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Last month, Capital Innovators named its 2016 fall cohort and the program began. But that’s not the only news coming out of the accelerator. This summer brought a lot of internal growth to Capital Innovators as well. Brian Dixon, who has been with the organization for several years, was named Chief Operating Officer, and Trevor Tune was hired to fill Dixon’s former role as Program Director. We caught up with Dixon to hear more about his new role, what’s next for Capital Innovators and how these new positions will serve their portfolio companies and St. Louis’ startup community moving forward.
You recently transitioned out of the Program Director position to become the COO. When and how did you make the shift?
It was long before the summer that we started creating and managing new programs to not only help Capital Innovators portfolio companies, but also all startups. After investing in 70 companies, and learning from them, we wanted to create new products and services that we could provide to help scale them faster and more effectively. The transition occurred in order to provide the opportunity to build out these platforms and build the vision for the future of the organization.
How did you find your next Program Director?
Trevor was interning with us throughout this last summer and he was doing a great job. As I began to think more expansively and build the vision for the future, I knew we needed to bring on someone to replace my past role of managing the accelerator program. Trevor had actually taken a job at Goldman Sachs in investment banking and I was able to convince him to stay and turn down that offer to help build our organization. We’re very excited about bringing Trevor on board and he is adding a lot of value to the company.
How has stepping into the COO role changed your focus?
I have shifted my focus to creating innovative opportunities that are going to add value in a variety of industries. Capital Innovators is growing itself into far more than an accelerator program and I’m working to shape our future. One of these new programs is a platform that we launched called Triumph C-Suite Solutions.
What does Triumph offer companies?
Triumph places seasoned business executives in C-Suite level roles with startup companies on a fractional basis. For example, a company can hire a CMO for one or two days a week and it allows them to access the knowledge of an individual that may have 25-35 years of experience. It is very affordable for the value that the C-Suite Partner is providing. These are individuals that would normally be charging hundreds of dollars an hour, however, Triumph understands that startups are strapped for cash, so we cap what C-Suite Partners can charge.
Another value-add to the program is that the C-Suite Partner will not only be guiding on strategy, but they will be rolling up their sleeves and doing the work for the company, so the founders can focus on their core skill set. This means that a CMO would be building the Facebook or Google Ads, measuring the data and analytics and refining the campaigns to increase conversions. We have C-Suite Partners from across the board so Triumph can fulfill any gap missing in your business.
Also, Triumph isn’t only for startup businesses. Mid-size businesses and even larger corporations can leverage Triumph C-Suite Partners to get an innovative outside perspective to help solve problems.
What are you enjoying about your new focus? Does anything stand out as something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time?
I get to be extremely creative, which I really enjoy. I feel that a lot of people in the accelerator space lack creativity. The accelerator market has become so diluted and there is a big problem with copycat syndrome. If accelerators are only focused on their current model, they aren’t going to make it. You have to constantly innovate and we have some exciting opportunities in the pipeline that are going to take our organization to the next level. These new opportunities allow us to take something out of nothing and create things that didn’t previously exist. This is what I really enjoy doing and it is how we are going to build the next generation of Capital Innovators.
Working with Capital Innovators gives you a great vantage point. What exciting things do you see developing in the landscape?
The thing that’s exciting me is that I speak on average to between two to four new venture capitalists a week from the coasts. I’m talking to investors in places that have very robust startup ecosystems and they’re becoming incredibly interested in St. Louis and the Midwest in general. Some of the forward thinking top VC firms in the country are beginning to put offices in the Midwest because they recognize that we are going to have more startups here than on the coasts in the next five to 10 years.
How would you like Capital Innovators to evolve in the next year or two?
I think what’s really unique about our accelerator program is that we can take our model and create value for lots of different industries. Our curriculum can be implemented into large organizations to infuse innovation internally and externally. Moving forward, I think that’s really going to help us grow Capital Innovators on an international basis. We have a huge vision for where we are taking our organization and we’re working hard to make sure we execute effectively on it. The future of Capital Innovators stretches far beyond our accelerator program and I’m excited to build out these opportunities.
And beyond Capital Innovators?
I hope we start to see more awareness in St. Louis of the startup space. There’s still a tremendous amount of people who have no idea what’s going on. These people could be potential investors, employees or customers. I think we need to work together and the city development organizations should do a larger push to increase awareness of what is going on. If people don’t know and understand the opportunity that we have right now to put St. Louis on the map, then they can’t participate and advocate for the cause.
Applications are now open to Capital Innovators’ Spring 2017 cohort. Click here to apply.