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Arch Grants: Round Two

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial could change to the Gateway Arch National Park by July 2018.
The St. Louis Arch.

A local organization trying to build successful companies in St. Louis is now accepting applications for round two of its startup competition. During the first round, Arch Grants awarded fifteen lucky startups $50,000.

What's on TV?

Twenty-six-year-old Sergi Turabelidze started his company, Iveria, out of necessity. He’s from Georgia (the country), and when family came to visit, they just couldn’t find anything to watch on TV.

“They wanted to watch something from back home and we just couldn’t find any solutions at all," said Turabelidze." We built something home brew and then more people saw it and more people wanted and it slowly just grew into a business by itself.”

Iveria is like Hulu or Netflix Instant Replay. It costs $20 a month and subscribers can watch the programs in a number of ways: on the website, on their TV, or their smartphone. Among the most watched programs are news, soccer, talk shows like this one and the wildly popular Georgian Idol.

Turabelidze is one of the 15 winners of the first round of Arch Grants. Along with the $50,000, he received free accounting, marketing, legal, IT, and mentoring services.

“One of the most difficult things about starting your own new enterprise is that it can be a very lonely place. And a lot of times you question, what am I doing, am I crazy here. When we saw this opportunity to be a part of a community of startups, we really jumped at that and of course the cash doesn’t hurt.”

Tricky Issue

Arnoldo Muller Molina is the founder of simMachines and was also a winner in the first round. He’s from Costa Rica and his company provides cutting-edge technology in the search engine field. He was compelled to apply not just for the money, but because Arch Grants would help him get a Visa.

“A visa is a tricky issue," said Muller Molina. "You can’t be in a country without a Visa and usually when you go abroad you can only get one if you’re working for someone. And I didn’t want to do that. So, they gave me a lot of support towards this goal.”

Measuring Success

Sarah Spear is the executive director of Arch Grants.  She says they look for startups that demonstrate a commitment to being based in St. Louis, provide an innovative product or service or startups that plan to be high growth in scale with an eye towards national and international sales. She says there are similar programs around the world, but not in the U.S.

"In the US we’re the only program of our scope and size, specifically that we’re awarding $50,000 at the very beginning of the startups tenure with us," said Spear. "Mass Challenge for example in Massachusetts provides the funding after startup go through a 90-day acceleration period. So, for us we feel that the startups need that funding immediately."

Arch Grants is focused on the economic development of the St. Louis region. So, they track job creation, revenue generated and capital attracted by the startups. Spear says in their first three months of the program, the startups generated a total of 51 jobs, $282,000 of revenue and $645,000 in capital from investors.

"So for us, those numbers indicate the program is being successful."

Four-hundred and twenty applications from 11 countries were submitted during the first round of the Arch Grants Competition. This time around they’ll be awarding 20 grants instead of 15.

Spear expects to receive about 1,000 applications for round two from an even wider geographic scope.

The deadline is Jan. 1, 2013.

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