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Issue: 1241 Date: 6/5/2014
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Arch Grants moves entrepreneurs to STL

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Steve Ponciroli
        All but a handful of the 20 Arch Grants winners will be making a move, some farther than others.

        While six companies already are based in St. Louis, two of the startups are coming from London, England, and another from Cali, Colombia. The rest will relocate from Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Columbia, Mo.

        The global startup competition gives each winning business $50,000 and free support services, in exchange for moving to St. Louis for at least a year. The clock will begin ticking July 1.

        Arch Grants is in its third year, and executive director Ginger Imster said the competition is changing the narrative about St. Louis.

        "At a recent board meeting, one of our co-founders said, what if the most prevalent question was 'what startup brought you or kept you in St. Louis?'" Imster said. "These entrepreneurs will have a great answer to that question."

        Pat Hughes, Torres Tillman and Michael Fox are moving their company, Hyde, from Milwaukee. The startup produces sporting equipment of the future, including a life vest called Wingman that's specifically made to help triathletes.

        "We're excited for the support and being around like-minded individuals," Fox said. "It can get kind of lonely as an entrepreneur when you're having ideas that no one else really knows about. Now we're going to get it out there and give it our best shot."

        Less Annoying CRM, a platform for managing customer relations, already has made the move from San Francisco. CEO Tyler King, a St. Louis native, said he and his partners were committed to coming back even if they didn't win.

        "We worked for four-and-a-half years in the Bay area, the sort of startup capital of the world, and no one noticed us," he said. "We come here, and our first week back we're already recognized and the community has really embraced us, so it's been great."

        The winners were whittled down from 46 finalists who presented to a panel of judges in April.

        Steve Ponciroli, with the global consulting firm North Highland, served as a judge of life science companies in the initial rounds. He said he wanted to be involved in Arch Grants because it's helping build St. Louis' entrepreneurial ecosystem.

        "This movement, if you fast forward 10 years from now, it's going to put us on the map," Ponciroli said. "Being from St. Louis and seeing the rise and fall of companies that have been here or moved away, this is the only way that St. Louis is going to get its place back in the national conversation."

        Duane Johnson will move Tuloko, a company he co-founded with Sean Armstrong, here from Minneapolis to launch the Green Book Network, which he envisions as a social networking site for minority suppliers - "a conduit between all the players in the supplier diversity field," he told The St. Louis American.

        The grants are funded through donations, including from corporations, government agencies, and individuals. The winners also receive pro-bono services from several firms and mentoring from experts in law, real estate, sales, product development, accounting, financial services, marketing and I.T.


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