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As the St. Louis startup community continues to grow, the voices and concerns of its founders, grass roots organizers and support organizations need to be heard, perhaps now more than ever. What does St. Louis need to do now to support its startups? Where is it succeeding? We gathered community members to talk to us about our region’s current challenges and possible solutions. Tara Pham is CEO and Co-founder of CTY

Tara Pham is CEO and Co-founder of CTY.
Tara Pham is CEO and Co-founder of CTY.

What are three issues, gaps or improvements that St. Louis’ startup ecosystem needs to address?

Early-stage funding. Local enterprise, institutions, and government becoming our startups’ first customers. Diversity.

Which one would you focus on first?

St. Louis-based big business supporting local startups. Customer traction is what validates young companies. From there, funding and talent get easier.

What approach would you take to solving that?

Programming to connect large and mid-cap decision-makers to startups. Engaging, transparent procurement processes in our institutions and government.

What is your hope for St. Louis’ startup future?

In five years, I hope the startup community is as diverse as St. Louis itself. It won’t happen overnight, but conscious efforts today will get us there.

What do you love about the current state of STL’s startup scene?

I like to imagine we’ll look back to now as “the good old days.” There’s this grit and uncorrupted passion. It’s still small, intimate, bootstrappy.

This article was published in EQ print issue 1, Fall 2015.