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St. Louis County startup fund will cut bigger checks but could soon run out



The St. Louis County Port Authority has more than doubled the amount of money its startup investment arm can invest in young companies, but it’s not clear yet whether the port authority will seed the Helix Fund with more capital so it can invest beyond a few more deals.

The board of the port authority, which collects about $5 million annually in rent from the River City Casino and can spend it on projects throughout St. Louis County, approved a measure Tuesday allowing the Helix Fund to invest as much as $250,000 in individual companies. Former rules limited the fund to investments of no more than $100,000.

Created in 2010 with port authority funds, the Helix Fund was designed to provide seed capital for early-stage plant science companies in St. Louis County. The port authority agreed to provide about $3 million, or $500,000 per year for six years, to create the fund. That funding arrangement expired last year.

The measure approved Tuesday broadened the scope of tech companies eligible for Helix Fund investment. Now, information technology and other tech businesses, not just plant science startups, can win investments from the fund. The Helix Fund will continue to invest in companies only when others do in order to make sure it doesn’t invest in anything too risky.

However, it’s unclear whether the Helix Fund will remain as an option for startup financing for much longer. It has only about $500,000 left, which Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney said should cover two or three more deals. She said the Partnership and the port authority hadn’t decided whether to put more money into it.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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