Questions about the Startup Competition.
Why should I enter the Arch Grants Global 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 $50,000 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 not only seeks to fund startups that can enhance economic development but also the overall entrepreneurial vibrancy of the St. Louis region. As a nonprofit and St. Louis community ambassador, we do not take an equity stake in the companies in which we award grants. In addition to equity-free funding, we provide a host of support services and access to top business minds — all free to the awarded companies.
Does Arch Grants take equity in the companies that receive the awards?
No. Arch Grants are truly grants and no equity stake is taken in the startups receiving them.
If I am selected for the Arch Grants program, what will I need to agree to?
Arch Grants recipients have five obligations they must agree to 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 full-time staff to St. Louis for the yearlong program.
- Establish operation in the City of St. Louis or secure a membership to a co-working space in the City of St. Louis during the yearlong commitment.
- Dedicate approximately eight hours of service to Arch Grants and eight hours of service to St. Louis per quarter.
- Provide Arch Grants with data regarding jobs created, revenue generated and follow-on capital attracted. We will collect this information biannually as long as the business is in operation (and regardless of location in St. Louis).
What is the track record of Arch Grants Companies?
Arch Grants has funded 174 companies since our first Competition in 2012. Of these companies, 145 are still in operation, with about 90% 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 Grant recipients have created over 2,056 jobs, generated over $400 million in revenue, and attracted over $307 million in follow-on capital.
Why does Arch Grants exist?
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.
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.
Can I speak to an Arch Grants Founder about his or her experience in St. Louis?
Yes, feel free to email our Competition Manager, Julie Maurer, at email@example.com and we will do our best to connect you to a past Founder who can answer your questions.
Competition and Format
Questions about the Startup Competition.
When does the Competition take place?
The Arch Grants Global Startup Competition accepts applications on an annual basis. The open application period varies year by year. Applications this year open April 1st, 2021. Applicants can expect communication regarding their application status within one month of the closing deadline.
What are the important dates in the 2021 Arch Grants Startup Competition?
- April 1: First Round Applications Open
- April 30: First Round Applications Close
- May-June: Preliminary Judging
- June 18-25: Semi-Finalist Application Window
- Mid-July: Finalists Selected
- July 27-30: Finalist Pitch Week
- August 1: Companies Selected
- October 11, 2021-October 11, 2022: Arch Grants Awardees Program Year
What is the 2021 selection process?
Application Round 1:
After the April 30th deadline, your application is assigned to five to ten 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 qualifications.
The application and feedback from these judges is reviewed by the Arch Grants Competition Committee who select the finalists.
Between 40 and 50 companies are invited to the Finalist Round to pitch live. The pitches are evaluated by our Competition Committee, a group of dedicated community members who represent a diverse range of experiences from venture capital to corporate startup entrepreneurs and everything in-between. The Committee bases 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, diversity and value added by the management team.
Arch Grants Companies will be selected in September and publicly announced at our Annual Gala Fundraiser in November.
Who are the judges?
We have had over 5,000 individuals participate as judges since 2012. They are a mix of St. Louis based industry experts, business professionals, local university faculty, entrepreneurs, past Arch Grants Founders, and Arch Grants supporters from in and out of St. Louis.
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 on next steps.
Will entrepreneurs know who will evaluate their application be?
Applicants will not be informed of their judges unless they are selected to pitch in the Finalist Round. Finalist Pitch Week judges are selected from the Competition Committee.
What is Finalist Pitch Week?
Finalist Pitch Week is the week Finalists are invited to St. Louis to pitch their business for final grant consideration. During this time, Finalists will have the opportunity to meet with the esteemed venture capital and angel investment professionals on the Competition Committee, network with previous Arch Grants Founders, and take part in additional networking opportunities.
Are the finalist pitches open to the public?
No, unfortunately not. The audience may consist of judges, Arch Grants Board of Directors, Arch Grants 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 pitches.
How are the live pitches structured during the Finalist Pitch Day?
Presentations are expected in slide format and will have an audience of about 20-30 individuals. Each applicant will be allotted 20 minutes in total, so we strongly suggest a 12-minute pitch and the rest of the time left for Q&A.
How will Arch Grants protect the materials submitted in the competition?
Arch Grants limits access to submitted information to its staff, due diligence team, competition committee, judges and board of directors. Competition judges are seasoned professionals 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 the Startup Competition eligibility.
What kind of startups 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 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?
Historically, Arch Grants has not have specific tracks, markets or industries we focus on. Starting in 2020, we announced the awarding of five Geospatial Technology companies, which will continue in 2021.
Past companies have been in the following industries:
Agricultural technology, biotechnology, business-to-business products, business-to-business services, civic technology, clean energy, consumer products, consumer services, cyber security, education technology, enterprise software, fashion, financial technology, food, geospatial technology, hardware technology, health care, information technology, life sciences, logistics and transportation, manufacturing, medical device, mobile applications, regulatory technology, social media, social venture, and sustainability.
What criteria will you use to decide which companies will receive 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?
By Arch Grants competition rules, there is no limit on team size, though winning teams of any size will receive $50,000. Moreover, 51% of the founding team or one founder and 51% of the staff will be required to work and live full time in the City of St. Louis for the year long program.
May nonprofits apply?
The Arch Grants competition terms do not consider applications submitted by non-profits, although social ventures are encouraged to apply.
Do you need to be 18 to apply?
No, but if you are under the age of 18, you will need parental permission to participate.
Does it matter where I am from?
Arch Grants accepts application from anywhere in the world. However, all awardees must be able and willing to locate their business in St. Louis for a period of at least one year.
I am not a U.S. citizen. May I still apply?
Absolutely. If you are eligible, Arch Grants will facilitate the visa application process for you. We successfully relocated simMachines from Costa Rica, Wondermento and Tallyfy from London, and Lifepack from Colombia. We have immigration attorneys in our ecosystem who are willing and able to donate their time 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, too).
If I am selected for the grant, when do I need to locate to St. Louis?
If you are selected as an Arch Grant recipient, you will need to be located in St. Louis, full time, by late October. Exact dates will be sent to you with your offer to become a grant 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 is allowable but needs to be disclosed in your 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 someone else, and this must be disclosed in your 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 to the Startup Competition.
Entering the Competition
Questions about entering the Startup 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 reaching out to our competition manager, Julie Maurer, at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 the judges.
What should be included in my pitch deck?
If you are selected for the final round of the competition, get creative and don’t forget to cover the following:
- 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 into 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
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 will the grant money be distributed?
There are five disbursements of the grant throughout the course of the yearlong commitment. Arch Grants recipients 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 term. We do not ask for proprietary information or trade secrets.
How do you measure a startup’s progress?
Each startup reports data via semiannual 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 (private, public and federal funds).
Will Arch Grants provide guidance to companies as they relocate to St. Louis?
Yes. Beyond the existing support with moving a business to St. Louis, we will provide support through housing location assistance, social networks and activities, cultural connections, and a sounding board for other questions or requests. Arch Grants does not provide housing but can help connect you to companies, services and venues to help 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 your sole source of funding and works hard to connect entrepreneurs with a strong network of investors, venture capital firms and private investors through our ecosystem. We know that $50,000 can only go so far. Since 2012, Arch Grants companies have gone on to raise over $200 million in follow-on capital. So whether through working in the same building, social events or direct introductions, we aim to help founders find funding as soon as they arrive in St. Louis (if they’re raising money).
Aside from money, are there additional perks to being an Arch Grant recipient?
Absolutely. In addition to monetary awards, Arch Grant recipients receive:
- Pro bono services in the following areas: accounting, legal, marketing and 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
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 Grant recipient.
How is Arch Grants different from a regular accelerator?
Arch Grants is not your average accelerator. We offer a 12-month commitment with a geographic focus, requiring our participants to commit to growing their business in St. Louis — living and working full time — for a minimum of one 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 these companies, and we are not involved in the operations of their 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.
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 Global Startup Competition, becoming a financial supporter, volunteering your time or amplifying our message.