Three companies founded by Washington University alumni have been selected as 2018 Arch Grant recipients.
The startups each will receive $50,000 in non-equity cash grants, along with educational programming, access to Arch Grants leadership, pro-bono services and other perks.
Arch Grants, a nonprofit organization, refers to itself as “Venture Philanthropy,” with a mission to “build a new economy in the St. Louis region by attracting and retaining innovative entrepreneurs.” Since its first competition in 2012, the organization has funded 114 startups.
WashU Alum winners
Co-founder Adam Hoffman (AB 17) says the money will be instrumental in growing the company, which makes information about wait lines and movement activity available in real time to venues such as airports, stadiums and retail centers. “The next big horizon for CheckTheQ is launching Restroom Report,” Hoffman said. “It’s a cutting-edge venue management service that helps keep restrooms clean and customers happy at locations including retail centers, medical facilities, convenience stores, movie theaters and schools, among others.”
Hoffman chose to major in political science in Arts & Sciences at WashU, so most of the lessons he learned were outside of a business curriculum, he said.
“The greatest piece of learning I walked away with is that team matters more than anything else,” Hoffman said. “I’m the face of the company for interviews like this, but CheckTheQ’s real MVPs are Sanela, Pam, Emily and Stephen — my co-workers and friends. The best thing I did for the company was finding people smarter than me and convincing them to join the team.”
Andrew Glantz (BSBA 17) thinks St. Louis is the perfect city for startups, and GiftAMeal is a case in point. The app allows diners to provide a meal for someone in need by snapping a picture at a participating restaurant, of which there are 150. “The ecosystem is so vibrant with entrepreneurs that are willing to help one another succeed,” Glantz said. The lower costs of business operations and living allow longer runways to experiment and optimize more in the early stages. And, with the money from the Arch Grants, GiftAMeal will continue to grow.”
At WashU, Glantz took the course “Thinking Creatively and Leading Creative Teams” taught by Markus Baer, where he learned about constraint-based brainstorming. “It is difficult/impossible to tell someone to think outside of the box and randomly come up with a great idea,” he said. “It is a lot easier to say ‘think through the problem through this lens, or based off of this word’ and come up with a bunch of ideas — some of which will be terrible but some could be great sparks.”
Balto (BSBA 15) uses AI to guide sales reps on the phone in real time. The company will use its award to hire two new junior engineers from LaunchCode, a St. Louis-based training and job-placement organization focused on the technology sector. “Even in engineering, many hands make light work,” co-founder Marc Bernstein said. “Investing in hiring and retaining St. Louis talent is critical to Balto’s long-term strategy.”
Being in St. Louis offers the opportunity to be a big fish in a little pond. “On the coasts, Balto might be just another startup in a sea of startups,” Bernstein said, “but in St. Louis, those who work hard, build something special and contribute to the community receive overwhelming support.”
At Olin Business School, Bernstein learned to communicate like he’s getting a grade. “In any business presentation, whether its an executive summary, a slide deck, or a long-form report, go above and beyond to clearly communicate your ideas,” he said. “Dot all the ‘i’s and cross all the ‘t’s. Readability matters. Formatting matters.”