Doing the work of making St. Louis a revitalized center for innovation.
There’s a link between what I do as a lawyer, representing people on a contingency basis, and what entrepreneurs in other fields do. In both cases, you invest time and money and resources, and only if you’re successful do you recoup those costs. The idea behind starting Arch Grants was to take a new approach in building our economy. We knew would have to build our own companies from the ground up.
Because of Arch Grants’ nonprofit status, we don’t take equity in the companies we support. It makes what we offer more attractive to startups who are looking for support like ours, and it also makes the startups themselves more attractive for follow-on investment because they have retained all their equity.
The St. Louis community has been extremely supportive of these startups in every way—financially, by offering mentoring, professional services including law, accounting, and marketing, and also volunteer judging of the applicants. People in St. Louis see the success of St. Louis startups as the success of the community. And entrepreneurs here say that they don’t feel that they’re competing with other startups; they feel they are part of community life, in a richly supportive environment—what we call a dynamic nesting environment
What’s happening here today is very different from the past. We’ve seen entrepreneurs that come here from all over the country, and outside of it— many of them from underrepresented groups—who stay in St. Louis because they feel they are supported and they’re achieving success. They also see the ability to be part of something bigger than themselves or their company—part of a community of entrepreneurs and a community that is ready to help them in whatever way they can. And if these entrepreneurs maintain their passion for what they’re doing, and if they can be ready to pivot when necessary, then we’re going to see successful exits, which will replenish the capital supply and bring about more people investing.
There’s not a single point in time at which this shift occurred. It’s been the accumulation of many people over time who care about the community making philanthropic investments as well as strategic investments, recognizing that we are doing things differently. People are rolling up their sleeves, digging in, and doing the work of making this city a revitalized center for innovation.