In July, Ola Ayeni, founder and CEO of the restaurant-marketing firm Dining Dialog, Inc., will uproot his family and business in Chicago and relocate to St. Louis.
He’s one of 20 out-of-town companies that will be making the same move. These companies received a $50,000 Arch Grant in a global business startup competition that was created to help build a more robust entrepreneurial culture and infrastructure in St. Louis.
Ayeni is the first entrepreneur of African descent to receive a grant in the Arch Grant competition, which started in 2011. Ayeni is originally from Nigeria.
Ayeni’s global startup is called Eateria, a user-friendly marketing software tool that helps restaurants stay connected with their customers through email and social media. Ayeni came up with the idea for the “loyalty email marketing tool” after running his restaurant marketing firm for several years. He thought it would be a good way to help small businesses especially.
“Everyone can use it anywhere in the country,” he said. “When there’s a limited amount of time to get a lot done, marketing often falls to the bottom of the priority list.”
Arch Grant recipients receive $50,000 as grant funding – meaning no equity is exchanged for the funding, as is the case with venture capital – disbursed quarterly, over the course of a year, with a chance for a $100,000 follow-on grant from Arch Grants.
Companies also receive free legal, accounting, marketing, cloud computing, and mentoring support, with discounted residential and commercial rent and access to St. Louis’ “angel” investment network.
This year’s Arch Grant competition attracted 707 applicants from 15 countries and 40 states.
“The Arch Grants winners are the best of a terrific group and are exciting young companies,” said Jerry Schlichter, co-founder and president of Arch Grants.
“Arch Grants’ vision has become a reality. We are building an entrepreneurial ecosystem and have great partners who, through their support of Arch Grants, have put St. Louis on the international map as a great place for entrepreneurs.”
Arch Grants has raised $3.3 million since its inception in 2011. The first round of Arch Grants winners created 65 jobs, generated $1,832,452 in revenue and raised $1,634,000 in capital funding, all since last June, Arch Grants reported.
The 2013 grant winners are diverse in their focus, ranging from medical innovations to clothing. Many of them are from the Midwest.
One grant winner, Code Red, produces a computer science and entrepreneurial curriculum for first through 12th graders. The company helps schools train students to compete for high-demand, high-paying jobs in the modern economy through computer science/coding training and entrepreneurial curriculum. Code Red is moving from O’Fallon, Ill.
Another, TrakBill, provides real-time information indicating progress of legislation and the broader process of lawmaking in the United States at both the state and federal level. TrakBill began in Campaign, IL.
Immunophotonics is developing inCVAX, an innovative, practical and safe therapeutic cancer vaccine that has shown very encouraging initial results in the treatment of metastatic cancer. Immunophotonics is relocating from Columbia, MO.
Several of the companies focus on biotechnology.
“We appreciate all applicants that were a part of this competition,” said Sarah Spear, executive director of Arch Grants. “St. Louis is becoming a prominent place for entrepreneurs from around the globe to start their business.”