St. Louis start-ups seeing millions in growing trend from investors

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - At first glance, Ryan Brennell looks like is just another 26-year-old banging around on the internet, but with only a laptop on a rented tabletop in downtown St. Louis, Brennell is running a company called Gladitood, which raises funds for humanitarian projects around the world.

But the first thing Brennell had to do is raise $350,000 to start his company.

'I think it is getting easier and easier for companies to raise money in St. Louis,' Brennell said. 'My experience personally was as smooth as it could have gone. We raised our money in less than 90 days.'

He`s not alone.

According to the Money Tree Report from the National Venture Capital Association, Missouri startup companies closed more deals with venture capitalists in the third quarter of this year than they have since the year 2000.

From July to September, Missouri startups closed 14 deals worth $78.5 million dollars, and all but of those companies is in St. Louis.

'The talent is there, the support is there but the funding is just starting to go on the upswing and it is so important,' said Katie Jambortez, spokesperson for the St. Louis Development Economic Development Partnership. 'We have got to allow these companies to grow and thrive here and become huge companies,' she said.

This summer, Fox 2 was the only television station along for the ride as 20 St. Louis entrepreneurs flew together to call on investors in Silicon Valley, aboard the inaugural flight of Southwest Airlines` new direct service from St. Louis to San Francisco.

And what many St. Louis business owners are finding is the startup community in St. Louis is developing a cache that is attracting cash.

'It is getting better, we are getting more and more attention in the national spotlight,' said Mary Louise
Helbig, CEO of Healthy Me, which helps educate outpatient diabetics through text messages. The company recently received a check for $25,000.

'I think that (reputation) is going to help us help the entrepreneurs as we go out and try to raise money,' she said.

In fact, St. Louis's start up business community is so robust; their CEOs are the ones who convinced Southwest Airlines to add that St. Louis to San Francisco route which will help those businesses grab more fast cash in the future.