Attracting the most talented entrepreneurs to your region and accelerating economic growth is a competitive world, but Arch Grants in St. Louis, Mo., is no stranger to the game.

Arch Grants is a non-profit, entrepreneurial support organization that aims to attract and retain the most innovative entrepreneurs to the St. Louis region. The program originally formed in 2011 as a legal entity in an effort to ignite economic business development in the community.

In 2012, Arch Grants officially launched its global startup competition which incentivizes entrepreneurs and startup companies to come to St. Louis with $50,000 equity-free grants.

The competition originally started with one grant class per year, but as of 2015 it became year round, allowing applicants to apply more than once in a calendar year if they do not advance earlier in the year. Since making this change, about 40 percent more finalists are now coming through the process.

A note from MTC Director Bill Anderson

“Arch Grants is a great example of how MTC works with local partners to catalyze initiatives that enhance their local entrepreneurial ecosystem. They have also been fantastic partners in helping other Missouri communities such as Kansas City and Cape Girardeau replicate their own version of this innovative model. Arch Grants is definitely delivering on its objectives to bring talented entrepreneurs to Missouri and rooting them in St. Louis’ vibrant entrepreneurial community.”

MTC Executive Director Bill Anderson

Executive director Ginger Imster says Arch Grants has seen thousands of applications since the competition launched, receiving hundreds each year from companies around the world.

“Forty three states and over 80 countries are represented among our applicants, so the reach has been very diverse and inclusive,” she explained.

Grant funds are disbursed to winners of the competition over a 12-month period, and Arch Grants meets with each of the companies on a quarterly basis to track their progress and assess the overall health of the businesses.

As long as they continue to remain in business in St. Louis, Arch Grants goes above and beyond to ensure that its companies get off to the best possible start even after the the initial 12-month grant period ends.
They connect companies with each other as well as with pro bono professional service organizations that help them fully and efficiently leverage the $50,000.

“We continue to support them (startups) through referrals, networking, and any kind of soft service that we can provide outside of the cash grant,” Imster said.

Arch Grants has without a doubt been a key component to the startup scene in St. Louis, but not without receiving some support itself from groups like the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC).
Arch Grants receives funding through MTC’s grant program Missouri Building Entrepreneurial Capacity, or MOBEC, which aims to enhance the capacity of non-profit organizations that support entrepreneurs as well as the capacity of Missouri to grow its innovation economy.

MTC’s financial commitment this year is the single largest commitment of any organization donating to Arch Grants.

“MTC is a profoundly important partner for Arch Grants,” Imster said. “I can’t overstate that enough.”

She also noted what an essential partner MTC has been in figuring out the perfect model for creating sustainability around the companies that are doing the best work. Through the IDEA Funds program, MTC has invested in about 20 percent of the companies that have received an Arch Grant, such as Better Weekdays and Greetabl.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2016, Arch Grants certainly has a lot to be proud of. To date, the organization has awarded $4.2 million in grants to 76 companies, which have since gone on to generate over 300 jobs, $28 million in revenue, and attract about $80 million in follow-on capital. Of the 76 companies, 71 are still in business with 90 percent continuing to operate in St. Louis.

Looking forward, Arch Grants is very open-minded about the future and its plans for the next several years.

“I look forward to being a thought leader in how we stitch together our regional innovation community, and I look forward to Arch Grants leading by example in how we support entrepreneurs,” Imster said.