ST. LOUIS — The city’s economic development arm is applying for a $450,000 federal grant to seed an organization to coordinate software startup efforts.
St. Louis Development Corporation officials are calling the fledgling group TechSTL and hope it could eventually serve a similar function as nonprofit BioSTL, which has for years helped coordinate and promote the region’s plant science cluster in Creve Coeur and med-tech cluster in the Central West End.
TechSTL was called for in the city’s new Equitable Economic Development Strategic Framework, a multi-year plan that recommended the city focus on several key clusters such as software, business services and manufacturing, among others.
Several private organizations promote the software sector here, including Arch Grants and startup mentoring nonprofit iTEN, both based in the downtown T-Rex tech incubator. But SLDC said the region still lags behind the country in software jobs, which grew 28% nationally between 2010 and 2018. The St. Louis area jobs in the sector grew just 8% in that time.
”The entrepreneurial ecosystem has grown to over 100 support organizations but lacks a unifying support organization, resulting in siloed efforts, gaps in services and duplication of efforts,” SLDC said in a report presented to its board Thursday.
Matt Bauer, a planner and financial analyst at SLDC who is leading the initiative, is working with iTEN to apply for the federal U.S. Economic Development Administration grant. iTEN and its new parent organization, Lindenwood University, have agreed to put up $65,000 in matching funds if the grant is awarded. SLDC would add as much as $60,000 in matching funds, though it is searching for other partners and could reduce the commitment.
The grant, if awarded, should be enough to fund the organization for 18 months while it searches for new partners and sustaining capital.
TechSTL would be “a front door for both workers and entrepreneurs in the sector,” Bauer said, directing them to support organizations and resources in the area software startups.
Though it would initially be a spinoff of SLDC, Bauer said the hope is it would quickly become its own self-sustaining nonprofit.