St. Louis Spirit: Arch Grants Equity-Free $50K For Startups Moving To St Louis
Ginger Imster (above) is Executive Director of Arch Grants, funded by four St. Louis philanthropists with the aim of encouraging innovative ventures that boost the diversity of tech jobs and the diversity of the population, in the St. Louis metro area.
An annual competition selects winners and in 2014, 20 startups received $50,000 each and did not have to give up any equity. But they do have to meet rules that at least one founder relocates to St. Louis for at least one year. Arch has succeeded in relocating two startups from abroad, helping them with visas.
"St. Louis has a long history of community service and thats what the funders of Arch Grants are trying to do, to ensure the city has a healthy future. We need diversity in jobs and people. We need immigrants because the city recognizes that a lack of diversity is holding back our economy," said Imster.
Arch has rented the entire fourth floor of a large co-working space in downtown called T.Rex that houses more than 100 startups and 35 alumni companies and offers incubator services. Both organizations are very focused on building a self-sustaining tech community that won't brain-drain away. And building that community in an urban setting is very important because it also helps instill a philanthropic spirit of St. Louis that is very community oriented and very loyal.
She says that $50,000 is not a lot of money but it's enough to relocate a couple of founders and support their living costs in St. Louis for a year. Winning the Arch Grants startup competition often brings additional benefits. Several startups told me that they had managed to raise large seed rounds because of the backing from Arch. Plus there's no equity to give up.
Edward Domain, CEO of the Techli news site for St. Louis startups, said he relocated from the Bay Area after winning an Arch Grant two years ago.
So far so good: Arch has granted more than $3.5 million since 2011 to 55 companies, and those companies have raised nearly $18m in funding, with nearly $7 million in revenues and created about 200 jobs. As 2014 grows to a close and Arch totals up the year's success stories those numbers will undoubtably improve.
Local startups need some high-profile exits...