Survey sizes up St. Louis startup community’s strengths, weaknesses, more

A new survey shows that almost nine of 10 startups in the St. Louis area have a positive outlook about the near future, but that factors including cash flow and employees are common challenges among those early-stage companies.

The report aims to show challenges and opportunities in the St. Louis startup community, and to identify changes since last year’s survey. It’s based on 180 responses from startup founders and employees, as well as from people in the broader startup ecosystem. The survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Brown Smith Wallace, a St. Louis-based CPA and business advisory firm, produced the report.

Strengths and weaknesses

The survey addressed what the St. Louis startup community does well and poorly, dividing responses here — and throughout much of the rest of the report — into those from “startups” and others from the “startup support community.”

Startups said St. Louis was especially good at connecting people, networking and collaboration. However, they said St. Louis needs to provide more access to funding for all startup stages and to better promote the area’s startup scene.

Members of the startup support community touted the support and mentorship available, but they also said St. Louis could improve in terms of access to startup funding.

Challenges  

In the past 12 months, cash flow was the biggest challenge for startups, according to startups surveyed. Participants predicted cash flow would remain their top challenge in the coming year.

Other major challenges ahead, according to respondents, include competition and employees.

Areas for improvement

Survey respondents were asked how the St. Louis startup community can be strengthened or enhanced. The top three answers among startups were more local funding (from 42 percent of respondents), more marketing of the startup community (41 percent) and more education about startups (37 percent).

The startup support community made similar suggestions. More local funding was the top response (47 percent), followed by more marketing of the St. Louis startup community (42 percent) and making St. Louis a more desirable place to live (39 percent).

Support  

Asked to name organizations that provide great services to startups, respondents most frequently named Venture Café, followed by Arch Grants and T-Rex and the BioGenerator tied for for third.

Meanwhile, people from the startup support community most commonly responded Arch Grants, Venture Café and T-Rex.

Survey demographics

The most common industries among the 180 participants were technology (19 percent), consumer products (17 percent) and and health care (14 percent). Forty-seven percent of the participants identified themselves as startup founders, owners or employees.

Sixty-three percent of the respondents were white, and 51 percent were male.

More than half of the startup respondents grew up in the St. Louis area.


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