Startup Connection Expands with a new Venue and Sponsors!

Startup Connection continues to grow heading into its 9th year, alongside a growing St. Louis innovation community.

Startup Connection started as a simple way to connect startups and management talent.  In 2009 The first year of Startup Connection in 2008 was a time of great angst during the recession with corporate layoffs starting to impact families across the region.  Fortunately, three organizations came together with an idea to create new opportunities out of all the negative headlines. Blaire Forlaw of the St. Louis Regional Chamber wanted to help the newly available corporate talent connect with St. Louis’ fledgling startup scene.  Jim Brasunas of ITEN and Vicki Gonzales and Susan Pais of NIDUS Partners brought the startups, and “Startup Connection” was born.

For the first few years, the semi-annual format evolved, always keeping the core elements of highlighting startups and attracting talent to support them.  The focus was on tech startups, and after several years evolved to include bio startups.

©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.










By 2012, the region’s startup support organizations joined forces to expand the event, a collaboration that would shape Startup Connection’s mission and direction for the next 6 years.  The result was a Venture Showcase reflecting the broadening spectrum of startups across 7 industries, the addition of the Resource Fair, and a 300% increase in attendance to 600 people. That growth continues, with SC16 showcasing 75 startups in November 2016, with 60+ organizations in the Resource Fair, and over 1,400 attendee registrations.

The collaboration of those support organizations has been critical to the success of the event.  Cortex, Arch Grants, ITEN, Enterprise Bank & Trust, BioSTL, GlobalHack, and the St. Louis Regional Chamber provide the people that create and run the event.  This is truly an event by the community….for the community.

Over the years, Startup Connection has moved around the community, mainly to accommodate event growth, but also highlighting the evolving startup community.  After starting at ITe near the UMSL campus, venues included the Cortex I building, T-REX in the Railway Exchange Building, the Saint Louis Science Center, Saint Louis University, and Washington University. The support and generosity of each host venue have been vital to Startup Connection’s growth.

©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Nearly a decade later, Startup Connection is still about highlighting the early stage startups in the St. Louis region.  For the last five years, it’s been about putting the entire breadth of high growth entrepreneurship on display, under one roof, for one energy-packed night.  Startup Connection is about community.  It’s about showing ourselves and the region that the St. Louis innovation scene is more than a handful of headlines and national rankings.   St. Louis has hundreds of events through the year that showcase specific organizations and niche markets.  There is only one event that shines the spotlight on the entire startup community for an evening – Startup Connection.

In recent years, civic groups and local investors have invited guests from across the country to St. Louis in November to coincide with attending Startup Connection.  The impact of “putting it all under one roof” has left a powerful impression on those visitors, who note the amazing energy of the evening and the breadth of innovation here being greater than they realized.

Startup Connection changes subtly each year and will continue to take its lead from what is happening in our startup community.  One thing remains constant: Startup Connection brings the innovation community together for one night in November.

Join us on November 15, 2017, to celebrate the very best of our region’s innovation community.

Learn more at

All photos provided by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Phyllis Ellison is Managing Director for Startup Connection, and

Director of Entrepreneur Services and Institutional & Corporate Partnerships for the Cortex Innovation Community