Questions about the Startup Competition.
Why should I enter the Arch Grants Startup Competition?
Arch Grants is not only a source of equity-free funding for early stage startups, but it’s an opportunity to root your business within a growing entrepreneurial hub surrounded by a community of mentors, collaborators and resources. Arch Grant Companies receive $75,000 and access to an ecosystem of resources and support to help grow their business.
How is Arch Grants different from angel investors and venture capital firms?
Arch Grants is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to improve the St. Louis economic landscape by championing extraordinary entrepreneurs. We do not take an equity stake in the companies to which we award grants. Our “return on investment” is the success and growth of our portfolio companies and their impact on the St. Louis region.
If I am selected for the Arch Grants program, what will I need to agree to?
Arch Grants Companies have five obligations to which they must adhere 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 full-time staff to St. Louis for the yearlong program.
- Establish operation in downtown St. Louis or secure a membership to a co-working space in downtown St. Louis during the yearlong commitment.
- Dedicate approximately 12 hours of service to Arch Grants and 12 hours of service to St. Louis per year.
- Provide Arch Grants with data regarding jobs created, revenue generated and follow-on capital attracted. We will collect this information biannually for as long as the business is in operation.
How has Arch Grants been successful in supporting startups?
Arch Grants has funded 200+ companies since our first Competition in 2012. Of these companies, 145 are still active, with 85% of those choosing to maintain operations in St. Louis. Arch Grants supports our portfolio companies with mentorship, helps to secure follow-on capital, assistance hiring key talent, and access to our robust network of connections to the St. Louis community for business development. In addition, established companies within the Arch Grants portfolio are readily available to newer startups for peer-to-peer learning and connections. While our companies have a high success rate, Founders of several Arch Grants companies that are no longer in operation have gone on to start their second company in St. Louis. Collectively, Arch Grant Companies have created more than 2,600 jobs in Missouri, generated more than $517 million in revenue, and attracted more than $620 million in follow-on capital.
Why does Arch Grants award grants and not take equity?
Our mission is to advance economic development in the St. Louis region by attracting and retaining innovative entrepreneurs. Our model is an aggressive effort to inspire the next generation of employers, civic leaders and philanthropists in St. Louis. Our return on investment is the creation of jobs and revenue generated by Arch Grants companies that contribute significantly to our region’s economic development.
How is Arch Grants funded?
Arch Grants is largely funded through the generous support of the St. Louis community – numerous individuals, corporations and foundations make up a significant portion of Arch Grants’ annual budget. In addition, Arch Grants also receives funding through the Missouri Technology Corporation as well as the Federal Economic Development Administration i6 program.
How can I learn more about Arch Grants and St. Louis?
Competition and Format
Questions about the Startup Competition.
When does the Competition take place?
The Arch Grants Startup Competition accepts applications once annually. The 2023 application window will open February 21 – March 31, 2023.
What are the important dates in the 2023 Arch Grants Startup Competition?
- February 21: First Round Applications Open
- March 31: First Round Applications Close
What is the selection process?
Following an initial staff review of eligibility, qualified applications are reviewed and evaluated by preliminary judges.
Semi-Finalists must submit additional information and materials. Staff then performs due diligence and conducts interviews with the top-ranked applicants from the Preliminary Round that may then be invited to proceed to the Finalist round.
The top-ranking companies from the first two rounds are invited to participate in Finalist Pitch Day, which includes a live pitch followed by Q&A with a panel of Finalist Judges. Finalist Judges are a group of dedicated volunteers who lend their expertise and experience to Arch Grants and evaluate Finalists for fit with the program and St. Louis.
Finalists selected for the Arch Grant are notified by September and publicly announced at our 10X Event in November 2022.
Who are the judges?
Arch Grants invites business professionals, industry experts, university leaders, entrepreneurs, past Arch Grants Founders and supporters to serve as volunteer judges and evaluate applicants. These individuals lend their expertise to Arch Grants in a volunteer capacity to evaluate qualified applicants and determine which companies should be awarded Arch Grants. Since 2012, we have invited over 5,000 individuals to participate as judges and we are grateful for their support.
How will I know if my application proceeds to the Finalist Round? Will I be notified if I do not advance?
All submissions receive notification of whether they are proceeding to the next round along with feedback from judges Those chosen to proceed to the next round of the Competition will receive specific instructions on next steps.
Will applicants be informed of which judges review their application?
Applicants will not be informed of which judges review their application. Judges may reach out to applicants after the review process to offer their support, feedback, or guidance, but this is not guaranteed.
What is Finalist Pitch Day?
Finalist Pitch Day is the day Finalists are invited to St. Louis to pitch live in front of a panel of judges for final grant consideration. During this time, Finalists will have the opportunity to meet with Finalist Judges and network with previous Arch Grants Founders.
Are the finalist pitches open to the public?
No, the Finalist Pitch events are invitation-only. Attendees will include Finalist Judges, members of the Arch Grants Board of Directors, Arch Grants staff, and select invited guests. Finalists may invite team members to observe their company pitch, but no Finalists are permitted to view other pitches.
How are the live pitches structured during Finalist Pitch Day?
Finalists will have 7-10 minutes to pitch followed by time for Q&A in front of approximately 20 Finalist Judges. Finalists can practice presenting their presentation deck and pitch during a pitch-practice session the week prior.
Will my application be kept confidential?
Arch Grants will not broadcast applications to the public, but we utilize a wide array of judges to help evaluate each company. We recommend to all applicants that they not share confidential information including trade secrets and intellectual property in their application or supporting materials since we cannot guarantee confidentiality.
How will Arch Grants protect the materials submitted in the competition?
Arch Grants limits access to submitted application information to its staff, due diligence team, judges, and Board of Directors. Competition judges are seasoned professionals who are accustomed to dealing with confidential materials on a regular basis. While Arch Grants requests that all volunteer judges keep your information confidential, judges are comprised of a wide swath of technical experts, entrepreneurs and sector experts, and Arch Grants cannot make any guarantee of confidentiality. We therefore ask that applicants not include any information in their application that they feel to be highly confidential, including trade secrets, intellectual property and/or other confidential information.
Questions about Startup Competition eligibility.
Who is eligible to apply?
- For-profit entities with technology-based products, services or solutions.
- All industries
- Scalable business models
- Early-Stage companies (includes Bootstrapped, Pre-Seed, and Seed Stage)
Can nonprofits apply?
Arch Grants does not consider applications submitted by nonprofits, although for-profit and hybrid-models social ventures are encouraged to apply.
I have an idea, am I too early to apply?
Arch Grants is ideal for startups in their early-stages where up to $100,000 and wrap-around support services will make a significant impact on the business. All applicants must be incorporated as a for-profit entity, and we require companies to be at least at the validated-idea stage, which would include having a minimum viable product, customer discovery, or some other market research beyond gathering data online to demonstrate that your idea has been validated.
What industries or markets does Arch Grants focus on?
Arch Grants is industry agnostic and we encourage startups from all tech-enabled industries to apply. In 2020, Arch Grants announced a multi-year commitment to awarding Geospatial Technology companies in an effort to build a pipeline of talent and help grow the Geospatial Hub in St. Louis. In 2020, Arch Grants awarded five Geospatial Technology startups and one additional company in 2021.
Our portfolio includes companies in the following industries:
Agricultural technology, biotechnology, business-to-business products, business-to-business services, civic technology, clean energy, consumer products, consumer services, cybersecurity, education technology, enterprise software, fashion, financial technology, foodtech, geospatial technology, hardware technology, healthcare technology, information technology, life sciences, logistics and transportation, manufacturing, medical devices, mobile applications, regulatory technology, social media, social venture, and sustainability.
Arch Grants does not accept applications from companies that directly produce, manufacture or distribute cannabis. A product or service that’s related to cannabis but doesn’t directly involve cannabis is eligible.
What criteria will you use to decide which companies will receive grants?
Preliminary and Finalist Judges will review the following:
- Innovation aspects of the product, technology or service
- A sound and scalable business model
- The team’s experience and capability to execute on the business initiatives in the near-term
- The Company’s interest and ability to contribute to the St. Louis ecosystem
Is there a minimum age for applicants?
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.
Note: At least one Founder is required to work full-time on the business during the program year.
Is Arch Grants only for St. Louis, MO based companies?
No, Arch Grants encourages startups from all over the United States and the world to apply for the Startup Competition. Typically, 50% of awarded companies are based in Missouri prior to the program, and 50% of awarded companies are based across the United States and beyond, relocating to St. Louis for Arch Grants’ program. All awarded companies will be required to relocate to St. Louis for at least one year. This includes the business headquarters, significant operations, and 51% of the Founding Team (or 1 Founder and 51% of the team).
I am not a U.S. citizen. May I still apply?
Yes. Non-US citizens need to have appropriate work authorization to legally work on their business full time in the United States for the duration of the entire program year, as the Arch Grants program requires at least 51% of full-time founding team or one full-time founder and 51% of full-time staff to St. Louis for the yearlong program.
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 is allowable but needs to be disclosed in your application.
If I am selected for the grant, when do I need to relocate to St. Louis?
If you are selected for the Arch Grant, you will need to be located in St. Louis, full time, by October. Exact dates will be sent to you with your acceptance notification.
Will you fund competitive companies?
Although we aim not to, we may fund companies that compete in some capacity. This is inevitable as we have 207 companies in our portfolio and will continue to grow our portfolio each year. We support each company to the best of our ability, without regard for other competitive brands within our portfolio.
Do applicants need to disclose prior funding to the business?
Yes, applicants are required to disclose all sources of funding already received and/or committed in the application process.
Is anyone ineligible?
Yes, staff and board members of Arch Grants and their immediate family members (spouse, child, parent, sibling) are ineligible to apply to the Startup Competition.
Entering the Competition
Questions about entering the Startup Competition.
How do I update my entry?
You may save a draft of your application and make updates prior to the application submission date and during the open application window. After you have submitted your application and/or the application window closes, you may not make updates to your application. If your startup hits significant milestones that were not included in your original application, you will be able to provide those updates should you proceed to the next round of the Competition.
What should be included in my pitch deck?
We recommend using the following structure:
- Identification of Problem
- Market Opportunity
- Go-To-Market Strategy
- Business Model/Current Traction
- Financial Projections
- Management Team
- Product Development Timeline
- Proposed Use of Grant
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. If you are selected as a finalist, you will be asked for other identifying information. You will also be asked to provide references.
Program and Incubation
How is Arch Grants different from an accelerator?
- The Arch Grant funding is equity-free and is not contingent completing a set curriculum. Companies receive their funding in several installments throughout the program year.
- The Arch Grants program requires a 12-month commitment by the Founders and Company to reside in St. Louis, MO.
- The program supports businesses where they are in their journey and growth trajectory, and provides educational, networking and mentoring opportunities to help advance the business’ growth during the program year. There is no set program or time commitment other than 12 hours of service to Arch Grants and 12 hours of service to St. Louis during the program year.
- There is no public pitch or demo-day at the end of the program year; however, we offer portfolio companies to participate in our annual Investor Summit.
How will the grant money be distributed?
There are five disbursements of the grant throughout the program year. The exact schedule will be included in the Grant Agreement. Arch Grants Companies are required to provide basic reporting information to Arch Grants on an ongoing basis, for as long as the business is in operation. This information helps us track how our businesses do in the long term. We do not ask for proprietary information or trade secrets.
Will Arch Grants help companies relocate to St. Louis?
Yes, we help Founders relocate their business and team to St. Louis. All companies moving from outside of Missouri (and from more than 150 miles from St. Louis Metro Area) are eligible for a $25,000 relocation grant in addition to the $75,000 Arch Grant. While Arch Grants does not provide housing, we can recommend locations, companies and services to help with the transition.
Can I fundraise during the program year?
Yes, many Arch Grants Companies pursue fundraising during the program year, and Arch Grants will support these efforts with preparation assistance, mentoring, connections to the local and national investment community, and an opportunity to participate in our bi-annual Investor Summit.
Can I attend an accelerator or other program during the program year?
Yes, companies may attend an accelerator or incubator during the program year, as long as it does not impact their business location or Founder location (full-time) in St. Louis, or conflict with the Arch Grants program calendar.
Aside from money, are there additional perks to being an Arch Grant Founder?
Absolutely. In addition to monetary awards, Arch Grant Companies receive:
- Pro bono and discounted professional 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
How will you know where a startup is located?
Startups will need to provide proof of their business location in St. Louis in the form of a lease agreement, co-working membership or other business license.
Do I really need to be based in St. Louis during the program year?
Yes, Arch Grants awarded companies must be based in St. Louis, MO for the duration of the program year, and 51% of the founding team (or one founder and 51% of the team) need to reside in the area full-time. 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 Company.
Growth Grants Program
Questions about the Growth Grant Program.
What is the purpose of these Grants?
The purpose of the Growth Grants Program is to support high-performing Arch Grants portfolio companies as they grow and scale their businesses in the St. Louis region.
Who is eligible to apply for Growth Grants?
Past Arch Grants Companies are eligible for Growth Grants once they complete their Arch Grants program year. The companies must still have significant operations in St. Louis and intend to stay in St. Louis for at least an additional 2 years.
Why is Arch Grants not taking equity?
As a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, our return-on-investment is companies growing and scaling in St. Louis, thereby generating jobs and revenue within the region. This is an opportunity for Arch Grants Companies to build their runway and leverage investor dollars. we hope that our Founders will “pay it forward” to future Arch Grants Founders and invest in the St. Louis Community in the future.
What will the application entail?
To apply, you need to complete an application in SurveyMonkey Apply and submit an Executive Summary and Investor Pitch Deck. If you are invited to the Finalist Round, you may need to submit a P&L, Balance Sheet, Financial Projections and/or Org Chart.
What documentation will Arch Grants require to confirm the funding round closure?
Upon closure of the funding round, Founders will need to supply Arch Grants with copies of signed funding documentation confirming the matching funds are approved and the Growth Grant does not exceed 33% of the total funding round.
Please Note: Term sheets do not qualify as confirmation documentation.
VC, Angel Investments, SAFE/Convertible Note/Venture Debt and Grants are approved matching funds.
What happens if the round does not close within 9 months?
If the round closes after 9 months from the awarded date, the Founder will need to reapply unless prior approval has been granted to Arch Grants for an extension.
How will Growth Grants be disbursed?
Growth Grants will be disbursed in two allotments- 50% at the round closure and 50% six-months later.
Be a Part of the Movement
We champion extraordinary entrepreneurs to create positive change – for St. Louis and for the world. Join us by applying to our annual Startup Competition, becoming a financial supporter, volunteering your time or amplifying our message.