Inside St. Louis’ newest venture accelerator

This semester, I have had the incredible experience of serving on the Center for Experiential Learning Entrepreneurial Consulting Team (CELect). The CELect program pairs graduate students with St. Louis based startups. Over the course of the semester, student teams complete consulting projects designed to help young companies achieve specific business outcomes.

T-Rex Lammert bldg

Coworking space at T-Rex. Photo courtesy of John Warren, Jones Lang LaSalle.

CELect classes are held at T-Rex, a technology incubator and coworking space located in downtown St. Louis. The modern workplace stations at T-Rex are complete with dinosaur-themed murals, glass-paneled conference rooms, and individual phone booths. The juxtaposition of the building’s historic architecture and its creative, fun-loving interior make T-Rex the ideal entrepreneurship classroom. Located close to a MetroLink train station, it is very convenient for students to travel back and forth from campus.

Our first CELect class was a full day of instruction, co-taught by Cliff Holekamp, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Director of the Entrepreneurship Platform, and Bart Hamilton, Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship. Together, the professors gave an overview of the St. Louis entrepreneurial landscape and provided tips for how to be an effective startup consultant. Throughout the day, Olin alumni stopped by to share the personal reasons why they chose an entrepreneurial career over the traditional corporate path.

ProsperAfter our first class, we were divided into teams and set loose to get started on our projects! My team’s consulting project is for Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Startup Accelerator, a new player in the St. Louis venture capital scene. Founded in 2014, Prosper Accelerator makes twelve $50,000 equity investments each year in women-led technology, life sciences, and CPG startup companies. The businesses selected to receive capital participate in a three month program designed to help female entrepreneurs scale their companies and receive additional venture investment.

Throughout the semester, we have had the opportunity to meet with Prosper executives, interview the entrepreneurs running Prosper’s portfolio companies, and get an inside look at how the accelerator operates. It has been very rewarding to work with an organization dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs, especially since I have future entrepreneurial plans of my own. Our team is excited for what the rest of the project will bring, and believe that we can make a lasting impact on the future of the accelerator!

Pictured above, Prosper CELect team from left to right: Fabiola Paz, MBA’16; Elise Miller, MBA’16;  Alicia Harris JD’16; and John Hamlett, JD’16.

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