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SXSW ’14: Is St. Louis Really Becoming a ‘Start-Up City’?

"I was amazingly impressed" one national expert says
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Amy Millman of Springboard Enterprises (Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

Amy Millman of Springboard Enterprises (Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

calhoun2 Michael Calhoun
A native St. Louisan, Michael Calhoun grew up listening to the Voice...
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AUSTIN, Tex. (KMOX) – We’ve heard it over and over again: St. Louis is becoming a start-up city. But is that a reflection of reality or a sales pitch?

A national expert says absolutely.

KMOX’s Michael Calhoun, reporting from the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, caught up with Amy Millman of Springboard Enterprises, which works with women across the country who are raising equity investments for their technology-related start-ups.

She’s well traveled and well versed in the elements of success. And she says St. Louis needs to remember its roots.

“In its very earliest form, people came to St. Louis because they were looking for a new way to think about their lives, their careers, the economics” she explained. “It’s just natural to come back to St. Louis.”

Millman evaluates the entrepreneurial climate of a city through three factors: 1) a cluster of universities generating original ideas and technologies, 2) a community of wealthy people willing to invest, and 3) established businesses that are willing to buy into new technology. She also, of course, looks to see how women are engaged.

Her observation: “The structures and the systems that are being put into place and the interesting innovators that are there… just blew me away.” 

But to rise to the level of Austin, Portland, Raleigh-Durham and other recognized innovative capitals, Millman says St. Louis needs to further refine and focus on a specific theme — to be the best in the country at something.

“Getting everybody starting to work together to support an entrepreneurial economy” is a must, according to Milman. “The issue from St. Louis is what’s the core? For industry? For support? Where do we sit in the country that we can add value to the rest of the conversation and the rest of the economy?”

Once St. Louis answers those questions, she thinks it’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

“Are we there at this point? Are the women flocking in? No, but it’s a long process,” she said. “We have a lot of high net worth women in St. Louis. We also have very talent coprorate women in St. Louis. A very vibrant academic community. It’s just a matter of time.”

Her question to the tech community in every city: “Is it hype or is it hope?”

In St. Louis’ case, she says it’s not all hype.

More St. Louis SXSW Coverage:

St. Louisans Caravan to Austin With Big Dreams

Michael talks with Brian and Maria on Total Information Saturday

Michael checks in with Total Information Sunday on day two in Austin

Don’t Tase Me, Drone! Experimental Stun Copter Spurs Conversation

Mark Reardon talks with Michael about Snowden’s speech and more

Michael and FoodEssentials’Anton Xavier chat with Charlie Brennan

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