Tag: venture capital

Right now St. Louis is a hotspot for entrepreneurial activity.  Kiplinger magazine named it one of the top 10 cities for entrepreneurship.  Forbes Magazine recently ran an article on the local entrepreneurial community, saying St. Louis has emerged as a new leader in tech startups and innovation.  In 2010, venture capital investments in St. Louis DOUBLED.  They’ve gone up steadily ever since.

It’s clear that St. Louis is the new place to be for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, venture capital or technology.

Olin students have an incredible opportunity to be a meaningful part of the St. Louis startup community.  We have students working hand-in-hand with startups, researching deals for venture capital firms, and starting their own companies, all before they graduate.

As a local entrepreneur, Olin graduate, and Olin entrepreneurship professor, I realized that one way to encourage the entrepreneurial growth in St. Louis was to combine and leverage resources from on and off campus.

Last year, I had the opportunity to join Cultivation Capital as a general partner  and have taken advantage of the opportunities to build these connections. 

In less than a year from the fund’s inception, we have invested in eight incredible St. Louis startups, infusing $6 million dollars into St. Louis based startups like LockerDome, Yurbuds, Aisle411, and FoodEssentials.  Every step of the way, we’ve found opportunities for Washington University students to get involved– either by working directly with our portfolio companies or by helping conduct research and due diligence on potential investments.

One of the biggest developments we have seen in the fund is the growth of LockerDome.  MarketWatch recently called the St. Louis company, “Facebook on sterroids.”  We agree.  Cultivation Capital stepped up as an early investor in the sports-based social media platform.  The user growth was explosive.  In fact, the growth was so incredible that it became clear LockerDome was ready for a major round of funding.

Cultivation Capital general partner Brian Matthews and I led the founding of a new later-stage fund, Cultivation Capital Growth Fund, in order for Cultivation Capital to lead a $6 million dollar Series A funding round into LockerDome.  After Brian and I managed the negotiations and structuring of  the deal, I joined the LockerDome board.  The quick closing of this investment would have not been possible without the help of students from my Venture Consulting course at Olin.  Mark Gillis, Karthik Karthik, Jacob Zax and Noah Mullin, did the due diligence to set the evaluation for the round.  We are incredibly excited to see what LockerDome Founder Gabe Lozano, LockerDome CFO Mark Lewis (an Olin MBA alum and adjunct faculty member), and their team will be able to accomplish in the next few months. (Watch video featuring Lockerdome CEO and Olin students.)

Also on Cultivation Capital’s radar is the newest addition to our portfolio, FoodEssentials. FoodEssentials is a data-driven company developing best of breed technologies to solve problems related to food label information for consumers, manufacturers, retailers, and the government.EVP Product & Strategy

Ronak Sheth, an Olin EMBA graduate, serves as the EVP Product & Strategy of FoodEssentials and is part of an all-star team from around the globe.  Our decision to invest was largely influenced by the work of quite a number of hard working Washington University  students.  Jay Hong and Geoff Stonner put together a market and competitive analysis for FoodEssentials through the new CELect class that I teach with Ron King.  Yoonkee Sull, Sunil Srivatsa, Ryan Rakestraw, Harry Bolson, Kasey Joyce, and Brian Howley were all on Cultivation’s due diligence team for this investment.

That is what is so incredible about St. Louis right now. We have companies on the cutting edge of technology and innovation.  We have millions of dollars of investments being put to work.  We are getting national and international attention for the companies that are emerging and developing in St. Louis.  And Olin students are right at the heart of the action.

Stay tuned for more updates on what’s going on at Cultivation Capital and at the intersection of entrepreneurship in St. Louis….

-Clifford Holekamp,
Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Director of the Entrepreneurship Platform
Kasey Joyce, MBA’14 and incoming President of the Olin Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club contributed to this blog post.

Top photo: Olin students network with local startups at Cultivation Capital’s “Cultivation Connection” event in March. 

Forget about finance, stats, or valuation. The biggest challenge about being an MBA is not figuring out spreadsheets, it’s how to best spend your time. Two years of studying for an MBA may seem like a long time, but let me tell you…there is NOT NEARLY enough time to take advantage of the amazing opportunities and experiences you have as an Olin MBA.

Kasey in her previous life as a TV news reporter on the scene after a tornado hit Harrisville, Mo.

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Kasey Joyce and I’m a new blogger here @ Olin Blog. In my former life (before MBA), I was a TV reporter/anchor for the St. Louis and Montana NBC stations. And I thought that was a fast-paced lifestyle. Ha!!!

From the moment I arrived at Olin, I realized I had a passion for entrepreneurship. Luckily for me, there are incredible opportunities to get involved in the booming St. Louis entrepreneurial community. I took on a leadership position in the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Association (EVCA) and joined Cultivation Capital, a local venture capital association, as the director of investor relations.

I have to admit, prior to my MBA, I had no idea what a thriving tech startup community we have here in St. Louis. Thanks to the MBA program, we’ve had a chance to sit down with the founders of those start-ups to pick their brains, help them grow, and learn from their experiences. It’s been an incredible journey.

Going forward, I am the new president of the EVCA. We have a lot on tap for the final few weeks of the semester.

  • We’re planning a tour of St. Louis’ startup incubators and co-sponsoring the Arch Grants finalist weekend networking event on April 25.
  • We’re sending students to San Francisco on a trek to network with start-ups in the bay area.
  • A handful of our group members are jet-setting off to Europe in May to work on a consulting project with an international venture capital firm.
  • Another group of students just returned from the trip of a lifetime to Japan and Thailand, where they met with business leaders to discuss international business in Asia. (see photo above)

Couple all that with studying for finals, bonding with our fellow MBAs at social and networking events, planning our careers, our lives (and in my case, a wedding), things are a little busy. But this is the best kind of busy. This is the busy that reaffirms that you are on the right track and pursuing your passion. It’s an awesome feeling.

The key? A well-organized Google calendar, plenty of free coffee from the career center, a backpack full of Luna bars for meals on the go, scheduled study time, and budgeted time spent with friends and family. Sure, balance isn’t easy…but then again, the best things in life rarely are.

As a new blogger on this site, I promise to keep you posted on all-things-entrepreneurship, life as an MBA, campus life, and the coolest things going on in St. Louis (at least the ones on my radar).  Until next time–


The bulk of our discussions in class have been centered around the sources of strength of Israel’s entrepreneurial and business culture–for example: the influx of educated immigrants from Eastern Europe, technology and leadership training from the IDF, and a unique, “get it done” business mentality.

The main threat to Israel’s continued success seems to be external, in the form of the country’s ever-hostile neighbors. However, there are also a slew of secondary foreign concerns that present problems for the continued success of Israel’s businesses and startups.

Israel has been suffering from an increasingly high rate of brain drain, or highly educated Israelis leaving the country to study or work elsewhere. In 2011 up to 14% of Israeli STEM Ph.D. holders had been gone from the country for three years, with only 4% returning after having been gone for more than three years (Kalman). This trend is also present with non-Ph.D. degrees, although less prevalent. Although Israel may do an excellent job of fostering entrepreneurial growth, it needs to retain the source of innovation.

One could argue that this trend is only slightly troubling, as Israel has in recent years been attracting large amounts of talent from other countries, but increasing reliance on foreigners for continued business growth is a strategy that will almost certainly fail.

This increased reliance on foreign input is also problematic in Israel’s venture capital industry. 31% of Israel’s startups in 2010 relied on foreign funding, increasing to 52% in 2012 (Orbach). Furthermore, the Israeli government extended several tax breaks to foreign investors in the early 2000s, but has failed to extend the same benefits to domestic funds. For a country that fared extremely well during the recession, this increased reliance on foreign capital is troubling as it increases the country’s exposure to global financial shocks.

It is concerning that our class seems to focus heavily on the strengths (numerous as they are) that support Israel’s entrepreneurial success, while glossing over the weaknesses. Addressing these weaknesses more thoroughly would create a more balanced understanding of the state of Business and Entrepreneurship in Israel.

Kalman, Aaron. “Israelis with advanced degrees more likely to leave country.” The Times of Israel. N.p., 27 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. .

Orbach, Meir. “Foreign high-tech investments outdo Israeli investors.” Ynet News. N.p., 26 Mar.2012. Web. 5 Feb. 2013. .

Class of 2013

On paper, Israel should cease to exist as a country.

Despite being flanked by unfriendly neighbors and stuck in a small yet heavily contested dessert land with nearly no natural resources, Israel thrives.

I visited Israel two summers ago and witnessed the effect of the Israeli situation; I was yelled at for not ordering my falafel quickly enough, rudely interrupted while in conversation and ignored when others spoke in Hebrew on purpose. At the time, I was offended. To be frank, I still am a little offended at certain shawarma stands. When I returned home, however, I read the book Start-Up Nation at the recommendation of my Rabbi and everything was suddenly put into perspective.

Israelis aren’t rude, Israelis are direct. Israelis aren’t disrespectful, Israelis just feel the need to challenge authority. When one’s life is constantly under threat, there is no time for American politeness and pleasantries that simply take up time. Get to the point, order some shawarma or get out.

When I discovered that there was a class that studied the business, entrepreneurship and innovation of this resilient country called Israel, I was enthralled. The opportunity to meld together two of my greatest interests, entrepreneurship and Israel, was the best way to truly design a college education that I would be interested in. The ability to discover firsthand what I had read in Start-Up Nation, but was too young to understand when I initially visited Israel, seems really like the chance to redeem myself and give back to Israel.

While Start-Up Nation was certainly an inspiring read, in reality this book resembles nothing more than a jumping off point for my studies. I thirst to discuss the content of this book, research further into venture capital and discover other Israeli startups with students around me, something the book did not cover. Even the first day of class, a classic lesson on venture capital, was more exhilarating than most of my other classes combined. I had no idea about the intricacies of venture capital, let alone its relationship with Israel.

Ultimately, I am looking forward to returning to Israel and speaking with true professionals that exemplify what I have only read in class. The exciting itinerary will certainly keep our group busy and challenged throughout our entire trip. Examining Israel through a business lens has revealed an entirely new dimension that my Sunday School teachers never taught me. Additionally, I consider myself to have that same burning entrepreneurial spirit exemplified by the Israelis and hope to expand my own horizons by examining their culture and the Israeli entrepreneur.

Olin Business School, Class of 2017
Hometown: Chicago

The Business, Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Israel course at Olin Business School provides WUSTL undergraduates an opportunity to understand the interconnectedness between culture, politics and business, and how all three produce a unique and successful business environment in Israel. Students travel to Israel during spring break to learn first-hand about the Israeli business culture. Students in this course are asked to reflect about their in-class takeaways, as well as throughout their immersion trip to Israel.