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New St. Louis program seeks to help entrepreneurs enhance innovative energy solutions

Dan Lauer, Allison Bischoff and Brian Dixon joined St. Louis on the Air to talk about entrepreneurship in St. Louis.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio
Dan Lauer, Allison Bischoff and Brian Dixon joined St. Louis on the Air to talk about entrepreneurship in St. Louis.

A new business accelerator program seeks to put entrepreneurs on a fast track to advancing innovative energy solutions.

The application deadline to the competitive Ameren Accelerator program is May 12th.

Each year for the next three years, five to seven recipients will receive office space in the Cortex Innovation Community and $100,000 in exchange for 8 percent equity in the company – all told, about $1 million in perks and benefits that are part of the highly structured 12-week program.

“We’re searching for some of the best clean energy technologies from all around the world. We’re being very broad with how we’re defining that,” explained Brian Dixon, COO of Capital Innovators, to St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “We’re looking for everything from solar, electric, distributed generation, digital communication – and it could even advance over to the IT side of things.”

Ameren Accelerator is unique because it involves a private company, a startup accelerator and a public university. The University of Missouri-St. Louis’ relatively new UMSL Accelerate program seeks to encourage innovation among students and faculty, and with the entire St. Louis community.

“There’s a lot of different corporate accelerator programs that have been developed but nobody has engaged a university state system and so it’s really thought leadership on UMSL’s part to be the first to come in and do this,” Dixon said.

Leading the effort on UMSL’s behalf is Dan Lauer, the founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate.

“We have a top ten ranked accelerator right here in town,” Lauer said, speaking of Capital Innovators. He explained that adding a university to the mix greatly enhances the program because it opens access to subject matter experts and a wider support network.

Lauer is no stranger to entrepreneurship. He created Waterbabies dolls 25 years ago and through UMSL Accelerate, he wants it to be a resource to students so they can develop their own ideas.

Although not a part of the current Ameren Accelerator effort, Allison Bischoff, along with Jessica Gordon, recently completed a 12-week Capital Innovators program. Their company, Rozzy, offers education programs designed to introduce students to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) careers. The lessons are hands-on based and allow kids to explore what it might be like to be an engineer, urban planner or plant biologist.

“The best part of Capital Innovators was really providing a support structure and mentorship,” Bischoff said. “As a young woman in the entrepreneurship space, I didn’t have any business training but I had an idea and a product. So my co-founder and I were able to take our idea and the grit of going out there and selling to various schools and organizations and put a little more structure around it with the help of Capital Innovators.”

Bischoff along with other entrepreneurs will participate in Demo Day 2017, when they present information about their companies.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.