Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Accelerator Formed to Back Financial Startups; Entrepreneurs Will Vie for Four Slots in a Fall Program

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Accelerator Formed to Back Financial Startups; Entrepreneurs Will Vie for Four Slots in a Fall Program

Article excerpt

Financial technology companies in the early stages of funding and development have a new source of seed investment and mentoring in St. Louis.

A group of entrepreneurs and business leaders launched an accelerator program, SixThirty, this week to help grow one of St. Louis' largest industries financial services. The group's name is a nod to the height and width of one of St. Louis' most recognizable landmarks, the Gateway Arch.

Early stage companies can apply for four spots in the accelerator's inaugural four-month program that will be housed in the Regional Entrepreneur Exchange (T-REx) startup co-working space downtown. The companies will receive $100,000 each, funded by St. Louis-based investment firm Cultivation Capital and the St. Louis Regional Chamber.

Eight companies a year for the next three years will be able to tap into the funding and receive free legal services and discounted software and Web hosting.

But an even more critical part of the accelerator, according to its backers, is the access to some of the country's largest financial services firms. The St. Louis region is home to some of the largest financial services companies in the country, including Edward Jones, Wells Fargo Advisors, Stifel Financial Corp., Scottrade, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. and CitiMortgage. Financial services firms in the region employ 85,000 people and areas such as securities industry employment here are growing rapidly.

SixThirty has had preliminary discussions with some of the firms to provide SixThirty companies mentoring, training and networking opportunities.

"We have an exceptional number of financial services firms here," said Jim McKelvey, SixThirty's managing director and co-founder of Square, a device that plugs into a smartphone or iPad and processes credit card payments. "There's an opportunity to create something that couldn't be created in other cities," he continued. "We're doubling down on the strengths that we have."

All startups need a great product, a good team and funding, but financial tech startups need another element to be successful, McKelvey contends.

"What they need are relationships and access because if you don't have the right relationships, you can still fail," he said in an interview.

Since launching Tuesday, the accelerator has already received multiple applications on its website, Applications for the first round are due Aug. 30, with the program running from Oct. 7 through Feb. 14. The next round will be held sometime early next spring. …

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