Category: Business News

Jan 24

Getting a Move on: How Label Insight Found its Path to Growth in Downtown St. Louis

Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)

In December, 2013, Label Insight and T-REX parted ways. The company, after a year-long stint incubating at T-REX, had grown exponentially. It was clear that after raising millions of dollars and doubling the number of employees, Label Insight was ready to grow into its own space. But striking out on their own in no way meant dissolving the close ties they developed with T-REX–it would become quite the opposite.

The rate of growth Label Insight experienced had much to do with environment. Co-founder Dheeraj Patri shares credit with the community of which he had become a part. “Really it was the desire and commitment by Arch Grants and T-REX communities to get us more involved. The community really propped us up and forced us–to the best of their ability–to be as successful as we can [be],” he said. So to continue their rapid growth Label Insight had to do two things: move out and stay close.   

A Data-Driven Mission

Label Insight, now growing by leaps and bounds, focuses on deeply understanding the makeup of all Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs). This includes everything from food to shampoo. “We look at ourselves as a cloud product label data refinery platform,” co-founder Dheeraj Patri says. “And what we do is we take this datum and we digitize it. By looking at patterns in this data, we are able to understand deeply what is actually in a product.”

Photo courtesy of Label Insight

This is significant because Label Insight’s customers are in the industry. Their work is not to dictate to any entity what to or to not do. It has no regulatory ambition. However, Label Insight uncovers facts and discloses them, letting the data speak. “Our purpose is really about transparency,” says Patri. “And our mission centers around transparency–to provide transparency through data, that is our core mission.” Through the work, Label Insight started with a mission and has taken off.

At a Crossroads

Label Insight wasn’t always a multi-located, 70+ employee company that creates strategic alliances with big names such as the FDA and Nielsen. Long before Label Insight came to be, Anton Xavier, Dagan Xavier, and Dheeraj Patri were looking for a solution. The Xavier brothers’ father experienced a health scare and wanted to alter his diet. But the incident and their attempts to help made the friends keenly aware of how inscrutable product labels are. That provided the impetus for the trio’s business venture. The goal was transparency. From there, the company set out to gather, log, analyze and digitize data.

This began in 2008 and though the work was compelling, the business hadn’t taken off. The three worked in various parts of the globe and gathered periodically as they built out the company. Patri, being the only member in the US, was not tied to any particular city, so when the opportunity came, he and his family moved to St. Louis.

“The reason we came to St. Louis is really because my wife got a job opportunity here. We were at a crossroads where I really wasn’t making money in the business, and I either needed to get a “real” job, or maybe we move to St. Louis. And why not? She’s from St. Louis. It’s a great place. We have children too, and we would have support from her parents as well because they continue to live here,” he said.

Little did Patri know that working from his in-laws’ St. Louis basement had in fact positioned him and the Label Insight company well. “In early 2012, my business partner Anton Xavier sent me an email from an article talking about this startup business competition,” Patri says. “They were giving out $50,000 equity free. Our perspective was, ‘Well, it’s in St. Louis. Why don’t we do that?” We applied, but we had no belief we’d actually win.’ Yet, they did.

Turning Point

Label Insight, then named Food Essentials, was part of Arch Grants’ inaugural class in 2012. This was a pivotal moment for the company. Winning included not just the $50,000 grant, but also access to resources, networking, publicity and affordable office space at T-REX. It was an infusion of money and resources, but being a part of Arch Grants also gave Patri and his partners some harder to quantify advantages.

“Most important, even though capital is very welcome, is the [sense that] you are actually doing something meaningful. That confidence you get from someone actually awarding you something like that is huge. It made us be more aggressive as well as believe in ourselves more. It was a turning point in our company because of that,” he said.

That June, Label Insight began working out of T-REX, in its original location in the Macy’s Building (also known as the Railway Exchange) Downtown. Patri worked from the space by himself, since the Xaviers weren’t living in the U.S. at the time. But he was not alone. T-REX intentionally creates an environment that facilitates interactions among its tenants and the startup community.

Those connections, cultivated organically and set up strategically, had an exponential impact on Label Insight. At T-REX, Patri explains, they began to gain an “understanding [that] there are other people who are in the same boat as us. [The space was] creating an ability to go down and walk across the hallway to talk to, maybe not the same companies, but similar stage companies and really bond and understand and help each other out. On top of that, there was a lot of publicity and outreach to the business community in Downtown St. Louis,” Patri says.

Label Insight team

The Label Insight team in its office in the Curlee Building across 10th Street from T-REX.

Label Insight team

Label Insight Label Insight
Label Insight Label Insight
Label Insight

Label Insight team at the company’s office in Downtown St. Louis

Label Insight

With a boost from Arch Grants, T-REX, and the startup community as a whole, Label Insight began to grow. By 2013 they had joined Capital Innovators, had closed an early seed round led by Cultivation Capital, and continued to raise funds.

Not Goodbye, See You Later

But Label Insight’s funds weren’t the only things that were growing. Operationally, they were gearing up. They knew their time working out of T-REX was nearing an end, once they hit more than 10 employees. The timing, once again, was favorable. T-REX had plans to relocate to the Washington Avenue loft district to the Lammert Building, which it acquired in 2013. Rather than move twice, Label Insight coordinated to move a few weeks ahead of the organization, officially parting ways. But they didn’t move far.

Thriving as a company meant a lot of change for Label Insight, but one thing they were dedicated to keeping constant was community. They sought out real estate that would be proximal to T-REX and found it in the Curlee Building. After each moved, T-REX and Label Insight were next door neighbors, the ideal kind who gather together and look out for each others’ best interests.

Label InsightLabel Insight’s team in 2016. | Photo via LabelInsight.com

Now Label Insight is established, and they are in a position to give back and make a greater impact within the local startup scene. Currently, Patri and the company is asking, “How can the startup ecosystem allow, especially engineers and the technical people, to come down and see what we’re up to and to use that as a way to attract talent? How can we get them to stay in St. Louis instead of them going to the coasts or Chicago and realize there’s a great ecosystem in downtown that they can be apart of that’s growing?”

The answer to Patri’s questions: plan for growth.

In the near term, the company plans to begin sponsoring events held at T-REX. Hosting and gathering entrepreneurial minded and talented people at T-REX, Patri hopes will showcase all the promising opportunities and existing culture the area has, thereby stoking more growth and retention for St. Louis. Increased awareness and and influx of talent in the community will benefit the entire region, and will, of course, benefit Label Insight as well. They have their sights set on expanding and are continuing to grow the St. Louis office. “We’re hiring and we’re hiring locally, which definitely means in St. Louis. We think of St. Louis as our home, where we really got our big break. If there are smart people, send them our way,” he said.

You can’t get much more transparent than that, even for a company with it at the heart of its mission. To learn more about Label Insights opportunities and mission, find them on the web here.  

Jan 24

Adarza BioSystems Closes on $17 Million – What’s Next for the Life Science Startup

Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)

On January 19, startup Adarza BioSystems, Inc,  based in St. Louis and Rochester, New York, closed on $17 Million in Series C financing and announced that new president Bryan Witherbee is replacing retiring CEO Dr. Rand Henke. This funding round is led by St. Louis-based later-stage life science fund, 3×5 RiverVest Fund II, LP out of RiverVest Venture Partners. Less than a year ago, Adarza closed on $5 Million in Series B financing led by Cultivation Capital Life Science Fund, Lewis and Clark Ventures and the Venture Capital Unit of Siemens. Local investment and the availability of premium talent in science and engineering brought Adarza BioSystems to St. Louis and continues to contribute to its growth.

What Adarza Does

Adarza BioSystems, Inc. is a label-free platform technology that enables the simultaneous detection of hundreds of analytes in a single drop of fluid. New president Brian Witherbee explains the meaning of “label-free” in this context. He says, “Our technology provides a way to accurately measure different proteins in your sample (blood, cultured media, sputum, etc.) in its native form as it exists in nature. Other competing technologies need to have non-native forms of the proteins modified (labeled) with a chemical in order for them to be accurately measured. By not modifying the protein of interest our AIR technology is both sensitive and accurate.”

Adarza’s approach is better for patients and improves the quality of testing outcomes. Witherbee continued, “Our tool allows the researcher to take one sample and 400 different measurements. As we’re entering this realm where we are starting to understand the biology around cancer, having a tool like this where you can multiplex and get a good overview of what is going on in a human system gives more options to the clinician to be able to successfully treat it with drugs and other therapies.

About the technology

Adarza’s AIR (Arrayed Imaging Reflectometry) Platform distinguishes their approach from their competitors because it separates each analyte, removing the risk of cross-reactivity. Witherbee said, “One of the things that is unique about our tool is that with some of the other technologies there is opportunity that you could get mixed results, because of cross-reactivity where as with the Adarza AIR there is 0% cross-reactivity.” Cross-reactivity results in inconclusive results due to unintentional mixing of the analytes.

The AIR Platform process begins with the application of the sample to a silicone chip and incubating it. A rinse and dry step results in an image produced by suppressing background illumination in order to reveal hidden detail on the chip. Within minutes, the image reveals its first results for analysis.

The Backstory

Adarza BioSystems was founded in 2008 by Dr. Benjamin Miller, Professor of Dermatology,  at University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.  Miller serves as Chairman of Adarza BioSystems’ Scientific Board. Witherbee said, ” Miller has been the driving force to a lot of the early observations and development of the technology. Rand Henke, retired CEO, started working with the technology and over the years the intellectual property was licensed to Adarza.”

Rochester is a likely place to have started an immunoassay imaging company. As the home of Eastman Kodak Company and Xerox, there are many people in the area with scientific knowledge about imaging. Witherbee said, “This technology got developed out of a place where imaging technology has been in development for a long time. There is a lot of entrepreneurial effort around imaging. The work that has come out of High Tech Rochester has pushed and helped enable some of these technologies.”

Why move to St. Louis?

Adarza BioSystems moved to O’Fallon, MO in January 2015 as a result of Series A funding. They found BioGenerator, an accelerator focused on cultivating a thriving biosciences sector in St. Louis. As they worked to assemble Series B funding, they found a lot of support in the area.  Witherbee said, “We are here because of a lot of efforts by different investment groups–at first Cultivation Capital, Lewis & Clark Ventures and BioGenerator and now RiverVest–all local community investors looking to further invest into St. Louis. They are helping to move those companies along and provide their experience in terms of tools and connections as well as obviously the financing.”

St. Louis offers substantial assets in the area of scientific human resources as well.  Witherbee said, “One of the nice things about being located here in St. Louis is that there is a wealth of great scientists and engineers here. There have been a lot of scientists here over the years with Monsanto, and Pfizer was here for a long time, so there are a lot of scientists here that have drug discovery experience. That’s exciting for Adarza because we’ll be able to tap into that experience.” Today, Adarza has about 20 employees.

What’s next?

Closing on Series C funding is clearly a step in a great direction for Adarza Biosystems. According to the press release, proceeds from the financing will be used to further expand production capacity in its St. Peters, MO manufacturing facility and fund final development and commercialization of Adarza’s first immunoassay product consumable and instrument platform. The company is also continuing to explore how to commercialize their product. Witherbee said, “We’re still trying to get to the voice of the customer. We want to know what is tough in utilizing these technologies for researchers and how we can make the experience easier. We are still doing the development, which makes it a critical time for us to listen.”

Witherbee sees his new role as taking Adarza’s product to the next level. He said, “Adarza has done a great job of understanding and developing this unique and exciting technology. Now I need to help focus the company on delivering a commercial technology.”

Jan 24

Mosque, Single-Family Homes Approved in St. Louis City Historic Districts

St. Louis City is home to an immense treasure trove of historic districts, landmarks, and architecture. There are city landmarks, national register listings, national historic districts, local historic districts, and more. It’s a lot to keep track of (National designations are important primarily because they confer access to tax credits). Local districts are the only ones to confer any real protection against alteration or demolition.

The relevant point here is that if you want to demolish, renovate, or build in a local historic district you’re going to land at the city’s Cultural Resources Office and seek the approval of the appointed Preservation Board. The board has a good track record of protecting the historic integrity of buildings and neighborhoods. In real life, this means the board often reaffirms simple rules, such as, that no, you cannot install a Home Depot door on your 1895 Benton Park home.

And on big decisions (see The People v. SLU regarding the Pevely Dairy complex) politics can sometimes carry the day. Still,  common sense typically rules the outcomes each month. This week, two single-family homes (Lafayette Square and Benton Park historic districts) and a mosque (McKinley Heights historic district) were approved by the board.

_______________________________

1212 Dolman Street – Lafayette Square Local Historic District

The Proposal:
This single-family house, on the east side of Dolman Street, follows a Historic Model Example as required by the Lafayette Square Standards. However, the design includes a large side porch, based generally upon a similar porch that was approved by the Preservation Board for another new house constructed at 1722 Carroll Street in 2015.

_______________________________

2843 South 18th Street – Benton Park Local Historic District

The Proposal:
The applicant proposes to construct one single-family residence at 2843 South 18th Street, in the Benton Park Local and National Register District.

_______________________________

2623 Allen Avenue – McKinley Heights Local Historic District

The Proposal:
This is a preliminary review application to construct a new mosque with parking.

Jan 18

Introducing STLTechMap: A New Interactive Ecosystem Map for St. Louis

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

Ever since EQ published our ecosystem map as a printed infographic a couple of years ago, we have received great feedback. People have told us they hang it on their office walls for reference and print and share it in meetings or presentations. Seeing the response to our map and ITEN’s map, it’s not surprising to us that the Kauffman Foundation has said that mapping your startup ecosystem is a strategy to strengthen it.

While it felt great to provide the map as a resource, however, we knew that if it were to truly serve as such, it needed to become something dramatically different.

St. Louis Startup Ecosystem Map

Our printed posters were immediately outdated when, the week after we printed copies, another new accelerator launched, already rendering the map out of date. While our printed maps provided a nice birds-eye view of the community, it couldn’t by its very nature allow users to filter content or read more about specific organizations, much less contribute content themselves. Additionally, the finite space of our printed map could in no way accommodate the central part of our tech community—the startups themselves!

In short, our map needed to more truly reflect the nature of our startup ecosystem itself: always evolving and interactive, with an opportunity for everyone to contribute. 

And now it’s here!

Today we introduce STLTechMap.com.

STL Tech Map

Our goal with STLTechMap is to provide easy access to navigating St. Louis’ high-tech scene. Want to peruse programs and networks you can become involved with to push your idea forward? Looking for a list of startups in various industries in St. Louis? Whether you’re a startup CEO, an investor, an out-of-town visitor, an ESO leader or job seeker, let the map be your guide to understanding St. Louis’ startup community and finding the resources you need.

EQ’s Role

EQ has kicked off the content for the map by adding over 250 pins across 14 categories, from Incubators and Accelerators to Co-working and Startups. Thanks to the sponsorship from Cortex Innovation Community, EQ has been able to dedicate hours and resources to getting the map set up and launched–and we will continue adding new pins and moderating user-generated content. We will also send quarterly requests for updates to organizations and apply other methods to ensure the content is as up-to-date as possible.

But We Need Your Help, Too

  • This map is crowdsourced, so encourage startups and other organizations to add themselves to the map. Startups need only have an STL office to make it onto the map.
  • If you are a startup founder, ESO leader or communications manager of an organization already on the map, “claim” your pin to update your information, add photos and post job listings (more on this below).
  • Promote the map to your networks to help tell St. Louis’ startup story. Unlike many cities, St. Louis has multiple innovation districts, and this map tells a visual story about our region.

Why Claim Your Organization on the Map?

Organizations that “Claim” their listing can not only keep their profiles up to date; they can also add job listings for free. Users (read: passive and active job seekers interested in the startup community) can navigate to the Jobs section of the map and see the job listings there. This will temporarily replace EQ’s TEQJobs board. We’d like to see if users utilize this free resource, and if having it integrated into the map helps with engagement by both companies and job seekers.

By claiming your listing, you can also post events to your organization’s page (note: this is a separate events listing from EQ’s main calendar; we will maintain both calendars for a period of time to compare engagement).

We hope you utilize the map–and share widely with your networks–to help the ecosystem continue to grow in 2017.

For question on how to perform certain functions, see below. Otherwise, enjoy the map and we look forward to feedback along the way!

-EQ


STLTechMap “How To” FAQs:

How to add a company or organization to the map:

To add a new company, click “ADD TO MAP.” You’ll be prompted to sign in or create a free account to be able to add listings. You do not need to be the owner or manager of the company to pin a company. EQ moderates all new pin additions. The organization’s owner or communications manager can then “claim” their listing to keep it updated.

How to update an existing pin on the map:

Navigate to the pin’s description page and click “Claim Place.” You’ll be prompted to sign in or create a free account. EQ moderates all requests to claim pins. Please allow up to 24 hours for these approvals (though we aim to do these much more quickly).

How to share a listing on social media:

Navigate to the pin’s description page and click the small “Share” button on the right of the description. You can then choose to share on social media or via email and other channels.

What if my organization is already on the map but I see the information is out of date?

Claim your pin (see above) to update the information, or forward it to someone in your organization who is empowered to do so.

Where to send other feedback on the map: editors@eqstl.com. Please allow up to 48 hours for a response.

Map data compiled by Olive Elwell and Kelly Hamilton

Dec 05

Cloud Storage

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Cloud storage is an integral part of data retrieval and back end management, so Accela utilizes the best practices for storing your information. It feeds the AccelaCast on-demand rich media platform which provides seemless visual capabilities for presentations and education. Cloud storage also serves the AccelaWorks web response management, providing vital sales information for bringing in new visitors to your website, and supplying the forms that accumulate consumer data to generate leads. Medical professionals will find that the necessary information to provide the best care is at their fingertips, as multimedia content is delivered from the cloud in an interactive format to reinforce comprehension.

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Sep 21

US Ambassador visits the Portershed

July 21, 2016
Galway Advertiser

US Ambassadors visits the Portershed

The Ag Tech seminar was the highlight of a two day visit to Galway by an economic delegation from St. Louis who also visited Galway Technology Center and NUIG. The seminar which was over-subscribed engaged both Ag-Tech academia and industry leaders in lively panel discussions. The visit was part of an initiative to further develop existing relationships globally and to create more business opportunities for west of Ireland companies in international markets. Pictured are Tim Novak, World Trade Center, St. Louis; Shelia Sweeney, Chair St. Louis County Council, US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley; Maurice O’Gorman, Chair GCID, Conor O’Dowd President Galway Chamber and John Breslin, Senior Lecturer NUIG and GCID Board member.

Sep 21

When St. Louis Innovators Go To Ireland And France: What Happened And What’s Next

July 27, 2016
EQ Magazine
By Kelly Hamilton

Thirty St. Louis innovation leaders, including representatives from St. Louis economic development agencies, elected officials, entrepreneur support organizations, startup companies and multi-national corporations, wrapped a six-day delegation to Ireland and France last weekend. I was fortunate enough to join the delegation. As a storyteller in our city’s innovation ecosystem, what better job could I have than to be on location with this group, sharing St. Louis’ innovation story with the world and taking in learnings from the cities we visited?

First, how did this group come to make this journey together? Well, once upon a time (in fall of 2014), St. Louisan Kevin O’Malley was appointed by President Obama to be US Ambassador to Ireland. He really wanted to get something done for his hometown, beyond his work for United States as a nation. Last summer, to create a space where St. Louis and Irish business leaders could foster deeper connections, he invited a delegation of business and economic development organizations, organized by the World Trade Center St. Louis, to journey across the Atlantic.

One of the most impactful moments of that trip was during a trip to MasterCard’s Dublin office to visit with its global innovation team. Learning about Ireland’s startup ecosystems and how MasterCard engages tech companies there, the delegation was blown away. What doors could be opened for St. Louis’ tech companies in Ireland, and vice versa? With some shared strengths (agriculture, MedTech), what bridges could be built between Ireland and St. Louis? The World Trade Center wanted to help our city find out. So a metaphorical seed was planted on that trip—a follow-up delegation focused specifically on innovation and entrepreneurship. Trade missions like these don’t happen every year, much less in two consecutive years—which already set up this year’s trip to be exceptional.

Finding Family

Trade missions can be somewhat ceremonial. Elected officials are present, there are gifts given on behalf of the cities, there are speeches. Going into this delegation, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I imagined that would be a part of it.

And there was. There were greetings in Gaelic (in Galway) and French (in Lyon). There were gifts given (St. Louis gifted beautiful glass sculptures from Third Degree Glass, founded by Square co-founder and St. Louisan Jim McKelvey). Stories were told (like that of St. Louis Regional Chamber investing in the flight of Charles Lindbergh) to share the spirit of St. Louis with our peers across the sea. There were talking points aplenty, each other thanking the other for the relationship, and us thanking them for their generous hospitality (which was indeed generous; we were never left with a hunger—or a thirst).

But so much more happened. Ultimately, it was about finding our “lost brothers and sisters,” put by Tim Hayden, co-founder and Managing Partner of Stadia Ventures and Director of Entrepreneurship at Saint Louis University. “It doesn’t matter where you’re located; the crazy entrepreneurs all find a way to come together.”

And while that is true, Ambassador O’Malley put it another, more literal way: “Almost 800,000 Missourians claim Irish ancestry of some degree or another. […] We have this shared history, this shared culture. We have a shared DNA. […] We the Irish, we St. Louisans, simply get one another. We can do business because we understand one another. The Irish are a welcoming people. St. Louis is a welcoming place. Ireland presents a tremendous opportunity to St. Louis. I would argue for the Irish that St. Louis presents a tremendous opportunity for you.”

But First, France

Let’s not skip too far ahead. First, after a 20-ish-hour journey, the delegates landed in Lyon, France for the first leg of the delegation. Why Lyon, when the US Ambassador to Ireland invited us? Great question. St. Louis and Lyon are sister cities. If you are unfamiliar with this, the Sister City Initiative is a global project whereby cities create relationships for mutually beneficial business and cultural exchanges.

Lyon is known as a culinary capital, but it also has a whole lot happening in the business space, particularly in the life sciences. There are 600 life science companies in the region and 60,000 jobs in health and biotech. The number-one vaccine production center in the world and France’s leading health center, Lyonbiopôle, are there. It has Biodistrict Lyon, a business district with more than 5,000 people working there, including 2,750 researchers.

Day one had the group visiting the global headquarters of bioMerieux, a pioneer and world leader in the field of in vitro diagnostics. The 50-year-old privately held company has a St. Louis office that employs more than 700 people, a significant portion of its 9,500-person team. We learned about Lyon’s deep history of innovations in the life sciences and bioMerieux’s role as an anchor in the ecosystem and economy.

Later that day, the group got a tour of Lyon by water, where we had a spectacular view of the new Lyon-Confluence district, an innovative project between public and private sectors. An ambitious undertaking, the project’s goal is to double the size of Lyon’s city centre by 2025. The first phase, initiated in 2003, has come to a close, and the results are breathtaking.

According to Jean-Charles Foddis, Executive Director at ADERLY, Lyon’s economic development agency, the district—which is both a business and residential district—is attracting investors and tenants who are seduced by the district’s location between the Saône and Rhône rivers and its proximity to the city center. The location ws selected to host the Lyon Smart Community project until 2016 (Lyon was the first “Smart City” in France).

On day two, my fellow delegates and I participated in discussions hosted by ADERLY and OnlyLyon, an organization focused on building the region’s international reputation. Aside from their Sister City relationship, Lyon and St. Louis share the life sciences sector as a key strength. Back-to-back panel discussions focused on drawing out commonalities, unique challenges and possible collaborations between cities in the bio/life sciences space.

The first panel brought together Jason Hall, VP of Entrepreneurship and Innovation of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Donn Rubin, President & CEO of BioSTL from St. Louis and Hugues Benoit Cattin, Director of the Innovation Factory at the University of Lyon and Florence Agostino Etchetto, CEO of Lyonbiopôle, to discuss their respective regions’ strengths and challenges.

Jason Hall noted some of St. Louis and Lyon’s connection points. St. Louis is a product/startup of France­­–founded by French entrepreneurs Laclede and Chouteau–and its entrepreneurship boom largely started with the life sciences, including being home to the researchers at Washington University who first mapped the human genome. Hugues Benoit noted that Lyon looks to send their students to interesting ecosystems like St. Louis.

To get some of the companies’ perspectives, Travis Sheridan of Venture Café – St. Louis moderated a CEO2CEO discussion between Dr. Cheryl Watkins Moore, director of St. Louis startup accelerated rehabilitation specialties and Gilles DeVillers of Lyon-based Neolys Diagnostics. The two CEOs discussed how their cities support life science startups, what current challenges they face and what opportunities lay ahead for their ecosystems.

Destination Dublin

Immediately following the panel discussions, we hopped a plane to Dublin. Day three of the delegation brought us to Deerfield Residence, the home of US Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley. Before the day’s meetings, everyone had a chance to acclimate to the stunningly beautiful environs of the Ambassador residence. Breakfast was served and delegates had the chance to mingle with members of Dublin’s tech community and chat with the Ambassador.

Ambassador O’Malley then welcomed the delegation with remarks that spoke to the symbiotic relationship and shared history of the US and Ireland, and to his desire to foster deep connections between St. Louis and Ireland during his time in office.

“I want the best for my hometown. […] I hope we make this a profitable trip—that’s what this is all about. Can we make connections to put St. Louis, Missouri and Ireland together for the future?”

It’s important to note the timing of this delegation, happening just two weeks after the Brexit vote on June 23. The Ambassador made some poignant reminders to the crowd to set the tone for the day:

“With the United Kingdom voting recently to leave the EU, we are reminded again we need to work smarter to find a new and cohesive way to do business. […] It may well be that Ireland is soon the only English speaking country in the EU. It may well happen that the Brexit changes things dramatically and here we are with an opportunity and we’re sitting here on the cusp of this. […] The successful people are the nimble people. We [the United States] have a shared history with Ireland and shared DNA. […] The big question that’s presented to me and I’ll present to you is not what will happen at this meeting, but why are we just now doing this?”

The day’s panel discussions explored Ireland and St. Louis’ common ground in tech and FinTech. The first panel featured Ginger Imster, Executive Director of Arch Grants, and Dennis Lower, CEO of Cortex Innovation Community, alongside two leaders in Dublin’s innovation ecosystem, Eamon Leonard, Founder at Cohort, Inc. and Eoghan Stack, Chief Executive at DCU Ryan Academy. The conversation centered around the strengths and pain points of our respective communities. Dublin noted its collaborative and welcoming culture, similar words often used to describe St. Louis’ ecosystem. Lower and Imster noted St. Louis’ focus on community building, the importance of creating an inclusive environment and the vision of creating a vibrant innovation corridor that gives entrepreneurs greater choice as they scale.

Throughout the discussion, both Imster and Lower spoke to the importance of people and place. One salient statement came during a discussion around failure and its role in a healthy ecosystem. From Imster: “At the end of the day, what have we done as communities to be able to reflect values back at that talent so that, should the business not succeed, we can make a compelling case for that talent to want to stay [in St. Louis]? Because this is about people, and the values that we share.”

Mastering Corporate-Startup Collaborations

On the same day, Chris Dornfeld, Co-founder and President of St. Louis-based Bonfyre, then led a CEO2CEO discussion between Pravina Pindoria, COO and Cofounder of St. Louis-based Tallyfy, Seamus Matthews, CEO & Founder of Dublin-based startup, PennyOwl and Robert Reeg, President, MasterCard Operations & Technologies. The discussions centered around how startups partner with multi-national corporations. With MasterCard’s corporate technology headquarters based in St. Louis and Ireland, the conversation also delved into how MasterCard is leveraging relationships with startups to drive innovation and attract talent.

Dornfeld asked the panelists to speak to the value of global companies like MasterCard partnering with startup companies. Reeg spoke to MasterCard’s approach, and how it has been a more recent shift for the company to focus on building a reputation for innovation. What started as a way to get more ideas turned into a larger talent play.

“We started looking at this from a defensive mechanism [standpoint], afraid that someone was going to come up with an idea that would disintermediate us to a certain extent, but it grew into “we’re never going to think of all the best ideas, and so [there’s an entire team dedicated to finding] startups that make sense to become part of the MasterCard family. For us, it gives us access to idea generation and talent that we wouldn’t see otherwise, and it gives our employee base a whole different view of what success looks like. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to fail fast and go about it a different way, and that’s what learning from the startups helps us do.”

After the day at Deerfield, the group went to Dogpatch Labs, one of Dublin’s leading co-working spaces for tech startups. The impressive place, which is difficult to compare to something similar in St. Louis, but the closest in size and vibe would be CIC@4240, except it has retail space and a food court on the first floor. After a tour and presentation, the delegation caught a train to Galway.

Capital of Culture & Tech

On our first night in Galway, the delegation was treated to a little local culture at a theater house, followed by dinner at a local pub hosted by the Galway Chamber. Along the way, we learned that Galway was actually in the running to be designated the European Capital of Culture 2020, a competition that would bring the city an estimated €170 million to the winner in terms of funding and tourism. It is also potentially worth several thousand new jobs.

The next day, the group started the morning at a networking event at Galway Technology Centre, aplace that provides serviced office space in a prime location in Galway to meet the needs of companies in the ICT, digital media and other industries. The Galway Chamber and mayor’s office welcomed the delegation to the city, shared some insights into the Galway tech ecosystem and invited St. Louis representatives to do the same. Then, several Galway-based startups including Element Wave, RealSim and Claddagh Jewellers, shared their stories and had booths where St. Louis’ delegation connected with them one-on-one.

Campus Connections

After lunch, the delegation headed to the National University of Ireland Galway, where a roundtable of voices from both St. Louis and Galway discussed the role of universities in ecosystems, how the universities are supporting their respective ecosystems. David Hakanson and Tim Hayden of Saint Louis University and William Powderly and Daniel Berke from Washington University spoke to their university’s focuses in terms of engagement.

“One of the things that we’ve found is that what is changing university culture more rapidly than anything else is our students,” remarked Dr. William Powderly, director of the Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis. “The students coming in now want their education and want to make a difference. And they don’t want to make a difference when they’re 70. They want to make a difference now. And I think that has really started to get us to thinking, how do we do that?”

But the roundtable was not just a sharing of ideas. Before leaving the table, there was a call to take action. Ideas discussed included creating an exchange program for entrepreneurship students and one for startups themselves.

“We have 125 undergraduate entrepreneurship majors. We’d love to send them here. […] Let’s get some of our students in the startup world to come on over and send some of your students over to us as well,” said panelist Tim Hayden of SLU.

Panelist Chris Motley, CEO & Founder of Better Weekdays, offered an insightful idea: “Don’t forget about the founders and entrepreneurs themselves. I think there’s an incredible amount of learning that can happen on how we can expand internationally, especially for a business like mine–everybody needs a job after college. But for those entrepreneurs here in Ireland who want to get exposure in the US, I think that crossover between students [is important] but extending it to founders may also be tremendously beneficial.”

Solidifying Partnerships

On the final day of the delegation, the group met at PorterShed, a new T-REX-like startup incubator in the emerging Galway City Innovation District. The space will house high potential tech start-up companies and was built through a partnership between the Galway Chamber and AIB.

Maurice O’Gorman of the Galway Chamber and Chairperson for the Galway City Innovation District, welcomed the delegation. Ambassador O’Malley joined for the day of conversations and announcements around AgTech innovation. Following the same format as Dublin and Lyon, we started with a panel discussion with leaders in the innovation ecosystem and discussed possible collaboration points between cities. I had the opportunity to moderate a panel featuring Christine Karslake, VP of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, Matt Plummer, Principal at the Yield Lab, Charlie Spillane, Head of Plant & Agribiosciences Centre (PABC) at the National University of Ireland Galway and Ivan McPhillips, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.

Christine Karslake, in addition to sharing updates on St. Louis’ growing Ag and Plant Science Innovation District, shared takeaways that the delegation had been processing throughout the week together: “One of the things as our delegation jumps on the bus at the end of the day is, we want to make sure this just wasn’t a trip—that we’ve really begun a partnership. And that we really have tangible things we’re able to show from this—ways in which we connect companies, in which we can perhaps plan business competitions together, in which we can really work together.”

It should be noted here that one outcome of last summer’s delegation to Ireland was the expansion of BioSTL’s GlobalSTL program into Ireland this year. Donn Rubin, CEO of BioSTL, was on last year’s delegation and during that trip, built a relationship with Enterprise Ireland. One year later, GlobalSTL is now working deeply in Ireland.

“My colleague Vijay Chauhan is in Ireland this week with Enterprise Ireland and with a colleague from St. Louis University and one of our health care systems. They’re traveling around Ireland and meeting with dozens of companies this week, and we’ll be back in September on an AgTech-focused trip. We’re really delighted to be deeply involved now with Ireland.”

The third and final transatlantic CEO2CEO event was a discussion between Peter Wyse Jackson, President & CEO of Missouri Botanical Garden, Gareth Devenney, Co-Founder & COO of Farmflo and Thad Simons, Managing Director of The Yield Lab, the St. Louis AgTech accelerator.

Simons then made an extra special announcement to close out the delegation—the expansion of The Yield Lab into Galway. “Our plan is to be able to start a program very much like we do in the St. Louis and be able to support not only Irish companies, but companies that can come from anywhere in the world that would [get] value from coming to a program based here [in Galway], probably here in this same space that we’re in right now.”

Part of the reason The Yield Lab expanded into Galway is that Simons noticed a way for St. Louis to add value to our Galway sister city. “It was my first trip to Ireland last year that I saw the ecosystem that existed here, so many people working in IT and innovation, MedTech, and I looked around and thought this is how St. Louis looked to me two to three years ago. The ecosystem is really all here, your support and effort, but there is nothing focused with regard to agriculture. [A strong] industry for both Ireland and Missouri is agriculture, so we thought the model developed in St. Louis could work here in Galway.” Simons thanked Enterprise Ireland for its partnership in making the expansion happen, and announced that it had secured its first Irish investor the day before.

Joe Reagan, CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, who made an investment into The Yield Lab toward this expansion, said: “Our connection with Yield Lab Galway will build a bridge here [in Galway] for our homebased fund that will increase trade markets for St. Louis startups. Irish startups coming into the fund looking for a US footprint will see St. Louis’ advantages firsthand.”

Closing out the delegation, Ambassador O’Malley spoke to the sister cities taking action: “The question for me is not will there be success from this if we want to. As I mentioned the other day, [my question is], why didn’t we do this earlier? This is the beginning of something that can be very important for all of us, economically and culturally, to enhance the cities we love.”

Speaking of culture, within five minutes of closing our delegation, it was announced that Galway was chosen as the winner of the European Capital of Culture. The delegation got to celebrate the success of our sisters and brothers in Galway, a perfect ending to the week.

What did other delegates take away from it?

Chris Dornfeld, President and Cofounder of Bonfyre, said: “My goals for the trip were to meet some interesting people, see some great architecture and generate some new business for Bonfyre. By every measure the trip exceeded expectations and it proved to be one of the most memorable weeks of my life. I was surprised by the economic potential for our region to serve as a gateway for european companies wanting to enter the US market, and the breadth of new friendships created with many of the other delegates from St. Louis.”

One of his key takeaways was that we as a region could do a better job of sharing the St. Louis innovation story both internally and with “other cities around the globe as we have a more vibrant innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem than most people know.”

Ginger Imster, Executive Director of Arch Grants, said: “I knew it would be a well curated trip because of the organizers, but I was overwhelmed by the warmth of our reception in Ireland. Ambassador O’Malley set the tone, and his hospitality, and that of his team, was truly overwhelming.In addition, our counterparts in Ireland were more forthcoming and enthusiastic about partnership than I had anticipated. That excitement meant my conversations were more productive from the very start because my Irish counterparts were already thinking collaboration and coordination.”

Imster spoke to Ireland’s long history of emigration and the fact that talent retention is as big a priority there as it is here. “As a result, our respective markets have a common goal. That said, multiple entrepreneur support organizations in Ireland know that their Irish startups want a presence in North America. Based on my conversations with my peers in Ireland, St. Louis could be the entry point and Arch Grants could be an effective partner in helping those companies create a North American presence in St. Louis. At the same time, we have companies in our portfolio that want to enter the European market. BREXIT means that Ireland is the last English speaking country in the EU. As a result, Ireland is a natural point of entry for our startups that want a dual presence in St. Louis and Europe. I have just begun conversations to explore how Arch Grants can partner with some of our host organizations in Ireland, and I’m hopeful our discussions ultimately result in some companies choosing to locate in both of our markets to the mutual benefit of St. Louis and Ireland. BioSTL is also working to assist Irish companies establish a North American presence in St. Louis, and we look forward to collaborating with BioSTL as circumstances allow.”

Who were the 30 delegates? See the list here.

Sep 21

St. Louis Startups And Innovation Leaders Join Delegation To Ireland And France

June 30, 2016
EQ Magazine
By Kelly Hamilton

Last summer, a group of 23 business and civic leaders traveled to Ireland on a trade delegation. It was upon the invitation of US Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley, a St. Louisan who practiced law at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale prior to his appointment. Over the course of seven days, the delegates met with business leaders in Dublin, Germany and London.

While the primary goal of that trip was to visit the European headquarters of businesses that have a significant presence in St. Louis, a pivotal moment came when the group met with a specific sector of Dublin’s business community: startups.

During an innovation roundtable hosted by MasterCard Technologies, the delegates were “blown away by Dublin’s startup community,” says Tim Nowak, executive director of the World Trade Center St. Louis. By the end of the delegation, “we had started putting together ideas on coming back. We thought, why don’t we build a delegation around that, and find ways to strengthen commercial ties?”

A follow-up trip was planned for this summer, this time with leaders and influencers in the tech and innovation community. Led by St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger and organized by his office as well as leaders at the World Trade Center St. Louis, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the offices of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, the delegation is a mix of top leadership from some of St. Louis’ largest enterprises, startup founders, leaders of entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) and civic leaders.

When putting together the list of invited delegates, Nowak says, “We really tried to do so with an eye toward the leaders who could speak to the innovation story going on here in St. Louis. We wanted a group of people who are immersed in this story.”

Three Cities, One Goal
The purpose of this year’s delegation is to “strengthen commercial ties through innovation in three cities with which we share a unique relationship—Lyon, Dublin and Galway,” says Nowak.

St. Louis has long-standing relationships with Galway and Lyon, both sister cities to St. Louis through the Sister Cities International program. Those relationships have been in place since the 1970s, and there’s now an effort to find ways to enhance them.

An innovation seminar and shared discussion will take place in each of the three cities. Following tours of local startup accelerators and innovation centers, panel discussions moderated by St. Louis delegates will bring together St. Louisans and local community members.

Each city’s discussions will follow a theme: bioscience in Lyon, FinTech and IT in Dublin and AgTech and Tech in Galway.

The delegation begins in Lyon, France on July 10, travels to Dublin July 12 and wraps in Galway on July 15.

The delegates are:

Brian Wahby, Principal, Berrick Partnership
Cheryl Watkins-Moore, CEO & Founder, Accelerated Rehabilitation Technologies
Chris Motley, Founder & CEO, Better Weekdays
Chris Dornfeld, Founder & CEO, Bonfyre
Christine Karslake VP, Innovation and Entrepreneurship St. Louis Economic Development Partnership
David Hakanson Vice President, CIO & Chief Innovation Officer, Saint Louis University
Dennis Lower, President & CEO, Cortex
Dennis Riggs, Director, HEC-TV
Derek Naten, Sr. Director, Government Affairs & Advocacy Relations, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals
Donn Rubin, President & CEO, BioSTL
Ginger Imster, Executive Director, Arch Grants
Henry Biggs, President, Eusabian Technologies
Jason Hall, General Counsel, St. Louis Regional Chamber
Joe Reagan, President & CEO, St. Louis Regional Chamber
Kelly Hamilton, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, EQ
Lori Becklenberg, Director, New Business Development, St. Louis Regional Chamber
Patrick Dolan, Chairman, County Council, St. Louis County
Peter Wyse Jackson, President, Missouri Botanical Garden
Pravina Pindoria, Chief Operating Officer, Tallyfy, Inc.
Robert Reeg, President, MasterCard
Ron Jones, Principal, Burns & McDonnell
Samira Boudiab, Chief of Staff, MasterCard
Sean Furman, Sr. Program Director-VITEK, BioMerieux
Sheila Sweeney, CEO, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership
Stella Sheehan, Deputy Director, World Trade Center St. Louis
St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger
Susan Powers, Communications Mgr., National Corn Growers Association
Thad Simons, Managing Director, The Yield Lab
Tim Hayden, Managing Director, Stadia Ventures Saint Louis University
Tim Nowak, Executive Director, World Trade Center St. Louis
Travis Sheridan, Executive Director, Venture Café of St. Louis
William Powderly, Director, Institute for Public Health, Washington University in St. Louis
William Donius, Author & Innovation Facilitator

Sep 21

Yield Lab Expanding to Europe

July 15, 2016
St. Louis Business Journal
By Brian Feldt

The Yield Lab, a St. Louis-based agtech accelerator that launched in 2014, plans to launch a new location in Galway, Ireland.
The Yield Lab is led by former Novus International CEO Thad Simons and financially backed by Cultivation Capital.

The expansion was announced Friday while a group of St. Louis startup leaders visited Ireland as part of a broader European trip focused on engaging and potentially recruiting international startups to St. Louis.

“We chose Galway because it is similar to St. Louis in proximity to vast agricultural production and innovation, especially in livestock,” said Matt Plummer, executive director of The Yield Lab. “It also provides our current St. Louis investments with a beachhead to new markets and alternative sources of capital.

Similar to the way it operates in St. Louis, The Yield Lab will invest €100,000 (or about $110,670) in four to six startups each year.

To date, The Yield Lab has invested just more than $1.1 million in 11 early-stage agtech companies from around the world. Those companies have gone on to raise $15 million in follow-on capital.

Investments in agtech startups reached a record $4.6 billion in 2015, or nearly double the $2.36 billion seeded by venture capitalists and others in 2014.

Plummer said the expansion is a big opportunity for St. Louis “as it creates a tangible, economic highway between our two regions to grow and expand much faster.”

Sep 21

St. Louis officials unveil regional export plan

June 28, 2016
Steph Kukuljan
St. Louis Business Journal

The World Trade Center St. Louis on Tuesday unveiled what officials call the region’s first integrated plan to grow exports and make the St. Louis region a top 10 market nationwide by 2020.

The goal, according to the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and its World Trade Center St. Louis, is to create a diversified economic base that is recognized for its growth, value and diversification. The Metro St. Louis Export Plan is the result of a year-long study conducted through the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase aimed at helping metropolitan economies increase their international competitiveness.

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