St. Louis Startup Scene: Gabe Lozano Hacks, Girls Ask Guys (Guys Say Yes), Sparo Labs Breathing Easier

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

What a Hack!

Gabe Lozano’s newly launched GlobalHack has announced plans to host quarterly hackathon competitions–along with an annual global technology conference–in St. Louis where the organization will award more than $1 million in prize money in an effort to further drive St. Louis’ emerging technology scene. In addition, the company is focused on attracting bright minds to the region to help meet the staffing demands of the booming tech community here, says Lozano, who founded LockerDome.

Gabe Lozano announces GlobalHack.

Gabe Lozano announces GlobalHack.

GlobalHack’s quarterly hackathon competitions will bring together developers, designers and entrepreneurs for 48-hour computer programming events focused on solving a technology-based problem for a St. Louis-based company. Teams will compete for a $50,000 cash prize and more, and culminates with an annual technology conference where 50 global finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their product to a panel of judges. The winning team will receive $1 million in non-dilutive capital to open an office in St. Louis and join one of the country’s fast-growing tech communities. Besides Lozano, founding members of GlobalHack include Brian Matthews (Cultivation Capital); Drew Winship (Juristat); and Travis Sheridan (St. Louis Economic Development Partnership).

Sadie Hawkins Day

GirlsAskGuys—a platform that allows men and women to ask questions about relationships and dating to members of the opposite sex—has raised $1 million and lassoed Jim McKelvey for its board of advisors. A large portion, $800,000, came via an investment by O’Brien Capital, a Clayton-based private equity firm. Founder and President of GirlsAskGuys, Tolga Tanriseven, said about a half dozen other investors had money in the round. The money will be used to add other languages at the rate of one every two or three months. The company already has a Turkish version, which is one of that country’s most visited websites.

Breathing Easier

Sparo Labs—a St. Louis medical device startup that got its start at Washington University—brought home a $150,000 grant from the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT). The company, headed by Andrew Brimer and Abigail Cohen, bested graduate student and post-doctoral teams from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California–Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University. Sparo Labs‘ spirometer measures lung function, which could have a big impact on asthma patients.

BioRecognition

The State Science and Technology Institute knows whereof it speaks. BioGenerator was recognized by the group as one of the nation’s leading organizations helping its hometown city grow its science, technology and innovation ecosystem, along with five others who also received the award. The privately funded nonprofit received the institute’s 2013 Excellence in TBED (technology-based economic development) award. The recognition is given annually to organizations that invest in their science and technology industries in order to help create high-paying jobs. Over the last decade, BioGenerator has invested more than $5 million in 40 startups which have gone on to raise an additional $132 million in follow-on funding.

Gimme S’mores

Bonfyre has raised $1.7 million in an equity offering, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Fifteen investors participated in the funding round. The St. Louis-based social media startup got its start when Mark Sawyier and Ray Gobberg started Moving Off Campus with students at Washington University. It ultimately ignited Bonfyre. The filing was made under the Moving Off Campus name. Company officials declined to comment. A $700,000 funding round in 2012 included a $535,000 investment by Arch Angels.

Connection Perfection

Startup Connection is gearing up for tomorrow night’s event at the St. Louis Science Center where record-setting crowds are expected, as well as the most resources the event has ever put together. Approximately 1,000 people are expected, compared to last year’s 600 attendees. Startup Connection began in 2009 as a way to connect talent with St. Louis companies and has steadily garnered more and more regional and national attention, thanks to the big name innovators who have participated, such as Bonfyre and LockerDome, which have gone on to raise significant funding rounds. Regional director for the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Robert Olson, will attend and introduce a group of startups that have been recipients of i6 Challenge grants. At this year’s event, which will be Wednesday, Oct. 3, 60 entrepreneurs will pitch their startup business plans.

Using the Little Grey Cells

Graematter, a local startup that announced the commercialization of its new regulatory intelligence system at a press conference recently, will track and analyze government actions and requirements for client companies. Named SOFIE, the system focuses on the Food and Drug Administration and examines inspections, sanctions, recalls and review times, not to mention providing search functions for clients that are faster and more efficient. Graematter is banking on regulatory intelligence developing into a growth industry. Located at T-REx, the company will more than triple its staff in the coming weeks.

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