A Reading List for St. Louis City Candidates for Mayor by Left Bank Books and nextSTL

At nextSTL, we’re always looking for new, different, and informative ways to explore a particular issue or topic. This spring, perhaps no single issue is more important to the future of St. Louis than the election of a new mayor for the first time in 16 years.

With support from Left Bank Books and Patrick McEvoy (Twitter: @pat_mcevoy), we’re doing more than simply listing books to read, we’re presenting leading candidates for mayor with copies of four books we believe are essential to understanding our city and making St. Louis a greater place to live, work, and visit. In the coming days and weeks we’ll reach out to candidates, invite them to join us on the Future Great City podcast and deliver this reading list to them.

We believe that our elected leaders lead best when best informed about urban issues from transportation to livability to small business economics. Our hope is that candidates see their role as community builders beyond the politics of scarcity that continues to confound the city. While we will continue to seek context, track development, and share ideas, each of the books below contains more wisdom and knowledge that we can possibly hope to impart on nextSTL.

The Left Bank Books / nextSTL St. Louis City mayoral candidate reading list:

Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
A direct and fundamentally optimistic indictment of the short-sightedness and intellectual arrogance that has characterized much of urban planning in this century, The Death and Life of Great American Cities has, since its first publication in 1961, become the standard against which all endeavors in that field are measured.

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck
Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive. And he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability. The very idea of a modern metropolis evokes visions of bustling sidewalks, vital mass transit, and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban core. But in the typical American city, the car is still king, and downtown is a place that’s easy to drive to but often not worth arriving at.

Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses by Stacy Mitchell
In less than two decades, large retail chains have become the most powerful corporations in America. Stacy Mitchell illustrates how mega-retailers are fueling many of our most pressing problems, from the shrinking middle class to rising pollution and diminished civic engagement and she shows how a growing number of communities and independent businesses are effectively fighting back.

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery
A globe-trotting, eye-opening exploration of how cities can and do make us happier people. After decades of unchecked sprawl, more people than ever are moving back to the city. Dense urban living has been prescribed as a panacea for the environmental and resource crises of our time. But is it better or worse for our happiness?


At the heart of a vibrant sustainable community are local businesses. While our challenges are many, it’s difficult to find one that isn’t directly and significantly impacted by the health of small and locally owned businesses. From employment to procurement, taxes, and philanthropy, locally owned busineses touch every part of our lives and community. Therefore we wanted to offer additional economic impact studies regarding local businesses:

Since 2002, a number of studies have repeatedly documented the positive economic impact of locally owned businesses, and their significantly greater economic return to the local economy than that of retail chains, big box stores, and, especially regarding sales tax, remote online retailers. Independent booksellers have often been the driving force behind these efforts, which have resulted in favorable public policy for locally owned businesses and heightened consumer awareness of the issues.

Amazon & Empty Storefronts: The Fiscal and Land Use Impacts of Online Retail (2016)
A study from Civic Economics which details the overall negative impact that Amazon has had on Main Street retailers and jobs, and the communities in which they are located, across the country. ABA has prepared the New Localism Toolkit with resources for member bookstores based on data from the Amazon study.

Independent Business Owners Report Growing Public Support (2014)
A national survey of independent business owners conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in partnership with the Advocates for Independent Business coalition has found that Local First initiatives are boosting customer traffic and improving the outlook on Main Street, but policymakers need to do more to create a level playing field and ensure that small local businesses have an equal opportunity to compete.

Survey Confirms Benefits of “Buy Local First” Campaigns, Finds Challenges Ahead (2013)
The 2013 post-holiday Independent Business Survey, conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) in partnership with the American Booksellers Association and other indie business organizations, has found that independent businesses experienced solid revenue growth in 2012, buoyed in part by “buy local first” initiatives and growing public interest in supporting locally owned businesses.

Indie Impact National Summary: Indies Give Back Over Three Times as Much as Chains (2013)
Communities as different as Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Louisville, Kentucky, have at least one thing in common: Their independent businesses recirculate a substantially greater proportion of their revenues back into the local economy than do their chain competitors. This, according to a national study, The Indie Impact Study Series: National Summary Report, a summary of 10 localized studies conducted by Civic Economics.

Independent Businesses in Salt Lake City Deliver Greater Economic Benefit (2012)
Choosing a locally owned store generates almost four times as much economic benefit for the surrounding region as shopping at a chain, a new study has concluded. The study by research firm Civic Economics found that the local retailers return an average of 52 percent of their revenue to the local economy, compared with just 14 percent for the chain retailers.

Grand Rapids Study Shows Shift to Indies Has Big Impact (2008)
A new study from Local First of Grand Rapids, Michigan, reveals that a modest change in consumer behavior — a 10 percent shift in market share to independent businesses from chain stores — would result in 1,600 new jobs, $53 million in wages, and a $137 million economic impact to the area.

Procurement Matters: The Economic Impact of Local Suppliers (2007)
A Civic Economics study commissioned by Local First Arizona reveals that public procurement from a local supplier generates “dramatically greater local economic activity” than procurement from a chain business.

The Andersonville Study of Retail Economics (2004)
A 2004 report by Civic Economics, which compares 10 local businesses in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago versus their chain competitors, demonstrates the greater economic impact of locally owned businesses.

Notes from a Conflicted Soccer Fan

Truth is, I can check off most of the boxes: I grew up watching Soccer Made in Germany on Channel 9. I played ball in the CYC. I “enjoyed” a brief, unsuccessful college career in the sport, played locally. I spent dozens of nights competing in rec leagues at the Soccer Dome, through smothering heat and teeth-rattling cold. I broke bones, many of them. I coached the game for seven years, coming all the way back ‘round to the CYC. I’ve watched soccer matches on every broadcast medium in St. Louis venues, from closed-circuit TV in theaters in the ‘70s to HD splendor in packed soccer bars today.

In theory, all of this make me “a soccer guy.”

In reality, I’m also a guy that frets about public funding mechanisms for stadia.

So I wasn’t sure how I’d vote, if an MLS proposal were put before the voters this spring. As it stands today, that vote won’t happen, squashed in Aldermanic committee. Because I didn’t know how I’d vote — but, in my secret heart-of-hearts, wanted to vote for Major League Soccer’s years-overdue arrival here — I sent a note to a super-connected soccer supporter in town, suggesting that I could put together some well-attended meetings in South City. He, in turn, passed that info to an information rainmaker with the preferred MLS expansion group, SC STL.

In my note, sent not quite a month ago, I spoke of: my wanting to find out answers for my own questions; of my ability to bring together both supporters and (yes) opponents of public funding; and of the fact that I wasn’t looking for any money in this, that it was purely my attempt to pull people together in a few suitable spaces, to talk about the stadium in an organized, public fashion.

I’ll give one guess as to how many calls I got back. (And it’s a number less than that one guess.)

In a piece by Mike Faulk and Koran Addo, published on stltoday.com, Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia (D-6) notes this:

Ingrassia also said the ownership group didn’t spend enough time reaching out to the community as their plan developed.

“It’s not just that they didn’t include me in the process early enough, but the public in general,” Ingrassia said. “There should’ve been community hearings and an ability formed at the Board of Aldermen to digest the details, but for the public to as well.”

As a quick moment of honesty, I’m slightly irritated by this on a personal level, that my experience in local journalism, civic, political and even soccer circles didn’t merit so much as a call back, or a “no thanks, we have other approaches for public engagement that we want to pursue.” I honestly feel that the informational meetings could’ve been a small, but well-intentioned asset in the stadium effort; it would’ve at least hinted at smaller, cheaper, organic ways of spreading information as a part of the overall plan.

My real annoyance, then, lies in the idea that yet another project has fallen into the classic St. Louis pattern of top-down construction. The folks with the plan presented the plan. The plan didn’t go as expected. (Hello, Governor Greitens!) And now the plan will be pulled back and worked on in some handsome, wood-paneled meeting room at the MAC, well away from public input. Again. As always.

Not being in the prediction business, I’m unsure if the vote will be renewed this year, or going forward. Until then, I’ll read whatever stories I find and I’ll try to keep an open mind. When-and-if a vote comes, I’m not even sure how I’ll cast a ballot; my brain and heart might have some consensus building of their own to do.

What I’m pretty sure about is that I won’t spend too much time caring one way of the other. Like a referee at kickoff, my vote may just come down to a coin flip.

City Museum: Endless Fun

Visitors have dubbed St. Louis’ City Museum many things—a warehouse of fun, a jungle gym of exploration, a playground for all ages.

No matter what you call it, one thing’s certain: City Museum can be described in two words — “Endless fun.”

This is a “museum” like none other. Don’t ask for a map—there aren’t any. That just enhances the sense of adventure as visitors explore and experience surprises around virtually every corner.

With several stories in the massive former International Shoe Company; an outdoor, mega-story playground and rooftop full of the unexpected, plan to spend a day—or days—exploring and having fun.

Climb, skip, slide, crawl, jump, swing and sweat your way through the museum as you:

  • Slide down 24 (count ‘em—24!) slides including two that whisks visitors 10 stories down to the bottom
  • Swoop down ramps in the skate-less skate park
  • Spin around on a human hamster wheel

  • Climb your way to new heights through slinky-like metal coils
  • Get lost in a five-story outdoor maze of metal called MonstroCity with corkscrew climbers, two Sabre 40 airplanes, castle tower, treehouse and more
  • Explore a labyrinth of other-wordly caves, tunnels and chutes
  • Gaze in awe as the “Puking Pig” dumps 88 gallons to a stream below every 90 seconds.
  • Stroll through a life-sized kaleidoscope
  • Watch in awe as kids fly in all directions at Everyday Circus performances.

Those wanting a less physical visit can marvel at the millions of mosaics on the museum’s floors, enjoy the St. Louis Art Centre, watch a vintage machine make shoelaces and gape the recycled and repurposed items of some of the museum’s walls. Or they can scrutinize griffins, gargoyles and grotesques and facades of vintage buildings, then kick back and enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a museum cafes.

At Beatnik Bob’s Museum of Mirth, Mystery and Mayham, visitors can gawk at an oddities including a trailer owned by Elvis, the world’s largest pair of underpants, robots and vintage pinball machines.

Young visitors get their own kicks in Toddler Town designed for kids six and under and a mini train for kids 48 inches tall and under.

When the body screams for a break from climbing through coils, stop by Art City where you can tap into your creative side. Add a room to the castle-in-progress, fashion an origami Pikachu or engineer a creation of your imagination. Stop by Miss Marion’s to make intricate snow flakes and hear ghost stories. Miss Marion also gives free classes in rag-doll making and copper tooling.

Come early, stay late at City Museum and you still probably won’t have time to see and do everything.

One visitor commented as he left the building at closing recently, “That was (dramatic pause) exhuasting!”

“And,” his companion added enthusiastically, “amazing.”

If you go, here’s the lowdown:

City Museum

701 N. 15th Street is the official address but the entrance is on the 16th Street side.

Admission: $12 per person plus tax; kids two and under, free; $10 plus tax after 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday

Parking: $5

Hours: The museum observes “build season hours” in winter when it’s closed Monday and Tuesday. Open 9 a.m-5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursdays; 9 a.m.-midnight, Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday. Architectural Museum is temporarily closed.

Check the website, citymuseum.org for holiday hours. MonstroCity is closed during precipitation; the rooftop (additional admission) is open May-mid-November.

Advice from past visitors: Dress as if you’re going to the gym, wear kneepads if you have them and bring as little as possible to leave your hands and body free to climb. A flashlight comes in handy in the caves and tunnels. Some people find gloves helpful when climbing the coils.

Additional Photos Below:

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Gateway Venture Mentoring Service

Gateway Venture Mentoring Service, GVMS, was established in 2007 as one of the Saint Louis region’s first entrepreneur service organizations.  GVMS, originally IVMS, is build on the MIT VMS model, which is a team mentoring approach to helping emerging companies establish themselves and grow.

The chair of the GVMS is Pete Peters and KeAnna Daniels is the GVMS Executive Director.

GVMS has partnered with ITE to develop the FlipZone training program which will launch spring 2017.

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FlipZone – Entrepreneur Training for Established Ventures

ITE and Gateway Venture Mentoring Service have been awarded a grant from the Missouri Technology Corporation to pilot a new program for established ventures based on the Flip instructional method, called FlipZone.

Flip uses video training and advanced homework with in-person review and enhancement of the efforts.  Flip is best suited for areas in which hands-on experience is important, and there is nowhere that hands-on is more important than in company development.

Visit the website to learn more, and feel free to contact us with any questions.

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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.


ITE|GVMS ProTraining Inaugural Seminar: IP Law

On Tuesday, November 1st, Innovative Technology Enterprises will be hosting the first ITE|GVMS ProTraining seminar, focusing on intellectual property law. This series of programming aims to inform entrepreneurs on a variety of topics pertinent to their businesses, and many will include continuing education credits for legal professionals, accountants, and others.

The first of these sessions is titled “Recent Changes in Intellectual Property Law for non-IP Attorneys, Startups, and Their Advisors.” The presentations will focus primarily on IP law as it applies to the field of biotechnology. Two attorneys based in St. Louis will be presenting. I interviewed both of them over the phone to get some background, and learn more about what they will be presenting.

First we have Saul Zackson, PhD, JD, of Zackson Law. Saul has been a practicing patent attorney since 2001, working with patents involving the life sciences and anything related. In 2010, out of a desire for independence from larger firms, Saul started his own firm – Zackson Law. The firm focuses most of its work on universities, non-profits, and startups.

Though the specifics of the presentation had yet to be finalized at the time of the interview, Saul gave me a preview of what he would be discussing. One topic deals with patentable  subject matter. Examples of such subject matter would be patents on medical diagnostics, and patents on methods of treatment. “There have been a couple of decisions from the Supreme Court in recent years that have turned everything upside down, or changed standards, making getting patents more difficult in a variety of situations,” Saul explained.

Next is Kirk Damman, JD, of Lewis Rice. Kirk is our speaker from a larger firm. Kirk has been a patent attorney for seventeen years. He primarily works to help clients acquire their patents, though he has experience with litigation as well. Kirk’s primary client base is small business and startups, many of them in the St. Louis area, or in the Midwest. Kirk explained how most large firms work primarily with larger companies. “We’re a little unique I think in the fact that we are focused on smaller companies and startups.”

Kirk’s presentation is going to focus on the question “what do you actually get a patent on?” What is the criteria for a patentable process or physical object? A core of this is what inventions inhabit a physical device space vs a software or operating space. Both of these areas include patentable material, but Kirk will address the ongoing legal discussion about their differences and what may separate a patentable idea/object from a non-patentable idea/object.

Kirk also helped to found the Patent Pro Bono Program in St. Louis. GVMS, as an organization that supports local startups, helps facilitate companies into the program. Kirk gave me a statement about the program.

“It’s an offering that fills a necessary gap by allowing those without the financial resources to file for or obtain patent protection to do so.  In effect, to grant access to the patent office for a group that has been traditionally underrepresented at the patent office because they simply don’t know how to access an agency that is designed to help them protect their ideas.  The real value of it, however, is that it means that inventors who lack financial resources are not forced to try and navigate patent law (which can be merciless) by themselves simply because they lack the resources to get an attorney.  Hopefully, the inventors can then go out to license, sell, or commercialize their ideas adding value to their local economies.”

This seminar will not only be beneficial for attorneys, but also for anyone in technology or life science field that wants to learn more about the possibilities for their inventive ideas to become a reality. We welcome startup founders, their advisors, mentors, and anyone interested in the subject matter.

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St. Louis Startup Connection

Startup Connection, the St. Louis region’s largest event focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, will be held on Wednesday, November 16th.  The event will return to Washington University’s Knight Center from 4:30pm – 9:00pm.  The expected audience of 1,300+ includes top early-stage startups and a dynamic mix of the innovation and business community.

The Venture Showcase highlights the breadth of innovation in the St. Louis region across various industry sectors. The 70+ early-stage startups represent industries ranging from biotechnology and advanced manufacturing to consumer products and tech.  Meet the entrepreneurs at their displays, and see their pitches live on the Emerson Auditorium stage.   The event’s Resource Fair features over 40 organizations that provide resources, services and connections for startup companies.

“Startup Connection is a great event to attend to see what’s new in St. Louis’ startup community,” said Startup Connection Managing Director Phyllis Ellison, director of entrepreneur services and institutional & corporate partnerships at the Cortex Innovation Community.  “We have an exciting group of companies this year that really emphasizes the variety of technology and innovation happening in the region.”

Join us for the most energetic evening in the innovation community!  Visit www.StartupConnection.org for tickets, event info and a list of companies in the Innovation Showcase.   Use the promo code “Take10” for a $10 discount until November 1.

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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.

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.