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Entrepreneur Spotlight: Andrew Chapin from benjamin

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This month we interviewed Andrew Chapin, Founding Partner of benjamin, about life as an entrepreneur and his experience so far in St. Louis. benjamin is a 2014 Arch Grants Recipient.


Tell us about your company.

Our company benjamin is a mobile app that gives the end-user two things: targeted deals on products that you love, and sixty seconds to decide whether to buy or pass. Think Groupon meets Snapchat, reinforced with some big data.

As opposed to Groupon or Living Social, who will send you a mass email that’s not targeted, we really learn the end-user. We are able to say: “you love the St. Louis Cardinals. You are a medium shirt size. Here is a deal on a medium size Cardinals jersey.” Then you have sixty seconds to decide if you want it or not.

We’re finding that sixty seconds is longer than people realize. It really is enough time to make a decision.


How is benjamin unique?

First of all, the deal space is really boring right now. It was really hot a few years ago but these emails are almost white noise at this point. We’re breathing life into the space by bringing in big data concepts.

Second, our business model is much different. Groupon asks for a commission deal from vendors. We use a different model. Instead of asking for a percentage of each sale, we tell vendors that for a set price, we will show your ad to a specific number of qualified buyers. It’s a unique thing for the space and it is very cost effective for the vendor.


What do you enjoy about being an entrepreneur?
I love how fast things move. You win fast, you fail fast, and it’s incredibly rewarding to be in control of your own destiny.


What is your role within the company?
I am the business founder. I oversee product, sales, and fundraising. Once we launch in January I will also be in charge of user acquisition.


What do you like about living in St. Louis?

When we started the company, we started it earlier this year in Boston. My co-founder and I had worked on a previous startup together. At that time and he was based in Florida. I asked him to come up to Boston but he not excited about the cold weather.

We were really passionate about this project so we said “Let’s find a home.”We considered San Francisco but it was too expensive. We considered Las Vegas. We actually spent some time there and we decided it wasn’t a personality fit for us. We considered Austin. We were poking all around.

My first time in St. Louis was Arch Grants Finalist Weekend. We really took a look around and considered it. St. Louis really checked all of our boxes: there’s available talent, there’s low cost of doing business, there’s a really fun downtown area, and there’s a lot of support from your community. I was just sitting down with Ben Burke right before this, and I told him about a specific thing that our company is about to face. Knowing that he has our back, and that everybody here has our back, and that everybody’s willing to talk to us and help us out is such a huge thing that you get in St. Louis that you don’t get elsewhere.


Could you describe your experience at T-REX?
It’s a good collaborative environment. There’s a lot of good energy here and a lot of people willing to help.


Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

One thing that keeps people from pursuing entrepreneurship is the fear of failure. I think people are concerned that if their business plan isn’t good enough or if they are not able to execute, they fail.

I think that even if the business model or the product isn’t working out, there’s a lot of learning that is happening. As long as there is learning, there’s no failure.


What do you wish you would’ve known when you became an entrepreneur?
I wish I’d known about St. Louis. We spent a lot of resources and time and money just trying to find the right place. I hadn’t considered St. Louis until Arch Grants but once I did that was it. It has a great infrastructure and great people.


Describe your experience with Arch Grants.
The best way I can describe my experience with Arch Grants is that it’s like having another co-founder. They have your back. They’re constantly looking out for you. They’ll make introductions to great candidates when you have a job available. They’ll make introductions to investors and they’re always there to give you support … and you don’t have to pay them either! They pay you!


What advice would you give to an entrepreneur applying for Arch Grants?
Be authentic. Be yourself. This is an authentic city. This is a place where people are very relationship based and really want to get to know each other. As long as you’re being authentic people will respect that and it will lead to good, meaningful conversations and connections.


Entrepreneur Spotlight: Tyler King of Less Annoying CRM

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This month we interviewed Tyler King, Co-Founder and CEO at Less Annoying CRM, about life as an entrepreneur and his experience so far in St. Louis. Less Annoying CRM is a 2014 Arch Grants Recipient.


What is your business?
Our business is to create a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for very small businesses to organize leads, tasks, and anything they need to keep track of. We started behaving like a real startup two years ago, and are now hiring aggressively as we grow.


Why is your startup unique?
We are going after a segment that is currently overlooked. There are a lot of CRM companies, but almost all are going after enterprise customers. The 1 – 20 person company is a segment that has not been paid much attention to.


What do you enjoy about being an entrepreneur?
I enjoy the amount of creativity it allows. If you have a big idea, no matter how crazy it is, you can go and try it out to see if it works.


What is your job?
I have a background in design and programming. As we have gotten bigger, I spend more of my time managing the team and working on product design. We have eight people working for us in total, with six located in St. Louis.


What do you enjoy about working in St. Louis?
The company moved here after we looked at all the pros and cons of cities across the U.S. The number one key for us was building a great team, and St. Louis is the best place to build a great team. St. Louis has Washington University in St. Louis, which is the best school in a low cost-of-living city. We are excited to keep some of the talent from that school here in St. Louis.


What is one piece of advice that you would give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Take your time. A lot of startups fail because they make avoidable mistakes.


What do you wish you would’ve known when you began working on your startup?
I didn’t have a good understanding of how customer acquisition worked. I kind of thought that if we built a great product, people would come. We had to make significant changes to the type of customer we were going after.


Describe your experience with T-REX.
Awesome. This is our first office even though we are five years old. It has a casual startup feel, going month-to-month allows flexibility, and working with other startups provides motivation. We can think about how many people we can hire and know that the space will be there for them.


Describe your experience with Arch Grants.
Great. When we ask for help, they are there for us. Otherwise, they don’t get into the operations of our business, which is great for us. Getting to know the other finalists and recipients of Arch Grants is also great.


What advice would you give to an entrepreneur applying for Arch Grants?
I would advise them to have some sign of success (validation) that they can present at a Finalist Pitch Day.


Entrepreneur Spotlight: Abby Cohen, Andrew Brimer of Sparo Labs

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Sparo Labs, co-founded by Abby Cohen and Andrew Brimer, focuses on personalized solutions to managing asthma, all through real-time data. From the birth of an idea while at college to a 2013 Arch Grant and beyond, Sparo Labs has come a long way since inception. Abby tells us just how far they have come in a short interview highlighting Abby and Andrew’s recent trip to New York for the first of three Cavendish Global Health Impact Forums.


Where and when did get you get your idea for this business? How did it all start?
Andrew and I were part of an extracurricular group at WashU our junior year of college called Engineer’s Without Border/Engineering World Health. The organization on WashU’s campus consists of a number of different projects. We were both part of that year’s Design Team, which was looking for a problem facing healthcare worldwide to solve. After shadowing and talking to physicians, researchers, and patients as well as scouring the CDC and other healthcare organizations’ websites for data, we saw not only how many people are affected by asthma, but also how big of an impact it has on each patient’s life. About half of the 30 million asthma patients in the United States have uncontrolled asthma, meaning that they struggle with their asthma symptoms daily or weekly because they don’t know what triggers their asthma or they haven’t found the optimal medication regimen to sustain normal lung function – resulting in frequent flare-ups, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations. Our goal is to empower patients to understand and proactively manage their asthma so that they can discover how it feels to breath easily.


What do you think best educated you for running your company?
Andrew and I were fortunate to have a number of educational opportunities, including mentors through all types of programs in St. Louis like iTEN and Arch Grants, Cliff Holekamp’s Hatchery course at WashU, access to feedback from competitions and funding organizations like the Olin Cup and Arch Angels, and the Pipeline Entrepreneurial Fellowship. I think it is a combination of different opportunities that have prepared us thus far. However, as Sparo Labs continues to develop and evolve, Andrew and I, as leaders, will need to continue seeking out relevant learning opportunities to make sure we evolve with the company.


Tell us about the Cavendish Global Health Impact Forum. How do you see that impacting you and Sparo Labs? 
The Cavendish Global Health Impact Forums are a series of three international health forums throughout the year that take place around the world. These Forums bring together leading family investment offices from around the world actively seeking well-conceived impact investment, grant giving, and philanthropy opportunities within health and the life sciences that have the potential for major advances in disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and medical outcomes. Andrew and I attended the first Forum this past May at the United Nations in New York, which was a priceless experience and opportunity for Sparo Labs to present and converse with some of the leading scientific and business minds in the healthcare space. We are looking forward to attending and presenting at the next forum in Oxford and learning more about potential opportunities in the United Kingdom.


What most excites you about your company?
The ability to work with a fantastic, dedicated team to create an engaging and meaningful experience that will transform how patients manage their asthma.

Arch Grants, Prezi Style

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You’ve seen the names of the Arch Grants winners, but what are the stories behind them? Each company began with a great idea and an entrepreneur with the resolve to make it happen. Find out where the idea for each 2014 Arch Grants company began– be it an “aha!” moment while sitting on the steps of the smithsonian, or just a natural progression of a life’s worth of research and study.

Great ideas come from great people. Get the low-down on the 2014 class of brilliant entrepreneurs with a Prezi. Zoom back and forth between companies, or follow the Prezi like a slideshow– your choice!


Candy Lab Launches Candy B.A.R.™ – Industry’s First Blended Augmented Reality Platform

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Santa Clara, CA, May 26, 2014 – Candy Lab will present Candy B.A.R.™ at the Augmented World Expo 2014 taking place May 26th – 29th, 2014 in Santa Clara, CA. Candy B.A.R. is a unique marketing platform for brands and events looking to maximize user engagement through highly-engaging, location-specific offers and promotional campaigns. Candy B.A.R.’s breakthrough technology platform will be demonstrated to technology leaders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and media at the widely-publicized Augmented World Expo event.

Combining the concepts of Google AdWords, Foursquare, and Super Mario Brothers, Candy B.A.R. delivers a highly engaging augmented reality experience to bring marketers’ promotions to life on mobile devices—driving real-time targeted local traffic to specific locations.

“Candy B.A.R. produces location-based augmented reality marketing applications to drive user conversions for advertising campaigns, events, and games.” says Andrew Couch, Founder and CEO of Candy Lab Inc.

Developed for events and national promotions alike, Candy Lab partners upload content to Candy B.A.R. and determine precise real-world locations where they would like their offers and content to appear. Candy B.A.R. then displays these offers on users’ mobile devices by superimposing realistic virtual objects, like branded gold coins, on devices’ camera view screens; allowing content and offers to appear as if they exist in the real world. Users are incentivized to collect these virtual items in a scavenger hunt akin to a real-life Super Mario Brothers experience.

Candy B.A.R. apps, GPS augmented reality engines, and the dashboards that manage them are fully functional and currently live in two U.S. cities: Saint Louis, MO & Corpus Christi, TX. The apps are called “STL250” and “Stop The Wrath.” Candy Lab is currently expanding and is in active discussions with a number of Fortune 500 corporations, government organizations, and global media firms.

To learn more about how Candy B.A.R. works: Click here to view PDF

About Candy Lab, Inc.: Candy Lab, Inc. is a mobile application development company based in St. Louis, MO. Founded in 2012, Candy Lab has developed the world’s first location-based augmented reality platform (Candy B.A.R.) that enables marketers and event organizers to target advertising campaigns to specific locations and engage users in real-time. Candy Lab is a 2013 Arch Grants recipient, selected as one of the top 3% of St. Louis startups.


For more information contact:
Andrew Couch | Candy Lab Inc. | 858-699-3535 |

Tech Cocktail Covers Arch Grants’ Journey to Boosting St. Louis Entrepreneurial Culture

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Tech Cocktail is an online media company with the community for innovation enthusiasts to come together to learn and discuss new ideas happening all over the country. Tech Cocktail was started in 2006 by Frank Gruber, a former AOL and Tribune product strategist. At first, its aim was only to accelerate the local Chicago startup scene and tech communities.  Later came Jen Consalvo to mold Tech Cocktail into a full time media company. Now, Tech Cocktail organizes events for startup companies, entrepreneurs and the technology obsessed while still supporting the online community by covering startup news, tricks and trends.

Tech Cocktail specializes in hosting events for these innovation enthusiasts all over the country as well as across the globe. These events are meant to attract the local technology entrepreneurs to bring them together to build the tech startup scene in each city.  And while they’re mingling, they might learn a thing or two! Some of the events include local mixers, breakfasts, conferences, and festivals in several different cities. In the past, Tech Cocktail has made a point to visit San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and Boulder to attempt to share technology knowledge with the startup communities in each city.

The website is also well known for writing articles focused on the tech startup scene around the country which are featured on the front page of the website. There are several different talented writers who are also innovation enthusiasts who wish to share their passion with the country. Readers can select the regional based edition at the top of the screen to get informed on the latest tech innovations in their area. A few of these regions include; Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

As you can see, St. Louis is not one of those regions. It wasn’t until recently that Tech Cocktail took notice of the St. Louis tech startup scene. In late 2013, Will Schmidt took a liking to the St. Louis startup scene and began to write on the entrepreneurial culture beginning to rise from the ashes of a devastating recession that took the country by storm in the past few years. One of the most recent articles, “A Look Inside the Quietly Growing St. Louis Startup Scene” discusses Cliff Holekamp and Jim McKelvey’s recent ventures to boost St. Louis’ ecosystem while focusing on the entrepreneurs in the city as well.  On January 29th, 2014 Schmidt wrote an article about Arch Grants’ Global Startup Competition. He explains the mission of Arch Grants and what the competition can do for the St. Louis entrepreneurial culture. Schmidt goes on to state that, “St. Louis’ tech startup scene is growing and it’s not slowing down any time soon”.  He couldn’t be any more right on that note. At Arch Grants we are committed to building and maintaining the entrepreneurial culture in St. Louis. We want to put St. Louis on the map for startups and find a permanent place in the minds of innovation enthusiasts, like the readers of Tech Cocktail.


Arch Grants 2014 Global Business Plan Competition in the Works

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ST LOUIS, MO (January 2014)-Arch Grants is well on its way for the third year of the Global Business Plan Competition.

Applications for the Global Business Plan Competition are now being accepted online at It has been announced that the final deadline for applications to be submitted is February 21st. New entrepreneurs have the opportunity to win a $50,000 non-dilutive grant toward their company as long as they are wiling to relocate to St. Louis. Arch Grants focuses on building and maintaining the entrepreneurial infrastructure and culture of St. Louis by attracting startup companies to the city. The previous competitions have brought over 30 startup companies to the St. Louis entrepreneurial culture.

Those interested will need to submit their application to Prospective winners will be notified if they have been chosen for the second round and will need to fill out the second round form explaining the more intricate details of their business plan. The deadline to submit the second round form is March 17th, 2014. Then, 50-60 companies will be invited to St. Louis for Finalist Weekend which will be held in late April. The winners of the $50,000 will be announced by June 1st, 2014 and invited to begin the program by July 1st. Arch Grants will help coordinate living and work space arrangements for all grantees.

Each winner will receive $50,000 in non-dilutive cash. We don’t want a stake in your company; we just want you to stake your company in St. Louis.

In addition, winners will receive pro bono services from top tier companies in the St. Louis region: accounting, marketing, legal, IT and more. Two winning companies will receive an additional $100,000 in follow-on grants from Arch Grants.

“Arch Grants companies have produced dramatic growth in jobs, revenue, and follow-on capital raised by the companies who are accepted,” Arch Grants President Jerry Schlichter said in a statement. “We are pleased to begin accepting applications from companies that will add more of these benefits.”


To find out more information visit: