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Economy & Business

County economic chiefs look to Accelerate St. Louis

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 7, 2013 - The St. Louis County Economic Council wants to speed up the Gateway City’s startup culture a bit and they're using the Web to do it.

“The biggest gaping hole in the ecosystem at the moment,” said Marilyn Gannon, “is the need to communicate in the region what is going on. (If) we broadcast that better outside the region, we could hopefully stimulate more investment activity coming to St. Louis and attract more startups once people see the magnitude of the movement here.”

To that end SLCEC is launching Accelerate St. Louis, a new website that organizers hope will help kick entrepreneurial activity here into high gear. Gannon is president and CEO of Innovate St. Louis, which is overseeing formation of the site that is set for rollout later this month. The outlet will feature an area for startups to get attention from potential investors.

“The neat part is that it is also a showcase for the ventures so after we launch, there will be a way for hundreds of ventures in St. Louis to get visibility to a broader audience in the region and hopefully nationally as well,” said Gannon. “For instance, an investor in Chicago could search biotech companies at the concept stage in St. Louis and find those that meet their investment profile. That will be very powerful in terms of providing exposure.”

Resources and investors will also be able to submit listings in hopes of connecting with new ventures.

Meanwhile, the site hopes to create a one-stop shop for information by and about new enterprises in the area.

“We will also be aggregating news that’s relevant to the entrepreneurial sector from local sources, whether from media outlets like the Beacon or whether those are press releases from local startups like Bonfyre and LockerDome.”

Accelerate St. Louis will include a calendar of events which can be searched systematically and sorted by interest.

“We in the community have a hard time not scheduling on top of one another so this will help rationalize the event programming,” Gannon said, “but most importantly, for people to find out what is going on and where to engage.”

The resource library on the site will include articles, tools and templates on everything from how to write a business plan to how to approach intellectual property issues.

Finally, there will be a vocational listings section to help bring together those looking for work with those seeking skilled employees.

“A lot of startups are getting funding and growing their businesses, but they need to find talent so this would be a free online job posting hub for entrepreneurial ventures,” Gannon said. “That would bring a lot of value for startup teams.”

Various bells and whistles are set to be in the offing as well.

“The other key feature is a graphical map of where all the startup activity is in St. Louis,” Gannon said. “It’s pretty much eye candy to show how much activity there is with hundreds and hundreds of startups, support organizations and investors in the St. Louis area. We think that will help make the point really simply and intuitively for people outside the region who are wondering what is going on here.”

The concept for Accelerate St. Louis grew out of a community engagement process run by Innovate St. Louis and Infuz, a digital services company.

“The idea, the need and the basic response came from the community, the people who are really deeply involved in this,” Gannon said. “But then as part of the discovery process, we went out and surveyed everything else out there whether it was in Chicago or Seattle. We’ve looked at them all as we’ve gotten down to what we want the site to do and how we want to approach it.”

Funding for the effort comes courtesy of a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration in partnership with the State of Missouri and the SLCEC.

Gannon said that by launch day, organizers think they’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

“Right now, we’re pre-populating the site so that once it launches we’ll have a very robust platform with hundreds of resources, ventures and investors represented,” she said.

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