The startups ecosystem in the Midwest continues to grow piece by piece, the latest evidence of which comes as Startup Voodoo - the innovation, startups and entrepreneurism conference founded last year by Aaron Perlut and Edward Domain - today unveiled its impressive 2015 speakers lineup.
The group includes Y Combinator President Sam Altman, Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark, Rackspace Startup Liaison Officer Robert Scoble, and Base Ventures founder Erik Moore, among others.
"I'm excited to come home to St. Louis and speak at Startup Voodoo," said Altman who leads what is generally regarded as the leading seed-stage accelerator in the world in Y Combinator. "St. Louis will always be home for me, and I'm thrilled to see how much the startup scene is growing."
Scheduled for June 18 in downtown St. Louis, Startup Voodoo 2015 the conference also features a Q&A with Debbie Barta of Simplify Commerce by MasterCard about emulating the startup mentality and innovating inside large corporations, and panels on startups impacting cyber security among topics.
"As an entrepreneur who's seen her business grow into a global enterprise, I'm thrilled to participate in Startup Voodoo as it's so rewarding to see such tremendous interest in entrepreneurism," said Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark. "But we need to see more women venture out and start businesses, and that takes a collective effort. I continue to mentor aspiring female entrepreneurs to join in growing economy."
Startup Voodoo also partnered this year with Arch Grants (ArchGrants.org), the St. Louis-based nonprofit that awards $50,000 in equity-free grants to entrepreneurs willing to locate or maintain significant operations in the St. Louis region. Arch Grants will announce its summer recipients at the event.
"We are thrilled to partner with Startup Voodoo to introduce our first cohort of 2015 Arch Grant recipients," said Ginger Imster, executive director of Arch Grants. "Our partnership with Startup Voodoo reflects a shared vision to make St. Louis the Midwest's hub of entrepreneurship."
The conference will wrap with its second "Most Promising" Midwest Startups award, whittling down nominees from a four-pronged criteria of being Midwest-based, fewer than two years in operation, less than $150,000 in capital raised, and operating in digital technology, biosciences, or agricultural technology. In 2014, more than 100 companies were nominated and Chicago-based LearnCore (Learncore.com) ultimately was selected by a three-judge panel as the winner.
"Startup Voodoo was an amazing experience for LearnCore and me personally," said LearnCore founder Vishal Shah. "We were able to showcase our company, win the award, and meet amazing people. But the best came afterwards, where an attendee became a new customer and are continuing to work on a partnership with a large corporate client there. It has truly made an impact on our business and I am thrilled to have been a part of it."
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