St. Louis, MO Venture Capital and Angel Investors Group
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Top 3 Startups from St. Louis, MO
Cofactor Genomics' team of past Human Genome Scientists are building the next generation of disease diagnostics using RNA (as opposed to DNA). Cofactor Genomics uses software that takes complex genetic data and turns it into diagnosis.
Scopio is a high-tech social image agency that streamlines the copyright process for user generated images and videos. They are an unprecedented image marketplace where users get paid for their work, and clients finally have an effective way to use social images in real-time!
For consumers, RollSale is "LendingTree for my Used Car", where local dealers compete to purchase your car when you're finished with it. For the auto industry, RollSale is a disintermediated used car ecosystem, where dealers can source their inventory directly from consumers, rental car companies, lease companies, and even other dealers. RollSale is "Where Dealers Buy Used Cars."
Top 3 Angel Investors from St. Louis, MO
Eric Norlin is a General Partner in SK Ventures and has invested in widely known startups such as: Wealthfront, Numerous and Keen IO.
Ted Albrecht is the co-founder of the Bodley Group and has also invested in startups such as: Doorman, Pixel Press and Teachable.
Craig Albrect is the Director at Thomas Street Capital Partners. He's also worked at the Bodley Group with Ted Albrecht. His investments include: RealCrowd, True Link and Doorman.
With the growing popularity of software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups and hardware startups, which ones should both St. Louis angel investors and startups pay attention to?
Top 5 Hardware Startups
For angel investors, hardware is a fun and adventurous space, because it covers so many niches. From gaming to home automation, you can find a hardware startup that address needs in almost any industry. Pebble, the Kickstarter darling, brings smartwear to the wrist, and Boosted Boards lets urban dwellers get around quickly on a motorized longboard. Hardware even enters the tobacco market with companies such as Ploom, which used its ties with a Japanese tobacco firm to create sleek vape devices.
Picooc is a Chinese health device maker with some products that are similar to US–based Fitbit. Through two investment rounds, Picooc raised a total of $25 million. By its second round of funding, which garnered $21 million of that total, Picooc was already known for its flagship product: a smart body scale that integrates with fitness apps and other devices.
Picooc's scale lets users see metrics such as body water, muscle mass, body mass index, and body fat. Users can tie that data to a fitness tracking application, which integrates the information with user–entered figures and data from wearable fitness devices. The result is comprehensive fitness tracking in a world where users globally are becoming more health conscious and more aware of how data can tell a story about fitness.
Picooc certainly isn't first to the market, and its products do bear some similarities to products from Fitbit. Where Picooc wins–and investor interest comes into play–is that it beat Fitbit to the ample Chinese market, and it did so at a lower price point. Picooc's scale retails for around $72 in China, which are comparable Fitbit scales. Fitbit didn't launch in China until June 2014, and it retailed for $198. Anytime a startup can do something as well as or better than the competition at a lower price point, angel investors should take notice.
Formlabs, which received $1.8 million in seed funding in November 2011, drove its 3D printer product to market with help from a 2012 Kickstarter campaign. The campaign offered rewards ranging from a virtual high five and a file copy of the printer model to a package containing the actual printer plus fun printables. In its Kickstarter campaign, Formlabs claimed it intended to disrupt the 3D printing market with an affordable, high–quality 3D printer.
Why all the hype around Formlabs' product? First, Formlabs' Kickstarter project, came at a time when 3D print technology was becoming a household topic. News media was covering the technology, which sounded futuristic and frightening to many–op–eds asked "What if people print guns?" and entrepreneurs bubbled excitedly about manufacturing concepts. For many users, though, the technology was entertaining to consider, but far from daily reach.
For the angel investor, the people behind FormLabs are an attractive investment. Natan Linder managed Samsung's R&D center in Israel and was a lead designer with a robotics company. Maxim Lobovsky's 3D printer experience dates back to FabLab and Fab@Home projects as does David Cranor's. All three founders also came from a background at MIT Media Labs.
Ouya is an interesting hardware startup to consider, because its story isn't one of immediate success. The startup was founded in 2012 and received funding over two years for a total of $23.6 billion. The product was an open–access television gaming console that would bring hundreds of free games to user televisions for a price around $99. Think Roku for the app gaming market.
The product, which launched in 2013, let game and app developers publish their products to Ouya just as they do to social media or mobile apps, but users could easily play the games on televisions. The intent was to open the console gaming market to developers and players outside of the culture of PlayStation or xBox, but the product debut was a mixed bag. The product sold out before launch, due in part to a stunning Kickstarter campaign that raised both $8.5 million and ample awareness about the product. Those with industry knowledge also anticipated the product because it was designed by Yves Behar, a recognized name with ties to UP and Jambox.
In early 2015, Ouya announced that Chinese Internet company Alibaba was investing in the startup. Both companies held investment details close to the chest, but did talk about why they were teaming up. By 2015, Ouya had developed a gaming library of over 1,000 games. The plan is to integrate those games with Alibaba's existing technology. By partnering with the Chinese company, Uhrman's startup not only opens global doors for itself, but for all the app developers that launch via the Ouya platform. That open–market mind set and ability to make execution changes that might be better for the startup and investors is why Ouya makes our list.
4. Thalmic Labs
With over $15 million in investments since it launched in 2013, Thalmic Labs is an exciting hardware startup in an earlier stage than the previous three we covered. The company’s first product is an armband, called the Myo, which senses muscle movement in a user's arm and integrates with computers for virtual–reality style control. The armband offers more precise control than some other devices on the market, and Thalmic Labs originally showcased its prerelease product by flying a drone with it. The armband can also be used to control computing functions, including PowerPoint navigation, and some games.
While the Myo isn't going to be an international bestseller right away, the product and the company are exciting for investors because of the promise of future growth. The Myo is one of those rare products that is slightly before its time but is not the first to market. There's a platform ready in the space for these types of control devices, and other hardware and computer uses are catching up. This sets up Myo and Thalmic Labs to be big players in the next few years as drastic changes are made to the way users interact with computers.
Launched by Ayah Bdeir in 2009, littleBits won over 20 awards at the MakerFaire Bay Area in the same year. Between then and 2013, the startup garnered over $14 million in funding for its product: kits and components that bring DIY electronic and programing capability to almost anyone. The kits include a variety of small modules, such as sensors, sound and light components, and power, and let users create anything from home security components to a toy Mars Rover. Consumers can buy kits for certain projects, or purchase deluxe kits that contain basic modules needed for multiple electronics products.