• St. Louis Region Receives Grant to Address Equity in Entrepreneurship

    Dec 01, 2016

    While startup activity in the St. Louis region and in the United States is rising, women and minorities consistently have lower rates of entrepreneurship.  Addressing the gender and racial equity in the startup community has become a core priority for the region.  To align efforts, the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective was formed.  The initial Collective comprises twelve St. Louis area nonprofit and governmental organizations, including the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

    The Collective is one of 12 recipients of the Kauffman Inclusion Challenge grant nationwide and will receive $420,000 over two years from the prestigious Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to help female and historically underrepresented entrepreneurs of color in high-growth sectors.  The Collective will help ensure that St. Louis’ high-tech, high-growth entrepreneurial pathways are open for all to participate and benefit. “Entrepreneurship is a pathway to prosperity for all communities, but especially for communities of color and women in St. Louis who have been historically disenfranchised or underserved,” said Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore, head of the Inclusion Initiative for BioSTL, the organization that conceptualized and submitted the grant on behalf of the Collective. “Together, we want to help ensure there is gender and racial equity in the start-up community, which means an entrepreneur’s success cannot be predicted based on their identity.”

    In awarding the Collective a grant, Kauffman signaled that the group has the potential not only to transform the way St. Louis supports underrepresented entrepreneurs, but could also serve as a model for replication in similar regions across the country. “Entrepreneurship in America should be available to everyone, yet women and minorities continue to face more obstacles to starting businesses when it comes to accessing funding, education, mentors and markets,” said Victor Hwang, vice president of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “The Inclusion Challenge grants will enable these outstanding support organizations to expand their services to empower more entrepreneurs and help them succeed. The nation and our economy as a whole will benefit from more entrepreneurs generating income and wealth in traditionally underserved markets.”

    The importance of racial equity in policy, program design, and resource allocation – as a step beyond diversity and inclusion – became the focus of the Ferguson Commission report after the unrest in Ferguson in August 2014.   The Collective is working to purposefully align its work with the report and organizations working to apply a racial equity lens in other areas of the community.  This alignment provides a framework that can be used to advance gender equity and address other identity-based inequities that may exist.  The Kauffman grant will help the Collective gather regional baseline data and build ongoing tracking systems, receive individual anti-bias training for ESOs, complete a needs assessment and pilot new activities.  

    Initial members of the Collective that have committed to a more intentional and rigorous process of building an equitable entrepreneurship ecosystem are (in alphabetical order): Arch Grants – BioSTL – Center for Emerging Technologies (CET) – Cortex – IT Entrepreneurship Network (ITEN) – Missouri Small Business Development Center – Prosper Women’s Entrepreneurs – St. Louis Economic Development Partnership – St. Louis Makes – St. Louis Regional Chamber – T-Rex – Venture Café.  The Collective membership is expected to broaden and, over the course of the work, members will engage a wide range of partners working to build a robust entrepreneur start-up community in St. Louis.

  • St. Louis Celebrates Startup Growth & Global Entrepreneurship Week

    Nov 10, 2016
    Nationally, the post-recession recovery has been described as weak and sluggish. This has affected new businesses attempting to grow in a slow-growth environment and facing a constrained supply of credit.[1],[2] The U.S. as a whole, and even metros such as New York, Boston, Chicago, and Silicon Valley, have seen persistent year-over-year declines in their regional share of new firms. However, the St. Louis region’s commitment to supporting and developing their entrepreneurs has allowed them to buck the trend and register significant growth in this area. In 2009, St. Louis start-ups accounted for only 6.6% of regional firms whereas by 2014, this number had risen to 9.7%.[3] The number of new firms grew from 3,582 in 2012 to 4,266 in 2013 and to 4,876 in 2014, registering growth rates of 19.1% and 14.3% respectively.[4]


    This success was recently noted in a piece in the FiveThirtyEight blog that declared St. Louis, “The New Startup Frontier.” [5] Citing St. Louis’ makerspaces, accelerators, co-working spaces, and regional commitment to expanding the startup ecosystem, Popular Mechanics named St. Louis the Number 1 startup city in America in 2015.[6] Accelerators and venture funds such as SixThirty, Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, Yield Lab, Stadia Ventures, and Arch Grants; incubators such as T-Rex and Helix Center; and a burgeoning innovation district (the Cortex Innovation Community) are all working to support the startup community. This entrepreneurial culture has yielded investments in regional startups totaling over $1 billion in the last three years.[7] St. Louis has expanded access to startup capital and extended significant resources in order to create an attractive environment for entrepreneurs.

    In the 2011-14 period, new establishments have contributed approximately 30% on average to net job creation which is fairly significant when also considering that new establishments accounted for only 9.9% of the total establishments operating in the St. Louis MSA. During this period, more than 25,000 establishments were formed which added more than 184,000 jobs to the region, with approximately 28,000 net jobs attributable to new establishments. [8] The charts below highlight growth in the number of new establishments and the consistently positive job creation stemming from these ventures. A large contribution to firm growth has come from the Health Care and Social Assistance industry, where St. Louis’s strong health infrastructure, innovation hubs, and anchor institutions have encouraged growth. In the 2012-13 period, nearly 30% of new firms were in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector, with approximately 2,048 establishments formed. [9] 



    Accelerate St. Louis, an initiative formed through the partnership of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, was created to strengthen innovation in St. Louis. The mission of Accelerate St. Louis is to accelerate the growth of regional entrepreneurship, connect and support entrepreneurs, and raise awareness of St. Louis’ innovation ecosystem. In addition to the daily entrepreneurship and innovation events happening in the region, St. Louis will be celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week with the rest of the world. During one week each November, people in 160 countries organize events and competitions to inspire entrepreneurship. While the official celebration spans one week, it’s no surprise that St. Louis’ entrepreneurial ecosystem has planned a full month of activities. From galas and hackathons to workshops and pitch events, there’s something for everyone. Accelerate St. Louis has assembled a list of the events planned. Pick one (or all 16) to attend and discover St. Louis’ entrepreneurial community and startup companies that are stimulating economic growth and reinvigorating St. Louis.

    [1] “Seven Years Later, Recovery Remains the Weakest of the Post-World War II Era” The Wall Street Journal, Jun. 29, 2016.
    [2] “Report to the Congress on the Availability of Credit to Small Businesses” The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, September 2012.
    Defined as firms of age 0, divided by total businesses in a given region.
    “Business Dynamics Statistics – Firm Age by MSA” U.S. Census Bureau, 2014.
    “St. Louis Is The New Startup Frontier” FiveThirtyEight, Sept. 12, 2016.
    [6] “The 14 Best Startup Cities in America” Popular Mechanics, Feb. 4, 2015.
    According to St. Louis Regional Chamber’s internal venture capital database.
    [8] “Business Dynamics Statistics – Establishment Characteristics by MSA” U.S. Census Bureau, 2014.
    "Establishment Births, Deaths, Expansions, Contractions, and Constants by State, County, and NAICS sector: 2012-2013" U.S. Census Bureau.