Looking for somewhere prosperous to develop your business idea or launch a startup? The western bank of the great Mississippi River or, more precisely, the city of St. Louis in Missouri, should be on your list of ideal spots.
Sure, Silicon Valley has long held the reputation for being the startup capital of America, if not the world. But in recent times, a number of established companies and up-and-coming entrepreneurs have been either moving away or looking at alternative areas to set up shop. The reasons for this vary, including a growing number of scandals surrounding allegations of high levels of sexual harassment and discrimination.
The hyper-competitive startup scene has also been a factor, not to mention the burgeoning cost of living in the state of California, which makes things just a little bit more difficult for cash-strapped entrepreneurs.
St. Louis, also known as the Gateway City or Gateway to the West, has emerged as one of the top cities to attract tech startups and other businesses within the last decade. In fact, in 2014, St. Louis was ranked number 2 on the list of cities with the fastest growing startup scene, even as some reports indicated that startup growth was declining in other parts of the country.
With more government and private sector support, the city’s startup activity has continued its upward trajectory. Today, it’s one of the most attractive places for entrepreneurs, tech and otherwise, and has seen startup owners arriving from all over the US, and from other countries. And with more announcements for supportive measures to be put in place, including a new crowdfunding platform for startups, the boom doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Not convinced? Here are five reasons why you should consider moving to St. Louis if you’re looking to launch or grow your business.
Lower cost of living
Getting by in St. Louis is, without a doubt, less expensive than it is in other cities that are seen as tech hubs. For instance, it is 161% more expensive to live in San Jose, California, based on the overall cost of living index. Where housing is concerned it’s over 650% higher in San Jose as well. Another startup hotbed, Seattle, which is also home to tech giants, Microsoft and Amazon, is 67% more expensive to live in. With St. Louis being less expensive to live, particularly as it relates to housing, transportation, and food, startups are expected to grow faster. That’s just one reason why tech startups from California like SwipeSum, when faced with the option of staying in Los Angeles and moving to St. Louis, chose the latter.
Attractive startup environment
A bevy of VC firms and business accelerators, including Capital Innovators are currently active in St. Louis. The growth in co-working offices and warehouse space also allow entrepreneurs to feel right at home. Tunedly, an online recording studio that was part of Capital Innovator’s Fall 2017 Accelerator cohort, are among businesses that benefited from the welcoming startup environment when they passed through. Its co-founders are Chris Erhardt, who is also a music producer and public speaker, and Mylène Besançon, who has been named a Limit Breaking Female Founder of 2018.
In addition to the investment infrastructure, the startup scene is less competitive for entrepreneurs when compared to places like New York or Silicon Valley. It’s even easier for newbies to get introduced to investors, with the community being more close-knit. The supportiveness of the business community and hospitality of the general population is also extremely inviting to startup owners.
According to a Survey of Entrepreneurs report by the Census Bureau, released a few years ago in association with the Kauffman Foundation, women owned a higher share of startups in Missouri cities, including St. Louis and Kansas City than in any other US state. For example, Arch Grants, a St. Louis non-profit offering equity-free grants, has shown support for a culture of diversity. 74% of the startups that benefited from its grants, and are currently in operation, are led or co-owned by a woman, person of color, veteran, or immigrant. This means anyone with a good idea and the drive to succeed can expect to get support in St. Louis, regardless, of race, gender, or age.
Rich art and culture
St. Louis doesn’t only offer a solid launch pad for startups, it also has historic, cultural, and artistic significance. The French-founded city has more than its fair share of cultural icons, sites and events. As a result, there is always something interesting to do or see. Landmarks such as the Museum of Transportation, American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, Saint Louis Art Museum, and Anheuser-Busch Brewery, allow visitors to experience a slice of the past, as well as the present, in respect to art and St. Louis way of life. What’s more, the city has more free-admission major attractions than anywhere outside of Washington, so visitors can explore without having to fork out a pretty penny.
Vibrant music scene
Music entrepreneurs and music lovers in general will naturally enjoy the music scene in St. Louis. For instance, fitting in was seamless for Tunespeak when it was also part of the Capital Innovators cohort. The company is led by Tom Pernikoff and Rick Pernikoff and connects musicians with fans.
St. Louis is a city that has music within its DNA, having produced greats such as Chuck Berry, Sheryl Crow, and Nelly, among others. But there are also numerous live music events and venues that allow for year round entertainment. Venues include the Fox Theater, which plays host to various events, including Broadway shows and concerts, as well as the Chesterfield Amphitheater, which is home to a growing number of festivals. There are also several clubs where people can let their hair down. Other events and venues to put on a bucket list include the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Gateway Arch.
With all the city has currently going for it, St. Louis continues to attract a number of startups. If you’re an entrepreneur weighing your options, it’s a city that is worth checking out.
Emmy Skylar started working for Debate Report in 2017. Emmy grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. But moved to Ontario for university. Before joining Debate Report, Emmy briefly worked as a freelance journalist for CBC News. She covers politics and the economy.