Coffee & Ecosystems

anna-sullivan-712194-unsplash.jpgBefore I worked at Elevator Up I was not involved in the “ tech scene” as the cool kids say. I had been working remotely prior to this role with a SaaS (Software as a Service) company. As you can imagine, being involved in a community or knowing about ecosystems was not part of my world.

I was showing the world a new HR tool for their companies and did not understand the amount of support that is needed not only for startups but also tenured tech companies.

As the four walls of my home office began to close in on me, I knew I needed a change of pace.  This sparked my desire to get more involved with accelerators, incubators and other support organizations here in St. Louis.

When I started with Elevator Up, I began learning more about the industry and the people who help support it. Through my own naivety, I thought this all happened organically. I thought companies in the digital space build great products, and they thrive!

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

– Peter Drucker

Wrong! A lot of local companies out here embrace their inner scrappiness to get to the next level. At Elevator Up, we embrace the same type of relentless attitude and love to share what we have learned from past experiences. From starting a dozen of our own ventures to writing what we are currently learning with our clients on our blog. You can find us deeply rooted in the community. We have opened our doors to Ladies that UX or catch us at the next Creative Mornings which we help sponsor in Michigan.

That’s why we launched The Factory, Michigan’s first coworking space. Through The Factory, we began coLearning, our state recognized school that teaches courses on design, technology, and business to solve the talent gap in the West Michigan community. We love building community and inspiring individuals that make this happen.

Now I was faced with a big task: getting involved here in St. Louis. I was EU’s first remote employee, so I had to not only learn my awesome company’s history, but also bring their passion, expertise, and brand to my new city. If you are struggling with this my friend Kelly at EQ made a fun little map to help guide you through the city.

I was excited to start meeting people within the ecosystem and was aware of the challenges that lay ahead of me from going from zero to hundred.

The entrepreneurial environment here in St. Louis has received a lot of well-deserved press. You can read about it here and here and here and here and here and there’s more – trust me! I’m not going to waste time expanding on the praise for STL’s startup community, as it has been covered by better writers from the likes of Business Insider, Forbes, EQ Magazine and Popular Mechanics.

Since I chose to work out of T-Rex I was able to get involved much more easily than I thought I would. Patty Hagen leads the charge at T-REX; and, if you don’t know of T-REX or haven’t met her team, they are doing some amazing things!

They are not just challenging the status quo, they’re devouring it. Far from your everyday tech incubator, T-REX is a nonprofit innovation center open to those who wish to coexist with St. Louis’ most daring startups, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Partnering with schools and nurturing diversity, here, there is no wrong age or culture.  Through various programs, events, and partnerships, T-REX is actively carving out a fresh storyline for St. Louis’ long-overlooked downtown corridor.

As I began meeting more companies and individuals within T-REX, I also started to expand my reach. I started to meet even more amazing people, including Christy and Rikki over at CET. CET’s flagship program for entrepreneurs, Square One (SQ1), is a hands-on training program designed to provide support to first time entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region actively engaged in the development of bioscience, information technology or advanced manufacturing commercial enterprises.

“I’m not a businessman – I’m a business, man.”

– Jay-Z

I was meeting so many individuals who are passionate about the city, and also passionate about innovation. That lead me to join 1 Million Cups and helping out as a volunteer. 1MCSTL is operated by ITEN, a tech entrepreneur network and the major resource for St. Louis startups, and powered by the Kauffman Foundation. They meet every Wednesday morning at 9 am nationwide. At this event, you can hear local entrepreneurs and how the community can help them. It doesn’t hurt that all this hubbub is over a cup of coffee and a lot of laughter.

The ecosystem is still growing. I am only touching on the support that is present within the community as well. There are so many other great events thanks to many great people – from Travis Sheridan at Venture Cafe to Ben Burke at Arch Grants – the list is pretty vast. What I enjoy the most about this startup community is the level of openness and richness that these people share.

If you are looking to get involved in the STL ecosystem, check out Accelerate St. Louis. Of course, feel free to drop me a line or stop by for a cup of coffee. Let’s go together! And if you see me out and about, say hello. I’d love to learn more about you.


Justin – Business Development @ Elevator Up

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