Mosaic referenced as supporter in ITEN report for St. Louis' diverse entrepreneurship growth

Increasing diversity in the St. Louis startup ecosystem has been a focus in recent years, and one local organization is seeing its efforts produce results. 

In its recently released 2018 Impact Report, St. Louis’ IT Entrepreneur Network (ITEN) reported the percentage of minority and female startup founders has skyrocketed since 2016. ITEN, founded in 2008, supports tech entrepreneurs and helps them launch new companies through educational programs, events, mentoring and partnerships. 

Since 2016, the percentage of African-American or Hispanic ITEN company founders has increased from 16 percent to 23 percent. In the same time period, the amount of female founders has jumped up from 18 percent to 32 percent. 

ITEN Executive Director Mary Louise Helbig said those increases stem from targeted outreach in areas St. Louisans would not identify as the region's hot entrepreneurial communities.

“Obviously, there’s an intense awareness of the ecosystem from downtown to Cortex. But really (we’re) broadening our reach and engagement beyond that to the broader region and engaging with organizations that aren’t in the corridor.” 

Some of the organizations ITEN has engaged include the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University - Carbondale, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis and the St. Louis Mosaic Project, according to Helbig.

Another initiative she pointed as helping bolster diversity is the annual Vision symposium, which is for woman, minority and immigrant entrepreneurs.

“We purposely find a location that is not in that main corridor ... the last few years we’ve hosted it at UMSL or Florissant Valley Community College to make sure we are engaging a broader community,” she said. 

In addition to the minority and female participation increases in 2018, ITEN's overall numbers grew with 94 companies onboarded. 

“Typically, we onboard about 75 companies a year and that’s been pretty steady over the years. That was a nice bump too. Our outreach is showing up just in the overall number of companies we’ve engaged,” Helbig said. 

ITEN companies added more than 260 jobs last year and the organization’s graduate companies have raised more than $190 million since 2009, according to the annual report. 


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