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Last Thursday, Venture Cafe had a lot to celebrate as the organizers toasted its first full year in St. Louis.
Launched as a part of the larger Venture Cafe Foundation, and the first expansion outside of the Boston area, the weekly meet-ups have provided opportunities for “serendipitous collisions” within the St. Louis community.
“One of the global challenges we’ve identified is that people are globally disconnect at the human level,” says Travis Sheridan, Executive Director at Venture Cafe – St. Louis. “We rely on online tools to foster relationships, but at Venture Cafe, we want to reclaim the importance of face-to-face interactions. When you get the right people in the right space at the right time, the right stuff happens.”
Venture Cafe‘s guiding principle is that innovation and entrepreneurship are innately social processes–not ends in themselves, but vehicles for improving the human condition. The meet-ups provide a trusting and collaborative environment through regular office hours (where attendees can pre-arrange to meet each other one-on-one), educational sessions, info tables and featured events—and the St. Louis community has taken advantage. The weekly attendance average over the last year was 368 people, with 5,831 total unique visitors and 18,164 total attendees from all over the region.
During last week’s celebration, Sheridan and the rest of the Venture Cafe team (some 64 volunteers throughout the year) previewed the plan for the upcoming year.
“The plan outlines several key initiatives, but I am most excited about two in particular,” says Sheridan. “First is our Education Innovation Fellowship Program. This is where we’ll embed 30 to 50 K-12 teachers from across the region with startup and innovation teams at local companies during the summer of 2016. This will allow teachers to gain hands-on experience within the field of innovation, develop an experiential learning project for their next semester and bring relevant, timely content to their students.
Secondly, we will launch our Visiting Investor Program where we’ll bring a different outside investor to STL each month to meet with local companies and help connect with the STL investment community.”
Here is Sheridan’s full “Look Back, Look Forward” update from The Venture Cafe – St. Louis:
Venture Cafe takes place every Thursday from 3-8pm at the @4240 building in the Cortex Innovation district.