Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)
As a major hub for the tech startup scene in St. Louis, T-REX plays a crucial role in the development of many startups.
On last week’s episode of the Bourbon Friday Show, we had the honor of hosting Kathleen Bauer, Community Director of T-REX.
We discussed the creation of T-REX and the story behind how it grew into the hub for tech startups in downtown St. Louis. We also discussed the challenge of building something your customers will actually want and the resources available to help startups navigate that process.
Kathleen began by telling us how she got started with T-REX.
After a stint as the youngest school secretary in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, working at Christ the King in University City, she got the chance to take on the Community Director job at T-REX.
Her experience working with grade school kids prepared her to deal with the ever changing temperaments of tech entrepreneurs. In addition to handling the needs and requests of the members, Kathleen also on-boards new members and handles much of the interactions with T-REX’s corporate sponsors.
Without her there would be no T-REX!
Powered By Community
Community is essential to the success of any organization, and that’s especially true at T-REX.
T-REX started as a way to bring together the tech startups in St. Louis. Before it launched there were few options for cash-strapped entrepreneurs. Coffee shops or the library could work temporarily, but often lacked a strong enough internet connection.
Instead, T-REX provided them with a secure place to work, regular doses of free coffee, and a screaming fast connection speed. It didn’t take long for it to grow to fill 2 whole floors in the Railway Exchange Building!
In a short time T-REX became the tech startup scene we’d never had before in St. Louis.
See Those T-REX Paintings on the Wall?
Kathleen is quite the artist as well!
You can find her work all around the Lammert Building, where T-REX is located. However, you might be surprised by what you find — in the spirit of bringing new life to old things, Kathleen has added “Tina the T-REX” to several dozen old paintings!
Kathleen started attending estate sales or thrift shops to find old paintings. From there, she looked for ways to add the T-REX, while staying true to the mood of the original scene. Take a look next time you’re at T-REX and see how many of these masterpieces you can find!
Advice For Startup Founders
The show wrapped up with a discussion about how startup founders often struggle to create something people actually want.
That may seem odd, but many founders build solutions for problems they’ve personally experienced. It makes sense. You’ll have the best shot at fixing something if you actually understand the problem! Unfortunately, it’s also easy to get carried away and create something without asking if anybody else wants it…
So, how does an entrepreneur avoid this?
Kathleen and Christian suggested using the expansive resources around town. ITEN provides mentor-ship, events, and other programs designed to help new companies. Arch Grants provides $50,000 grants to promising companies willing to relocate to St. Louis or commit to staying local for a year.
The Missouri Small Business Development Center even holds a couple offices in the building. They provide business planning services, classes, and one on one coaching for entrepreneurs. There are many more resources available throughout the region.
Finally, I brought up an even simpler idea for addressing the product/market fit issue — talk to prospective clients.
When you’re crafting the plans for your startup, ask your ideal customers for feedback. Be specific about what you’re developing and how much you’d like to charge. Don’t worry about trying to incorporate every idea you get.
You’ll get way more than you need, but home in on the ideas you hear often. Make sure you are addressing a common enough problem to justify a full scale business. Do this enough and you’ll even have a bunch of leads ready to buy when you launch, too.
Join Us This Friday — For Another “Bourbon Friday”
Bourbon Friday started about a year ago.
It’s grown into something we all look forward too each week. It’s even birthed a weekly Facebook Live Show!
As it grows further we’re planning to welcome more guests. If you’d like to attend sometime, please let us know! While it’s still an invite-only event, limited to the community members of T-REX, we’d be happy to add you to our list. Please email nick at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more, and don’t forget to watch The Bourbon Friday Show on EQ’s Facebook page again this week.