St. Louis Spirit: Lockerdome And Other Standouts
Over the course of my career as a journalist I've met with many thousands of CEOs of large and small companies and I know quality when I see it. On my recent trip to St. Louis and my brief few days with the city's startup community, I was very impressed by the quality of the startups and also by the success of some.
In Silicon Valley the VCs want startups to come to them and are famously averse to driving beyond a 20 mile radius of Sand Hill Road. Their belief is that the best deal flow always comes through Silicon Valley so all they need to do is sit tight.
But that's not true, there are fantastic startup teams in St. Louis, and many other innovation centers I've visited over the past ten years. There are many excellent startups that will never come to Silicon Valley for one or many reasons.
And that means Silicon Valley VCs are missing out on having access to all the best deals. The VCs know that their biggest bottleneck is a lack of great startup teams, it's not a lack of ideas. St. Louis is just four hours away from SFO.
St. Louis has a great work culture combined with a very strong sense of social responsibility. And it is one of the only cities in the US that is actively encouraging immigration because it knows that diversity is important for its economy.
Many large businesses have been built in St. Louis: Ralston-Purina, Anheuser-Busch, McDonnell Douglas, Mastercard. It has nine Fortune 500 companies and 19 in the Fortune 1000. It is very strong in financial services and healthcare is growing very fast. Enterprise car rental is another home town success story.
St. Louis is now building the base for some great tech startup businesses. Some of the ones that stood out:
- ClickWithMeNow - headed by Bud Albers has a great technology for dealing with both sides of the screen;
- Aisle411 with its indoor mapping technologies for use in warehouses and retail locations is in a sweet spot with many current trends criss-crossing its domain.
But the standout St. Louis startup is Lockerdome, founded by Gabe Lozano (above). Lozano is a local legend and greatly admired in the St. Louis startup community for his grit, tough determination, and his entrepreneurial smarts. (Everyone dreams to be a little (to a lot) like Gabe Lozano.)
Lockerdome is a media site that organizes and collects news content based on a reader's interests -- a commonly heard description about many other sites, too. But Lockerdome is making it work. Following a repositioning of the company late last year, traffic is rocketing. I'm not allowed to mention the actual traffic figures I was shown but Lockerdome is heading into Buzzfeed territory with a momentum best described as "with a bullet."
Lockerdome is set to become a massive St. Louis success story.
Please see: LockerDome 3.0 Breaks the Field Wide Open
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On my way back to San Francisco I was happy to see that Maheesh Jain (below) a St. Louis native, was waiting for the same flight. He has a great but as yet unfinished story: he and co-founder Fred Durham recently returned to lead Cafe Press [$PRSS], a NASDAQ public company that they founded in 1999.
Can the two founders revitalize the venerable Cafe Press Steve Jobs style? It's a good story and worth watching.