BOSTON, MA (KTVI) – As the St. Louis startup scene grows, city leaders and businesses are helping with expansion.
They gathered at the gate in the hopes of opening some doors almost 1,200 miles away. In all, representatives from 19 startups in St. Louis were ready to give their elevator pitches to anyone who would listen. On this particular day, the folks listening were Southwest Airlines agents.
“One of the things, for a long time, that didn't happen was the airport connecting to the community and understanding what businesses are growing and what's happening,” said Rhonda Hamm-Niebrugge, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Director. “Now we're very closely connected to all the organizations and especially to the startup world, really trying to meet their needs so we can help them grow from an airport perspective.”
It's alliances with cities that are strategically right for St. Louis that civic leaders are seeking out.
“Our purpose is to connect people to what's important in their lives and in our communities, and obviously this is extremely important to the St. Louis community. It just serves as such a strong economic engine,” said Jane McAtee, regional leader of Community Affairs & Grassroots for Southwest Airlines.
As city leaders and civic boosters discussed the startup scene, Robin Rath, founder of Pixel Press, watched and remembered a similar trip two years earlier that took her company to San Francisco and onto the radar of big businesses.
“The event we went to there was a lot of people there and they were excited about us being there. We felt very welcome,” she said. “And the meetings we got at the event and outside of the event was just a great way to quickly get a lot done.”
Meetings with the biggest toy maker in the world are the kinds of results accelerate St. Louis is hoping for, taking entrepreneurs and their emerging businesses outside the city limits.
For the St. Louis to Boston roadshow, 19 startups seeking funding for their businesses and ideas were onboard heading to Beantown. The next two days would be filled with networking, meeting with venture capitalists for funding, and a lot of public transit.
For 10 years, the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), located in Kendall Square across from the prestigious MIT, had fertile ground with no need to grow outside Massachusetts. But in 2014, they came to St. Louis with their first expansion in the Cortex Innovation Community. On this day, St. Louis startups amassed at Mass Challenge, a co-working and creative space.
“St. Louis has a very strong grassroots effort already underway, long before we got on the scene that was not only inspiring, but also felt a lot like what we had experienced over the last 10 years in Cambridge and Boston,” said Dougan Sherwood, Cambridge Innovation Center. “And so it was an incredible experience to sort of go from looking at markets like San Francisco and London and New York, and ultimately concluding that St. Louis was going to be our home.”
For many in the midst of this two-day tour of startup centers and shared spaces, it's a whirlwind tour that might change their world.
“The companies that presented here are all very well prepared,” said Vivjan Myrto, managing partner and founder of Hyber Plane Venture Capital. “I mean, the best thing we have as venture capital is we get to see the future through every entrepreneur's eyes and there's nothing more exciting than that to see the companies and the passion that these people are dedicating to build these companies.”
And for the creative caravan of startups on this Boston to St. Louis roadshow, moving forward in the 21st century means working together to drum up some big business for both cities.