Author: CELect at T-REx


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.

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

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

FinLocker provides a secure financial data and analytics platform and works with mortgage lenders to reduce borrower frustrations and lender costs associated in getting a mortgage approved as fast as possible, while increasing certainty for investors. FinLocker accomplishes this by electronically capturing and analyzing borrower data such as employment, income, assets, credit, and other information. Consumers are able to share their financial information without worrying about that information being compromised. FinLocker provides greater certainty to lenders while reducing costs, risk, and potential fraud.

FinLocker has asked the CELect team to determine how it can leverage its technology to aid lenders in areas other than mortgages.

Our team is working with FinLocker to determine which area will provide the best opportunities and make the greatest impact for FinLocker, lenders, and investors. In order to accomplish this, our team will research different types of loans (student loans, auto loans, personal loans, rental, consolidated loans, small business loans, and peer-to-peer lending), and determine which is most attractive. Once we determine which type of loan is most attractive, our team will learn exactly how FinLocker can add value to lenders and investors for those loans.

finlockerOur team is thrilled for the opportunity to work with FinLocker and its experienced team. We are thankful for this real world experience through Washington University in St. Louis’ Center for Experiential Learning and are excited to be a part of FinLocker’s efforts to change the lending landscape.

CELect Team: Mike Manovich, Law; Cole West, BSBA; Tyler Combest, Law; David Allston, MBA

The Problem: The nursing home market is facing unprecedented growth as the 76 million baby boomers across the United States start to enter retirement. Surprisingly, the majority of these facilities have not sufficiently modernized to meet the challenges brought on by this newfound demand. Specifically, over 50% of nursing homes still use a paper-based system to manage the care of their patients and store their health records. Meanwhile many of those who have switched to an electronic system are tied down by un-intuitive programs with bulky and expensive in-house servers run by companies whose customer service often parallels that of the heavily maligned cable industry.

A Solution: In 2012 BlueStrata EHR was founded as a cloud-based solution to this dire problem. BlueStrata’s digital SaaS (Software as a Service)-model system allows nursing homes to dump their paper systems and expensive servers. The platform enables homes to conveniently access their patient records, medication information, and reporting from anywhere and was built from the ground up with an easy to use interface for nurses and other home employees. Most significantly, BlueStrata is dedicated to delivering best-in-class customer service with on-site on-boarding and implementation, a 24/7 live client support desk, and an online suite of webinars and informational documentation.

The Consultants’ Challenge: Despite BlueStrata’s numerous benefits, marketing and sales dollars are limited. In order to determine how the firm can most efficiently utilize their resources to most effectively reach the largest amount of potential customers, the company has enrolled our help. We are a team of multidisciplinary graduate students from the CELect course at Washington University in St. Louis. CELect is a unique class where students perform consulting projects for start-ups in the St. Louis area as a method of experiential learning while also giving back to the community.

Our group – Robert Bailen, Rachael Lin, Michael Foland, and Tarun Sengar, are working directly with Tony Coco, BlueStrata’s president, to help advise on how to best leverage the benefits of their ERP (enterprise resource planning) platform in a targeted multi-media marketing campaign. Working alongside Mr. Coco and the BlueStrata team has been a great opportunity for us thus far. We have not only been able to witness first-hand how BlueStrata helps homes manage their workflow, but also how they save homes significant amounts of money through increased insurance reimbursements and reduction of human error.

BlueStrata is one of the recent success stories of St. Louis’ burgeoning entrepreneurship scene, which has been driven in large part due to Mr. Coco’s leadership. Mr. Coco was the former director of marketing services and brand management for Victor Technologies, a cutting and welding equipment provider. Victor Technologies was acquired in 2014 by the Maryland-based industrial firm Colfax Corp for $947 million. BlueStrata, meanwhile,  raised $1.66 million from the life science fund of St. Louis venture capital firm Cultivation Capital in August 2015. They’re continuing to grow at a rapid pace and just recently moved into new offices in Creve Coeur to house their increasing number of employees as they continue on their path to help nursing homes nationwide.

Team: Robert Bailen, MBA; Rachael Lin, PMBA; Michael Foland,Law; Tarun Sengar, MBA