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St. Louis forms $5 million seed fund to keep its startups in town

Paul Heirendt, a principal at True Bearing Advisors and co-founder of multiple startups, has first-hand experience with how hard it can be for entrepreneurs to find seed funding in St. Louis.

“Of the nine startups I’ve been involved with in St. Louis in the last few years, four had to relocate to find adequate seed-stage funding,” said Heirendt.

Relocation is far from the worst thing that can happen to startups that fail to find seed funding. More often they end up folding — which is precisely why the phase between capital formation and Series A funding is referred to as “The Valley of Death.”

Recognizing a clear need, the St. Louis region has launched a fund designed to help startups make it out of the “Valley of Death” alive. The St. Louis Regional Chamber of CommerceCultivation CapitalTwain Financial Partners, and several of the region’s banks have created the $5 million Spirit of St. Louis Fund 1. The fund will specifically address the seed-funding gap identified through research conducted by Dane Stengler, former head of policy for the Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation.

“St. Louis has done a tremendous job of generating activity at the top of the startup funnel,” said Andrew G. Smith, Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the St. Louis Regional Chamber. “But the truth is that capital markets are at their least efficient when it comes to early-stage companies. That’s when proximity to capital matters most, and cities like St. Louis are at a significant disadvantage compared to coastal innovation hubs. We have to be strategic and deliberate about overcoming that disadvantage.”

The Spirit of St. Louis Fund isn’t the first investment the Regional Chamber has made directly into the St. Louis startup ecosystem. The organization has put more than $1 million in capital into several area funds and accelerators, including SixThirty, 630 Cyber, Stadia Ventures, Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, and the Yield Lab.

According to Smith, those investments have resulted in nearly $100 million in follow-up capital, and the creation of more than 600 high-paying jobs.

Those jobs are a big reason why the region has invested so heavily in the startup ecosystem.

In their announcement, Regional Chamber CEO Joe Reagan identified the need for the new fund by saying that, “Crossing the ‘valley of death’ doubles the chance of success for entrepreneurs and the substantial net new jobs they create. This is an urgent need for St. Louis.”

Reagan’s comment stands out for an important reason.

Identifying the connection between entrepreneurship and job connection is relatively rare. More often the emphasis is on disruption, innovation, and creating billion-dollar “unicorns.”

However, the Chamber’s fund seems to overtly recognize two realities.

The first of those realities is that large companies rarely — if eve — relocate. This week, former White House Entrepreneur-In-Residence and 500 Startups partner Paul Singh was in St. Louis on his Results Junkies North American Tech Tour. At a presentation given at OPO Startups in St. Charles, Missouri, Singh noted that companies with seven or more people are “rooted.”

In other words, they aren’t relocating to a different city just for a tax incentive.

The second reality is that the United States isn’t going to suddenly re-employ a large manufacturing-based workforce. Manufacturing as a sector might be healthy, but large-scale employment from factory work is becoming rarer all the time.

That means good companies and good jobs will ultimately come from homegrown startups.

Which means that the Spirit of St. Louis Fund 1 and its planned successor fund are about more than just getting new companies through the Valley of Death.

These funds are about changing how communities approach job creation and economic development in a way that recognizes the realities of the modern economy.

And that’s a great thing.

This story first appeared on Silicon Prairie News.

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Ms. A. C. Kennedy
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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick