> OPO Startups

Randy got his start in the software business pretty much right out of school.

Randy got his start in the software business pretty much right out of school. An electrical engineer, Randy made the hop from engineering to software in the ’80s and then started his first software-consulting firm, Quilogy, in the early ’90s, re-settling his family in Saint Charles, where he and his wife had grown up. After eighteen years growing that business to 540 employees with eighteen offices across the country that serviced the likes of Entergy and Microsoft, Randy sold the company and started BoardPaq, a leading provider of software to run paperless board meetings. BoardPaq was new, but its offices were the product of something Randy and his wife had been doing for some time: buying up historic buildings in Downtown Saint Charles.

Their first such purchase was an Oddfellows building built in 1878—which, it turned out, Randy’s wife’s great-great-great grandfather had built. The couple started buying up other buildings as office space for their Quilogy employees.

“It was a give-back to the community, but we were also looking for a way to start a tech and innovation district,” Randy says. “We wondered, How do we re-use these big old buildings that are really too big for a shop to go into—but how do we make them pay for themselves after the renovation?”

The answer was to devote the buildings’ first floors to retail and lease out the upper floors to software and tech companies many of whom Randy had offered council to, entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur, and some of whom he offered free office space to while they got on their feet. Without at first realizing it, Randy was building a co-working space.

Though they were coming into popularity further afield, “in Saint Charles County, we didn’t really have anything like that,” Randy remembers. “I thought, Well, we already have a good tech group here; what if we were to formalize that?”

Soon after, the family who owned the old post office building asked if Randy might buy it. Built in 1909 and having stood vacant for the previous few years, it was in need of significant renovation, but Randy was equal to the task.

“We put those two things together: how can we help other entrepreneurs do things and how can we create more of an entrepreneurial community downtown?”

OPO Startups (named for the “old post office”) was established—a marriage of Saint Charles’ history, in the form of a rescued centenarian building, and Saint Charles’ future: technology and creative companies and the community they naturally created.

BoardPaq, Randy’s company, and several others, including Miano.TV, Fusion 5, Parameter Security, Transactly, and Wheelhouse Solutions, now occupy seven buildings, with the old post office building at their heart; the organization’s meeting rooms, event space, and more can be found there. And while many of the first floors of the buildings are retail spaces and the upper floors are tech or creative companies, the industries are finding ways to support one another. A mom-and-pop printer creates stationery and business cards, for example, for a digital-marketing agency, who in turn curates the local shop’s online presence and storefront, allowing them to compete and to thrive

“Ten years ago, we didn’t have this, so it’s been really neat to see that the innovators leading the way in terms of revitalizing parts of our region—everything from the core, from Downtown Saint Louis—T-REX and Cortex Innovation Community—to our little area on Main Street in Saint Charles,” Randy says. “And it keeps getting better and better every day.”

The symbiotic relationships that OPO Startups has fostered prove that innovation lies not just in a globalized future but also in local history, in weaving them together to create an innovation community that is as strong as it is unique.

OPO Startups

www.opostartups.com
(314) 328-4656
[email protected]
119 South Main Street Saint Charles, MO 63301

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