Inventors of an Airbnb for storage space and honey-infused chocolate bars are just two of more than 50 top startups expected to converge in downtown St. Louis on Nov. 6 for an annual, exchange-themed event called Startup Connection ’19.

Marking the event’s 11th anniversary, this is the St. Louis region’s largest gathering that celebrates innovation and entrepreneurship. This year, the event will be flanked by activity on either side for STL Startup Week, a new annual event running Nov. 1-9.

Storage For A Modern Age

New storage company Roo co-founders Eric Laurent, Kristen Rivers and Jake Hurrell — all student athletes who graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia Master of Business Administration program in 2018 — just expanded from Columbia into St. Louis during May. The company’s additional co-founders are Pravin Sivabalan and Joseph McAllister.

The idea behind Roo came from Laurent’s frustration with attempting to secure short-term storage space while between apartment leases during college. The group created Roo as an online platform that connects people with extra space in their homes or businesses to people in need of storage.

“For hosts, Roo provides an easy way to make income. For renters, Roo provides an affordable storage solution, which could be right down the street,” said Hurrell.

He said the Roo team is looking forward to connecting with others at the Nov. 6 event who share similar awareness goals in this regional startup ecosystem.

“We’ve been working on perfecting the foundation and sustainability of our company, with plans to scale up and launch a dozen new markets within the next year or so. We’re already partnering with 49 businesses or individuals. It’s awesome to see how investing from the Midwest fits into everyone’s plans,” added Hurrell.

Sweet Innovation

Inventers of Honey Moon Chocolates also will be present at the Venture Showcase. Cam and Haley Loyet indicate they are one of five companies in the U.S. who’ve crafted a process of combining chocolate and honey; in their case, Peruvian cacao and Missouri honey.

“From the beginning, we had the dream of starting something revolutionary. Trying to push chocolate away from refined sugars, and replace it with naturally occurring honey or agave, was the first ideology for Honey Moon Chocolates,” said Cam Loyet.

“Our process is long and tedious, but we promise each and every batch receives the utmost respect through the 36-plus hours of stone-grinding, refining, tempering, pouring and packaging.”

He said they plan to have seven flavors of chocolate bars available for sale by the end of October through their company’s website.

About Startup Connection

The program’s Managing Director Phyllis Ellison is also vice president of partnerships and program development at the Cortex Innovation Community in the Central West End. Ellison said the Startup event highlights, all in one energy-packed night, an entire range of industries in high-growth entrepreneurship.

“It’s always the highlight of the year for the startup community, and will be a great evening during STL Startup Week — the first-ever week devoted to the breadth of innovation and startup resources here in St. Louis,” she said.

For the third year, Startup Connection will be held from 4:30 to 9 p.m. in The Globe Building at 710 N. Tucker, near the nonprofit T-REX technology incubator building.

Startup Connection organizers indicate 62 top startups will be represented through a “Venture Showcase,” and more than 50 support organizations will offer assistance to emerging companies at the event’s resource fair.

“Each of the 62 companies either has a beta product, or is active in the marketplace. Combined, the startups employ 303 people. They project their 2019 collective revenues will reach $6.7 million,” said Ellison.

The Venture Showcase is open to the public. Anyone interested can talk to the representatives of the companies, in one-on-one settings at their presentation tables.

“It’s a wonderful way to get inspired by the people in the community. And if you’re someone who’s thinking about starting a business, you can talk to peers who are going through the same experiences,” she suggested.

Ellison said the annual Startup Connections events are vital to the Midwest’s overall economy. A MOSourceLink “Show Me Jobs” report cited 78% of all new jobs created in Missouri during 2018 were by startups.

“Every year, Missouri startups create 40,000 jobs,” Ellison said.

A list of Venture Showcase companies and Startup Connections ’19 details can be found at StartupConnection.org.

For more information and a complete schedule of activities for STL Startup Week, visit www.stlouisstartupweek.com.