Some startups begin their journey in business incubators, others begin while toiling away in a university, and even more try to get off the ground from humble locations in homes, garages, and friends’ couches.
All of these scenarios and people can find help today in downtown St. Louis from 1 Million Cups (1MC), a free initiative by Kansas City, Missouri’s acclaimed Kauffman Foundation and other startup resources at T-Rex.
St. Louis for Midwest startups? Yes, the Arch City, the entrance to the frontier of old, the city with a 15 year past of decline in local startup rate, found the formula for reinvention and became the fastest growing boomtown for entrepreneurs in 2014 according to MatterMark, with a staggering 32% downtown population growth in past 5 years reported by T-Rex.
From 2009 to 2014, data from the Census Bureaus showed that Missouri led the pack for startup rates rising in 30% of US metro areas and 12 out of the 50 states. In fact, 3 out of the 5 most-improved cities were St. Louis, Springfield, and St. Joseph, all in Missouri, with Kansas City coming in at number 12 on that same list. Specific to St. Louis was the report of 9.7 percent of their metro areas businesses were startups less than a year old, a 3% increase from 2009.
Statewide general startup help has come from the state’s Missouri Technology Corporation, which invests in local businesses, and The Kauffman Foundation, which has become a prominent nonprofit for entrepreneurship in both research and development. The Census Bureau, in a joint effort with the Kauffman Foundation, released the first Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs and demonstrated evidence that the “largest share of new businesses in Missouri — nearly a third — are in health care” and that women own a higher share of startups in Missouri than in any other state in the US.
“Based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee, the Kauffman Foundation developed 1 Million Cups – a free program designed to educate, engage, and connect entrepreneurs with their communities,” says Kauffman Foundation’s site, and they’re attracting over 2,500 weekly in their local weekly meetings.
In St. Louis, the 1MC 9 am Wednesday events are held at T-Rex on the 5th floor, offering free help for early-stage businesses of all kinds. During a typical 1MC meeting, one or two startups present their businesses for no more than 6 minutes and then participate in a 20 minute Q&A session with the entire audience. The prep for the presentations has to include lessons learned from the free, online Kauffman Founders School “Powerful Presentations” series.
December 20, 2017, found the St. Louis 1MC community having a Year-End Celebration, where a selection of 2017 presenters offered updates on what’s happened with their company since they presented earlier in the year.
T-Rex is a tech incubator, co-working space, people accelerator, scholarly exchange, and downtown revitalizer for “early-stage startup tech companies to get invested in staying downtown.” Formed by Downtown STL, the Regional Chamber of St. Louis, and City of St. Louis, the “Technology Entrepreneur Center (T.E.C.) made their first home at the Old Railway Exchange. Put them together: TEC + Railway Ex = T-REX!” T-Rex kept its name and changed its location to just a few blocks from the famous arch in the historical landmark Lammart Furniture Building.
T-Rex is called home by over 200 companies, 180 of which are startups. In the last 6 years, T-Rex said they have had over 100 companies graduate from their space. This year, T-Rex reported 3,453 jobs created (1,528 direct and 1,925 indirect), $459 million in annual economic output, $205.8 million in annual labor income, and over 400 individual members. This proves that this T-Rex joint economic turnaround plan for downtown St. Louis is working for startups. Also, with 29% of T-Rex startups run by minorities and 21% run by women, the help for startups is impacting a diverse group of people in St. Louis.
To further diversify and encourage young entrepreneurs in St. Louis, free memberships to T-Rex open spaces are offered to local students, researchers, and professors for remote classes, hackathons, and job fairs.
T-Rex claims that “The T-REX community also includes several in-house entrepreneur support organizations, including iTEN, Cultivation Capital, Missouri Small Business Technology Development Center, Veteran’s Business Resource Center, Stadia Ventures, SixThirty, SixThirty Cyber, Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, Arch Grants, and Midwest Cyber Center.