Silicon Prairie... +St Louis?

The thriving technology scene covering startups, incubators, investors, etc.
As some of you may know, Kansas City has received a lot of attention recently as the first place in the country to get Google Fiber. They and their surrounding cities have been able to market and leverage this remarkably well:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/us/si ... lains.html

http://www.siliconprairienews.com/

http://www.siliconprairiefilm.com/

St. Louis has excellent support for start-ups through the Arch Grant, world class universities and biomedical research, excellent computing resources and expertise as shown by the StampedeCon conference. However, these other cities have gotten more national news. As a student, I'm not in any position to change things but I just wanted to bring it to people's attention somehow. How can we do better, and let people know about what is here?
Google Fiber is definitely the big thing that is getting KC's tech community and region a lot of press lately. Like Pittsburgh, KC getting a big name Internet/Web IT firm such as Google to plant roots essentially helps to validate a region's local tech community and opens the door to larger possibilities. In Pittsburgh, Google, with 200 local employees, has partnered with local universities there.

It's not that the local St. Louis tech community isn't valid or innovative because the local tech scene is certainly making national headlines, but when one of the big boys come to town, people in tech take notice. Landing a major office or operation of say.....Google, Yahoo, Microsoft etc. becomes a bragging right for a city or region - no matter how big or small the office.

I don't envy KC for getting Google Fiber because eventually a lot of cities will have it - if it is a proven success in KC. However, like Chicago, St. Louis also needs that BIG tech anchor with instant name recognition to plant roots. Groupon is not Google. Check out what Microsoft's CEO recently told techies in Chicago here.

All it takes is a big international tech anchor (Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon) to plant roots in a region for a region to blossom in IT even more. Pittsburgh is a perfect example. This is why St. Louis' own Jack Dorsey and Jim mcKelvey should seek to grow Square's presence in St. Louis. I predict Square is going to need live customer service people or they will lose business to other competitors (PayPal, Intuit) - so why not open a customer call center operation in St. Louis?

And although St. Louis has a burgeoning IT community, is the HQs of Microsoft's North Central District and has a division of IBM's Software Group (Genelco) it would be nice if one of these companies could put an operation in the region for the area to get even more exposure.

AND St. Louis must market itself through creative conferences, by creating local tech festivals, improving infrastructure, holding more tech competitions especially for the youth, housing for techpreneurs, growing venture capital organizations etc.

Anyway, KC is getting a lot of press, but St. Louis isn't lagging in media/press exposure for its tech efforts and successes either.

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Listen To Recent Boston NPR Audio from 03/22/13. Click the link below.

Looking For A Tech Job? Meet Me In St. Louis

....or go here.
For your review, here are some links to media stories featuring St. Louis tech.


Move Your Startup To St. Louis, Get $50,000
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 12, 2012

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Meet Me in St. Louis: Why Startups Should Consider Setting Up Shop in the STL
Biz Tech Magazine
Nov 09, 2012

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Startup Founders Say ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’
Fox Business News
June 11, 2012

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March 2013: Tech Hubs Redefined
Dice.com
March 2013

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Cambridge Innovation Center branches out
The Boston Globe
February 18, 2013

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Considering a startup competition? Here are 3 things to think about first
Venture Beat.com
February 1, 2013

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Fastest-growing cities for tech jobs
CNN Money
March 20, 2013

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Looking For A Tech Job? Meet Me In St. Louis (Audio)
WBUR
Boston's NPR station
March 22, 2013

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Would You Move Your Startup to St. Louis for 50k?
Black Enterprise
December 17, 2012

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Tech Hiring Trends 2012: What You Need to Know
Mashable.com
Jan 29, 2012

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Crowdsource nabs $12.5M to bring scalable labor to the enterprise
Venture Beat.com
October 22, 2012

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Modis Announces Hot Cities for IT Jobs in 2013
Modis
January 22, 2013

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Cash grants draw startups to St. Louis
San Francisco Chronicle
December 20, 2012

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Arch Grants Raises $2.5M To Turn St. Louis Into A Startup Hub; Square Co-founder Signs On
Tech Crunch
February 21, 2012

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Data Centers Offer Hope for St. Louis Office Market
New York Times
February 8, 2011

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Why You Should Start a Company in... St. Louis
Fast Company
November 23, 2010
Arch City, hate to dissapoint but could only come to one conclusion on Jack Dorsey. He has moved on to bigger and better things. Square's office/presence in St. Louis is a token gesture that I think had a lot more to do with his speech at Wash U a few years back introducing Square in my opinion. Twitter/Square continue to expand and grow in San Fran. I believe Square alone is up to 500 employees in San Fran office.

Hopefully I'm wrong or mistaken but I believe Dorsey has already shown his true colors when it comes to investing or having a future in St. Louis.
^Dude, he had to move to the Bay Area. That's where the money is. Simple as that. Don't position him as showing his "true colors" because his company's in San Fran & not STL, if for no other reason than that sounds exclusionary, or that "You're either with us or against us." That's even worse than not liking someone because of where they went to high school...

Focus: What does STL really need to compete?

First, we can look to amass infrastructure that can serve as the foundation for a burgeoning IT industry. Google Fiber in KC makes that city viable because it is home to infrastructure. If you build it, they will come.

Meanwhile, as part of the Loop Trolley project, they are looking to co-install fiber optic cable so the residents & businesses proximate to it will be within access of advanced IT infrastructure. Look for this area to be home to more of these IT companies.

It would be incredible if there could be a long-term infrastructure project started that could lay fiber optic cable throughout the Downtown Central Business District. If you get 100MB/second cables next to an office building, it won't be long until it's fully occupied. Heck, work with AT&T on this directly, give them a reason to keep their Downtown offices filled.

Second, we need to attract out-of-town Private Equity to STL. Right now, PE is concentrated in a few key cities for IT, especially in San Francisco but also in NYC and Boston. Chicago, too. PE firms will provide capital to companies, whose leadership reports to the PE firm on their progress, so the firm knows its investments in the company are effective for long-term profitability.

Because of this need to be close to startups, startups go to the PE firms.

What we need is for some national IT PE firms to come to STL.

Within the Cortex Phase 2 development will be an office for a biotech PE firm out of Cambridge, MA. They'll be setting up shop here as they look to expand their geography and gain exposure of new companies. This should be copied.

If national PE firms from both coasts could be offered open space, for cheap, perhaps they could look to branch out here. That way, they can have the firms in which they invest be better held accountable while providing boots-on-the-ground access. If this is possible, then the odds are far greater that these national firms will look to build portfolios in STL.

It really is infrastructure, of data and of money, that can promote companies to stay here, not just to innovate here.
^I agree with much of gone corporate's comments. Keep in mind that Jack Dorsey has to answer to investors and boards. If the investors and board feel Square can't get the biggest bang their bucks in St. Louis - out to Silicon Valley you must go.

Although I understand dredger's sentiments, perhaps Dorsey's affect/demeanor may be a personality issue and nothing against St. Louis.

Keep in mind too that Jack Dorsey cannot rock the boat too much in Silicon Valley with boards or investors especially after his initial abrupt and unfair ouster at Twitter. Although he is back at Twitter, he has stakeholders that he must to answer to or he'll get the boot again. Dorsey has to insure that the best product comes on line because there is too much money and skill at stake.

Nonetheless, I hope that Square and other locals (Answers.com/Lockerdome, for example) grow in St. Louis. On the bright side, while there are only three workers for SquareUP in St. Louis, Google Pittsburgh started with three employees and grew into 200. By the way, I wonder why Washington University, UMSL or St. Louis University haven't made some connections with coastal tech firms to offer free space and university partnerships? And wouldn't it be nice if Rolla (Missouri University of Science and Technology) had a branch in downtown St. Louis?

Keeping on topic, St. Louis needs a new individual marketing plan/gimmick for its tech community. Being associated with the "Silicon Prairie" is okay, but "Silicon Prairie" is both a hit and miss for me. Boring. I don't think of tech necessarily when I hear the moniker because "Prairie" sticks out. Instead I think of cornfields and cows.

:lol:
^Not to mention many places already call themselves Silicon Prairie. Just a quick googlesearch shows Dallas, Champaign, and even Omaha as being referred to by the nickname.
Understand the money end, Jack Dorsey is a home town hero that has moved on for financial interests in his best interest and the interest of the shareholders. Maybe I should have used different words rather than showing true colors and avoided being called Dude by Gone Corporate. Just don't think Square D let alone Twitter/Social Media will be part of St. Louis future in the foreseeable future for the very comments that have been made.

As far as the near term future for St. Louis. Biomed/Cortex? Yes, Plant sciences/Montsano/Dansforth Center? Yes Financial Services/Data Centers, Yes. All these have established institutions with connections and money behind them that can support the respective Dorsey's of the world.
I'm concerned that St. Louis is falling behind more on the educational front of computing more than anything else. DevBootcamp is booming in San Fran and is now opening up in Chicago. Chicago already had Starter League (formerly Code Academy). Boston and New York are flush with these types of programs. Saint Louis has zilch.
dredger wrote:
Understand the money end, Jack Dorsey is a home town hero that has moved on for financial interests in his best interest and the interest of the shareholders. Maybe I should have used different words rather than showing true colors and avoided being called Dude by Gone Corporate. Just don't think Square D let alone Twitter/Social Media will be part of St. Louis future in the foreseeable future for the very comments that have been made.

As far as the near term future for St. Louis. Biomed/Cortex? Yes, Plant sciences/Montsano/Dansforth Center? Yes Financial Services/Data Centers, Yes. All these have established institutions with connections and money behind them that can support the respective Dorsey's of the world.

Square is already a part of St. Louis. I'd take three guys over none. Some presence is better than no presence. Like Pittsburgh had to prove itself to Google, Square and other national brand tech firms could build up offices in St. Louis if the talent pool expands. There are a lot of techies who do not want to be in Silicon Valley. It is up to St. Louis IT stakeholders etc. to seize their expertise plus find jobs and resources for them. Building and maintaining a sophisticated, diverse IT talent pool is important for growth in St. Louis.

Not only that, for techies to stay, St. Louis has to build an environment accommodating to techies. Data centers are simply one component of IT. And no offense to data center workers, but not all techies want to be stuck in a data center all day long. If you do one component of IT - you lose the opportunity to build critical tech mass. And by the way, St. Louis is pushing data centers, but STL is also pushing all components/sectors of IT.
^It will be interesting on how the legislative session comes to an end. Hopefully not like last year or the dud of a special sesion. Missouri house passed a number of tax credits and breaks in line with your good points.

Missouri House approves business tax breaks

http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/morn ... s-for.html

One of the bills passed would create a tax credit for angel investors in high-tech, startup businesses, the Columbia Missourian reports. The Missouri bill would provide up to $6 million annually of such tax credits beginning in 2014.

The House also passed legislation authorizing state and local sales tax breaks for large data centers that operate computer servers. The plan would waive taxes on the purchase of computers, equipment, materials and utilities used by the data centers.
arch city wrote:
There are a lot of techies who do not want to be in Silicon Valley. It is up to St. Louis IT stakeholders etc. to seize their expertise plus find jobs and resources for them. Building and maintaining a sophisticated, diverse IT talent pool is important for growth in St. Louis.


Agreed. Speaking of IT talent in St. Louis, Amazon had a job fair (last week, I think?) seeking IT/development types for jobs in Seattle.

arch city wrote:
Not only that, for techies to stay, St. Louis has to build an environment accommodating to techies. Data centers are simply one component of IT. And no offense to data center workers, but not all techies want to be stuck in a data center all day long. If you do one component of IT - you lose the opportunity to build critical tech mass. And by the way, St. Louis is pushing data centers, but STL is also pushing all components/sectors of IT.


Agreed. Data centers, per se, don't by themselves bring lots of employment. Huge data centers can be staffed by only a handful of Operations-type employees. (Isn't there a big data center up by Boeing that's rumored to have only 2-3 people on-site at any given time?) Most of the "innovative" type tech jobs aren't *in* the data centers.
An example of how Dorsey is helping STL.

http://m.bizjournals.com/stlouis/blog/B ... tml?r=full
arch city wrote:
^I
Keeping on topic, St. Louis needs a new individual marketing plan/gimmick for its tech community. Being associated with the "Silicon Prairie" is okay, but "Silicon Prairie" is both a hit and miss for me. Boring. I don't think of tech necessarily when I hear the moniker because "Prairie" sticks out. Instead I think of cornfields and cows.

:lol:


More specifically, St. Louis needs civic and quasi-governmental organizations who understand branding and marketing (and how to hire cutting-edge creative firms and take risks -- not to mention requiring that such firms are actually in St. Louis).

The examples of truly horrendous and/or inbred marketing campaigns of the past are myriad, but as Exhibit A I present "BioBelt." Quickly, now, what almost-identical-sounding two-word phrase do you immediately free-associate with that name? Yup. That's exactly what you want scientists and researchers (and VCs) to think of when they consider moving, say, their stage-one or stage-two genomics or stem-cell start-ups to good ol' Missourah.
bonwich wrote:
More specifically, St. Louis needs civic and quasi-governmental organizations who understand branding and marketing (and how to hire cutting-edge creative firms and take risks -- not to mention requiring that such firms are actually in St. Louis).

The examples of truly horrendous and/or inbred marketing campaigns of the past are myriad, but as Exhibit A I present "BioBelt." Quickly, now, what almost-identical-sounding two-word phrase do you immediately free-associate with that name? Yup. That's exactly what you want scientists and researchers (and VCs) to think of when they consider moving, say, their stage-one or stage-two genomics or stem-cell start-ups to good ol' Missourah.

I agree 100%.

I've dabbled in marketing and it always amazes me how St. Louis is under-marketed or poorly-marketed. BioBelt worked. Why it seems to have gone away......I have no clue.

Also, for example, I've expressed on this forum how St. Louis doesn't market its energy assets to its benefit. You have the ENERGY sector being responsible for a lot of economic growth all across the U.S. - especially in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania - but in St. Louis there are no plans in place to market itself as an energy hub despite all of the energy companies, energy assets and energy support companies it has.

Charlotte has just started marketing itself as the New Energy Capital and already it has landed the U.S. HQs of Areva, Inc. - a French energy firm. The U.S. HQs moved from a suburb of Washington D.C. (Bethesda, Md.) bringing 130 jobs to Charlotte - giving it another notch in its belt.

I know this thread is about tech, however, the point is how marketing works. It's sorely needed in St. Louis across so many job sectors.

And I am sure some people will come to post here......"but we don't need this or that" when in fact STL needs it (marketing) badly. Marketing is one of the most effective engines/tools for economic development.

Maybe the problem in STL is that it doesn't believe in itself enough to market itself. It's too consumed with it has lost versus what it still has.
^ St. Louis has a serious image problem and does not leave a good first impression. Whether your coming into the city from the North, South, East or West. St. Louis just gives the vibe of abandoned, post industrial, most dangerous city in America. Abandoned houses coming in from I-70, abandoned warehouses coming in from I-55, rusty rail tracks and double decker highways coming in from I-64. I-44 may be the only interstate that doesn't give off a very sad vibe. I believe NEXTSTL did a post about this a while back, about how we are almost numb to the decay in the urban core of this region. Something St. Louis has consistently done wrong is not give a damn about its appearance and that says a lot about civic pride. Our peer river cities like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh look a lot more inviting and cosmopolitan when you cross over their respective rivers. Cleveland and Detroit may be the only cities with a worst urban presentation and that is not a league we want to be in. Perception often becomes reality.

We can say what we want about soulless sunbelts like Charlotte, Nashville, Tampa, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix etc. but they do a lot better job marketing their respective regions. All of these cities look modern and beautiful from the highway. Even cold weather cities like Denver and Minneapolis look a lot more appealing. Chicago has a ghetto the size of 5 times the size of St. Louis, but their image is together.
I don't think St. Louis looks that bad from the highway. There are parts on the periphery but the core looks pretty "tight" IMO. Yeah, there are sleeker-looking cities, but I think you're giving some of the others too much credit. For example, I just visited Denver for the first time recently and I wasn't terribly impressed. The distant view from the highway was nice with the mountains in the background but up close it wasn't anything special. And on the ground, aside from the 16th St. mall (which had plenty of shopping-mall-style infill and mostly generic shops/restaurants), their downtown has plenty of surface lots and its share of ugly and run-down buildings. Actually, on the whole I think St. Louis feels more dense than Denver.
That stretch along I-70 near the water towers always looks terrible from I-70, and everyone who goes from the airport to the downtown goes right by there. Would the RCGA, (or the Chamber I believe they are called now) consider funding a restoration of at least that stretch just to improve our image?

I always thought someone would develop the area around the two water towers for housing, since they are such great icons and Grand has such easy access to I-70 from there. But nobody has its been like that for 40 years. Also the Eastbound lower lanes of I-64 near grand across from Goodwill where you see all the graffiti and broken windows just defines blight to people who drive through.

Detroit has a lot more of this along their interstates, and it just shocks visitors to see un-cared-about blight right along major highways. It portrays a city in decline that doesn't care. I think a lot of other blight visible from the highway has been addressed through development and we only have these two spots left to fix along the roads.

But these are the areas Hollywood focuses on to define St. Louis. Remember the Bus Station sitcom set in St. Louis with John Larroquette and poor Hispanics? That was back when the real bus station was downtown where the dome is now and Hispanics had not discovered St. Louis yet, but that was Hollywood's idea of St. Louis. And of course planes, trains, and automobiles. I'm sure people who just pass through without stopping on I-70 go away with those limited impressions from their highway view.
goat314 wrote:
^ St. Louis has a serious image problem and does not leave a good first impression. Whether your coming into the city from the North, South, East or West. St. Louis just gives the vibe of abandoned, post industrial, most dangerous city in America. Abandoned houses coming in from I-70, abandoned warehouses coming in from I-55, rusty rail tracks and double decker highways coming in from I-64. I-44 may be the only interstate that doesn't give off a very sad vibe. I believe NEXTSTL did a post about this a while back, about how we are almost numb to the decay in the urban core of this region. Something St. Louis has consistently done wrong is not give a damn about its appearance and that says a lot about civic pride. Our peer river cities like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh look a lot more inviting and cosmopolitan when you cross over their respective rivers. Cleveland and Detroit may be the only cities with a worst urban presentation and that is not a league we want to be in. Perception often becomes reality.

We can say what we want about soulless sunbelts like Charlotte, Nashville, Tampa, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix etc. but they do a lot better job marketing their respective regions. All of these cities look modern and beautiful from the highway. Even cold weather cities like Denver and Minneapolis look a lot more appealing. Chicago has a ghetto the size of 5 times the size of St. Louis, but their image is together.


I wouldn't include Nashville in a list of soulless sunbelts, but I agree with everything else. The most interesting thing you mention is possibility that we've grown numb to the urban decay. On one hand, at least everyone here is very aware of the problems the city has. At the same time, when we see photos of the latest house razing, collapse, or brick theft in north St. Louis we might feel sad, but rarely outraged. It's too common.

Despite this, St. Louis still contains the coolest housing stock I've seen in the US yet, outside New York and Chicago.
gary kreie wrote:
...and it just shocks visitors to see un-cared-about blight right along major highways.


it's unfortunate that many people don't understand that highways through cities SEED blight.
I believe that Saint Louis presents a terrible image.... I-70 & 64 in particular are crap. However, seems like this thread has gotten quite a bit away from the original topic.
St Louis needs a new marketing campaign.
Highlight the tech/IT startups downtown, the energy companies, biobelt, financial sector, the Grove & pro gay laws, the housing stock that is second to almost zero cities, the architecture, the parks, the hipster scene on Cherokee, etc.
St. Louis is an authentic city, a real city with incredible neighborhoods and history. Real urbanism is everywhere. Cities like dallas, Denver, phoenix look like the Boulevard on steroids. Atlanta reminds me of a gigantic westport plaza on highway intersections.
The first thing this region must do is combine the crime stats of the city and county. Our national image is Detroit JR, and that perception couldn't be more incorrect.
Also, can the downtown partnership run ads of all the tech companies in the city? I think there are zero in clayton...
On a somewhat related (maybe) note, KC is getting Aereo service, a company that rents devices that allow for Internet-based rebroadcasting of over-the-air TV. (This is contingent on the company staying alive long enough to expand.)

Full list of cities:
Atlanta
Austin
Baltimore
Birmingham (AL)
Boston
Chicago
Cleveland
Dallas
Denver
Detroit
Houston
Kansas City
Madison (WI)
Miami
Minneapolis
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Providence (RI)
Raleigh-Durham (NC)
Salt Lake City
Tampa
Washington D.C.

https://aereo.com/preregister

A quick check of population stats shows that, of the top 22 MSAs, they left off
STL
LA and Riverside
Phoenix
Seattle
San Diego
Was NY on the list?