Shhh! It’s a secret. Right here in flyover country – September 9, 2019
Today's itinerary: People behind the secret tech mecca in the heartland; new startup funding efforts, including a couple that want to make us healthier.
Be very, very quiet ...
September 9, 2019
HIGH FLYING TECH
The secret tech mecca in the heartland
If you’ve ever felt your blood pressure rising trying to sort through the myriad options in the Verizon store when buying something as simple as a phone, pity the mega-corporation trying to figure out which IT products to buy.
This is an interesting story about a tech business born in St. Louis.
As one politician once said, large corporations are people too. And like everybody else they struggle to keep up with the breakneck pace of technology. Enter World Wide Technology, a St. Louis company with a staggering 3,000 engineers on hand to demo thousands of hardware and software products for the befuddled executives of major companies trying to outfit their multi-billion dollar businesses. It’s like a genius bar where the likes of Citigroup, Lowes, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and, yes, Verizon can come in and kick the tires on IT products. (There is some delicious irony in Verizon struggling to keep up with product offerings.)
As writer Lauren Debter details in this great piece in Forbes, World Wide Technology is the brainchild of two unlikely Missouri born-and-bred entrepreneurs: a former Saint Louis University soccer player and a salesman who grew up on a farm with no indoor plumbing. Both are now billionaires and the latter is the second richest African American in the country (even richer than Oprah).
Next up for the company: Branching out from hardware and software into the cloud, analytics, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. Maybe once they tackle that, they can help all of us figure out which phone plan to buy.
Speaking of the Gateway City:
St. Louis launches Smart Cities tech pilot
Image: Public Domain
[Editor warning: This story contains more acronyms than should be allowable by law.]
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is launching a smart cities technology integration pilot in St. Louis. The pilot, being done in collaboration with both the city and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), seeks to engage shareholders in St. Louis to test how their technology can meet real city needs.
William Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology, said “The City of St. Louis joined the federal Smart Cities Initiative in an effort to improve public safety, among other objectives. We, at DHS S&T, are honored to work with the city and OGC as we continue to serve our colleagues in public safety.”
The pilot, which will be taking place at T-REX, St. Louis’ downtown technology center, will research, design and test the Smart City Interoperability Reference Architecture (SCIRA). The SCIRA is an interoperable framework that integrates commercial proprietary Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for public safety applications at the community level.
MONEY FLYING IN
Corporate investors offer avenue for young companies
New companies angling for venture capital should look to angel investors or VC funds, right? Yes, but don’t overlook corporate venture capital, according to a report by the Wisconsin Technology Council.
Company funds in Wisconsin are increasingly getting into the young-company game, especially when it fits into the parent company’s business plans or disrupts an adjacent field. Insurance company funds in particular are investing aggressively, with $2.5 billion invested by 30 funds worldwide in 2018 alone.
Entrepreneurs who understand corporate fund strategies can benefit from this potential source of funding. For example, American Family Ventures, the venture arm of the insurance giant, looks to invest in companies working in insurance innovation, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. The goal is to make money while investing in technologies that could complement the parent company’s business model.
Similarly, CMFG Ventures, which is the venture arm of CUNA Mutual, is investing in the financial-technology sector, particularly companies working on tech that helps people with education or buying a home or a car. It’s not just the big, coastal VC firms funding startups these days. There are plenty of funds in the heartland making it rain.
Pittsburgh's ILifeX Labs to receive fed funding
Pittsburgh’s LifeX Labs is among 44 organizations nationwide to win a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. LifeX Labs describes itself as a foundry for health-related startups, and is actively engaged in launching startups rooted in the fields of medical devices, biopharma, diagnostics, and consumer and population health.
Seed funding program spurs UT faculty research
The Office of Research and Engagement at the University of Tennessee has announced its 2020 Research Seed Program. The program promotes faculty research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; UT Institute of Agriculture; and UT Space Institute.
According to the UT website, “The funding will go toward generating proposal submissions around a variety of initiatives.”
The program comprises four seeds:
Research priorities are:
Get sweaty with this innovative new app
Burned out on burpees? Lost your zeal for Zumba? When exercise routines become routine, boredom is just a Downward Dog away. You may start finding excuses to skip workouts, wishing you could try something more challenging, trendy, or adventurous.
Unfortunately, the cost of a gym or studio membership—and even those pricey drop-in fees—can prevent you from sampling new and different options.
Des Moines entrepreneurs Natalie Dayton and Kati Colby have created an app that makes it easier to try out various fitness classes. Scheduled for release on October 1, the app, called The Drop, lets you book and pay for classes a la carte. The Drop’s website currently lists 25 participating gyms. Just think, you’ll be able to check out Crossfit one day; boxing the next. Maybe throw in a little lifting when you’re feeling feisty. A veritable fitness smorgasbord.
The service costs $4.95 a month and you’ll get 25% off the studio’s drop-in fee. Don’t live in Des Moines? Don’t worry. The co-founders say they have “BIG plans” to take The Drop to other communities.
Name That Flyover City!
It's time, once again, to play your favorite online trivia game!
Name the 3 flyover cities described below and win a fabulous brand new ego boost!
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