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Examining the Connections within the Startup Ecosystem: A Case Study of St. Louis

The recent growth of the startup scene and entrepreneurial community in St. Louis is incredibly exciting. It means economic progress for the St. Louis region and more jobs available for St. Louis citizens. Many newly formed local assets, such as ITEN, T-Rex, and Arch Grants, are laying a foundation that will have impact for decades to come.

In this paper, Yas Motoyama from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and Karren Watkins from Washington University, document the resurgence of entrepreneurial activity in St. Louis by reporting on the collaboration and local learning within the startup community. This activity is happening both between entrepreneurs and between organizations that provide support, such as mentoring and funding, to entrepreneurs. As these connections deepen, the strength of the entrepreneurial ecosystem grows.

Another finding from the research is that activity-based events, where entrepreneurs have the chance to use and practice their skills needed to grow their businesses, are most useful. St. Louis provides a multitude of these activities, such as Startup Weekend, Million Cups, Code Until Dawn, StartLouis, and GlobalHack. Some of these are St. Louis specific, but others have nationwide or global operations, providing important implications for other cities.

St. Louis is a unique city with its own history, people, and culture. Yet, it shares many social and economic features with other cities across the national. Although this paper’s focus is St. Louis, other cities can draw lessons from our experiences, and I hope this research sparks a dialogue about what entrepreneurship practices and policies they might consider and why.

There is still much to learn, of course, as our entrepreneurial community is in its early stages, and there will undoubtedly be bumps along the way as we evolve. Because of this research, however, we will be able to do that growing in an informed, thoughtful way.

Mayor Francis G. Slay City of St. Louis