6 People You Might Meet At The Venture Café Gatherings

By Kelsey Waananen
In Culture

The weekly gathering at Venture Café, located on the second floor of the @4240 building in the Cortex Innovation Community, doesn’t limit the attendee list to just sharp business minds and tech geniuses: From 3-8pm, the Thursday event is filled with varied programming that welcomes anyone wanting to learn, connect or share a beer in good company.

We’ve teamed up with Cortex to introduce some Gathering regulars and explore their perspectives on just what this STL networking event is bringing to the St. Louis community as a whole—plus, they offer a few tips for getting involved.


Photo by Maria Frank

Bijal Desai-Ramirez
Founder of Mixxed LLC
Venture Café Advisory Board Member
Gatherings attended: 18

“On any given night, there are so many events taking place in the community that it’s difficult to choose. That’s what I love about Venture Café’s weekly gatherings. I can go to sessions on arts and entrepreneurship and tech startup funding in the same place in one evening! I also love working with [Program Manager] Kaori Yazawa, [Executive Director] Travis Sheridan and others in the community to bring topics on education innovation to The Venture Café gatherings. Tonight, for example, we have a session on connecting creativity and science in and out of the classroom that was co-designed by the St. Louis Science Center.”

Tip: “Don’t feel intimidated to jump into a conversation with others. Find some friendly faces or attend a session and meet folks in the room, which might be less overwhelming.  On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re not at all shy and are ready to jump in to meeting new people, don’t be too salesly or glad-handing … it can end up working against you!”


Frederick L. Brown III
Washington University MBA Candidate 2016
Regions Bank Business Banking Division
Venture Café volunteer
Gatherings attended: 18

“Being a part of The Venture Café Gathering has been a fun and insightful experience for me especially as someone who is brand new to STL (I’ve been here two years). It has given me a look into the innovative and creative mind that is St. Louis.

“It’s not just about techies gathering in one place, nor is it your grandaddy’s old-school networking. Venture Café is for individuals who want to be inspired, who want to make connections with people who are driven to create a thriving community. It is for entrepreneurs who have a vision and people like me (who are not entrepreneurs) who want to contribute to that vision.

“It is for people from all walks of life with a desire not just to share their own stories, but to learn from others. To quote the great leader and man in charge of making this event come to life, Travis Sheridan, ‘Venture Cafe is for anyone who believes they can truly change the world through innovation.'”


Photo by Maria Frank

Samir Adrissi
Venture Café volunteer
Gatherings attended: 40

“Venture Cafe is an amazing gathering of people from various personal and professional backgrounds. I am very passionate about what Venture Café is able to offer the whole community of St. Louis.

Tip: “I would advise newcomers to really focus on the personal connection you have with others. Focus on who someone is as a person and what they care about.”


Chico Weber
CEO, Squarefruit Labs
Gatherings attended: 30-plus

“Venture Café has been one of the forces helping us to network better. Since we have an office [in the same building], it’s convenient for us to showcase our work and to introduce newcomers to 3-D printing during Venture Café since we always keep our doors open to the crowd.

“I would recommend new people to come to Venture Café, not only to network, but to learn what others are doing in the St. Louis area. St. Louis is much smaller in terms of its network compared to New York or Chicago, but there is an advantage to that because you can easily cut through the crowd and get connected with the right people. With Venture Café, that’s often the case.”


Photo by Maria Frank

Nate Marschalk
Executive Director of The Disruption Department
Director of STEM Entrepreneurship at The Mission Center L3C
Board Member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network – St. Louis
Gatherings attended: 25-plus

“The Venture Cafe has been a valuable platform for small non-profit organizations. Instead of having to worry about setting up an event at a bar, having to pay for drinks and spend hours on a marketing plan, an organization can work with Travis and Kaori to hold an event at The Venture Cafe, at no cost. This has been so beneficial to countless organizations in St. Louis, including my own.

Tip: “I always tell people to first get on the email list. Then, instead of showing up and maybe being intimidated, newcomers can plan their first visit around a specific talk/event they find interesting. Having a plan makes networking much less intimidating, as well as having something specific to do. It also helps you meet like-minded people and can be a conversation-starter (What brings you here? I came to attend the xyz panel because …).”


Aimee Muirnin Dunne
Founder, Navigating Networks
Director, Prosper Institute
Gatherings attended: 34

“In my work, I have the privilege of sitting down with all different kinds of people—entrepreneurs growing their businesses, students planning their careers, transplants to the area looking to connect. The Venture Café Gathering is always one of my top recommendations.

“This is a space where diverse people and perspectives come together: educators, artists, builders, innovators, learners. I love it because I get to wear all my hats on Thursday nights—I’ll find women entrepreneurs looking for resources, opportunities for good storytelling, and there’s always something new to learn.

“Just a few weeks ago at Venture Café, two colleagues and I started building a workshop series to encourage young women to be confident in their paths after high school.  That kind of thing happens there all the time!

Tip: “Don’t be nervous. It’s a crowd, but it’s a welcoming crowd! Find a program you’re interested in and go for that, then stick around and chat. Find someone with a high number on their nametag (they’ve been there a lot) and ask them what they like about Venture Café. And, if you’re one of those groupies with a high number on your nametag, go find a newbie! Ask them what brought them to Venture Café and help them find their way.”

This blog was created in collaboration with Cortex Innovation Community, a member of the EQ Network.

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