• Gov. Greitens Invites New Voices to the Innovation Table

    Sep 06, 2017

    Four months ago, I wrote a blog entry entitled “Governor Greitens Deserves a Seat at the Innovation Table.”  At the time, there was a fair amount of anxiety in the St. Louis innovation ecosystem over the future of the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC), the primary state funding vehicle for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial support organizations over the last 10 years. Gov. Greitens’ budget proposed $5 million for funding MTC while the legislature was contemplating zeroing it out altogether.  The final number came in at $2.5 million.

    Yesterday, the Governor’s Innovation Task Force released its report, a 100+ page document that I’m confident will serve as the gold standard for joint public-private problem solving for other states.

    The report was the result of one of the most collaborative, thoroughgoing processes I’ve ever witnessed.  Thousands of Missourians took surveys, voted, participated in roundtables, and offered their input.  Its scope is truly comprehensive, taking into account everything from K-12 curriculum reform to deregulation to alternate funding mechanisms for entrepreneurs and support organizations.  The report presents a clear, detailed picture of where Missouri stands today, what strategic advantages we enjoy, and what challenges we face in the future.  With a research team led by a former McKinsey partner as well as the head of Accenture’s St. Louis office, it stands up to the very best work being done on this subject anywhere in the world.

    Some may complain that it did not “throw down the gauntlet” by offering specific recommendations or identifying a mythical silver bullet, but this was never the goal.  The governor told the steering committee in June that he wasn’t interested in a watered-down, consensus-oriented white paper.  What he wanted was rock-solid research and an unbiased presentation of the best options, even if some of them conflicted with each other. And that’s exactly what he got.

    The challenge going forward will be to evaluate these options and decide which ones to prioritize.  That is no small task.  Different players will have different views depending on their needs and their roles.  We saw that clearly throughout the summer.

    And that really goes to the heart of the challenge facing Missouri; we are a fragmented state.  We have fault lines along geography (KC vs. STL), culture (rural vs. urban), industry, and so on.  If nothing else, the process this summer helped bridge some of those divides by getting people out of their comfort zones.  It forced people to think in terms of what is best for Missouri—all of Missouri—rather than personal best interests. That’s progress. Like it or not, we are all in this together, and we can’t reach our goals without helping our neighbors reach theirs.

    I’m incredibly proud of the work of the Task Force. Gov. Greitens not only took a seat at the table, he expanded the table to include voices that haven’t been heard.  This is the essence of collaborative leadership and it is the right way to get to the right answers on innovation and other important matters.

  • $1.3 Billion Invested in St. Louis Startups Over Four Years

    Jun 26, 2017

    Recent investments in St. Louis metro area startups have reached their highest levels in over a decade. Much of this investment supported information technology, financial service, and bioscience firms.

    Between 2013 and 2016, companies in the St. Louis metro area raised over $1.3 billion in venture capital, representing a nearly 76 percent increase from the four years prior.  Startup companies raised these funds over almost 400 separate investments, with 2015 setting a record of 133 investments in 117 individual companies.  The total value of those investments remained high at $373 million in 2016, although the number of investments decreased to 78.  

    There has been a recent national trend towards fewer, more high value, investments over time.  According to a 2016 article published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Total venture dollars deployed to startup companies for the quarter increased 20 percent and total deal count was down 5 percent, compared with the first quarter…”. (1)  This national trend generally aligns with the St. Louis experience. 

    The St. Louis Regional Chamber has recently founded Spirit of St. Louis Ventures to help ensure that there is a full range of area funding.  Spirit of St. Louis Ventures is an impact-investment enterprise that invests in venture funds, loan funds, and enterprises that align with our organization’s strategic plan.  The fund’s investment portfolio includes:  

    The Chamber also supports InvestMidwest, an annual venture capital conference that has raised over $1 billion for Midwestern companies over the last 17 years. (2)

    St. Louis is home to 20 active funds that invest in startups both inside and outside of the region.  Combined with investments from national venture capital funds, local startups have many opportunities to secure capital from a variety of investors. Area venture capital, angel investors, public funds, and entrepreneurial competitions make the St. Louis metro area an ideal location for a startup company to launch and to expand.

    Sources:(1) “$15.3 Billion in Venture Capital Deployed to Startup Ecosystem in Second Quarter” PricewaterhouseCoopers, July 15, 2016.
    (2) “InvestMidwest” InvestMidwest, 2017.