Today’s tech startup scene extends far beyond Silicon Valley — many new companies (including L&T!) are finding success via the Gateway to the West.

Aspiring tech stars have traditionally gravitated towards two major U.S. hubs to build their careers and businesses: namely New York City and an increasingly sprawling Silicon Valley. However, an increasing number of startup hopefuls are moving their operations to relatively uncharted territory: the Midwest, and particularly, the city of St. Louis, Missouri.

Meet IT In St Louis

New York and the Bay Area still attract a large share of the tech industry’s top talent, but these areas’ high property values and cost of living make them less attractive to entrepreneurs. So where to next? Business information aggregator Mattermark crunched the numbers to determine the most underrated cities hospitable to tech startups, and St. Louis came in top 5 for investment activity (with bonus points for its amazing cuisine).

Given that Missouri’s second-largest city was hard hit by the recession of 2008, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, this renewed commercial vitality represents significant progress. While the city initially tried to tempt big hitters in the business world to stay on, they have adopted a new tactic which is fueling their renaissance: attracting and stimulating new business ventures, through initiatives such as Arch Grants, a not-for-profit organization which provides the opportunity to compete for $50,000 equity-free grants, together with a comprehensive program of pro-bono services, to startups agreeing to relocate to the city for at least one year. This forward-thinking strategy promises to usher in a new era of tech growth, thereby securing St. Louis’s position on the startup circuit.

Anywhere, USA

After being awarded an Arch Grant, L&T is hoping to make the most of the fortified St. Louis commercial district. Our President and co-founder Jonathan Allen gave his take on St. Louis’s appeal on the CBS St. Louis podcast Nothing Impossible, where he was joined by Ginger Imster, Executive Director of Arch Grants. Originally from London, Allen first became aware of the city’s potential in the context of the Arch Grants program. The recent unrest in nearby Ferguson further drew his attention, as he reflected on the city as a representation of the nation as a whole: “It was very interesting to me, because these are issues that we don’t experience in the UK; and it’s real America… for me St. Louis represented the real U.S. and the real challenges of this nation.”

Current tech hot-spots draw ambitious professionals looking to rub shoulders with the best in the industry, who hope to benefit from relationships with distinguished tech executives and access to an enormous bank of raw talent. However, immersion in such an elite environment can cause startup professionals to lose touch with the concerns of ordinary people, who will form the bulk of their eventual market.

CBS St. Louis podcast host Travis Sheridan pointed out that “97% of the U.S. population does not live in the NY or SF area, and I always contended that St. Louis is a nice cross-section of the US. It’s probably why so many journalists come from Columbia, because it’s that nice cross-section — it’s like Anywhere USA. So that means our challenges are like Anywhere USA”. In St. Louis, tech industry professionals have the best of both worlds: close connection with a representative cross-section of the American population, and a steadily increasing concentration of local talent.

L&T’s core mission is to help businesses communicate. As the St. Louis tech scene expands and becomes more complex, sharing information and promoting understanding across industries will support and strengthen the business community at large. And as content marketing specialists with the goal of bringing relatable, high-level content to businesses and consumers alike, we hope to benefit from our personal immersion in this dynamic city. We’re excited to see what our future in St. Louis will bring.

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(Image credit: Jessie Hodge/flickr)

Author Hilary Krutt

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Hilary joined L&T after several years in the publishing industry at Simon & Schuster. As a member of the editorial board for the Off the Shelf book blog, her writing has been featured on the Huffington Post, among other major publications. At L&T, Hilary manages content quality and production, collaborating directly with writers, content managers, and clients to ensure every piece we write hits the mark every time. In her free time, Hilary is an avid reader and live music enthusiast. She hails from Boston but currently calls Brooklyn home.

More posts by Hilary Krutt

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