Aug 19

Kickstarter Campaign to Re-Think Children’s Stories (And Kids’ Screentime)

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

Hugmonster Sound founder, Adam Frick, is launching a Kickstarter campaign to produce a podcast for children’s stories, called Fablist. Essentially produced as audio books, but delivered for free to parents and children via podcasting, Fablist will tell old fables from all around the world, re-invented for a modern setting.

Campaign Launch Event

Frick and his sound design team are looking to raise $12,500 to develop the very first episode, called Pear Blossom, which is the Korean version of the classic Cinderella story. To kick start the Kickstarter campaign, a fundraising event is being held this weekend, on Sunday, August 13th from 1-3pm, at Magnolia Cafe.

At the event, you’ll be able to hear an exclusive excerpt from the pilot story, read aloud, live as a radio play. You’ll also be able to grab a bite to eat, and enjoy kid-friendly activities like face-painting, balloon artistry, and mini magic shows with Circus Kaput. 

Re-Inventing Media Formats for Kids

The prototype podcast promises to make a couple of significant changes to the typical kid’s audio books format and the content of them too.

Speaking with Frick, he told me that most audio books which are aimed at children, tend to have a single narrator who not only tells the stories, but does different voices for all the characters too. With Fablist, he intends to create a richer sound design experience at a level akin to Hollywood Studio production values, and bring in other voice actors and songwriters, as you might experience in an adult radio play.

By delivering the stories as podcasts, they’ll be free to parents and easily accessible on their phones, without needing to download an app. The episodes will be serialized into 3-5 segments of around 15 minutes too, meaning they can be played easily in the car, on the school run, or enjoyed all together on a road trip.

As it stands, delivering radio plays as serialized podcasts is pretty much as ‘on trend’ as you can get right now, in the world of podcasts. Shows like Serial and now S-Town, have reached blockbuster status, so much so that competition is heating up to produce the Netflix of Spoken Word.

But, with Fablist, there is an even bigger kicker to get involved, and that is due to the growing concern of children’s screen time. As a parent himself, Frick admitted to lamenting the fact that streaming video seems to shut down kids’ imagination.

“I’m at a point in my life and career, where if there is something I think should be done, I just do it.”

His thesis is that removing the video component and bringing rich sound design to the audio component, will engage their imagination more.

And he’s not wrong. A teacher, writing for The Atlantic, argued that the blockbuster radio-play-as-podcast that started the trend, Serial, encouraged his students to reach more. To quote an extract from Michael Godsey’s article:

“[The article quoted] Emma Rodero, a communications professor at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, as saying that “listening, unlike looking at a written page, is more active, since the brain has to process the information at the pace it is played.” My student Roberto offered similar insight: “I think it helps me out with my reading since I have to keep a pace up.”

Re-Thinking Children’s Stories In A Modern Context

Cover Artwork for Pear Blossom from Fablist
Fablist’s First Audio Story Will Be Pear Blossom, A Korean Fable Similar to Cinderella

Another strong case for audio formats that Fablist makes is that the absence of the video component, also intentionally foregoes prescriptive visual elements in the story, meaning the child can imagine the universe of the play, exactly as they want.

Frick elaborated on the potential of the radio-play story format for children, “every kid can create the environment and hero that suits them. The kid creates the world the world that matters to them.”

This means that the audio format can also play a social role on top of the lessons delivered by the fables told. The team has deliberately chosen to curate stories from all around the world as the visual stereotypes no longer come into play. In that sense, Fablist is guided by these broader goals to create content that focuses on what ‘the user,’ namely the parent, wants (for their kids) as opposed to what the content producers and streaming media networks need to monetize.

So, as the world is completely imaginary and unique for every listener, Fablist can gently introduce a meta narrative of diversity and friendship. For instance, Brooke Foster, also on the Fablist team told me over email, “our second episode focuses on Pear Blossom’s best friend, an Ethiopian boy named Sam, and shares the East African fable The Enchanted Flute, which is a story about our actions meaning much more than our outward appearances.”

So, join the kickstarter launch party on Sunday hear a sample of episode 1, Pear Blossom, and fingers crossed that they can beat their target and hit a major stretch goal to make that second episode and fully realize the vision.

Personally speaking, I just really like how joined up all the thinking is around this product – good luck, guys!

Get Involved

Fablist Kickstarter Launch Party and Back-to-School Bash
When: 1-3:30 p.m. Sunday, August 13, 2017
Where: Magnolia Cafe / The Stage at KDHX (3524 Washington Ave, St. Louis, MO 63103)

Aug 19

5 Reasons To Build Your Startup in St. Louis

Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis

My company, Longneck & Thunderfoot (L&T), won an Arch Grant in summer 2016 and I moved to St Louis from New York that July. After a year here, I can say, with confidence that it is totally worth applying to the Arch Grants Global Startup Competition and considering relocating your company to St Louis, Missouri.

In less than 12 months, we have won a Fortune 500 company as a client, grown our STL team to five people, and loved it so much here, that we doubled down on our commitment to the region and made our first acquisition. That’s something neither myself nor my co-founder imagined saying after graduating our startup accelerator program in New York.

But, I don’t say that to beat my chest! I’m passionate about the opportunities and growth I’ve experienced in St. Louis and it’s made a real difference to me. The least I can do is try and pass the spark of what’s possible on to you.

Here are five strong reasons for why it’s worth opening an office or relocating to St. Louis.

  1. Your money goes a long way; you can live well and work hard.
  2. The entire St Louis Startup Ecosystem has strong core values that are practical and progressive; their mission is easy to get behind.
  3. The cost of failure is low; that means you can take more risks!
  4. St Louis is a great city; lots to do, both for work and play.
  5. An Arch Grant (or any other local accelerator program) will push your company into the limelight, boost your PR and generate wider market recognition that will assist in the next stage of your company’s growth.

I highly recommend applying for an Arch Grant.

Here’s why: You’ll win $50k in equity free cash. It’s paid out in five installments over a year which gives you a much needed cash injection every quarter, just when you need it.

$50,000 goes a long way in St Louis (STL). Arch Grants say that, “$50,000 in St. Louis equals $76,584 in Boston, $121,267 in New York, and $93,824 in San Francisco.” From personal experience, I can tell you that downtown St Louis has plenty of co-working spaces and affordable offices.

It is not unrealistic to budget only 0.1% of your Arch Grant grant to monthly co-working costs, and stretching to 1%, will get you a private office fit for a team of four. We work from T-Rex, a city sponsored downtown St. Louis co-working space that costs just $50/month to get started, and plays host to a brilliant and active community (Friday happy hours are the best!).

The day to day cost of living is low too. In the early days of L&T, when we first started in New York, I used to rent my Brooklyn apartment on Airbnb to help lower my living costs. In St. Louis, for the same cost of renting out a single room for a month in NYC, I now rent an entire apartment. You can get a downtown designer loft overlooking the Mississippi for similar prices too.

Arch Grants stands for a lot more than simply, “Startup Success.”

Their core values center around, “People, Place and Purpose.” Not only are they are great values to get behind, but the Arch Grants team really live up to their mission.

There is little doubt that getting your Startup off the ground is simply a matter of hard grind. Vision is essential, but sometimes it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. Arch Grants wants you to succeed in St Louis and is looking for bright entrepreneurs to be part of the bigger story of the development of the city.

As such, Arch Grants enables their entrepreneurs unprecedented access to the wider business community. Not only do they introduce you to key enterprise connections across a wide range of industries such as energy, healthcare, real estate, financial services and agriculture, but they also frequently present one-off community engagement initiatives that offer entrepreneurs opportunities to pitch, test, research and collaborate with local organizations.

For instance, while you may know you want to “build something gigantic” (which is the motto of T-Rex the co-working space), you can occasionally lose sight of key steps in the process. A few discussions with all the local ESOs (Entrepreneur Support Organizations), will quickly help you establish an internal roadmap and guide you around venture funding in St Louis along the way.

Once you’re off to the races, the wider talent pool of university graduates from Wash U, SLU and Mizzou mean there are plenty of strong candidates motivated to work at Startups. Local collaborations between organizations and startups like Downtown STL, Cortex, PluggedIN, ITEN and TEQjobs all help facilitate a steady flow of interns and FTE candidates. Depending on your needs, local programs like Slate OJT will even contribute matched funds to your salary budget if you hire new staffers as part of an on the job training program.

Personally speaking, I find the wider mission of Arch Grants and the collaborative spirit of the St Louis startup community in general, extremely inspiring. At the risk of going off on a tangent here, I would say that this greater context of, “Place,” really does lend me a greater sense of, “Purpose,” as an entrepreneur.

Failure is an option

What’s available here for new and seasoned entrepreneurs alike is a big chance at a big change. If you’re worried you might, “fail,” put that out of your mind. But if you’re starting to feel apprehensive too, that’s good. Because that really is okay too. Not only does Arch Grants NOT forbid you from applying again every year, but actually encourages it.

You could almost say, failure is part of the plan. This classically American, yet utterly modern, entrepreneurial spirit of St Louis is underlined by Ginger Imster, formerly Arch Grants’ executive director, simultaneously in a discussion with the Post Dispatch.

“Even some founders of defunct companies have stayed in town to start other firms. That’s important, Imster said: “How we celebrate successful failures will ultimately determine how well we do at retaining talent in St. Louis.”

I love that attitude. St Louis is a place for people with purpose. It’s nice to work in a city where some of that rubs off on you.

Yet, the truth is, you probably won’t fail. That’s because the entire city literally opens their ‘little black book’ of contacts and makes introductions to help you succeed. In less than a year, I’ve met top executives from the world’s leading investment banks, healthcare providers, energy and law firms, and the illusion that our company might not be able to operate at an enterprise level has been well and truly dispelled.

St Louis may be the beginning or middle or your Startup story, but it certainly won’t be the end.

There’s a lot going on. And a story for every occasion. There’s so many ways to be part of the story of a forward looking city that you can count on arousing the interest of the local press too.

Coverage in local news, the most trusted source, is often the springboard to national attention.
For instance, SafeTrek, a startup that found it’s people, place and purpose in St Louis (I love their story of why they chose St Louis, and Arch Grants chose them back, but I’ll save that for another post), was recently named as a Top 25 Upstart in 2017 by CNBC.

St Louis may also help you springboard into other regions too.
Arch Grant graduates, like Tallyfy and Scopio, have gone on to join the prestigious accelerator, 500 Startups, and successfully establish a foothold in Silicon Valley. Also, the St Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce regularly takes STL Startups on investor roadshows to NYC and Boston.

St Louis really is a great place to work and play!

You might have heard it’s a city in decline – a typical rust belt city. Whatever you’ve heard, ultimately, it’s up to you to do the research and make your own mind up, but I can tell you that there is a lot more going on in this place than you can imagine. But don’t just take my word for it; The Economist can tell you that Millenials really like it.

There is so much going on that, EQ, the region’s hyper-local publication that focuses on entrepreneurship in St Louis, has a dedicated section that lists all the latest events you can get involved with. Not only is business being done and investments being made, but this is a city on a mission.

A heroic-dose of pragmatism means that St. Louis is committed to equity actively supporting Startups with diverse teams from all over the world. Speak to anyone from T-Rex, Arch Grants, Downtown STL, Ferguson 1000, The Mosaic Project, Venture Cafe, CET and CIC, and they’ll all tell you that increasing diversity is a well known catalyst in transforming any local economy. Diverse teams bring new eyes, new brains and new tastes to the city, and my studied friends at these organizations all assert that these factors drive economic prosperity at a fundamental level.

That’s what I enjoy about working in St Louis most of all. While we may laugh at Startups, “making the world a better place,” in the HBO show, Silicon Valley, there is not a hint of irony that this city is investing in startups to make St Louis a better place. In my experience, it’s a city that is not scared to reflect on itself and understand how it got where it is today. It’s run by a people who put their insights into action. People who know what they are doing and why they are doing it.

When you get here, you’ll be meeting like minds who stand for making St Louis a great city, in whatever creative capacity they can.

Imagine working with people who think that way, as a matter of integrity, every single day? Yeah. Exactly. It’s awesome.

Aug 19

AgTech Accelerator Adds Three New Managing Directors

Estimated reading time: 2 minute(s)

Agtech VC fund and startup accelerator, The Yield Lab, has announced the addition of Sherri Brown, Ph.D., Tomás Peña, and Pat Pinkston. They will join the team as Managing Directors. 

The Yield Lab, whose claim to fame is the world’s first agriculture technology (AgTech) venture capital fund and business accelerator, was originally founded in St. Louis, Missouri. Since their inception in 2014, the fund has been on a mission to feed the world by bringing early stage capital to AgTech startups, investing over $1.7 million into 14 companies, whom have then gone on to raise an impressive $31+ million in total funding.

As Managing Directors, Pinkston and Brown will guide the Yield Lab’s continued efforts and development in North America, while Peña’ role will focus on finding opportunities for expanding the program into the Latin American market.

“Inviting these extraordinary individuals to join the team was an easy and obvious decision,” said Yield Lab Managing Director Thad Simons. “Their extensive background, knowledge, and connections in the AgTech space is exactly what the Yield Lab needs to further our efforts to sustainably feed the world’s growing population.” 


Sherri Brown, Ph.D. hails from Monsanto, where she served in a variety of technological and commercial roles, most recently serving as the Vice President of Science Strategy.

“The YieldLab’s track record is impressive and what they have added to the region is remarkable. I feel honored to be part of the team that is helping to solve one of the world’s biggest problems, and I am ready to dive in to further the cause,” she said.

Pat Pinkston had a 40 plus year career at John Deere, where he most recently served as Vice Present of Information Solutions in the Intelligent Solutions Group. 

“We look forward to engaging with and supporting innovative companies to enable a sustainable future of the ag industry,” he said.


Tomás Peña is co-founder of S4 AgTech; a company that provides agricultural risk insight to insurance companies, financial institutions, and agriculture companies. Prior to that, he spent almost two decades doing banking in Argentina at Banco Galicia.

Peña, who is also an Arch Grant winner, elaborated that he has been through the Yield Lab’s program himself, “Participating in the Yield Lab program first hand was a wonderful and truly valuable experience. The mentorship, opportunities, and connections made during programming furthered S4’s traction and I am thrilled to be tapped to bring the Yield Lab to Latin America to further the efforts of feeding humankind.”

The Yield Lab’s application cycle for 2017 closed with a total of 180 applications. Over 90 of those applications were headquartered in 24 different countries. The Yield Lab will begin accepting applications and reviewing investment opportunities in Fall of 2017.

Aug 18

Demo Alert: Wabash Signal Tower

I’ve passed the Wabash signal tower on Sarah on Metrolink many times and figured it would make a cute cafe, donut shop, pub, who knows, once the area came to life. Sadly we will never know. As part of the new station under construction a block away, it is being razed. Given there is already room for a third track, it’s a mystery to me why it’s going. This is the kind of fine-grained development that creates place desperately needed in the suburban-office-park-that-happens-to-be-on-an-orthoganol-grid rising around it. Perhaps tearing down the city will work this time.

About Richard Bose

A nextSTL contributor since 2011, Richard is an Electrical Engineer by profession. He earned a BA in Physics and Economics and an MSEE from Washington University in St. Louis. Richard is a transplant from Central Illinois and has called St. Louis home since 1998. He is Vice President of St. Louis Strong. He can be found on Twitter @Stlunite and contacted at [email protected]

Aug 16

Everly in the Loop Photo Tour

Move-ins commenced August 15 at the Everly in the Loop, a partnership between Clayco, CRG, and Koman Group, while workers put the finishing touches on the 14-story apartment building. It’ beings marketed to students, being leased by the bedroom, each with its own bathroom, and amenities and services geared towards them. Background

The apartments, with a total of 428 bedrooms, are 80% leased. The building meets the government-mandated one space per dwelling unit regulation. So far lessees have brought about 85 cars. There are also 100 spaces for bicycles. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture of them.

The sidewalk is open. Hope trees are coming soon.

Lobby

The mail room features automated package storage. A recipient will receive a text/email whenever a package arrives.

There are four study rooms.

Lounge

Gym

Video screen.

The pool is 8″ deep.

Kitchen

Living room

Bedroom

Bathroom

Garage

They are in talks with someone on leasing the entire commercial space.

Glazed Brick.

Marketing flyer

About Richard Bose

A nextSTL contributor since 2011, Richard is an Electrical Engineer by profession. He earned a BA in Physics and Economics and an MSEE from Washington University in St. Louis. Richard is a transplant from Central Illinois and has called St. Louis home since 1998. He is Vice President of St. Louis Strong. He can be found on Twitter @Stlunite and contacted at [email protected]

Aug 10

Purk & Associates Selected as one of Accounting Today’s “2017 Best Accounting Firms to Work For”

August 9, 2017 (St. Louis) – Purk & Associates, the leading St. Louis-based accounting and business consulting firm, was recently named as one of Accounting Today’s “2017 Best Accounting Firms to Work For.”

This is the fourth consecutive year that Purk & Associates has been selected for this prestigious award, and the firm is only one of two St. Louis- based accounting firms to receive this recognition.

“What an incredible honor to receive this recognition for four consecutive years,” said Bill Purk, CPA, Purk & Associates president. “We have an amazing and talented team that has helped build an amazing culture where we learn and support one another, and serve our clients well to guide them to financial success.”

Since its founding in June 2009, Purk & Associates has achieved significant financial growth, attracted and retained leading talent, and has been recognized by business groups and industry organizations for company awards and recognition of individual employees.

Purk & Associates has doubled the number of full-time professionals since its founding and doubling revenue during the past several years. Within the past six years, Purk & Associates has been recognized by the business community and accounting industry as one of the country’s leading accounting firms. The firm has been named to Inc. Magazine’s 500 | 5000 list in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Purk & Associates has been selected by the St. Louis Business Journal as the recipient for its “Best Places to Work” in 2010 and 2015, and a finalist in 2012 and 2014.

To review the list of the “2017 Best Accounting Firms to Work For,” please visit the Accounting Today article about the list of 2017 recipients.

This survey and awards program is designed to identify, recognize and honor the best employers in the accounting industry, benefiting the industry’s economy, workforce and businesses. The list is made up of 100 companies. Accounting Today partnered with Best Companies Group to identify companies that have excelled in creating quality workplaces for employees.

To be considered for participation, companies had to meet the following eligibility requirements: must be a public accounting firm in the U.S.; have a minimum of 15 employees working in the United States; and must be in business a minimum of 1 year.

Companies from across the United States entered the two-part survey process to determine Accounting Today’s “Best Accounting Firms to Work For.” The first part consisted of evaluating each nominated company’s workplace policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. This part of the process was worth approximately 25% of the total evaluation. The second part consisted of an employee survey to measure the employee experience. This part of the process was worth approximately 75% of the total evaluation. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final ranking.

Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process, analyzed the data and determined the final ranking.

Founded in 2009 with headquarters in St. Louis, Purk & Associates, P.C., is a nationally recognized and award winning, independently owned accounting and management advisory firm that delivers a full range of tax, accounting, audit and consulting services. At Purk & Associates, our focus is to help our clients achieve more financial and business success. To learn more, please visit http://purkpc.com.

Aug 02

NRGene Is Racing Against Time to Solve Hunger

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

After moving to St. Louis several months ago, the St. Louis Mosaic Project helped founders settle in St. Louis and build connections.

“We need to feed 9 billion people by 2050 using less arable land, less water and fewer inputs,” NRGene Sales Manager David Neuman says.

It’s a big challenge, but NRGene is racing against the clock to solve it. Luckily, they’ve got a few ideas in mind: “One important solution will be to accelerate breeding by using big genomic data to efficiently select and advance desirable genetic diversity,” Neuman says.

One of the original focus areas for the company led to their name: as they were trying to achieve energy crop improvements through gene information, the effort led to a twist on the letters “NRG” for energy and “gene” for genomic information.

NRGene
NRGene team members at the Plant & Animal Genome Conference in January | Image via Twitter

CEO Gil Ronen and Vice-President Guy Kol started the company based on the idea that “increasing amounts of genomic and genetic data are being produced while companies and researchers need to efficiently translate that data into clear decisions on crop and animal improvements,” Neuman says.

Since then, he says, “NRGene has developed unique capabilities to analyze big genomic data to uncover genetic variation and help accelerate breeding decisions for animal and plant agriculture companies, NGOs and academics.”

Working Globally

When you’re trying to solve a global problem, it makes sense to work on the solutions at a global level.

“It was clear that the market for such technology is located around the world, particularly in areas where agriculture is important,” says Neuman.

The company was founded in Ness Ziona, Israel, and is still headquartered there. It also has subsidiaries in St. Louis and in India, employing 55 employees total.

“St. Louis is in the heart of U.S. agriculture, with both large and small companies and academic centers located nearby. Because of this, it was clear that NRGene should be here—giving us a central U.S. location and access to many potential customers,” says Neuman.

The company’s sales and marketing team covers global markets—which Neuman knows well. He works out of St. Louis now, and the St. Louis Mosaic Project was essential when it came time for him to resettle.

Neuman had first gathered experience working in a small startup company in Panama before coming onboard with NRGene and moving to Israel to work with them. NRGene opened the St. Louis office in spring 2016, and he moved to the city four months ago. For him, the Mosaic Project was essential for building professional and social connections. “Moving by yourself to a new city is challenging in the sense of building up a life outside of work, and Mosaic has provided that link to help ease that transition,” Neuman says.

“Having both a Latin and Jewish background, they have introduced me to the Latin community by inviting me to the ZocoLoco gala and introducing me to different influential people within the Jewish community in St. Louis,” he says.

The Mosaic Project’s executive director, Betsy Cohen, has also been personally involved in helping Neuman settle.

“Betsy has been outstanding—she has been in touch with me since day one and has connected me to wonderful people,” he says. “She’s helping newcomers integrate to St. Louis and making it feel like home.”

Racing Against Time

“The assembly algorithm has taken a team of scientists at least four years to develop into a turnkey operation and it is continually being improved,” Neuman says. “We are now selling the capability to compare multiple genomes and leverage the DNA differences among individuals within a population—the across genome comparison is call a pan-genome analysis.”

Of course, other companies are working to solve hunger too. But NRGene believes it has a few advantages over them: “While other groups can perform this service, we believe our output is faster, is less expensive, can handle complex genomes and is of higher quality than others,” Neuman says. “In addition, we have very unique analytics method to organize and database the information from multiple genomes. This capability and product is unique in the marketplace.”

Companies are buying into their approach: Monsanto and Syngenta have both called on NRGene for help improving their breeding pipelines, says Neuman. But there’s still more to come for the company.

“I would be excited to see NRGene’s GenoMagicTM platform utilized extensively across both academic and industry to transform how scientists can make breeding decisions using big genomic data,” says Neuman. “I am also excited about NRGene’s next phase of offerings: technology to assist in human diagnostics.”

Aug 01

STL VentureWorks South County Paves the Way for Retail Startups to Grow

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

One of six innovation centers offers resources and space to growing companies.

Jane Sueme started beekeeping as a hobby in 2004, but after a layoff in 2009, she started selling beekeeping equipment out of her garage. Environmental concern for the welfare of bees inspired by the discovery of Colony Collapse Disorder, a condition causing bee colonies to degenerate, fueled her business. In 2013, she was ready to take Isabee’s Beekeeping Equipment and Supplies to the next level.

Isabee's St Louis
Isabee’s retail store at STL VentureWorks South County

Sueme found STLVentureWorks South County, one of the six-center network of business incubators funded through the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, via a Google search. STLVentureWorks’ mission is to provide affordable space, programming and access to financing and mentorship to help businesses build momentum, grow and eventually graduate into independent spaces. The STLVentureWorks South County location is near Sueme’s home and appealed to her need to have warehouse space to store a wide array of beekeeping apparel and equipment. “I originally took the warehouse space #101 because of the beautiful clear-coated flooring, says Sueme. “It was appropriate for my type of business, where customers of all types come in to purchase woodenware and wax that would absolutely ruin a carpeted floor.”

Isabee’s retail beekeeping products for sale

Ginger Imster, who leads all innovation efforts in the St. Louis City and County, reports that the innovation center’s 21,000 square feet of retail, office, warehouse and production space is 90% full, while the four retail spots are typically always at 100% capacity. “If warehouse tenants need to expand, they have space here to do so,” she says. “Right now, all four of the retail spaces are occupied, though one recently opened up at the end of June.”

In addition to Isabee’s, retail tenants at STLVentureWorks South County include St. Louis Teacher’s Recycle Center and the St. Louis CAPS Network.

STL VentureWorks South County
STLVentureWorks South County third retail tenant, inhabiting two retail spaces, St. Louis CAPS Network.

The South County center is the only STLVentureWorks facility to offer storefront space to early stage and small- to mid-sized businesses. As part of its offerings, the center provides independent entrances for office and retail customers, and each space also has overhead signage and windows for public visibility and advertising. When Sueme moved to the center in 2013, she felt the warehouse space met her needs better than the retail spaces. By February 2017, when one of the four storefront spaces opened, she had the resources to invest in a wood floor to replace the carpeting in the retail space and moved in. She believed the storefront space would increase foot traffic for the business, and she was right. Sueme reports that core retail sales of beekeeping equipment is up 20% since the move to the retail space five months ago.

Lemay streetscape benches and lanterns, just east of STLVentureWorks South County.

Another advantage for tenants of the storefronts at the South County center is the Lemay Streetscape Project. This effort involves $3.75M in county-sponsored enhancements to Lemay Ferry Road from Military to Hoffmeister. The project is nearly complete and is improving the area around STLVentureWorks. Smith is encouraged by the progress for the tenants. “The County is sprucing up the place,” she says. “There is new landscaping going in by the River Des Peres. There is new lighting coming and they now have benches at some of the bus stops.” Imster says. She believes foot traffic has already improved because of the project.

“This part of South County is truly a place to watch and I am always proud to make these investments,” says St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. “Startups like Isabee’s are bringing new talent and new energy to our neighborhoods.”

STLVentureWorks South County has already seen success in helping companies grow and graduate businesses. For example, KnowInk, a company that provides voter check-in and verification to election officials, moved out after purchasing its own building in Midtown St. Louis earlier this year. “That’s been a real success story,” says Smith. Another former tenant, Vega Transport, now rents its own space across the street from the center where it leases out trucks to other entities.

As far as the future of her beekeeping business, Sueme is hopeful. She says, “It’s such an interesting time for beekeeping right now. The interest is exploding and the number of beekeepers is increasing–30% annually for the last 5-6 years. If that continues, the business will continue to grow, but if it’s seasonal then it becomes very difficult to project adequately. It helps that I’m in a facility that allows for some flexibility–that’s very helpful.”

Aug 01

GlobalSTL Attracts International Healthcare Innovators by Focusing in on St. Louis Strengths

Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)

Thirteen Israeli and Irish companies are working to launch business deals with St. Louis healthcare systems and corporations following the inaugural GlobalSTL Health Innovation Summit.

The Summit, convened last month, brought the international digital health innovators to St. Louis to explore potential opportunities for collaboration and investment. GlobalSTL, an initiative of BioSTL, set up pitch sessions and one-on-one meetings for these international companies to get in front of St. Louis’ world-class health innovation centers and decision makers, facilitating partnerships and valuable networking opportunities for all parties.

GlobalSTL Health Innovation Summit
The GlobalSTL Health Innovation Summit 2017, hosted by BioSTL | Photo courtesy of BioSTL

Though this was the first year for the event, GlobalSTL had practice in pulling off such an impactful day. Building off of the success of similar events in the AgTech sector, BioSTL President and CEO Donn Rubin and his team wanted to create a similar experience, this time harnessing the region’s strengths in healthcare.

“We’ve seen the needle move in AgTech, with five international companies creating a presence in St. Louis in the past 24 months,” says Rubin. “We wanted to create the same success in healthcare by scaling up the volume of activity by having 13 foreign companies, plus one U.S. company with ties to St. Louis all here at once. We were able to weave together St. Louis’ strengths in healthcare – from the corporations to the hospital systems to the investors – into a collective narrative to show St. Louis as a center of this industry.”

Highlighting the region’s strengths in the digital health innovation sector is a smart play by GlobalSTL: In 2016 alone, $7.9 billion was invested in 585 companies within the digital health industry in the U.S.

It also fits within the overall mission of GlobalSTL, which is to bring cutting edge technology to St. Louis, to give overseas companies access to our region’s corporations and healthcare systems, and to leverage the marriage of those two things to positively impact St. Louis’ economy – ideally by convincing these companies to open their North American headquarters in St. Louis.

Calling the Companies

When inviting companies to attend, Rubin and GlobalSTL Lead Vijay Chauhan were very deliberate. By Rubin’s count, only a third of the companies had a relationship with GlobalSTL prior to the event, with the other two-thirds comprised of companies that were completely new to St. Louis and to GlobalSTL. Yet, all companies filled a current gap or an interest here in St. Louis.

“We screened the companies against our participating St. Louis partners, so we knew their technologies and how those fit into what our St. Louis partners were looking for,” Rubin says.

GlobalSTL Health Innovation Summit
Visiting companies had the opportunity to meet with St. Louis-based corporate executives in one-on-one meetings. | Photo courtesy of BioSTL

For the invited companies, the opportunity for some face-time with decision makers was a hard one to pass up, even if some of the companies weren’t really sure what the city was all about.

“I had not expected the city to be so vibrant, energetic or so magnificently presented,” says Noel Dillon of swiftQueue, an Irish software services company, that provides a cloud based, enterprise scheduling platform configured to meet the needs of all outpatient clinics and diagnostic departments. “On the hospital and healthcare expectation, I had not realized St Louis was such a major center of clinical excellence with such an abundance of hospitals and [headquarters] of major hospital groups. I was guilty of assuming that the participants were just interested in, rather than fully committed to finding innovative solutions to meet critical business needs.”

An “Extensive and Ambitious” Agenda 

The delegation was welcomed at an opening dinner at Gamlin Whiskey House, with remarks provided by St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. The next day began with a tour of two health innovation centers in St. Louis: Mercy Virtual Care Center and Express Scripts’ global headquarters. Delegates then met with the leaders of Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change, an academic industry collaboration between Centene Corporation, the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University.

“We got to learn and see first-hand how advanced and sophisticated Express Scripts and Mercy are. Then we learned a great deal about Centene and their efforts with Washington University to generate useful data on patient support,” says Peter Steiner of Telesofia Medical, a platform that clarifies medical information for patients by providing easy-to-understand, personalized educational videos based on their clinical data. “The presenters were all well versed and focused on key issues. All this helped to get a better feel for their top-line issues and challenges and gave us a better understanding of how Telesofia Medical can support these efforts.”

In the afternoon, the delegation had the opportunity to hear from a larger group of healthcare advisors, executives, investors and providers. This included a pitch session by the companies to the St. Louis regional innovation and investor community as well as 98 separate one-on-one meetings within one hour, following a “speed dating” format.

“The five-minute slot presenting to 120 business people was daunting, says Dillon. “The energy and buzz of the seven 12-minute follow up meetings was excellent as all the discussions were completely direct and to the point. The level of seniority of participants and depth of experience and participation by all the health groups was worth many weeks of sales activity in the field.”

Telesofia’s Peter Steiner agrees. “[The] broad exposure was very helpful in creating a better awareness of who we are and what we do,” he says. “Then, [the] series of face-to-face meetings with those companies that expressed interest helped clarify the issues they want to address and enabled us to get a better sense of how we could be of value.”

The day finished with a networking reception for the delegation as well as St. Louis community leaders and government officials. That’s also when JPMorgan Chase and the national think tank ICIC (Initiative for Competitive Inner City) formally recognized St. Louis as the top bioscience cluster in the country, calling BioSTL a model for other cities.

GlobalSTL Health Innovation Summit

 

What Happens Next?

Rubin says the feedback since the event has been wonderful. GlobalSTL has been documenting follow-up activity from both the companies as well as the St. Louis partners, and without exception, all 14 companies have substantial next steps in the works—whether that is through pilot programs, investments, consumer needs or even securing office space here in St. Louis.

“The response has been very gratifying,” says Dillon. “We’ve scheduled a number of follow-up meetings that we expect will lead to pilot programs and data that will show how making medication information clear with personalized videos can help people get the most value from their medication.”

“We are embarking on an expansion into the U.S. and this initially will focus heavily on supporting our partners InTouch Health in the telehealth healthcare segment,” says Dillon. “Our medium-term ambition is to develop a local U.S. presence to support customers and to develop deep relationships with hospital groups.”

Rubin, Chauhan and the GlobalSTL team will continue to foster connections built during the summit when necessary, but they also recognize that there is a time to step back.

“We viewed this Summit as an experiment, and as an experiment I can say that overall it was a success,” Rubin says. “These companies will always have a partner and helping hand from us, but we will also step back and let the companies and partners work together and do what they do best.”

Companies that Attended the Summit:

From Israel
ContinUse Biometrics
MDClone
Medial EarlySign
MobileODT
Telesofia
Wikaya
Zebra Medical Vision

From Ireland
3D4Medical
Beats Medical
Kitman Labs
RelateCare
SilverCloud
SwiftQueue

From the U.S.
Virta

Aug 01

Startup Connection 2017 Expands To Bigger Venue With Express Scripts Leading Sponsors

Estimated reading time: 2 minute(s)

Last year’s event attracted 1,400 entrepreneurs, investors, business people, scientists and students that support the St. Louis innovation scene. Started in 2009 as an effort to connect IT startups with corporate talent, Startup Connection has grown to be a collaboration of the St. Louis entrepreneur support organizations, civic entities and investment community to celebrate the region’s early stage startups.

Startup Connection
Startup Connection 2015 | Photo via Startup Connection, by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Tickets Available Now

The event continues to expand in 2017, so be sure to get your tickets here to support your friend’s ventures, meet the people creating jobs and driving innovation in the region, and even learn about entrepreneurship yourself. You’ll get the opportunity to meet over 60 top startups and find assistance at the Resource Fair from 50+ entrepreneur support organizations.

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that deals get done at Startup Connection, whether that’s finding an awesome new hire or meeting a new partner company to collaborate on an event together.

Venue Change

The evening will move into expanded quarters at The Globe Building at 710 N. Tucker, near the T-REX technology incubator.

“We’re thrilled with the continued growth of both the event and St. Louis’ entrepreneurship community!” said Startup Connection Managing Director, Phyllis Ellison, director of entrepreneur services and institutional & corporate partnerships at the Cortex Innovation Community. “It’s been about putting the entire breadth of high growth entrepreneurship on display, under one roof, for one energy-packed night. There is only one event that shines the spotlight on the entire startup community for an evening – Startup Connection.”

Express Scripts Will Be Leading the Event as Presenting Sponsor

In an inspiring demonstration of commitment to entreprenuership by one of the region’s leading enterprise corporations, Express Scripts is joined by The Globe Building as the hosting facility and by Washington University returning as the Resource Fair sponsor.

“Express Scripts is proud to be born, raised and growing in St. Louis, and through our sponsorship of Startup Connection ’17, we hope to inspire the next generation of successful startups” shared Brian Henry, vice president of corporate communications.

Here’s What Upstarts and Startups Need to Know:

Startup Connection is the anchor event for Global Entrepreneurship Week in St. Louis and showcases some of the top early-stage startup ventures in a variety of industry sectors including: advanced manufacturing, biotech, consumer products, education, FinTech, and tech.

  • Over 75 startups participated last year in the 2016 Startup Connection Venture Showcase. If you’d like to be one of the presenting companies at the 2017 Venture Showcase, applications are open now. Remember to submit your application before the September 1st, 2017 deadline – applications close at 5pm CST.
  • Startup Connection features an expanded student competition in 2017. Ten ventures will represent the region’s student talent in companies that are moving into the market place. Attendees will be able to vote for their favorite student companies to win $2,500 in prizes sponsored by Arch Grants.
  • Startup Connection ’17 will take place Wednesday, November 15 at The Globe Building at 710 N. Tucker in Downtown St. Louis, running from 4:30pm until 9 p.m.

Startup Connection ’17 is organized by Arch Grants, BioSTL, Cortex Innovation Community, Enterprise Bank & Trust, GlobalHack, ITEN, and the St. Louis Regional Chamber.