St. Louis’ Capital Innovators fills us in on its spring accelerator class

The Capital Innovators accelerator, the longest-running in St. Louis, starts its sixth class this month. We caught up with director Scott Bernstein this week to tell us more about the program, the STL startup scene and the five new startups ...


According to its director, Capital Innovators is only behind Y Combinator in terms of follow-on funding.

The Capital Innovators accelerator, the longest-running in St. Louis, starts its sixth class this month.

We caught up with director Scott Bernstein this week to tell us more about the program, the STL startup scene and the five new startups.

Capital provides $50,000 cash for about 5 to 10 percent equity depending on the company’s valuation.

The program has two classes of five startups every year and so far has had $75 million in follow-on funding for its 34 companies, about $2.6 per company on average, Bernstein said. They were second behind Y Combinator in average follow-on funding, he said.

“We’re proud of that,” he said.

Silicon Prairie News: Tell us about the program.

Scott Bernstein: The program is three years old. We have a 12-week program that comes with $50,000 in funding and mentorship that make sense. We want your mentors to have the closest experience to your business as possible.

We also give free office space in the T-REX Incubator in downtown St. Louis. The incubator started with just us in an unoccupied former Macy’s building. It was 50,000-square feet of empty space. Now they’ve moved into an old, refurbished building and house 80 companies, including a majority of St. Louis’ startup scene. It’s helped to define the personality around these startups.

We also offer partnerships with law, accounting, payroll, design and other outside firms that do work pro-bono to help these comapnies.

SPN: You mentioned you had a good example of quality mentorship?

SB: We had a former Disney CTO help mentor Kingdom Scene, which is a company building an online virtual world for kids to have controlled and positive experiences with other kids. The CTO helped build Disney’s wildly successful online world. So we aim for matches like that that are meaningful.

SPN: How many applications do you usually get? How do you choose? 

SB: We get around 140 on average and interview the top 15 percent and chose five each class. We really try to pick based on founders and their potential more than the business idea because often those ideas change and evolve during the program. We look for people who can identify a market and pivot. One unique aspect of this class is that we have four from outside St. Louis.

SPN: What’s the STL startup scene been like for you?

SB: I’ve only been here a year and a half, but it’s good to have that outsider’s perspective sometimes. There’s positive things happening in the community. It’s a growing scene. There’s one other accelerator that just had its first class. T-REX incubator is helping grow the area. There’s a lot of reasons to relocate to a place like St. Louis, because the cost of running a business is so much lower. We do have about 15 major companies headquarted here that care about this city.

SPN: What are some of Capital Innovations’ success stories?

SB: LockerDome (a social media site) raised $6 million last March and is up there in terms of the most well-known. So is Aisle 411, an app that tells you where to find products in big stores like Home Depot, which recently got a $6.3 million round. PixelPress, which lets anyone design their own video game. Gainsight closed a $20 million Series A in November.

SPN: Tell us a bit about the new companies.

SB: Better Weekdays (Chicago, Ill.) helps companies attract, hire and retain top talent by prescreening candidates based on their compatibility with the job’s requirements and fit with the corporate culture.

“Most people are blasted with hundreds of positions you aren’t qualified for or don’t want. There’s too much data that just doesn’t fit, so they are trying to match employees and employers based on a number of factors like culture, fit and skill.”

CellARide (Springfield, Mo.) mobilizes the sale of a vehicle by providing an intuitive text message-based platform for individuals and dealerships looking to sell cars, trucks, boats, RVs and more.

“People often see for-sale signs in car windows but want more information without calling. Now you can text a code to a number on the sign and get more information.”

MedSocket (Columbia, Mo.) provides a patented clinical decision support system with one-click decision support (1-CDS). 1-CDS is designed from the clinician’s perspective, with specific attention to their needs and workflow. 1-CDS automatically connects busy, practicing clinicians to the best available evidence-based information with unprecedented speed and simplicity.

“It takes complex formulas and automatically calculates risk for things like strokes and heart attacks.”

OurVinyl.TV (Nashville, Tenn.) is an online platform that allows users to discover new music through video. OurVinyl.TV films its own content and has partnered with some of the best filmmakers and music blogs online to grow its catalog of live performances featuring established and emerging artists.

Space Sculpt (St. Louis, Mo.) connects talented interior designers from around the world with customers seeking a high-quality, affordable design solution. Property owners can launch a design project for 75 percent less than the cost of hiring a local design firm. Designers now have immediate access to projects from all over the world.

“Most people do it themselves and then just generally don’t succeed. You submit photos of the area you want redesigned and then they come back with a 3D model of a proposed room—walls, carpets, furniture, art.”


Credits: Screenshot from Capital Innovators website.


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