Tech news website Techli overcomes incredible obstacles to succeed in the St. Louis startup world.
The St. Louis startup community is remarkably inclusive: Entrepreneurs freely help and advise others without the promise of getting something in return. The easy truth, though? If you give, you will receive. Nobody knows this more that Edward Domain, who founded news website Techli with the goal of becoming the media source of record for startups in a swath of tech-friendly cities often ignored by the national press—virtually everywhere between New York and Silicon Valley. An Arch Grants winner, Domain had relocated his company from Chicago to St. Louis in June 2012, just 11 months before the horrific day when the texting driver of a cab he hailed crashed into a van. Domain was seriously injured.
He woke up in the hospital the next day or the day after that—he doesn’t remember exactly. He does, however, recall when he learned the awful truth: Among other injuries, all of the ligaments, tendons and muscles connected to his shoulder had been ripped from the bone, and his hip was shattered. That left only Techli Editor-in-Chief Caryn Tomer to somehow run the budding news site.
There’s a joke among startups and venture capitalists: “What’s your plan if your founder gets hit by a bus?” And people always laugh. It’s extremely rare, of course, but they’re serious. They want to make sure their investment is taken care of. “I thought it was over,” Domain says. “I didn’t see any way for me to come back from it. I thought I was done.” The visitors list to Domain’s hospital room reads like a who’s who of the St. Louis startup scene: SixThirty’s Matt Menietti, the FoodEssentials team, Rick Holton and Brian Matthews of Cultivation Capital, and others Domain wasn’t even aware of.
But most remarkably, Dan Lohman and Jan Anderson—who started the co-working space Lab1500 among several startups of their own— stepped forward and, with Tomer, kept Techli running for the six months Domain remained in the hospital undergoing five intensive surgeries. Anderson even brokered a deal on behalf of Domain that resulted in Washington University contributing a “significant amount” to launch the Domain Tech Report, a popular internet video show that features local entrepreneurs, investors and visionaries. Since Domain has returned to the helm of Techli, the company has continued to grow and gain national attention with nods from the New York Times, Wired, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune and more. The company has taken in more than $100,000 in revenue since November 2013, and the tech news startup is planning expansion into Chicago, Detroit, Louisville and Nashville next year. Even bigger, Domain is currently in negotiations with an asof-yet unnamed television network about moving Techli to national broadcast television.
It’s not a stretch to say Domain appreciates the St. Louis startup community. When he made his first public appearance, at the Arch Grants Gala following his hospitalization, the audience rose and gave him a standing ovation. “St. Louis is doing stuff that other cities are still trying to figure out,” Domain says. “It’s pretty awesome to be part of it.”
Techli Founder/CEO Edward Domain and Editor-in-Chief Caryn Tomer
Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino