Brian Posnanski, 314-925-8074, email@example.com, ITEN
Barbara Pruitt, 816-932-1288, firstname.lastname@example.org, Kauffman Foundation
St. Louis-based tech entrepreneur accelerator offers a unique development curriculum for fast-growing businesses
(KANSAS CITY, Mo. and St. Louis) Sept. 19, 2012 – The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today announced a grant to Innovate St. Louis in support of its initiative, the Information Technology Entrepreneur Network (ITEN), an organization that provides programs, events and access to resources that accelerate early-stage tech venture success. ITEN will use the $45,000 grant to enhance its programming for startup companies as well as for research into entrepreneurship in the St. Louis region and on the member companies supported by ITEN.
"Many of ITEN's tech businesses in St. Louis are past the earliest startup stages and lack the vital resources to support them in scaling their companies to the next level. This grant will enable ITEN to further develop its programs and help companies reach their potential," said Dane Stangler, Kauffman director of research. "Our grant also will add research capacity at ITEN so we can study the effectiveness of its programs and apply what we find to Kauffman's growing knowledge about local and regional entrepreneurship ecosystems." Last week, Kauffman released findings from the first-ever geographic analysis of the fastest growing companies in America.
ITEN serves more than 220 startup ventures in the St. Louis area and involves more than 110 volunteer mentors. ITEN's programs provide a roadmap for ventures, from concept through design, prototype, launch, revenue, funding and rapid scaling. Guidance from serial entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and community leaders help St. Louis entrepreneurs focus on the essential critical tasks of creating successful technology companies.
"The tech startup community in St. Louis has rapidly grown in the last few years, and it is poised to become a more critical piece of the economy here," said Jim Brasunas, executive director for ITEN. "The grant from the Kauffman Foundation represents a significant validation of our mission to serve as the catalyst for technology startups in the St. Louis region."
ITEN provides a new model for fostering startup success by incorporating the strengths of incubators and accelerators — education, development and access to resources — but without the financial commitment they often require from young companies.
The four key programs in ITEN's core curriculum to accelerate tech startups are:
- Concept Development is ideal for entrepreneurs at the earliest stage of the startup cycle. All a participant needs at this step is an idea. The course pairs the entrepreneur with an advisor to develop their idea with one-on-one attention. The advisor helps identify the problem, brainstorms concept ideas and prepares the entrepreneur for the next development stages.
- Business Model Validation pairs an entrepreneur with experienced mentors who help identify the problem, solution and customer that the business would target. It then takes the process a step further to help the entrepreneur create a revenue model and an agile development model.
- ITEN's Mock Angel program is the "tough love" part of the process. Potential investors listen to entrepreneurs practice their pitch and provide constructive criticism, explaining why they would or would not invest in the business. ITEN's Mock Angel Program has a very high success rate with nearly 80 percent of graduates finding investors.
- Growth Acceleration takes entrepreneurs who have successfully recruited investors and helps them form the building blocks of business. Each growth acceleration venture is paired with one lead mentor to help them manage rapid growth and connect with premier service providers, sources of talent, PR, additional investors and Fortune 1000 executives.
Since it's inception in 2008, ITEN has been supported by the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC), a public-private partnership created by the Missouri General Assembly to promote entrepreneurship and foster the emergence and growth of high-tech companies in Missouri. Other major sponsors include the St. Louis County Economic Council, RCGA, Gateway to Innovation Conference, Savvis/Century Link, St. Louis Arch Angels, Reinsurance Group of America, Technology Entrepreneur Center, UMSL and AHM Financial Group.
The IT Entrepreneur Network (ITEN), is an initiative of Innovate St. Louis, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation. As a catalyst of the IT ecosystem, ITEN provides unique programs, events, and access to resources that accelerate tech venture success. ITEN's programs form a venture roadmap from concept through design, prototype, launch, revenue, funding and rapid scaling. Guidance from serial entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and important community influencers helps entrepreneurs focus on essential critical tasks and avoid wasted efforts. Access to investors, key service providers and qualified talent means lower barriers to rapid growth. Designed by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, requiring neither payment nor equity, ITEN is a unique community asset and a proven route to venture success. Follow ITEN on Twitter at www.twitter.com/itenstl.