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Startup Ecosystem

Greater St. Louis has always fostered a spirit of innovation, having seen the birth and explosive growth of many of America’s best-known companies such as Edward Jones and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Now, the region’s burgeoning startup scene has launched a new wave of innovative businesses striving to drive the St. Louis economy.

This growth is supported by multiple research hubs, strong corporate sponsors and highly skilled entrepreneurs. And the experts have taken notice: The region’s tightly integrated startup ecosystem has garnered a host of top rankings. Among them: FitSmallBusiness.com named St. Louis the No. 2 city in the country for entrepreneurs in 2019; Forbes included St. Louis in its list of Top 10 cities for startups in 2018; and Business Insider ranked St. Louis 7th in “Best Big Cities for Starting a Business”  in 2017.

Incubators, Accelerators and Co-Working Spaces

Many startups in the St. Louis community are receiving crucial support from the growing number of incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces that help entrepreneurs to collaborate and share ideas with their peers.

Cortex Innovation Community

Cortex Innovation Community lies between the medical schools of Saint Louis University and Washington University in St. Louis in one of the nation’s largest innovation districts. The 200-acre district has 250 companies and investment of $550 million, including a $100 million investment by Wexford Science and Technology, out of what is projected to be a $2.3 billion, 4.5 million-square-foot, mixed-use development.

A recent Brookings Institution report on innovation districts noted: “The Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis has, in a short period, clustered new buildings owned and/or supported by a number of well-respected intermediaries… As one can imagine, this clustering was deeply intentional and viewed as a way to stimulate new relationships, new networks, and the cross-fertilization of ideas; Cortex refers to this deliberate process as ‘innovation engineering.’”

Cambridge Innovation Center

Cambridge Innovation Center opened its first location outside of Massachusetts in the Cortex innovation district with 32,000 sq. ft. of space. In 2014, the center added 87,000 square feet and took over management of the Center for Emerging Technologies, now known as CIC@CET. Venture Café, held at Cortex Commons, is the largest weekly innovation event in the world. Dougan Sherwood, co-founder and former Managing Director of CIC’s St. Louis branch, said: “We’re completely doubling down on this whole idea of St. Louis being this incredible place for entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Covo St. Louis

Covo St. Louis is a downtown St. Louis coworking space in the historic Mississippi Valley Trust building.  This is the second location for San Francisco based Covo and offers a wide range of events and services.

39 North

39 North is a new 575-acre plant science district next to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, BRDG Park, and Bayer Crop Science’s North American headquarters.

The Helix Center

The Helix Center is a biotech incubator located in 39 North. The Helix Center has both wet and dry labs, office space and access to resources at the Danforth Center.

The Information Technology Entrepreneur Network

The Information Technology Entrepreneur Network was created in 2008 to develop St. Louis’ regional IT startup ecosystem. ITEN offers programming, connections, and access to capital. ITEN has dozens of volunteer mentors and several Entrepreneurs-in-Residence to assist tech entrepreneurs.

OPO Startups

OPO Startups is a coworking space in St. Charles, Mo., in the renovated Old Post Office building.  OPO offers startups a range of services and networking events in St. Charles County.

Peer151 Coworking

Peer151 Coworking is a coworking space founded in 2015 in the historic Turner Hall in Belleville, Ill. Peer151 offers a range of options for entrepreneurs on the Illinois side of the metro area.

T-REX

T-REX is a premier tech business incubator formed in 2012 by the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Downtown STL and the city of St. Louis. T-REX has 160,000 square feet of offices and conference, flex and events spaces with access to Gigabit fiber Internet, mentoring, and other critical support services. More than 200 startups as well as several support and funding organizations are housed here. T-REX is building a $5 million “Geosaurus powered by Bayer” Innovation Resource Center to support geospatial technology companies and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Available Capital

Venture capital investments in St. Louis startups totaled $300 million in 2018. Much of this investment was in biosciences, information technology and financial services.

The region is home to more than a dozen local angel and venture capital investors. Combined with increasing investments from national venture capital funds, there are many opportunities to secure investment.

Startup investment has nearly quadrupled

2007-12: $545 million
2013-18: $2.075 billion

InvestMidwest is a venture capital conference that is held biennially in St. Louis and has raised more than $1 billion in investment over the last 15 years.

Founded in 2012, Arch Grants awards 20 companies every year $50,000 in non-equity grants if they move their headquarters to Greater St. Louis. Accelerator programs such as Capital Innovators and SixThirty also provide capital to many startups in the region.

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