Bi-Partisan Support For Missouri Entrepreneurs

by Jason Hall and Christine Karslake, on behalf of Accelerate St. Louis | May 07, 2015

Missouri’s sustained investment in entrepreneurial endeavors is attracting national attention.  In January, Popular Mechanics named St. Louis as the best startup city in America.  Google selected Kansas City as the first market for its gigabit Internet service, making the city an attractive destination for startups looking for a cheaper alternative to Silicon Valley or New York.

We are excited to see that our elected officials recognize the value Missouri’s innovators bring to our economy.  Governor Nixon recently released $7 million in funding for the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC), a public-private partnership created to promote entrepreneurship and foster the growth of new and emerging high-tech companies, bringing the state’s total investment this fiscal year to nearly $15 million. 

The Missouri General Assembly also continued its leadership in this arena, approving the highest-level core appropriation in MTC’s history for the coming fiscal year.  MTC will use this money to spur further private-sector investment in entrepreneurial ecosystem in Missouri by making targeted, direct investments in start-up companies to create new jobs in our State.

This bi-partisan support for entrepreneurship and innovation demonstrates Missouri’s commitment to economic development by supporting our start-up economy. Not only do we have a cost-competitive business environment, deep pools of talent, and a high quality of life, we also have the essential life blood of every startup  --- capital.

As our entrepreneurial startup sector continues to grow and expand, the demand for capital is increasing.  A well-funded MTC helps attract and increase private sector investment.  Sustained support from our elected leaders is key to making Missouri welcome to start-up businesses, increasing capital and incentivizing even more investment in our already robust startup infrastructure.  MTC has a strong track record: its competitive, merit-based funding process has led to significant additional investment from private sources, at a greater than 7-to-1 ratio. To date, that private investment in MTC-funded companies is approaching $130 million.

It is these startup companies, and what they are accomplishing with the help of MTC funding, that is driving the national attention we are receiving.  Companies such as Immunophotonics, which is performing clinical testing for a new drug it developed for the treatment of metastatic cancer.  Early stage trials have been very positive, and CEO Tomas Hode credits MTC’s model of investment-matching in driving over $3 million in additional investments from venture capital and angel investors.

Rovertown, founded by three students from Metro East, partners with universities across the country to give students access to discount programs from their mobile devices.  Their smartphone application saves students money and drives business to local vendors.  Although the founders considered headquartering their new company in Chicago, they were encouraged to move to St. Louis due to the high level of mentorship and support available. Two rounds of MTC investment in the company have been matched by private sources at a greater than 2-to-1 rate, helping the company expand and bring its application to a national market.  One of its private-matching investors was consumer-savvy former President of Anheuser-Busch, David Peacock. 

EternoGen Aesthetics is a clinical-stage medical device company based in Columbia that developed liquid Collagen tissue products to restore lost dermal tissue.  President and Chief Operations Officer Luis Jimenez says MTC’s first round of funding in 2012 helped the company raise an additional $4 million—money used to hire new employees and transform its research into a commercial product that is expected to launch shortly.

We at Accelerate St. Louis are honored to be one of many organizations committed to supporting MTC, our startup economy, and economic development in general.  The broad coalition of partners include ITEN, BRDG Park, Missouri Biotechnology Association, Greater Kansas City Chamber, Cortex Innovation Community, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, St. Charles County Economic Development Center, BioSTL, Arch Grants, Missouri Innovation Center, and Downtown STL, Inc.

Overall, there are great things going on right now in Missouri that are building our economy and creating jobs. We commend our state leadership for their support and bi-partisan commitment to our future.