On May 11, leaders in the St. Louis startup community participated in a thought-provoking panel discussion at the Venture Café Thursday Gathering.
I moderated the panel, which included Scott Bernstein, principal at Lewis & Clark Ventures; David Dresner, founder of Sleeve a Message; Ginger Imster, vice president of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership; Jerry Schlichter, founder and managing partner of Schlichter Bogard and Denton and founder and chairman of Arch Grants; and Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore, director of bioscience and entrepreneurial inclusion at BioSTL.
The group provided perspectives on the findings from the second St. Louis startup community survey conducted by Brown Smith Wallace.
Funding remains top of mind
For the second year, startup and startup support community survey respondents (investors, educators, accelerators, incubators, consultants and others) said the number one way the St. Louis startup community can be strengthened or enhanced is by having more local funding.
In order to incentivize our funding organizations to invest solely or primarily in the St. Louis region “you have to show opportunity here,” said Bernstein. “Nobody is going to invest if their risk/reward profile is weaker here than the other opportunities in their pipeline.”
Schlichter echoed that sentiment. “If there is enough buzz created, it would bring money off the sidelines,” he said. “At the end of the day, we need success and home runs. In turn, those entrepreneurs who are successful reinvest in new funds or companies.”
Funding means different things to different startups – seed funding, bank loans, angel investments and Series A & B funding were just some of the avenues discussed by the panelists.
“We need to have parallel paths for both venture capital backable type investments and the bootstrap entrepreneur,” said Imster. “There are tools, if people know how to access them and where to go, to de-risk a bootstrapper so that he or she becomes a more likely candidate to receive a loan.”
“It’s about being agile in the beginning, continuously improving, changing quickly and pivoting,” said Dresner.