ST. LOUIS — Six energy-related companies — none based in St. Louis — are joining Ameren’s intensive, 12-week Accelerator for the program’s third year, the St. Louis-based utility company announced Wednesday.
Each startup will receive $100,000 along with mentoring, networking assistance and technical help at Cortex Innovation Community. Eight University of Missouri-St. Louis students, each paid $3,000, will also serve as interns for the companies during the program.
In addition to the funding and other benefits of the program, the companies could potentially end up working with Ameren over the long term.
Warner Baxter, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Corp., said that about five companies from previous cohorts are still working with Ameren today, among them Rebate Bus and Hyperion Sensors.
This is the third year of the St. Louis-based electric utility’s Accelerator program, which is run in partnership with the University of Missouri System, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Capital Innovators, an accelerator for startup tech businesses.
This year there were 433 applicants to the program, which only accepts between five and seven companies. This year’s companies hail from Chicago; Louisville, Kentucky; the East and West coasts, as well as Manchester, England.
“The competition was really tough,” said Dan Lauer, founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate. Lauer is also the creator of Waterbabies, a doll line.
When he started his company nearly three decades ago, Lauer said, there was no entrepreneurship ecosystem. He had no Cortex — and no internet, for that matter. Today, he can help entrepreneurs move their companies further and faster than he could then.
Last year, six companies were chosen out of 300 applicants, and in 2017, the program’s first year, more than 200 companies applied and seven were selected. Past programs have featured companies from the U.S., Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom.
Ameren has not yet committed to continuing the program next year.
This was the first year in which no St. Louis-based companies were selected, though one member of the cohort, Ugwem Eneyo, noted that she grew up in Edwardsville and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Lauer said two St. Louis-based companies made it to the final 25 applicants, but ultimately were not chosen. Baxter said the program has no geographic criteria, it just prioritizes the best ideas.
• Allumia, a company based in Seattle, makes it easier for utilities to own and operate energy-efficiency assets at customer premises.
• ClearFlame, of Chicago, is developing an alternatively fueled engine for the heavy-duty market.
• Eden GeoTech, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, is developing technology that could replace hydraulic fracking, using electric energy. Paris Smalls, CEO of Eden GeoTech, said his 2-year-old company has raised $700,000 so far.
• Louisville, Kentucky-based HeXalayer is using a new carbon material called IML Graphene to develop a new generation of high-capacity lithium-ion battery technology.
• Ovon Tech, a company from Manchester, England, aims to save customers money and reduce energy waste with a smart radiator valve.
• Shyft Power Solutions, of Oakland, California, provides mobile or web applications that allow individuals, businesses and energy companies to monitor and control power sources remotely. Eneyo, Shyft Power’s CEO, said the company has already raised over $1 million in funding.