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St Louis: gateway that aims to be a launch pad
Financial Times of London
By Jonathan Moules

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On the west bank of the Mississippi river, St Louis is home to big US companies such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Ralston Purina and Anheuser-Busch. Known as the “gateway to the west”, it is now trying to make a name for itself as a centre for start-ups, both homegrown and from far afield.

St Louis does not have the volume of start-ups to rival New York or San Francisco but it does have big ambitions to foster new businesses in financial services and life sciences. There is money to back new ventures from inception through early funding rounds thanks to incubator programmes and venture capital groups, such as T-REx, Cultivation Capital and Arch Angels. Crucially for early-stage companies, the cost of running a small business is low compared with the west or east coasts.

Notable successes

Aisle411, founded by Nathan Pettyjohn, is an in-store navigation app developer, based in the Center for Emerging Technologies. It has raised more than $10m since it was founded in 2008 and has partnerships with big US retailers such as Home Depot, Walgreens and Shop ’n Save.

Enstitute is creating an innovative “learn-by-doing” university for business, technology, design and entrepreneurship. Students spend one to two years working as apprentices to founders and chief executives at start-ups and established companies, supplemented by online and classroom study. It was co-founded by 26-year-old Kane Sarhan, who was inspired by his time as an apprentice to one of the owners of the Coyote Ugly Saloon bar chain.

TrakBill, founded by Steven Marciniak and Sam Sullivan to help users keep tabs on lawmaking, has raised $500,000 from Cultivation Capital, giving it a $3.25m valuation. It has also won $50,000 in investments from Arch Grants and Capital Innovators.

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