A major St. Louis venture capital firm—which includes three WashU alumni among its cofounders—has released an analysis that shows Washington University accounts for more employees in its investment portfolio than any other university.
Cultivation Capital has invested in more than 100 early-stage startups since it was founded in 2012. Combined, those portfolio companies employ 84 WashU alumni—far and away the most of any university. The University of Missouri-Columbia was second with 52 alumni at Cultivation Capital companies, then the University of Missouri-St. Louis with 39.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Saint Louis University rounded out the top five with 36 and 32, respectively.
“WashU is bringing world-class talent to the region,” said Cliff Holekamp, a Cultivation Capital cofounder and senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Olin. Thanks to the pedigree of its cofounders, the fact that four out of 11 of its employees are WashU alumni—and the trend among its portfolio companies — “I see Cultivation Capital as being an external validation of WashU’s successful focus in entrepreneurship,” Holekamp said.
The firm’s employment analysis also showed that its firms have contributed at least 2,586 new jobs to the economy in firms based in St. Louis, around the country and around the world. The largest share of those employees—19 percent—are working in St. Louis. More than 11 percent work in Silicon Valley, 6 percent in Chicago, and about 4.5 percent in New York City.
The firm used LinkedIn data to determine how many people its portfolio firms had employed, where they lived, and which schools they attended.
LockerDome, a St. Louis-based technology firm, is among Cultivation Capital’s portfolio companies with more than $18 million invested—and a number of WashU grads on the payroll. LockerDome’s Jim Enright, senior vice president for business development and marketing (not a WashU grad himself) tattooed Cultivation Capital’s logo to his bicep after one of its funding rounds.
Holekamp noted that “despite having international reach, 20 percent of our jobs are being created here.” About a quarter of the jobs created among Cultivation companies were in engineering; 21 percent in business development; 13 percent in information technology; and 13 percent in sales.
About 11 percent of employees in Cultivation firms classified themselves as simply in “entrepreneurship.”
Holekamp said the analysis was a great illustration of the big things that can happen among smaller companies. “There is too much emphasis on major corporate hirings and firings,” he said. “All along, in the background, we have small companies hiring.”