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Maritz and Capital Innovators announce partnership

LA Johnson

A long-time, St. Louis-based corporation and a local startup accelerator are teaming up.

Maritz and Capital Innovators announced Monday that they will co-lease space in the innovation district Cortex as part of a four-year partnership.

Cue the theme music from The Odd Couple.

Maritz is a 125-year-old sales and marketing services company, while Capital Innovators is a tech accelerator founded in 2010. Officials with each organization said they’ll gain from the other’s knowledge and exchange best practices.

"One of the challenges you face when you’re a storied, long-standing corporation is the ability to innovate out of the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ practices," said Maritz president Dennis Hummel. "You need that stimulus from somewhere other than in your own company."

Capital Innovators’ portfolio includes 58 companies, which have raised a total of $170 million. The accelerator gives tech startups $50,000 in seed funding and connects them to experts and funding opportunities during a 12-week program.

CEO and founder Judy Sindecuse said she created the accelerator after someone told her St. Louis should stop the fruitless effort to lure Fortune 500 companies here.

"If you look at our top 10 employers, seven of them are home-grown," Sindecuse said. "So our answer as a city is to grow our next big employer."

She said the partnership with Maritz will give their cadre of startups access to mentoring and coaching from a long-time corporation. There is also the possibility of getting business, investments or even an acquisition.

Sindecuse is also hopeful that the partnership will spur other corporations to get involved in St. Louis’ startup community.

"We’re looking so forward to [Maritz] helping us not just specifically, but helping St. Louis as a whole to demonstrate how partnerships with people in this ecosystem can happen," she said.

Hummel is enthusiastic about getting other corporations on board. He said creating relationships between established companies and startups is good for business and St. Louis as a whole.

"I implore anyone in a larger corporation to get involved," Hummel said. "Get involved, get on the ground and get your people involved with this kind of activity. We will all benefit."

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

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