Tag: trex

Students in the CELect Entrepreneurship Course, held at the T-REx startup accelerator, are sharing their team projects with the Olin Blog. Undergraduate student team George Dunning, Devin Goodkin, Brian Kim, and Josh Rotker describe their experience working with local startup Tallyfy.

Our group met at the first class meeting, where Prof. Cliff Holekamp explained basic strategies to estimate market size using top-down and bottom-up approaches. During this time, we were also able to form a work plan for the semester by identifying our project, delegating responsibilities, and creating a timeline for the deliverables.

One week into the project, we met up with Tallyfy CEO Amit Kothari to flesh out Tallyfy’s needs. Amit is extremely passionate about Tallyfy’s vision and provided us with a plethora of insight on the company’s past, present, and future. He ensured that we were well-equipped to approach the project, and made it clear that he is readily available for communication throughout the duration of the project.

Our team has been consulting with Amit to deliver a go-to-market plan for their newest application, One URL, a process-tracking and workflow tool. Amit tasked us with identifying which markets offered the greatest potential for this new app.

Part of the challenge is narrowing down the vast array of potential markets. We first created a set of criteria for the types of companies and business processes that could best utilize One URL. In our initial brainstorming, our team was able to identify over 30 markets, which we then limited to 10 initial markets.

This stage taught us the value of utilizing research and data. While we initially assumed certain markets would be a perfect fit, those assumptions happened to be short-lived. Prior research and current applications negated the feasibility of implementing One URL into what we originally thought were strong industries. With a deep dive into each of the 10 markets, we narrowed down the top potential to four markets.

We have also utilized interviews as a tool for this process. Talking to professionals within these potential markets has provided incredible and tangible insight. With this information, we can better understand the needs of niche markets and identify the decision makers Amit would need to reach out to in order to implement One URL.

Throughout the process, Cliff has pointed out pitfalls, helped us align consumer willingness to pay with Tallyfy’s price strategy, and clarified the types of markets to pursue. Additionally, Cliff has advised us to interview as many business professionals as possible, in order to fully grasp the “business pains” this product will solve.

Our plan is to deliver a detailed and implementable go-to-market plan for One URL. We will do so by conducting more in-depth interviews, sizing the market, getting as much feedback as we can, and writing out the plan. We look forward to delivering it to Amit and his team!

Guest bloggers: George Dunning, Brian Kim, and Josh Rotker, all BSBA ’18, and Devin Goodkin, Arts & Sciences ’18. 

Our team’s work on investigating Intellectual Property (IP) issues for Invisible Industries has been very interesting and given us insights into the IP issues that startup companies have to worry about. A startup company not only has to know the various IP issues, but also must prepare a strategy to react if it receives notice of an infringement or discovers others infringing. That is because a startup company has limited resources and so, while the company might be right under the law, it might lack the resources to combat or pursue action with regards to IP.

Patents with relation to software are at a very unique status in patent law history. Because of a court ruling, patents were opened for software uses several years ago as computers were becoming popular. Up until the mid-2000’s, companies were using patents to protect different features of software. Amazon’s 1-click ordering button is the best example. Amazon currently has the patent on that button and defends it vigorously.

However, in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that software couldn’t be patented, and so, two years later (the time it took to get all pending patents evaluated), all software patents stopped. Currently, software patents are not permitted, though some exist because of this window. Moreover, the Supreme Court left the question of software patents open. That is, the Supreme Court ruled that the issue of software patents was not finalized. The Court wanted to see how technology would evolve before making a ruling.

Theoretically, a startup could still file a patent for software and hope that the Supreme Court would rule differently in the near future and decide the open aspect of the current patent law. But, as stated before, a startup has limited resources. A Start-up can’t spend those limited resources on expensive patents that are long-shots at best. Instead, we need to find other ways to help protect IP including trademarks, trade secrets, and copyrights. Again, those other aspects of IP will be analyzed in a legal sense and a strategic business sense to give Invisible Industries the best recommendation.

CELect team: James Bierman, MBA’16; Prateek Gupta, Engineering; Kevin Jacobsen, Law; Max Suiter, Fine Arts


How can a community help its aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their dreams into successful businesses? Especially if some of its members come from less-privileged backgrounds with little training in business acumen? Our client, David Stiffler seeks to provide an answer to these questions through his proposed project, Entrepreneurship for All. By devoting a floor in the T-Rex building to an entrepreneurship-mentoring program for the low-income high performance college students, David hopes to extend T-Rex’s excellent entrepreneurship offerings to previously unsupported demographics of the St. Louis Community.

Many cities across the United States are struggling with urban development trends that divide neighborhoods based on their residents’ social-economic status. This is particularly apparent in our city of St. Louis, where city blocks from the same street can differ so drastically that they are unrecognizable from each other. The large gap in economic incomes also partially contributed to the recent demonstrations that have gripped our city and raised serious questions regarding race, social status, and economic equality. Entrepreneurship can be a potential solution for enabling economic development in low-income neighborhoods and reducing the number of under-educated/unemployed youths in the city. By providing students from these areas with the training needed to build their own businesses, the students can then increase economic activity in their neighborhoods and provide employment opportunities. This new focus on entrepreneurship has already been identified as a paradigm shift in cities such as Pittsburgh or Detroit.

The successful business owners of St. Louis have been working hard on improving the city’s entrepreneurship ecosystem through enticing aspiring entrepreneurs from across the country to relocate to St. Louis. This system is gaining momentum through initiatives like Venture Café, Arch Grants, and Coretex… where members are carefully nurtured and are producing better startups every year. Opening up the ecosystem to underprivileged youth can potentially provide the economic force necessary to reinvigorate our city, especially if a program is developed specifically for them at T-Rex, one of the centers of entrepreneurship located in the middle of downtown ST. Louis.

Our client David Stiffler, is the Community Affairs Manager at Equifax. David has identified this need and wishes to bring the program into existence. Our objective is then to conduct a feasibility study on the Entrepreneurship for All project. We need to first identify the physical requirements necessary to launch such a program. We then need to validate the fit and sustainability of moving such a program into the T-Rex space. Finally, we need to identify the demographic segment targeted by this program as well as any potential existing programs that are helping the same demographic.

We will be reaching out and conducting one-on-one interviews with the leadership at T-Rex, Arch Grants, Coretex… to analyze the current entrepreneurship ecosystem. We will also be researching existing programs in other cities and if their success can be adopted for St. Louis. Our results should enable us to better understand the gap that can be filled by the Entrepreneurship for All program and its potential success in helping the community.

This post was written by Finn Liu, MBA ’16, Kenneth Mao, MBA ’16, Colin Stapleton, MBA ‘16, Greg Scharine, PMBA

When the downtown St. Louis Macy’s closed its doors on August 1, it was the end of an era. There had been a department store in that spot for more than 100 years, and it was a fixture in the St. Louis business landscape. But the end of one era signaled the beginning of another.

On the same day, in the same building where Macy’s shut its doors, 12 floors up, SixThirty Financial Services Tech accelerator was opening up for business.

TRex building

The Railway Exchange building in downtown St. Louis, home to a new startup accelerator and T-REx.

SixThirty is the brainchild of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Cultivation Capital. The goal is to bring new financial tech companies to St. Louis.

Over the past few years, St. Louis has established itself as a powerhouse community for startups. But long before that, it was a center for financial services companies.

St. Louis is one of the largest financial centers outside of New York City. SixThirty leverages the strengths of both the financial and startup communities in St. Louis.

Those companies selected to take part in the four-month accelerator program will receive hands-on training, mentoring, and networking opportunities with the top financial services companies in the region. They also receive $100,000 each to build their businesses in St. Louis. At the end of the program, these companies will present to a forum of financial services leaders, investors, and stakeholders. The program gives them unparalleled access and opportunities to take their business to the next level.

But getting this program off the ground wasn’t easy. The SixThirty launch process was an amazing feat. Within a matter of weeks, the SixThirty team drafted a business plan, found sponsorship, funding, launched a website, press campaign, and has already secured dozens of applicants.

Washington University students were at the heart of the action. Olin second-year MBA Kasey Joyce drafted a large portion of the business plan and headed up the outreach program for applicants and media. Several Olin students helped find and vet new companies to contact for the program, including Sebastian Mathalkunnel, Harry Bolson, Mark Gillis, Kyle Tabor, and Sahil Lalwani.

St. Louis continues to receive national and international attention for the startup community building in the heart of the city; and I am confident we will continue to see Olin students and alums at the center of it all. If you or someone you know would be a good fit for SixThirty, check out the website, sixthirty.co and apply by September 6.

You can’t walk through the halls of St. Louis’ startup community, T-REx, without running into an Olin student or graduate. You’ll find them in leadership and key roles at the city’s hottest startups.

Cliff Holekamp, center, talks with Ryan Rakestraw, left, MBA’13, who joined Cultivation Capital after graduation as a principal.

At Cultivation Capital, we have several Olin students and grads on staff; they’re a big part of the deals we have been able to make this summer.

In the past week, Cultivation Capital has announced $1,000,000 worth of investments in two exciting St. Louis startups: Tunespeak and Trakbill. Olin students have been a major part of each of these investments.

Tunespeak is a St. Louis-based musician-to-fan loyalty platform. It connects bands to their most loyal and influential fans, rewarding fans for listening, sharing and promoting bands on their existing social media networks.

Tunespeak does something no other music site on the market is doing: it connects bands to their best fans in a way that benefits, and is meaningful, to both. And there are several Olin students in on the ground floor helping make it happen.

Brothers Tom and Rick Pernikoff are founders of Tunespeak. They also tour and record music with their alternative rock band, “The Pernikoff Brothers”.

Through Olin’s CELect course, we had two teams of Olin students work on consulting projects for Tunespeak. Last semester, Olin undergrad Sahil Lalwani led a market research project.

This summer, Kasey Joyce, Vibha Vemana, Tod Raeber, and Abbey Hable, are working on a new product development project for the startup.

Cultivation Capital also just announced a $500,000 investment in Trakbill. Trakbill came to St. Louis from the University of Illinois as an awardee of the Arch Grants business plan competition.

I have joined the TrakBill Board of Directors, and two Olin students, David Fatoki and Jenny Wu, are working for TrakBill this summer as interns. Founder and President Steven Marciniak created the company in 2012 with the goal of making it easier to navigate the legislative process.

TrakBill provides real-time legislation tracking via its online advocacy search engine. Lobbyists, advocacy groups, or individual citizens can sign up to be updated and alerted to state and federal legislative developments in their areas of interest.

TrakBill co-founders Steven Marciniak and Sam Sullivan.

Both the Tunespeak and TrakBill investments could not have happened without our team of analysts and associates from Olin who conducted significant research and due diligence for these opportunities.

Olin MBAs Kyle Tabor and Mark Gillis, along with undergraduates Harry Bolson and Sahil Lalwani, put together a comprehensive evaluation of both investments.

There has been incredible buzz and energy in the St. Louis startup community this summer. This video does a great job of capturing it.

As you can see, it’s been a busy summer for Olin’s entrepreneurship faculty and students. Stay tuned for more to come!

Photo credit: grace_kat’s photostream