.
KNOWiNK’s Poll Pad is an iPad-based system for digital voter check-in, eliminating the need for alphabetical lines and poll workers hunting for paper records. Managing director Scott Leiendecker spent six years as the city of St. Louis’ election director before developing the company, which received an Arch Grant in May 2013.
Square co-founder Jim McKelvey also helped co-found LaunchCode, which helps address the nationwide tech talent shortage by connecting those who don’t necessarily have a traditional education with mentors.
16–62: Range in age for LaunchCode participants

82: Percentage of LaunchCode participants who start their careers without a degree in computer science

90: Percentage of participants offered jobs at the companies where they apprentice

3-fold: On average, LaunchCode participants’ salaries triple from their previous non-tech jobs.

500-plus: Employers nationwide working with LaunchCode

300-plus: Jobs created during the nonprofit’s first two years

2,000-plus: Estimated number of people who will be served by the St. Louis mentor center during the course of 2016

Though Arch Grants doesn’t have a formal mentorship program, its work has fostered plenty of relationships among awardees. Here are just three examples.
Amit Kothari and Pravina Pindoria of Tallyfy—a cloud app for routine processes such as client and employee onboarding—regularly check in with Sanjay Jain, an adjunct professor at Washington University’s Olin School of Business and the Saint Louis University School of Law. Jain offers advice on branding, positioning, vetting, and funding—in addition to providing pointers before Kothari and Pindoria moved here from London.

Andrea Robertson’s company, Triflare, makes high-fashion athletic gear for triathletes and synchronized swimmers. She periodically checks in with John Pantanella of Chemline, a manufacturer of polyurethane resins. It seems to be paying off: Robertson’s company has seen a 300 percent increase in sales.

The CrisisGo mobile app lets groups communicate in emergency situations, exchanging alerts, maps, and checklists. This year, the service was available in 28 states and in use at more than 1,500 schools. When CEO Jim Spicuzza pitched for his Arch Grant, he met Patrick Doherty of Think Big Partners. The pair discusses growth opportunities and how to expand CrisisGo into other markets, both in the U.S. and beyond.
Jurassic Perks: On June 6, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., T-Rex members can catch up over carby goodness on the fifth floor.

StartLouis: On the second Tuesday of every month, enterprising minds gather at StartLouis, an evening meetup with adult beverages and rotating topics hosted at the T-Rex–Lammert Building, located at 911 Washington.

1 Million Cups: Entrepreneurs network every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Nine Network of Public Media, located at 3655 Olive in Grand Center.
Budding Entrepreneurs: Every other Thursday, unemployed St. Louisans can get legal advice during free 30-minute sessions. 314-657-3768.

Code Until Dawn: On the last Friday of the month, hackers meet for an all-night hacking session.
Orion Genomics
Housed in the Center for Emerging Technologies, Orion uses DNA for diagnostic and risk testing. In recent years, the company found a gene in the palm oil tree—whose products most of us use every day—that will increase each plant’s output, lessening pressure on rainforests.
Several years ago, after seeing St. Louis dismally ranked for female entrepreneurship, a group of local leaders founded Prosper Women Entrepreneurs. Its institute trains and mentors women, and its accelerator increases female entrepreneurs’ access to growth capital. Among its portfolio:
Bandura, a cyber-threat detection technology, aggregates real-time threats and data leakage; its Poliwall helps monitor potential threats.

Wondermento offers WonderWoof, a bowtie-shaped Bluetooth device that tracks dogs’ activities, allowing you to monitor your pooch remotely.

Janus Choice uses mobile technology to allow patients to explore next steps—such as extended care, rehab, or social services—after being discharged from the hospital.
Q Score
The growth of our startup scene isn’t so secret anymore.

June 2013: The Wall Street Journal notes, “St. Louis is in the early stages of an entrepreneurial boom. The city’s experience may carry lessons for the country as a whole.”

November 2014: In an article titled “The Next Silicon Valley,” venture capital database CB Insights ranks St. Louis No. 1 in total funding growth from 2013 to 2014.

January 2015: CNBC names St. Louis one of five under-the-radar U.S. tech hubs.

February 2015: Popular Mechanics ranks St. Louis No. 1 among its “14 Best Startup Cities in America.”

January 2016: Business Insider ranks St. Louis’ startup scene the fastest-growing in the nation.
Rising Stars
St. Louis startups to watch

Taptl: With offices in Miami and St. Louis, this two-person company “brings science fiction into reality” by way of custom transparent touchscreen monitors.

Better Weekdays: This five-year-old firm appeals to career centers, job-seekers, and employers in an effort to smooth the job search and recruiting process.
Arch Innotek: With demand for healthy ingredients outweighing supply, this startup uses biotechnology to create natural ingredients from microorganisms.

Pixel Press: The tech team’s rolled out products and resources that use everyday technology to turn simple drawings into digital games and learning tools.

Juristat: Using stats and advanced analytics to predict the future of patent law, Juristat maps out legal clients’ paths to success with comprehensive data. It’s like Moneyball for the legal system.

Babyation: The current breast pump is based on a model from 1854, a fact that inspired a local couple to design a revolutionary alternative that’s quiet, discreet, and app-controlled.

Smash Toast: Forget remotes—SmashToast’s flagship product, Puck, allows you to control your media center from your phone with the use of a discreet, affordable BlueTooth device (fittingly shaped like a miniature hockey puck).

Invisible Industries: The St. Louis-based startup, which got national attention (including a Conan O’Brien parody) for Invisible Girlfriend and Boyfriend, allows users to create a faux significant other who interacts with them by way of texts, voicemails, and notes.
Stadia Ventures
What better place for an accelerator focused on sports-themed startups than the Cardinals’ hometown? Founded by Art Chou and Tim Hayden, Stadia awards startups as much as $100,000 in exchange for an equity stake. Participants come to St. Louis but aren’t required to stay. As Stadia’s website jokes, “If you’re a Cubs fan, we may even invite you to leave before the program ends.”
T-Rex (short for Technology Regional Entrepreneur Exchange) houses more than 100 startups, accelerator programs, and entrepreneurial support organizations within its 160,000-square-foot downtown location. That density is the source of its appeal. “You can kind of get everything you need here,” says community director Kathleen Bauer, “private offices, community spaces, events, and a tech ecosystem that’s really blossoming.”

Eighth Floor: Achieve Communications , Active Capital , Asteris , Case Coolie , Cultivation Capital , Drug Design Methodologies , Hatchbuck , IMPACT , Janus Choice , , Prosper , ProUknow , Pulse Therapeutics , SafeT , Sitting Duck Advertising , SixThirty , Small Business Empowerment Center , Sparo Labs , STL Fashion Fund , Swizzle , Tunespeak , Veritacit

Seventh Floor: Analome , Better Weekdays , Condition HUB , Displays That Pay , EQ: Entrepreneur Quarterly , Fluent , FocalCast , GeoNumerics Solutions , HealthyMe Mobile Solutionsv Hey Let’s Train , IT Entrepreneur Network (ITEN) , Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) , SafeTrek , Utility In Field , Sytech-IS LLC

Sixth Floor: CFF Ventures, Full Circle, Global Hack, Greetabl, GremIn, , PFITR, Scoville & Company, SharpField Films, Stadia Ventures, St. Lou Fringe, Throwboy, Traffic Council

Fifth Floor: This floor houses the co-working space, where around 90 startups operate at a cost of $50 per month per person. You can also find T-Rex’s administrative offices and their Innovation Conference Center—which includes a board room, event space, classroom, and bar/café area.

Fourth Floor: Artifox, Babyation, Freight Grid, Jobsite Unite, OPER, Tallyfy

Third Floor Undergoing renovation

Second Floor: Lori Coulter, PAI, KWS Law, Best Pocket Square Holder

First Floor Need Fixed Parts

Lower Level Elyse Theo Design Studio , Red Latina
A look at just a few startups launched at local universities

Harris-Stowe State University: Senior Timothy Moore planted the seeds of his branding-development company, T. Moore Media, even before beginning his studies at Harris-Stowe. Several years later, his one-man shop’s completed projects for K-Swiss, Disney, and Wells Fargo, among others.
Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville: While studying at SIUE, a team of students created RoverTown, a mobile application that connects college students to deals at nearby businesses. It’s now available at more than 100 universities nationwide.

Saint Louis University: Junior Lachlan Johnson has been on Shark Tank, sold her first company, founded two more, and received accolades from Warren Buffett—and is somehow still below the legal drinking age. Her latest venture is TREP-ology, an entrepreneurial training program for kids that consists of a website and a mobile app game.

Washington University: Acera Surgical was born when Wash. U. grad student Matthew MacEwan discovered a way to weave nanofibers to form a thick, pliable surgical mesh. The material’s garnered attention from the medical community.
Venture Cafe
Every Thursday evening, the startup scene flocks to Cortex’s @4240 building for happy hour. Visitors can mingle while sipping complimentary beers, then attend educational sessions. Beyond the weekly meetups, the Venture Café Foundation organizes programs like an entrepreneurial boot camp for high school students and a fellowship that gives public school teachers real-world experience in startups and corporate innovation teams.
Budding businesses have a host of co-working space options—and they’re not all located in the city.
A. Arch Reactor 2400 S. Jefferson B. The BHIVE 4661 Maryland C. CIC@4240 4240 Duncan D. CIC@CET 20 S. Sarah E. Claim 515 Olive, Suite 600 F. Exit 11 Workspace 1351 S. Jefferson, Suite 120 G. Hive44 1710–1730 Fenpark H. Industrious 555 Washington I. Innovative Technology Enterprises (ITE) 4633 World Parkway Circle J. Nebula 3407 S. Jefferson K. OPO Startups 119 S. Main, St. Charles L. Peer 151 15 N. First, Belleville M. STLVenture Works–Grand Center 3830 Washington N. STLVenture Works–Helix Center 1100 Corporate Square O. STLVenture Works–South County 315 Lemay Ferry, Suite 131 P. STLVenture Works–Wellston 6439 Plymouth Q. STLVenture Works–West County 743 Spirit 40 Park Drive R. TechArtista 4818 Washington S. Techshop 4240 Duncan, Suite 200 T. T-Rex 911 Washington
In January 2014, Need/Want CEO Marshall Haas wrote about moving his business from San Francisco to St. Louis. Among the reasons: cheap rent, a flourishing tech scene, and cultural attractions. If you move to St. Louis, he wrote, “you’re not giving up living in a cool city.”
Yummy Apps
During St. Louis’ 250th birthday, the stl250 mobile app helped point people toward the fiberglass cakes located around the city. The startup behind the St. Louis–centric app? Candy Lab, which specializes in augmented-reality marketing products.
Zimin Hang
While studying at Washington University, Zimin Hang dreamed up the idea of Chrona, the techy pillow that uses sound and Fitbit-like tracking software to help users “sleep smarter.” The pillow is expected to be available for purchase in early 2017.