Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arch Grants Hands out Dollars, but Its Bottom Line Is Talent

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arch Grants Hands out Dollars, but Its Bottom Line Is Talent

Article excerpt

Kyle Rood and Clint Matthews won $50,000 to develop a medical device, and now they're making waffles.

They nevertheless count as a success for Arch Grants, which handed out the money. The nonprofit organization is in business to develop St. Louis' entrepreneurial talent, not to make money, so it doesn't tally wins and losses the same way other business development programs do.

Still, even profit-seeking investors might envy the group's record. Including 10 new grants that will be announced Friday night, Arch Grants has given $5.2 million to 96 early-stage companies since 2012. Of those, 85 are still in business and generate $48 million in annual revenue.

They also employ 336 people in Missouri and have attracted $100 million in outside investment. To put the latter number in perspective, it's more than venture capitalists invested in all Missouri startups in 2012 and 2013, Arch Grants' first two years.

Arch Grants officials insist, though, that they're more interested in people than in dollars. That's why Executive Director Ginger Imster is just as proud of Rood and Matthews as she is of entrepreneurs who raised millions of dollars for their initial ideas.

"If a business fails but the talent stays, that is seen as a win," Imster said. "We celebrate those wins."

Rood and Matthews were recent University of Missouri engineering graduates when they won an Arch Grant in 2014 for Talariant, which was developing a medical device for cataract surgery. Developing the device turned out to cost more than they expected, but they learned from Arch Grants mentors.

"They opened us up to the realities of entrepreneurship, even if that meant learning how to fail," Rood said.

After shelving Talariant, Rood and Matthews, both athletes, formed Start Right Foods. They launched a high-protein waffle a year ago in two Columbia, Mo., stores, and will soon be in 60 stores. …

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