4 Reasons I Would Apply To This Global Startup Competition, All Over Again

TL:DR Here are my four strong reasons for why it is totally worth applying to the Arch Grants Global Startup Competition and considering relocating your company to St Louis, Missouri. They basically break down into, a) your money will go a long way, b) the entire St Louis Startup Ecosystem has strong core values that are practical and progressive, c) St Louis is a great city and d) an Arch Grant will push your company into the limelight, boost your PR and generate wider market recognition that will assist in the next stage of your company’s growth.

My company, Longneck & Thunderfoot (L&T), won an Arch Grant in summer 2016 and I moved to St Louis from New York that July.

A lot of friends have asked me for advice on applying, and my experience in general, so when I noticed that the deadline for the Global Startup Competition has been extended until May 22nd, I realized I still had a chance to make a difference, so here goes!

Firstly, I highly recommend applying for an Arch Grant.

Here’s why: You’ll win $50k in equity free cash. It’s paid out in five installments over a year which gives you a much needed cash injection every quarter, just when you need it.

$50,000 goes a long way in St Louis (STL). Arch Grants say that, “$50,000 in St. Louis equals $76,584 in Boston, $121,267 in New York, and $93,824 in San Francisco.” From personal experience, I can tell you that downtown St Louis has plenty of co-working spaces and affordable offices.

It is not unrealistic to budget only 0.1% of your grant to monthly co-working costs, and stretching to 1%, will get you a private office fit for four people. We work from T-Rex, a downtown co-working space with a brilliant and active community — Friday happy hours are the best.

The day to day cost of living is low too. In the early days of L&T, when we first started in New York, I used to rent my Brooklyn apartment on Airbnb to help lower my living costs. For the same cost of renting out a single room for a month, I now rent an entire apartment. You can get a designer loft in downtown STL for similar prices too.

Secondly, Arch Grants stands for a lot more than simply, “Startup Success.”

Their core values center around, “People, Place and Purpose.” Not only are they are great values to get behind, but the Arch Grants team really live up to their mission.

There is little doubt that getting your Startup off the ground is simply a matter of hard grind. Vision is essential, but sometimes it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. Arch Grants wants you to succeed in St Louis and is looking for bright entrepreneurs to be part of the bigger story of the development of the city.

As such, Arch Grants enables their entrepreneurs unprecedented access to the wider business community. Not only do they introduce you to key enterprise connections across a wide range of industries such as energy, healthcare, real estate, financial services and agriculture, but they also frequently present one-off community engagement initiatives that offer entrepreneurs opportunities to pitch, test, research and collaborate with local organizations.

Personally speaking, I find the wider mission of Arch Grants and the St Louis startup community in general, extremely inspiring. At the risk of going off on a tangent here, I would say that this greater context of, “Place,” really does lend me a greater sense of, “Purpose,” as an entrepreneur.

For instance, while you may know you want to “build something gigantic,” (which is the motto of T-Rex the co-working space) you can occasionally lose sight of key steps in the process. A few discussions with all the local ESOs (Entrepreneur Support Organizations), will quickly help you establish an internal roadmap and guide you around venture funding in St Louis along the way.

Through the additional pro bono support services provided by partners to Arch Grants, L&T has received marketing mentorship and inside sales training.

In terms of key steps in the development of our company, L&T has developed more robust customer contracts via our law firm, Polisinelli. Those essential clerical duties need to be fulfilled, and it’s been great to get the perspective of an enterprise law firm that can look ahead for us and coach us on what really needs to be in place to build something gigantic.

Our St Louis office has grown to four staff members in 9 months and we expect to continue to expand our headcount this summer. The wider talent pool of university graduates from Wash U, SLU and Mizzou mean there are plenty of strong candidates motivated to work Startups.

T-Rex offers even more discounted rates for co-working spaces for interns and local collaborations between organizations and startups like Downtown STL, Cortex, PluggedIN, ITEN and TEQjobs all help facilitate a steady flow of interns and FTE candidates. Depending on your needs, local programs like Slate OJT will even contribute matched funds to your salary budget if you hire new staffers as part of an on the job training program.

Thirdly, St Louis really is a great place to work and play!

If you’re outside the U.S., St Louis, MO, may have only made it onto your mental map because of the protests in Ferguson or because you watched the Sci Fi show, Defiance. You might have heard it’s a city in decline, like other cities in the rust belt.

Whatever you’ve heard, ultimately, it’s up to you to do the research and make your own mind up, but I can tell you that there is a lot more going on in this place than you can imagine.

Not only is business being done and investments being made, but this is a city on a mission.

That’s what I enjoy about working in St Louis most of all. While we may laugh at Startups “making the world a better place,” in the HBO show, Silicon Valley, there is not a hint of irony that this city is investing in startups to make St Louis a better place. In my experience, it’s a city that is not scared to reflect on itself and understand how it got where it is today. It’s run by a people who put their insights into action. People who know what they are doing and why they are doing it.

It’s pragmatism that means that Arch Grants is committed to equity actively supporting Startups with diverse teams from all over the world. Speak to anyone from T-Rex, Arch Grants, Downtown STL, Ferguson 1000, Full Circle, Eagle Bank, CET and CIC, and they’ll all tell you that increasing diversity is a well known catalyst in transforming any local economy. Diverse teams bring new eyes, new brains and new tastes to the city, and my studied friends at these organizations all assert that these factors drive economic prosperity at a fundamental level.

Imagine working with people who think that way, as a matter of integrity, every single day? Yeah. Exactly. It’s awesome.

When you get here, you’ll be meeting like minds who stand for making St Louis a great city, in whatever creative capacity they can.

You’ll be coaching small businesses with Dr Lance McCarthy at Ferguson 1000 meet ups on Mondays. Secretly meeting other “Ad Addicts” to discuss the latest marketing trends or debating the issues of the day at Full Circle on Tuesdays. Invited to critique business models and strategies as a panel judge at the House of Genius on Wednesdays.

Every Thursday you can catch a thought provoking talk lubricated by a free pint or three at Venture Cafe. And Whisky Fridays, at T-Rex, are an *ahem,* “member-led” initiative that will see you clarifying your craziest theories on AI with some of the smartest coders in the city.

Fourth, St Louis may be the beginning or middle or your Startup story, but it certainly won’t be the end.

There’s a lot going on. And a story for every occasion. The hyper-local publication that focuses on entrepreneurship in St Louis, EQ STL, lists all the latest events in the region. There’s so many ways to be part of the story of a forward looking city that you can count on arousing the interest of the local press too. Coverage in local news, the most trusted source is often the springboard to national attention.

For instance, SafeTrek, a startup that found it’s people, place and purpose in St Louis (I love their story of why they chose St Louis, and Arch Grants chose them back, but I’ll save that for another post), was recently named as a Top 25 Upstart in 2017 by CNBC.

St Louis may also help you springboard into other regions too. Arch Grant graduates, like Tallyfy and Scopio, have gone on to join 500 Startups and successfully establish a foothold in Silicon Valley. Also, the St Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce regularly takes STL Startups on investor roadshows to NYC and Boston.

As you can tell, I’m passionate about the opportunities and growth I’ve experienced at L&T, over the last 9 months. It pleases me greatly to try and pass the spark of what’s possible on to you too.

But if you’re starting to feel apprehensive too, that’s good. What’s available here for new and seasoned entrepreneurs alike is a big chance at a big change. If you’re worried you might, “fail,” put that out of your mind. Because that really is okay too.

Not only does Arch Grants not forbid you from trying to apply again every year, but even failure is part of the plan.

This classically American, yet utterly modern, entrepreneurial spirit of St Louis is underlined by Ginger Imster, formerly Arch Grants’ executive director, simultaneously in a discussion with the Post Dispatch.

“Even some founders of defunct companies have stayed in town to start other firms. That’s important, Imster said: “How we celebrate successful failures will ultimately determine how well we do at retaining talent in St. Louis.””

I love that attitude. St Louis is a place for people with purpose. It’s nice to be in position where some of that rubs off on you.

Get involved!

You’ve still got a week left to apply. My advice: Set yourself a 2 hour time limit to complete the pitch deck (20 slides). Just get your core ideas out of your head and onto the page. Don’t worry about aesthetics and design and don’t get daunted by the video either. Give yourself exactly 2 hours to shoot and edit the whole video on your phone. Don’t over complicate it and remember that the goal is to show some flavor or who you are. Speak from the heart and invoke your own sense of people, place and purpose.

P.S. This is my first post on Medium and I would love to make this a regular writing habit. If you enjoyed my writing, do click that heart shaped button! If you learned something that others could benefit on, do share it! And if you want more, do subscribe to my personal mailing list and leave any comments and questions below! I love hearing from you.