Access to funders and a readily accessible network of customers, mentors and advisors made St. Louis an attractive startup location for WashU Olin grads and entrepreneurs Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17, and Marc Bernstein, BSBA ’15.
Both founders shared their reasons for establishing—and keeping—their startups in the St. Louis area in a story in the St. Louis Business Journal‘s entrepreneurship publication INNO last week (registration may be required). Bernstein, 29, is co-founder and CEO of Balto, which provides real-time call guidance software used by contact centers. Glantz, 27, is co-founder and CEO of GiftAMeal. Through its mobile app, GiftAMeal provides meals to people in need each time a user takes a photo at a partner restaurant.
According to the story, Bernstein originally didn’t think about staying in St. Louis, but when establishing a startup, he and his partners were very intentional, considering Washington, DC, Detroit, San Francisco and St. Louis for the location. “We chose St. Louis because it had a super low cost in that we felt like we had the network to get some early traction,” Bernstein told the journal.
An early investor in the St. Louis area, along with restaurant partners in the region, compelled Glantz to keep his company in the region from the get-go. “It’s been really encouraging how the startup scene has grown over the course of the last five to eight years that I’ve been here and started to be involved in it with all the different resources and just the collaborative ecosystem that’s here,” Glantz told the journal.
Read more in “Why 2 startup founders, both transplants from the coasts, decided to build their companies in St. Louis,” from St. Louis INNO.
At top: Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17, and Marc Bernstein, BSBA ’15. Photos by Dilip Vishwanat, published courtesy of the Business Journal.
Part of a series of Q&As with Olin BSBA alumni. Today we hear from Andrew Glantz, BSBA ’17. Andrew founded GiftAMeal, a company that developed a mobile app that helps restaurants reach new audiences while empowering users to feed someone in need.
What are you doing for work now, and how did your Olin education impact your career?
I am working on growing a startup I founded while I was a student at WashU called GiftAMeal. GiftAMeal is a mobile app that helps provide a meal to someone in need each time a user takes a photo at a partner restaurant.
Restaurants pay a monthly subscription to be on the app for marketing, and then we cover all the costs of donations to local food banks to feed the hungry. My Olin education has massively assisted GiftAMeal’s growth. From entrepreneurship courses like The Hatchery to marketing to negotiations to organizational behavior, I constantly pull from knowledge learned in Olin.
Additionally, the professors have been amazing advisors of mine, and we have actually been able to run some marketing experiments on GiftAMeal led by WashU professors to get their expert analysis!
In addition to the valuable course content and professors, my fellow classmates were majorly impactful. Olin has so many smart, driven students that are also incredibly unique. From conversations in the dorms, over lunch, or in the BSBA lounge, I was constantly learning from my peers and seeking their feedback.
What Olin course, ‘defining moment’ or faculty influenced your life most, and why?
The course that influenced me the most was organizational behavior. I bounced around from finance to economics and strategy. After taking OB 360, I realized my passion laid at the intersection of business and psychology.
Learning how people and organizations operate fascinated me and directed how I formed my team, negotiated contracts, built sales pitches, secured investment and built sustainable practices for my business.
How do you stay engaged with Olin or your Olin classmates and friends?
I stay engaged with Olin in a variety of ways. I serve as an associate member of the Alumni Board of Governors, a member of the Olin LEAD Committee, and as a member of the Skandalaris Center Eliot Society Committee.
I also occasionally guest lecture at WashU, hire WashU interns, conduct research with WashU professors, work with students who do class projects on GiftAMeal and mentor WashU student entrepreneurs. I stay in touch with my friends who graduated alongside me through Facebook, LinkedIn, phone calls, texts and occasional visits to one another.
Why is business education important?
Business education is crucial to build a solid foundation for how to think through problem solving and the fundamental components of what is needed for an organization to succeed.
Regardless of the organization, knowledge of finance, accounting, marketing, organizational behavior and strategy is just so necessary in order to make yourself a value add and to be able to see the bigger picture.
Looking back, what advice would you give current Olin students?
Looking back, I would advise Olin students to write down a few key takeaways at the end of each semester that they had about each of their courses. Then, when you have graduated, you can occasionally look back to remind yourself of those learnings and have them act as sparks to help you remember important things you learned in your courses.
I would also say to enjoy college, balance having fun and academics and get involved doing something you are passionate about. Olin presents so many opportunities for students, and this is the time to experiment and learn what you like and don’t like and find out who you want to be as a person in your future career.
Conceived on a lunch break, born in undergraduate school and funded before Andrew Glantz’s graduation, GiftAMeal has made headlines and garnered attention from the startup world before. Now, the company’s cofounder and CEO has been featured with a Q&A in the St. Louis Business Journal outlining how the idea came about and why it’s expanded into three cities since its 2015 launch.
In a Dec. 21 piece on the Journal’s website (subscription required for full article), Glantz, BSBA ’17, said the company was conceived as a way to help promote restaurants and contribute to a social good at the same time. “It’s a free way to give back to the community and be a part of the solution to the hunger problem,” Glantz told the Journal.
GiftAMeal operates a mobile app that makes it easy for diners to “turn a photo into food.” They can find restaurants they love and donate a meal to an area food pantry by simply posting a photo as they have their meal.
The Journal feature covers how the idea launched, its early efforts to get funding, the challenge of signing on its first restaurant partner and the biggest challenge it faces today: “Figuring out how to scale GiftAMeal from what we have, to being a nationwide company.”
The company now serves Operation Food Search in St. Louis (where it has 75 restaurant partners), Lakeview Pantry in Chicago (25), and Forgotten Harvest in Detroit (six). Glantz said the company is at a breakeven point—though he’s not yet taking a salary yet—with monthly revenue up 195 percent over last year.
Olin Professor Cliff Holekamp told the Journal the app’s values goes beyond what it provides to the pantries, but also to the participating restaurants.
“Not only does it position them as a socially conscious business,” said Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship and academic director for entrepreneurship, “but it delivers them tangible marketing value in the process. It’s a win-win for both the restaurants and for the people who are being helped by the meals donated through the platform.”