General Questions +
General questions about Arch Grants Competition.
Why should I enter the Arch Grants Global Startup Competition?
Arch Grants is not only a source of equity-free funding for startups, but an opportunity to root your business within a growing entrepreneurial hub surrounded by mentors, supporters, and innovative collaborators. Arch Grants recipients receive $50,000 and a host of support services to grow their business. Our startups are seen as the top notch, early-stage, scalable and innovative companies in the region.
How is Arch Grants different from angel investors and venture capital firms?
Arch Grants seeks to fund startups that can enhance the economic development, but also the overall entrepreneurial vibrancy of the St. Louis community. The Arch Grants competition attracts and retains entrepreneurs world-wide to locate in St. Louis and believes the enhancement in the entrepreneurial culture provides immeasurable equity. Thus, Arch Grants, as a non-profit and St. Louis community ambassador, does not take an equity stake in the companies in which they award investments. In addition to monetary investments, Arch Grants provides a host of support services and access to top business minds, all free to the Recipient.
Does Arch Grants take equity in the Recipients?
No, Arch Grants are truly grants. No equity stake is taken in the companies receiving our grants.
If I am selected to be an Arch Grants Recipient, what will I need to agree to?
Arch Grants Recipients have five primary obligations to which they must agree in order to receive the grant:
- Locate or relocate the business, with significant operations or headquarters, in the City of St. Louis, for at least one year.
- Commit at least 51% of full-time founding team, or one full-time founder and 51% of the full-time staff to the City of St. Louis for the year-long incubation.
- Secure a membership to a co-working space or incubator located in downtown St. Louis.
- Dedicate approximately 8 hours of service to Arch Grants per quarter, during the year-long incubation.
- Provide Arch Grants with data regarding jobs created, revenue generated, and follow-on capital attracted. We will collect this information quarterly as long as the business is in operation, regardless if it remains in St. Louis.
What is the track record of Arch Grants Recipients?
Arch Grants has funded 96 companies since our first competition in 2012. 85 of these companies are still in operation, with about 84% of those choosing to maintain operations in St. Louis. Of the companies that are no longer in business, several of those founders went on to start their second companies in St. Louis! Collectively, Arch Grants Recipients have created over 370 jobs, generated over $48 million in revenue, and attracted over $100 million in follow-on capital.
Why does Arch Grants exist?
Arch Grants’ mission is to advance economic development in the St. Louis region by attracting and retaining innovative entrepreneurs. Arch Grants accelerates economic development and community revitalization through entrepreneurship and philanthropy. This program is an aggressive effort to inspire the next generation of employers, civic leaders, and philanthropists in St. Louis.
How is Arch Grants funded?
Arch Grants has no source of sustained funding or recurring revenue. As a result, we rely on the generosity of numerous individuals, corporations, and foundations to to fund both competition grants and operations. Our donors are available to view here.
Where is the Arch Grants office?
Arch Grants is located inside the historic Lammert building, better known as T-REX, at 911 Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis. T-REX is a mix between a co-working space and technology incubator located in the heart of downtown St. Louis, Missouri. T-REX is now home to a growing community of entrepreneurs, developers, designers, mentors, venture capitalists, educators, and more.
What about St. Louis’ “negative” national reputation?
St. Louis is in transition. We are a community working to resolve significant issues in order to promote inclusion and social justice for all our citizens. We seek applicants who embrace the opportunity to help shape a more equitable and inclusive future for St. Louis. Our region is proud to support a number of organizations that are actively working to create the systemic change we need. The following organizations are wholly committed to addressing issues of equity and justice in St. Louis:
- Anti-Defamation League
- Crime Victim’s Advocacy Center
- Diversity Awareness Partnership
- Ferguson Commission
- FOCUS St. Louis
- National Conference for Community and Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis
- St. Louis Economic Development Partnership
- The Mosaic Project
Is St. Louis safe?
Nationally reported statistics regarding crime in the metropolitan St. Louis region can be misleading because of how the region is divided between 15 counties in Missouri and Southern IL. Additionally, there is a divide between St. Louis City and St. Louis County which are governed and patrolled independently of one another. This fragmentation results in statistics that are equally as fragmented. Arch Grants’ offices are located in the 4th District of the City of St. Louis. Chief of Police Sam Dotson, Mayor Francis Slay, and Captain Renee Kriesmann and her team in the 4th District are wholly committed to ensuring the safety of downtown St. Louis where many Arch Grant recipients choose to live, work, and play. Additionally, DowntownSTL provides complimentary escorts to and from one’s car if requested. For the most current crime statistics by neighborhood in the City of St. Louis, please click here.
Arch Grants is wholly committed to the safety and wellbeing of St. Louisans, including our Recipients.
Can I speak to an Arch Grant Recipient about his or her experience in St. Louis?
If you would like to speak to someone about his or her personal experience moving to St. Louis, please email Ben Burke. We will do our best to connect you to someone within our community who can answer specific questions you have about our region.
Competition and Format +
Questions regarding the competition and its format.
When does the competition take place?
Arch Grants accepts applications on an annual basis. Deadlines are listed below. Applicants can expect to hear from staff regarding their application status within two months after the deadline.
What are the important dates in the Arch Grants Global Startup Competition?
February 1st, 2018: Competition Opens
April 1st, 2018: Early Application Deadline
May 15, 2018: Final Application Deadline
What is the selection process?
There are two rounds of evaluation for the Arch Grants competition.
First, your application is assigned to 5-10 preliminary judges who are hand-picked by the Arch Grants staff based on industry experience, expertise in the stage of your company, or other relevant qualities.
Next, the application and feedback from these judges is reviewed by the Arch Grants Competition Committee who select a group of finalist applicants to receive due diligence and to invite to pitch their business at the finalist pitch day. The Competition Committee is a group of dedicated community members who represent a diverse range of experiences from venture capital, corporate start-up entrepreneurs, and everything in between. The committee will base their decisions on the strength of the opportunity, scalability, the impact on the St. Louis community (economically, culturally, and otherwise) as well as the skills, assets, and value added by the management team.
During Finalist Pitch Day, teams will be invited to give a 15-20 minute pitch which will be followed by a Q&A from the Committee. Finalists will also be interviewed by staff on this day. Arch Grants Recipients will be selected in September, required to be in St. Louis at the end of October, and publicly announced in November.
How many rounds of the competition will there be?
There are only two rounds of the Arch Grants Global Startup Competition. The first round requires a completed application through Fluid Review. The final round requires a pitch deck, a fifteen minute video of your pitch, character references, in addition to pitching live in St. Louis, Missouri at a Finalist Pitch Day in September.
Who are the judges?
We have had over 500 individuals volunteer as judges throughout our process since 2012. A non-comprehensive list of individuals that have served on our Competition Committee can be found under the Competition Committee drop-down section.
How many finalists are there? How many awards will be granted?
We have roughly 35-45 startups reach the final round of the competition. We also aim to disburse $1 Million in $50,000 equity-free grants every year, however, do not guarantee that number.
How will I know if I made it to the next step? Will I be notified if I do not advance?
All submissions will receive notification of their outcome. Those chosen to proceed to the next step will receive specific instructions for that next step.
Will entrepreneurs know who their judges will be?
Applicants will not be informed of their judges unless they are selected to pitch at the finalist round. Finalists will be notified of the judges prior to Finalist Pitch Day. Finalist Pitch Day judges are selected from the Competition Committee.
What is a Finalist Pitch Day?
A Finalist Pitch Day is a time in which finalists in the Arch Grants Global Startup Competition are invited to St. Louis to pitch their business for final consideration for a grant. During these days, finalists will have the opportunity to meet with our esteemed group of venture capital and angel investment professionals on the Competition Committee, network with previous Arch Grants Recipients, and receive some additional amenities available only to finalists.
Is the Finalist Pitch Day required to be in person?
Yes, in-person representation by at least one member of the founding team is required in order to be considered for a grant. Arch Grants requires applicants to visit St. Louis for a Finalist Pitch Day to meet other candidates, enjoy an evening with the judges, and get to know the area.
Are the Finalist Pitches open to the public?
No, this component is not open to the public. Your audience may be comprised of judges, Arch Grants board and staff, and limited individuals present at the request of Arch Grants. You may invite additional team members to your specific session but you will not be allowed to observe other startups’ sessions.
How are the live pitches structured during the Finalist Pitch Days?
You should utilize a slide deck for your presentation, and will have an audience of about 20 individuals. Each applicant will be allotted 25 minutes in total: we strongly suggest a 15-minute pitch and the rest of the time for Q&A.
How will Arch Grants protect the materials submitted in the competition?
Arch Grants limits access to applicants’ submitted information to its staff, due diligence team, competition committee, judges, and board of directors. In addition, reasonable steps are taken to limit access to these documents. The judges of Arch Grants’ startup competition are seasoned professionals accustomed to dealing with confidential materials on a regular basis.
However, there will be no confidentiality obligation by any recipient of the documents submitted for the competition for information contained therein. We ask that you not share in your application any information you feel to be highly confidential in nature.
Competition Eligibility +
Questions regarding the eligibility of competition.
What kind of startup may apply?
For-profit startups from every industry are invited to apply. Particular attention will be given to the scalability of the ventures. Startups should demonstrate a plan to reach national or international impact. Additionally, we like to see some progress against the concept (e.g.; a prototype, minimum viable product, etc.). Startups planning to scale and remain in the St. Louis region are encouraged to apply.
How do you define startup?
We do not place a limit on the length of time your startup has operated or how much outside funding you have received prior to applying. We award equity free startup grants to businesses still in their early stages where the $50,000 and corresponding support services will make a significant impact.
What industries or markets does Arch Grants focus on?
Arch Grants does not have specific tracks, markets, or industries we focus on. Past companies are represented in AgTech, Big Data, BioTech, FinTech, Hardware Technology, Healthcare IT, Manufacturing, Medical Devices, Social Ventures, and many more!
What criteria will you use to decide which companies will receive the grants?
As the committee and community judges review applications, they will consider: the innovation of the product, technology or service; the scalability of the business model; the total impact (including sales, social value, impact on users, partners, etc.); and the qualities of the entrepreneur or entrepreneurial team – their level of talent, diversity, and qualities which are value additive to the company and overall community.
Is there a maximum or minimum allowable team size?
There is no limit on team size, though winning teams of any size will receive $50,000. 51% of the founding team or 1 founder and 51% of the staff will be required to work and live full time in the City of St. Louis for one year.
May nonprofits apply?
No, Arch Grants will not consider applications submitted by nonprofits, although social ventures are encouraged to apply.
Does it matter how old I am?
No, but if you are under 18, you will need parental permission to participate. In addition, Arch Grants recipients are required to have at least 51% of the founding team or one full-time founder wit 51% of staff working and living in the City of St. Louis during the year-long incubation period.
Does it matter where I am from?
Nope! Whether you are from Missouri, Montana, or Monte Negro, you are eligible to apply to the Global Startup Competition. All Recipients must be able and willing to locate their business in St. Louis for a period of at least one year, however.
I am not a U.S. Citizen. May I still apply?
Yes, this is a global startup competition and Arch Grants will facilitate the visa application process for you, if you are eligible. We successfully relocated simMachines from Costa Rica; Wondermento and Tallyfy from London; and Lifepack from Colombia. We have immigration attorneys willing and able to donate time and service to get you to St. Louis!
My business is not located in St. Louis. Can I still enter the competition?
Yes. Businesses around the world are invited to apply to the competition as long as you are able to move your business to the St. Louis region for the year in which you are receiving funding (and we hope long-after that as well).
If I am one of the Arch Grants Recipients, when do I need to locate to St. Louis?
If you are selected as an Arch Grants Recipient, you will need to be located in St. Louis, full-time, in late October. Exact dates will be sent to you with your offer to become an Arch Grants recipient.
Will you fund competitive companies?
Although we aim not to, we may fund companies that compete in some capacity. This is inevitable, and we will look to support each company equally.
Are multiple applications allowed per person?
Arch Grants encourages applicants to apply using their most compelling business idea. However, if you believe you are on the founding team of more than one startup that should be considered in the competition, this allowable, but simply needs to be disclosed in the application.
May I submit someone else’s business idea?
Submissions must be your original idea or you must have written consent to submit an idea originally generated by another person. This must be disclosed in the application.
Must entrants disclose any funding already received?
Yes, applicants are required to disclose all sources of funding already received and/or committed, when asked.
Is anyone ineligible?
Yes, staff and board members of Arch Grants and their immediate family members (spouse, child, parent, sibling) are ineligible to apply for to the Arch Grants Global Startup Competition.
Entering the Competition +
Questions about entering the competition.
How do I update my entry?
If your startup hits significant milestones that were NOT included in your original application, please let us know by updating our Director of Entrepreneurship, Ben Burke. As an example, releasing your beta product is a significant milestone we’d want to know about; recasting your financials for year five is not. We will amend your original application with these updates so they are taken into consideration by our judges.
What do I have to do to enter the competition?
You need to access Fluid Review, click “Sign up” to create an account (or “Sign in” if you already have signed up), and fill out the application.
What should be included in the Pitch Deck?
If you are selected for the final round of the competition, get creative and cover the following topics:
- What is the mission or vision of the organization?
- How does this business create and capture value?
- What is the product, service, or technology, and how is it innovative?
- Why is this unique or different, and why does it matter?
- What is the business model, and how is it scalable?
- What is the customer acquisition or marketing strategy? Who is the target market and how many people are in it?
- Who are the competitors and what are the barriers to entry? Where would the business fit in the marketplace?
- Who is on the management team? What expertise or characteristics do they have in order to run this business?
- How has the business been validated?
- What are the financial projections? What are the projected costs and revenues?
- Why would this business be of benefit to St. Louis?
- How does the business intend to utilize the grant funding?
In the Pitch Deck, do not share personally confidential information; do not make a financial offering; do not include previous fundraising information; do not include any company valuation information.
What should be included in the Video?
The video submission allows finalists an opportunity to receive feedback about their pitch in advance of pitching during Finalist Pitch Day. Creativity is encouraged here. Remember, the judges are going to see a lot of pitches- what sets you apart?
In the video, do not share personally confidential information; do not make a financial offering; do not include previous fundraising information; do not include any company valuation information.
Why do you ask for my social security number?
We believe that the character of the entrepreneurs that we fund is more important than the technology or businesses that they create. With this in mind, as part of the application process, we will complete a background check on the owners (anyone with an equity stake in the organization) of each company that makes it to the final round of the competition. Only owners of the organization are subject to a background check, not employees. This process is meant to ensure that there are no significant, outstanding financial responsibilities and no fraudulent activity. This is not a credit check; your credit score will not be accessed, and running this report will not affect your credit score. We conduct these background checks through a popular service called LexisNexis.
We will not require background checks for equity stakeholders whom are accredited venture funds or angel investment groups.
I am not a U.S. citizen and I do not have a social security number. Is that a problem?
That is not a problem. You will be asked for other identifying information if you are selected to be a finalist. You will also be asked to provide references.
Program and Incubation +
Questions regarding the program of Arch Grants and its incubation for startups.
How is Arch Grants different from a regular accelerator?
Arch Grants is not your average accelerator. We are a 12 month long program with a geographic focus, requiring our participants to commit to growing their business in St. Louis – living and working full time – for a full year. We are committed to economic development, not return on investment, and believe that our best chance to impact the economy of the St. Louis region for the better is to bring innovative entrepreneurs and startups here and support them as they grow. We do not take equity in your company and we are not involved in the operations of your business. Because our program is longer than a typical accelerator, we tend to take a more reaction approach with our portfolio companies – we are as involved as you ask us to be. Arch Grants is committed to fueling our growing St. Louis ecosystem with engaging and innovative entrepreneurs, in addition to businesses, so our program places a stronger emphasis than most accelerators on the people behind the business.
How will the grant award money be distributed?
$20,000 of the startup capital will be distributed at the beginning of the program. $10,000 will be distributed at the end of each of the quarter one and quarter two of the Arch Grants calendar. $5,000 will be distributed at the end of quarter three and at the end of quarter four. Arch Grants winners are required to provide basic reporting information to Arch Grants on an ongoing basis, so long as the business is in operation. This information helps us track how our businesses do in the long run. We do not ask for proprietary information or trade secrets.
How do you measure a startup’s progress?
Each startup reports data via semi-annual reports submitted to Arch Grants before additional disbursements are made. We track such things as jobs created, revenue generated, contracts closed, patents applied for/accepted, and capital attracted.
Will Arch Grants provide guidance to recipients as they relocate to St. Louis?
Yes. Beyond the existing support with moving a business to St. Louis, Arch Grants will provide support with finding housing, social-networks and activities, cultural connections, and a sounding board for other questions or requests. Note that Arch Grants does not provide housing, but can help connect you to companies, services, and venues by which to find the right place for you and your staff.
How can we get funding during and after our year with Arch Grants?
Arch Grants does not want to be the sole source of funding and works hard to connect entrepreneurs with a strong network of investors, venture capital firms, and private investors here in the community. $50,000 can only go so far. Whether through working in the same building, through social events, or through direct introductions, Arch Grants aims to help you find funding as soon as you arrive in St. Louis (if you are raising money). Since 2012, Arch Grants companies have gone on to raise over $100 million in follow-on capital!
Aside from money, are there additional perks to being an Arch Grants Recipient?
Yes! In addition to monetary awards, Arch Grants Recipients receive:
- Pro-bono services in the following areas: accounting, legal, marketing & communications, financial consulting, banking consulting and services, information technology consulting and web hosting, human resources, and payroll services.
- Access to venture capital and angel investment networks.
- Professional and high level business mentorship.
- Personal introductions to strategic business leaders.
- Social support and community integration services.
- Inclusion as part of a community of innovative entrepreneurs.
Am I required to work out of the T-REX building?
No. Arch Grants recipients are not required to be located in T-REX. Arch Grants Recipients are required to have a membership that would give them access to a co-working space or incubator located Downtown St. Louis. There are other OUTSTANDING co-working spaces and incubators in downtown St. Louis that fulfill this requirement.
How will you know where a startup is located?
Startups may be asked to provide proof of their business location. This may take the form of a lease agreement or other business license.
How do you ensure that a recipient does not skip town with the cash?
To ensure the funds are used for their intended purpose, we require you to sign a Comprehensive Grant Agreement before formally becoming an Arch Grants Recipient.
What happens if our company fails?
Not all startup companies succeed; we understand that. If your company fails during the year-long incubation period, you will forfeit any additional funds, but will not be required to “pay back” previously disbursed funds unless significant additional aspects of the Comprehensive Grant Agreement have been breached.
If your business does fail, you, as an entrepreneur, will be encouraged and supported to remain in St. Louis to start a new venture, or to join an existing startup. Failure happens, and we believe that it is not something to turn away from. Entrepreneurs whom fail are more likely to succeed in their following venture!