Tag: venture capital

The St. Louis Business Journal’s cover story Feb. 27 features Cultivation Capital, a venture capital firm powered by several Olin and WashU alumni who are making deals that are fueling the startup revolution in St. Louis. Under the headline: “In the Money: Cultivation Capital commits nearly $100 million to startups,” you will find these alumni among the partners of Cultivation Capital: Cliff Holekamp, MBA’01 and Olin senior lecturer in Entrepreneurship; Rick Holton Jr., MBA’04; Jim McKelvey Jr., AB & BSCS’87; and Kasey Joyce Grelle, MBA’14.

Photo: The St. Louis Business Journal

On Friday, October 3, Olin MBA students gathered for the Entrepreneurship Platform Summit. The summit was designed as an introduction for students interested in learning more about the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that has emerged in the St. Louis region.

Cliff Holekamp, Director of the Entrepreneurship Platform at the Olin Business School, commented that “the purpose of the Entrepreneurship Platform Summit is to showcase the various career paths for students who study entrepreneurship. Founding a startup is only one of the many possibilities.”

Throughout the day, students heard from representatives from business accelerators, founders of startups, venture capital investment professionals, and managers who employ an entrepreneurial mindset within larger companies. The keynote speaker was David Karandish, CEO of Answers.com, a St. Louis based company that began in a WashU dorm room.

The panelists, many of whom graduated from Washington University, shared their personal successes and struggles with an enthusiastic group of students. The energy in the room was palpable as entrepreneurship professionals offered advice for the many students hoping to follow in their footsteps.

The summit is one of many ways Olin MBA students engage in entrepreneurship activities. Students can take foundational Entrepreneurship courses, pursue either the Commercial Entrepreneurship or Social Entrepreneurship Platform, and gain experience consulting for young enterprises through the Olin Center for Experiential Learning’s Entrepreneurial Consulting Team. Students also have the opportunity to work closely with the Washington University Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, a cross-campus initiative which connects student entrepreneurs and innovators.

The next opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs is the Olin Entrepreneurship Trek on October 24. Students will spend the day in downtown St. Louis, visiting co-working spaces including Cortex, Cambridge Innovation Center, Nebula, and T-Rex. The day will culminate in a reception where students can connect with local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Photo: Jennifer Ehlan, Vice President at Thompson Street Capital Partners, speaks about founding Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, a business accelerator created to address the entrepreneur gender gap in St. Louis.

A new startup accelerator program designed to promote and fund women-led ventures in St. Louis has been announced by Prosper, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.

The Prosper accelerator will invest $600,000 in 12 startups begining in January 2015. Olin alumnae Mary Jo Gorman, founder of Advanced ICU Care and Kasey Grelle, a principal at Cultivation Capital, will play major roles in a new for-profit division to be called Prosper Capital.

ProsperProsper Women Entrepreneurs was created to address the entrepreneur gender gap in the St. Louis region.  It was established by a group of business leaders, thinkers, doers, innovators and students who want to make sure that our community is well positioned in the new economy and, more specifically, that women entrepreneurs area vital part of its future.

The organization has two divisions, Prosper Institute and Prosper Capital:
Prosper Institute is a non-profit organization that focuses on training and mentoring women in the entrepreneurial community through our Mastermind, Youth & Collegiate, and Entrepreneurship Resource programs.

Prosper Capital is a for-profit division that focuses on increasing women entrepreneurs’ access to growth capital and the number of women investing in early stage capital markets. The Prosper Accelerator makes equity investments in women-led technology, life sciences, and consumer product startup companies.  Selected companies take part in a three-month accelerator program with training, mentoring, and curriculum designed specifically to help women scale their business and raise follow-on capital. Prosper Women Entrepreneurs is dedicated to investing in women-owned and women-led businesses through our Angel Network.

Image: Women vs Men by goliardico, Flickr Creative Commons


Don Breckenridge

Olin graduates continue to make a strong mark on the St. Louis startup scene. This week Cultivation Capital was pleased to announce it is leading  $1.25 million dollar investment in Hatchbuck, an innovative and easy-to-use sales and marketing software for small businesses.

Hatchbuck’s founder, Don Breckenridge, Jr., is an Olin 1995 BSBA graduate.  As part of the deal, I will join the Hatchbuck board.

Deciding to invest in Hatchbuck was not a difficult decision for our team at Cultivation Capital.  Our analyst team of mainly Olin students worked on a diligence package to evaluate the deal. Our investment committee made the final decision to invest, based upon Hatchbuck’s pattern of increasing month-over-month growth. We want the opportunity to help drive that growth even further.  This round of funding will enable Hatchbuck’s team to reach more potential customers, show them how great Hatchbuck’s product is, and help them grow. We’re excited to watch the Hatchbuck growth story unfold.

Hatchbuck is among the dozens of startups at T-REx getting ready to make the move from the current incubator space at 6th and Olive to the new T-REx headquarters in the Lammert Building on Washington Avenue. Washington University will have an official presence in the new space, giving our students the opportunity to work one-on-one with some of the most innovative startups in the country. I look forward to updating you on Olin’s impact on the startup community in 2014!


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

Cultivation Capital is pleased to announce its recent hire of Ryan Rakestraw, who will join the team as a principal immediately following his graduation from Washington University’s MBA program.  Within this role, Ryan will oversee the deal flow pipeline as well as manage diligence efforts. Rakestraw previously worked with Cultivation Capital, as a leader in the firm’s due diligence research.  His proven background in both entrepreneurial ventures and diligence research make him an incredible asset to the Cultivation team.

“While pursuing his MBA at Washington University, Ryan built an impressive reputation and skillset in the areas of entrepreneurship and venture capital,” said Cultivation Capital General Partner Brian Matthews.  “Ryan is an invaluable part of our strategy to grow Cultivation Capital’s investments and footprint in the venture capital community.  We are delighted to welcome him to the team.”   “I could not be more excited to join the team at Cultivation Capital,” Rakestraw said.  “Great things happening within the startup community in St. Louis and throughout the Midwest. Cultivation Capital is marshaling the area’s resources to make sure that the region’s best ideas make it to market. I am happy to have the opportunity to contribute towards these efforts.”

Prior to joining Cultivation, Ryan was a systems engineer with Northrop Grumman where he helped to design and implement military platforms ranging from undersea to space applications.  Ryan has a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a master’s of science in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins, and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. During his MBA, Ryan became deeply involved with the entrepreneurial community in St. Louis and helped numerous businesses craft strategies, attract capital, and execute plans.

He is active in the non-profit space where he co-founded Unite4Kids (unite4kids.com), an organization which supports children who have suffered from abuse or neglect. Ryan also sits on the board of Employment Connection St. Louis, an organization with the mission of assisting people with limited job opportunities to become self-sufficient.

About Cultivation Capital Cultivation Capital is a St. Louis-based early stage Venture Capital firm investing in high potential technology companies throughout the Midwest.  Cultivation Capital is managed by a team of experienced entrepreneurs, who have started more than 25 companies, raised more than $200 Million dollars and had several successful exits.  For more information, visit http://www.cultivationcapital.com.