Author: CELect at T-REx

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About CELect at T-REx

Taught at the T-REX technology co-working space and incubator, students in CELect consult for various St. Louis startups from around the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The course includes students from the MBA and JD programs, as well as Undergraduate Business, Engineering, and Arts & Sciences.


Givable is a new St. Louis startup that provides a platform for charitable giving and community involvement. Their mission is to “empower individuals and businesses to fuel change by making giving easy, social, and interactive.”

The company was founded on the principle of contributing to and empowering the growth and development of the St. Louis community. While there are numerous charities within St. Louis, individuals and businesses may not be aware of their existence and/or purpose. Givable shines a light on these charities and allows individuals to conveniently contribute to them and/or get involved within their communities.

Through Givable’s interactive micro-donations, charitable giving is easy and fun. Its transparent and trusted platform will allow Givable to lead the way in community-focused, subscriber-based giving mechanisms.

elise_hastings

Elise Hastings

As a team, we are helping Givable develop a marketing strategy to increase subscriber awareness and acquisition. After conducting an industry and market analysis, we now know that St. Louis has tremendous potential to enter into the new era of giving. We have also enjoyed having the opportunity to work with the founder and executive director of Givable, Elise Hastings. Ms. Hastings has truly inspired us to learn more about the St. Louis community and the potential number of organizations that Givable could serve.

Our ultimate goal is to help Givable grow, and through the process we hope to make a positive and lasting impact on both the company’s marketing strategy and the St. Louis community’s involvement with local charities.

Givable logo_darkCompany Background: Founded with the support of the Regional Business Council, the Staenberg Foundation and Cultivation Capital, Givable is a subscription-based daily philanthropy platform designed to engage millennials with awareness of social engagement and habitual giving to local nonprofits.

Project Goal: Identify an audience and create a marketing strategy to target that audience and increase Givable’s subscriber base.

CELect Givable Team: Adam Brock, BSBA; Allison Halpern, BSBA; Andrew Mackin, Law; and Nirav Patel, Law




Pixel Press is a company created by people who weren’t satisfied with simply playing video games – they wanted to make them their own. Many people share this desire, but practical limitations were an obstacle to creating their own universe. Pixel Press allows everyday people to easily overcome these obstacles by offering products that transform paper drawings and building-block configurations into content that can played, edited and shared on a variety of platforms. They help the average person become a mastermind architect by exercising their whole brain – the analytical left side and the creative right side.

Playing video games is fun, but creating your own video game, playing your own video game and sharing it with your friends takes it to the next level. Not surprisingly, Pixel Press’ products have already enjoyed much success on the retail side of their business. Additionally, both Pixel Press and teachers have recognized the educational potential of their products and Pixel Press is planning to expand their educational offerings through their hands-on product Bloxels. Our project is focused on this expansion into the educational market.

bloxelsBloxels uses a grid and color-coded blocks that allow a traditional childhood toy – blocks – to be transformed into an interactive universe. As a standalone product, parents and teachers have already discovered ways to use Bloxels to teach kids STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focused learning principles – such as prototyping, design thinking, teamwork and collaboration, and user empathy. Pixel Press is making it even easier for schools and teachers to use Bloxels as an educational tool by designing lesson plans and related materials that teach specific skills and concepts.

In order to be successful in its expansion into the educational space, Pixel Press has asked our team to research and evaluate the educational software market in order to create a plan for successful expansion. The founders of Pixel Press have explained what makes their company successful, how their products work, and the opportunities they see for expanding into education.

Our team will be making recommendations about how educational services should be modeled, priced, and implemented in accordance with Pixel Press’ vision for success. These recommendations will be backed up by a competitive analysis of the educational software market and data gathered from the customer segment that matters most: the teachers and administrators who will be implementing Bloxels as an educational tool in their classrooms and schools.

CELect Pixel Press Team: Mark Nesdill, Law; Kalin Pearce, MBA; TJ Ragsdale, BSBA; Jordan Sazant, Law




ITEN, the IT Entrepreneur Network, has been a catalyst of the St. Louis region’s IT startup ecosystem since its founding in 2008. ITEN cultivates startups from the idea stage to successful business platforms. ITEN’s success in developing startups has long been rooted in mentorship: successful entrepreneurs and business people have played a role in guiding new companies through their early stages. The mentorship process has been successful in sprouting a network of interconnected entrepreneurs and resources. With the focus on keeping talented entrepreneurs in the St. Louis area, ITEN offers long-term engagement with the entrepreneur which includes numerous opportunities for education and personal growth.

Our team has met with Francis Chmelir, the executive director of ITEN, to discuss how to best move ITEN forward in a changing technological environment.

iten_logo-copyThe fundamental goals of ITEN remain intact from its initiation: connect talented entrepreneurs with each other and with mentors; educate entrepreneurs in how to best navigate early-stage business; and facilitate entrepreneurs’ relationship with St. Louis in a way that incentivizes talent to stay local.

Our team’s plan of attack will cover three general areas; together we will address ITEN’s current concerns and ensure ITEN’s continued success in the St. Louis startup ecosystem.

  • First, we will investigate ITEN’s corporate engagement initiative. In doing this, we will assess the availability of specific partnerships that ITEN can tap into, along with participation incentives for both entrepreneurs and mentors.
  • Next, we will assess the potential for local collaboration on data management and administration. Ideally, we would like to figure out a way to streamline all of St. Louis startup data to facilitate collaboration between groups.
  • Lastly, we will perform a high-level analysis of ecosystems in other similarly-situated cities. We hope to learn from the ITENs of other cities to inform our path forward to assist ITEN as best we can.

We look forward to working closely with Francis throughout the semester and uncovering ways ITEN can continue to reach its full potential in St. Louis!

Our CELect team includes: Danny Kraus (JD ‘17), Andrew Polansky (JD/MBA ‘18), Alana Siegel (JD/MBA ‘17), and Michael Washington (JD ‘ 18).


The Midwest is known as the breadbasket of the United States. Food production was, and continues to be, critical to the growth and development of the United States and nations around the world. As global food scarcity becomes an increasingly urgent issue, governments will grapple with viable methods to increase sustainably the global food supply.

Yield LabYield Lab is an accelerator for agricultural technology startups. The companies in its portfolio receive seed funding and business mentoring in the hopes of harvesting innovations that seek to either increase agricultural yields for farmers or bring efficient solutions in the field. Increasing agricultural yields will grow the global food supply and will have a marked effect in staving off alarming levels of world hunger.

Yield Lab is currently cultivating 15 startups. Each is geared toward assisting farmers to optimize their food production. The Yield Lab recently expanded its operations overseas to Galway, Ireland and, in February 2017, admitted three new startup companies into its accelerator program.

The portfolio is diverse and ranges from a company like Holganix, which produces a 100%-natural bio-nutritional product that promotes strong plant health and sustainable soils while reducing the need for traditional fertilizers and pesticides, to Aptimmune that specializes in the development and application of prophylactic measures against viral diseases of swine.

As part of Washington University’s “CELect” entrepreneur consulting course with Professor Cliff Holekamp, law students Harshil Shukla and Spenser Owens teamed with undergraduate business students Kyle Birns and Josh Moskow to assist local agricultural technology accelerator, Yield Lab, in identifying meaningful ways of collecting and reporting environmental, social, and economic impact metrics to investors.

More information about the Yield Lab can be found at http://www.theyieldlab.com.

Blog post by: Kyle Birns (BSBA’17), Josh Moskow (BSBA’17), Harshil Shukla (JD’18), and Spenser Owens (JD’18).




SafeTrek is an app that helps you feel comfortable in scary or unsafe situations. When you feel unsafe, you hold down a button on your smartphone. If you release the button and do not input your password within 10 seconds, SafeTrek automatically sends police to your exact location. As a student, Zack, SafeTrek CEO, noticed that a lot of women on campus felt unsafe, but did not always want to run to the blue buttons that call security. So Zack and three friends built the smartphone app that has since attracted over 250,000 users across the United States.

safetrek2What makes SafeTrek unique is the built-in GPS function that sends your exact location to police—most police operators do not have the capacity to pinpoint callers. Furthermore, everyone always has their phones with them, which eliminates the need to look for a college blue-light system if you are on campus. Another benefit the app provides is useful data to security authorities indicating areas where people feel most unsafe and where increased security may be needed.

Our team has been able to meet with the SafeTrek executive team, learn more about what it takes to run a startup, and more importantly, the significance of maintaining a cutting-edge company that continues to beat market expectations. Safetrek has assigned us a project to create a marketing plan from strategy-to-implementation, and has been extremely hands-on with their approach. We met yesterday to collaborate and narrow our scope for implementation. Our team had a chance to brainstorm with SafeTrek’s team responsible for its success and we added value by offering a new perspective on creating that one channel that will make them continue to succeed with millennials.

Our goal working as a team, and with SafeTrek, is to go beyond a written report. More importantly, they are expecting a tangible implementation of our idea. We look forward to our upcoming meetings and brainstorming on more ways to increase downloads, usage, and build new platforms for the company.

CELect SafeTrek Team: Michelle Palka, Law; Daniel Tamasi, MBA; Daniel Vilardo, BSBA; Nathan Vogt, BS Engineering