An Urgent Message to Save Venture Café's Innovation CommunityRead More
Urgent Message to Save Venture Café's Innovation Community

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An Urgent Call to Save Venture Café St Louis’ Innovation Community From Closing

by Tyler Mathews in Uncategorized
March 16, 2020

Update: All gifts matched up to $75,000!

All gifts will be matched up to $75,000 thanks to the generosity of a private foundation. Make your gift here >

To our Venture Café St. Louis family—

As of last week, Venture Café St. Louis’ in-person, public events were postponed due to COVID-19 public health concerns.

Venture Café St. Louis took proactive steps to prioritize the health of our community by moving our Thursday Gathering online and minimize large events at Innovation Hall through the end of April. Now, the President has recommended postponing events of more than 10 people for eight weeks. This lapse in programming and rentals makes the future uncertain for Venture Café and our entrepreneurial communities. Not only have our gatherings in Cortex and 39 North been postponed, but Innovation Hall — a free and paid workspace — must suspend large events, which are a main source of income. Given the trajectory of this public health crisis, fully restoring our revenue could take until the Fall.

We urgently need your support.

Even in the best of times, running the largest, free weekly event in St. Louis is challenging. But, powered by our community, Venture Café St. Louis has facilitated countless connections, new friendships, inspiration, learning, and new ventures for more than 5 years to drive innovation in our city. Our community-centered, entrepreneurial model is rare among nonprofits: nearly all of our operating budget is earned by producing events and collaborations with companies like Mastercard, Express Scripts, and other world class companies based in our city. We continue to be a platform for discussions on equity, from our series with St. Louis Development Corporation to our recent nearly 100-person discussion via EdHub to address help for children on free lunch programs during school closures; We give opportunities for entrepreneurs through free learning and support (our Gatherings) and free workspace (Innovation Hall). We’ve brought big name speakers like the senior vice president of Hyperloop while also giving a voice to emerging talent in our own backyard.

However, this pandemic has made it unsafe for us to continue physically gathering together. Without reinvesting in the entrepreneurial community that makes our city thrive, this public health emergency will also lead to a situation where our economy’s engine — the creation of small and medium sized companies — will miss out on opportunities for accelerated learning and serendipity, which leads to partnerships and new ventures.

We cannot survive without you.

Venture Café launched Innovation Hall in 2018 to provide space for budding entrepreneurs who don’t have the capital for an office. We paired this with private meeting rooms and event space to create a sustainable model for our nonprofit. The expense necessary to run a multi-use venue with free public workspace is not insignificant. We are rapidly reducing our overhead to meet this new reality, but with our current projected revenue loss of $160,000 we will fall drastically short of our organization’s Q2 operating revenue goals while still burdening the overhead of nearly $320,000. This includes rent, salaries, program costs, and other facility operating expenditures. We need your help to weather this moment, and pivot our strategy to respond to these new economic conditions.

Photo of a Packed Session (By Tyler Small)
Photo by Venture Café volunteer, Tyler Small

However, our deepest concern is not for our space, but for the impact this crisis will have on the broad network of entrepreneurs which we support. Venture Café serves a diverse network of entrepreneurs who are the backbone of our city’s national resurgence. For many, Venture Café is the first place aspiring entrepreneurs learn to believe in themselves and become inspired to build something great. In 2019, Venture Café Thursdays and 39 North supported more than 21,000 aspiring or established entrepreneurs, held 50+ events, and offered more than 3,000 hours of free education. Innovation Hall gave more than $739,000 worth of donated space to nonprofits and early stage entrepreneurs. We also offer free space and support for educators who are launching new initiatives to solve our educational system’s most entrenched challenges. We supported the launch of 16 new initiatives including a restorative justice program to a literacy program that partnered with Disney/Marvel.

If you have any ability to give during this critical time, and Venture Café has touched or improved your life, we ask that you consider making a gift or upgrading your monthly support to whatever level you are capable. Please allow us to continue serving the St. Louis entrepreneurial community.

Help raise the $250,000 we need to continue supporting innovators engaging with the critical issues facing our rapidly changing society.

The below amount does not reflect matching gift amounts. As of March 31, we are at 25% of our goal.

Thank you to our startup and business community for support

Photos by Tyler Small, Venture Café St. Louis volunteer