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‘Did Not Stand Still’; Entrepreneur Network Companies Press On During Pandemic

GiftAMeal CEO Andrew Glantz and food bank manager Mark Taylor check bags for a weekend meal program in November 2018. GiftAMeal, which helps provide meals through restaurants to homeless shelters, is one of dozens of startups working with the Innovation Technology and Entrepreneur Network.
File photo / Melody Walker
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St. Louis Public Radio
GiftAMeal CEO Andrew Glantz and food bank manager Mark Taylor check bags for a weekend meal program in November 2018. GiftAMeal, which helps provide meals through restaurants to homeless shelters, is one of dozens of startups working with the Innovation Technology and Entrepreneur Network.

COVID-19 is not slowing entrepreneurial activity for at least one organization in the St. Louis region.

The Innovation Technology and Entrepreneur Network’s 2020 Impact Study shows many member companies managed to move forward despite the uncertain economy, finding:

  • 37 companies added a total of 186 jobs.
  • 68 companies launched commercial products.
  • 56 companies secured $33.5 million in funding.
  • 58 companies joined ITEN.

“On average for the last five years, prior to last year, we onboard about 75 new companies each year," said ITEN Executive Director Mary Louise Helbig.

She said adding 58 companies last year was positive.

“We all know what last year was about with the pandemic,” Helbig added. “Probably in the second quarter of last year things got quiet when kind of everything was, I guess, somewhat at its peak.”

ITEN bills itself as an entrepreneur support organization but usually stays with startup companies longer than similar groups.

That makes it tough to compare performance to other groups. “We’ll work with entrepreneurs anywhere from 3 to 5 years, and that’s kind of unique,” Helbig said.

Other organizations have a more concentrated time frame, such as accelerators that usually involve a 14-week program. As a result, Helbig likes to look at other things to gauge the progress of the 120 companies in its network.

She points to GiftAMeal, which helps provide meals through restaurants to homeless shelters. It supplied 500,000 meals last year.

Phas3, which provides home rehabilitation services for cardiac patients, secured a pilot program contract with BJC Foundation. Other companies got into a national accelerator program, and one raised $10 million during the pandemic.

“They definitely did not stand still,” Helbig said.

ITEN’s report also puts a spotlight on diversity. It shows 41% of member company founders are people of color, 36% are female, and 10% are immigrants.

ITEN was founded in 2008. It joined Lindenwood University’s Plaster School of Business and Entrepreneurship last May, which fits into the school’s plan to expand entrepreneur programs. The partnership provides more options for ITEN companies, including intern placement, access to student project teams and research support from university faculty.

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