Upstart Generation

By Matt Sorrell
In Culture

Today’s entrepreneurs are pushing STL’s startup scene forward with
groundbreaking ideas and forward-thinking companies.



Unlike many digital-based startups, Arvegenix is literally rooted in the soil. The company  is in the process of developing an annual seed called Pennycress that can be planted in the  winter, between the corn and soybean seasons, to give farmers another source of income.  The oil from the seed can be used in biodiesel, while the meal is intended to be a component in animal feed. Compared to other oilseed products, Pennycress is most efficient because it doesn’t require complex processing.
Up Next: Arvegenix has Pennycress in the fields testing now, and is pursuing all of the required regulatory approvals needed to get the product to market. The company will be looking for talent in the future in areas like seed tech, regulatory issues and logistics, and it recently finished a round of financing, mostly from area investors.


Cybersecurity remains a critical issue as we move ever more online, and Bandura Systems is working hard to safeguard the virtual world by coming up with PoliWall. Considered by  many to be the “firewall’s firewall,” PoliWall is an in-line IP filter security appliance that’s used to stop the noise generated by online traffic. By cutting the noise at the source, the
workload on other systems in the network is lessened, making the system as a whole more efficient and effective. The software secures info coming in and going out, the intuitive  graphic interface makes it easy to use, and companies can customize it to fit the level of  risk they’re comfortable with managing.
Up Next: In addition to mining the large local pool of talent here, Bandura hopes to bring  some of their software manufacturing work back to the St. Louis area.


CEO Evelyne White began BookaLokal, a marketplace to bring diners and casual cooks  together over local, unique dining experiences, when she was still working full time in  private equity. As the project developed, it grew into a global network of people who share a passion for food. Bolstered by the success of Airbnb, a site that facilitates peer-to-peer  lodging, White was able to launch her company to arrange peer-to-peer dining on the global level, taking care of the marketing, event management, customer service and acquisition—and leaving the dinner host free to focus on the experience they want to create for their guests. BookaLokal, currently part of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs’ spring 2015 cohort, recently secured $750,000 (the company started out seeking $500,000), with 75 percent of the investments coming from St. Louis.
Up Next: With three hosts already operating in the area—look for wine dinners, olive oil workshops and cheese tastings—the company is looking to expand to 25 by the end of the year while involving more restaurants in the process.


Sort of like crowdsourcing for info, Cast is a mobile app that allows users to create poll  questions—What music festival has the best lineup this year? Where should I board my dog?—and distribute them across their networks. The app, which is integrated with existing social networks, allows the user to choose from four question types and define  whether their audience will be public (on social media) or private (just among friends).  Users can also choose when a question ends. Cast is free to download and use—and users get feedback in real time.
Up Next: Though the app is great for individuals, brands can also utilize Cast to find out  more about their audiences and get feedback from real people in real time. The company is currently working with the Blues and the Rams on a pilot program to measure fan engagement.


This online platform, started in Chicago in 2011 and relocated to STL last year, connects businesses and individuals with special skills and talents to consumers who are interested in “dabbling:” learning new hobbies, skills or information but without the commitment—or cost—of an academic setting. Want to learn how to embroider or make a killer old-fashioned? St. Louis locals can teach you. Most classes are one-time shots,  low-commitment ways for locals to try something new and possibly gain exposure to a new neighborhood as well, while allowing the business to bring in new clients. Teachers
set the minimum number of participants for the class and the price. Dabble takes a percentage, but teachers get the lion’s share of the proceeds. The concept has taken hold in the St. Louis market: In its first year of business in STL, Dabble has gained 2,000 users.
Up Next: The company will soon begin hiring street teams and an assistant community manager in St. Louis, plus they’ll be launching a mobile app this summer.

Top photo: (Left to right)Pixel Press Co-founders Robin Rath, Daniel Wiseman, Josh Stevens and Rob Bennet | photo by Matt Kile

Top photo: (Left to right)Pixel Press Co-founders Robin Rath, Daniel Wiseman, Josh Stevens and Rob Bennet | photo by Matt Kile



Trying to sift through the web and find accurate, reliable news is no easy task. aims to make it easier by creating an information hub where users can access current news and research topics easily, without bias, emotion or opinion, making it more convenient and less overwhelming to follow important events. pulls data into the site, where it’s vetted and broken down into digestible, searchable topics, unlike many news sites where clicks reign supreme, not the facts.
Up Next: will also be working with brands to get accurate product information to consumers. The platform is currently in place, and the company hopes to be up and running in time for the 2016 election cycle.


In addition to focusing on its platform to create smart energy consumers, MeterGenius also hopes to bring St. Louis some recognition as a model for a green city and attract tech wealth. Founded in February of 2014, MeterGenius’ platform, available as web and mobile apps, allows customers to understand their energy consumption and save some green by  tailoring their usage. The platform also keeps providers informed, cluing them in to how and where their customers are using the most energy. In deregulated states, MeterGenuis allows electricity providers the ability to be more competitive.
Up Next: Following the company’s free pilot last year, which attracted approximately 3,000 users, MeterGenius is currently in the process of launching the first paid pilot to an estimated 6,500 users. In the meantime, the startup is in the midst of the first round of private investment outside of grants and awards, and is looking to hire four more St.  Louis-based employees with the resulting funds.


Described by founder Alex Cruz as the “IMDB for content,” PenPath measures engagement and influence across the web, utilizing social data to organize and rank web content. The platform tracks a particular writer’s work and who’s sharing it—and makes that information completely searchable.  PenPath automatically generates in-depth profiles for authors, publishers and articles,  allowing writers and publishers to see who’s sharing their work, and marketers to instantly find the most influential people in their particular industry.

Up Next: The company is looking to hire and grow in St. Louis and to become a go-to resource for area writers and marketers.


Pixel Press has developed a way to take static images and turn them into playable video  games through Pixel Press Floors, with no programming knowledge needed. A player takes a photo of his or her game ideas and Pixel Press’ technology converts the idea to pixels. Players then upload the resulting game to the net.
Up Next: Since the creation of Floors in 2014, the company has partnered with Cartoon Network to  produce games based on shows like “Adventure Time,” and they’re working to bring a life-sized version of Floors to a children’s museum this year. Pixel Press’s Bloxels—which allow video game creators to use physical blocks to bring their designs to life—should be out in the fall. The company will be looking to hire locally for a variety of
positions to handle its projects.

Pixel Press | photo by Matt Kile

Pixel Press | photo by Matt Kile


Geared toward public fund investment professionals, the PFITR platform allows for complete transparency of a portfolio, allowing all of those who have access to it to see the  complete details of all of the investments, not just a spreadsheet summary. The platform pulls info from Moody’s, S&P and others so users know the actual value of investments, and the data can’t be manipulated since it’s all under third-party control. PFITR also offers a secure Dropbox feature for financial documents and helps facilitate audit preparations and reporting.
Up Next: The company is currently raising capital for marketing, and will be launching version 2.0 in September.


Poised to be the future of employee recruitment software, rankedHiRe offers businesses a  more efficient way to source candidates. It coordinates among multiple staffing agencies,  bringing in a wider variety of candidates and giving employers a greater selection of  qualified applicants to choose from while also helping staffing agencies place their clients.  The platform offers price tools, so businesses always know the going rate for talent, and skill comparisons that assist in finding the most qualified person for the job.
Up Next: Currently, rankedHire is working with 10 STL hiring agencies and 15 businesses. The goal is for the company to eventually go nationwide—they’ll be rolling out in southern California next.

 (left to right) SanusEO Chief Executive Officer Mary Louise Helbig, Founder/Chief  Innovation Officer Dana Fowler and Client Services and  Marketing Executive Connie Gallagher

(left to right) SanusEO Chief Executive Officer Mary Louise Helbig, Founder/Chief Innovation Officer Dana Fowler and Client Services and Marketing Executive Connie Gallagher | photo by Matt Kile


Think of it as your digital doc-in-a-box: SanusEO (formerly Healthy Me) texts DIY methods and tips to manage your health, which helps avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital or the doctor’s office. Built with the goal of helping to curb the costs of chronic disease care, SanusEO’s “patient engagement platform” utilizes texting and web-based applications to help patients manage their conditions and engage in positive behavior modification. The technology also alerts caregivers to changes in the patient’s health.
Up Next: Having just wrapped initial development and launching the commercialization process earlier this year, the company will be exploring the concept of wearable medical devices and is looking to support area healthcare entities like BJC and SSM Healthcare, as well as doctors groups and insurance companies.


Think of Scholaricity as teaching-meets-learning-meets-tech: This educational platform, designed for K-12 students, allows teachers to put their curriculum online easily and quickly, without outside tech support, and makes the material easily accessible for students online. Teacher files are stored in the cloud for easy accessibility, and Scholaricity  also gives teachers info on student engagement and performance.
Up Next: The company began a pilot program this summer with teachers, and a second  pilot program for students and teachers will happen in the fall at some schools in St. Louis City. The end game is to turn St. Louis into a leader in learning tech and improve academic performance here and everywhere.


Your dream home just became that much more attainable: This online platform allows  interior designers and homeowners to come together to create the perfect space in a fraction of the time it usually takes. Via the Space Sculpt portal, designers are able to quickly create virtual design boards for customers to view, a much easier proposition than
emailing large files back and forth, and collaboration can happen in real time. The site also brings thousands of different products from top retailers together in one spot, allowing users to filter by color, price, brand and other criteria, thus eliminating the need for web browsing to find the ideal item. The products can then be added to the design board in just a couple of clicks.
Up Next: The company will be raising another round of funding in the first quarter of 2016.


Wouldn’t it be nice if your intuition and “gut feelings” were backed up (or refuted) by  empirical data, creating a faster and easier way to produce sales forecasts? Enter TopOpps, an STL startup that provides businesses with sales and forecasting analytics accessible via a wide range of devices, including cellphones, computers and iPads. By frequently updating a company’s Customer Relations Software (CRM), the platform makes it easier to enhance the sales process by predicting likely sales outcomes.
Up Next: The company has 24 employees in St. Louis (along with one in California), and they’re looking to double the number of employees by the first quarter of 2016.


Zipline aims to revolutionize the way we move money by making it an entity that lives online, going the way of music and photos. The technology combines a messaging platform that’s bank compliant and allows users to move money from account to account via text for free, with funds usually available by the next business day. It utilizes use AES 256-bit encryption along with other industry best practices to ensure customers’ data is kept safe and private.
Up Next: As of now, the company has been concentrating on individual users, though the  platform definitely has business applications they plan to explore. For the time being, Zipline is only usable within the US, but the company has aspirations for a worldwide reach.

For a broad look at the current state of the St. Louis startup scene, check out Upstart City, the first page of our feature.

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