Arch Grants awards first $750,000 in grants

Washington University-affiliated startups to receive $50,000 along with mentoring, networking support to grow businesses in St. Louis

Eleven Washington University in St. Louis-affiliated entrepreneurs are among the winners of $750,000 in inaugural grants from Arch Grants, the global business plan competition providing $50,000 grants to startups and taking no equity in return.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Jim McKelvey, Square co-founder and head of the Arch Grants Advisory Board, joined Arch Grants today to announce 15 startups that will each receive $50,000 in funding to help launch and grow their business and create a more robust startup culture and infrastructure in St. Louis.

The 11 WUSTL-affiliated winners comprise five alumni, four faculty members and two students.

They are:

  • Jonathan T.Z. Chen earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2008;
  • Patrick Crowley, PhD, is an associate professor of computer science & engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science;
  • Peter S. Finley is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship in the Olin School;
  • Daniel J. Garcia is a senior in the School of Engineering & Applied Science;
  • Michael J. Gidding is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and two master’s degrees, a master of engineering and a master of business administration;
  • Zhilin Hu, PhD, is a research associate professor of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science;
  • Kenneth R. Kline earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in Arts & Sciences and a master’s degree in finance from the Olin School, both in 2008;
  • Margaret S. Stohr earned an MBA from the Olin School in 1991;
  • Sergi G. Turabelidze earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2008;
  • Melissa Walker is an adjunct instructor in the Clinical Research Management program in University College in Arts & Sciences; and
  • Mark T. Womer earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in Arts & Sciences in 1999.

To date, Arch Grants has secured more than $2.9 million in funding from a mix of individual, organizational and corporate donors.

“Small businesses are the biggest driver of job-creation and economic growth in our state,” Nixon said. “As governor, I am committed to helping our startups and small businesses grow, and Arch Grants is another proven tool we are using to do just that. We are extremely proud to have this diverse and innovative group of companies growing, investing and creating jobs right here in Missouri. These pioneering small-business owners will lead our economy and our state into the future.”

“We at Arch Grants are thrilled with the quality and potential of the entrepreneurs who won our international competition out of over 400 applicants,” said Jerry Schlichter, co-founder and president of Arch Grants. “This marks St. Louis as a top destination with a community of high quality startup businesses who will compete in the global economy and Arch Grants will be working hard to build that community as we move forward.”

In its inaugural year, the competition attracted 420 applicants from 12 countries. The 15 winning companies will receive $50,000 in funding as part of a year-long program. Beginning in June, the companies will locate in St. Louis and work toward the goal of attracting additional capital, including up to $100,000 of Arch Grants follow-on funding.

The WUSTL-affiliated entrepreneurs and their winning startups are:

Crowley is CEO and founder and Finley is chief operating officer of Observable Networks, which is pioneering a new approach to enterprise network security and management. Observable Networks is the recipient of the Emerson Arch Grant.

Gidding is president and Garcia is director of science of Saturnis, LLC. Saturnis is commercializing a low-cost, thermochemical process that produces liquid transportation fuels from biomass sources that can be sustainably harvested in the Midwest. Saturnis is the recipient of the Peabody Arch Grant. Himadri B. Pakrasi, PhD, WUSTL’s George William and Irene Koechig Freiberg Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences and professor of energy in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, is Gidding and Garcia’s faculty adviser.

Hu is CEO of Pharos Scientific, which aims to deliver an innovative medical imaging component in the forefront of diagnostic medicine and related products.

Kline is CEO and co-founder with Chen, who is the chief operating officer, of Med Preps, which provides online practice tests and flashcards to help medical professionals prepare for certification exams.

Turabelidze and Giorgi Gioshvili are co-founders of Iveria TV, the “hulu of foreign TV.” Iveria TV possesses the technological infrastructure and business model to deliver foreign language TV streams to millions of immigrants living in the United States.

Walker is president and chief technology officer and Stohr is chief financial officer of Graematter Inc.
Graematter developed the TERI Regulatory Intelligence System, which for
the first time consolidates the data and information located in more
than 100 regulatory data sources into a single, searchable database.
Merle Symes is Graematter’s CEO.

r is chief financial officer of Labor Voices, which is crowdsourced supply chain intelligence. Labor Voices provides corporations with a real-time monitoring and risk-management tool, with data coming directly from workers in their supply chains. Kohl Gill is CEO and founder.

“If you are building a business, Arch Grants is the reason to do it in St. Louis,” said McKelvey, a St. Louis native and also a WUSTL alumnus, earning both a bachelor’s degree in economics in Arts & Sciences and a bachelor’s in computer science in 1987. He is also general partner at Cultivation Capital.

“The Arch Grants initiative is an imaginative program that will contribute significantly to the ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship in our region and the revitalization of St. Louis,” said Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “I am proud that Washington University-affiliated entrepreneurs are among the first winners and look forward to following the success of all Arch Grants recipients.”

“Entrepreneurs here have worked hard to establish a strong base of innovation in the region,” said Sarah Spear, executive director of Arch Grants. “Arch Grants builds on those early efforts by both retaining entrepreneurs and attracting new entrepreneurs to St. Louis. We’re excited about building this game-changing program here in St. Louis. We look forward to grant recipients joining us downtown in June, increasing the entrepreneurial bench strength and innovation in the region.”

Support has been provided by the founders, Missouri Technology Corporation, the Community Improvement District of the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, individual donors, and large corporate donors.

For a complete list of Arch Grants winners, visit

About Arch Grants

Arch Grants is creating an entrepreneurial culture and infrastructure to increase employment growth in the St. Louis area. Launching multiple high quality, new ventures simultaneously, Arch Grants will also help build the image of St. Louis among aspiring entrepreneurs and others looking to have a formative role in building a new entrepreneurial climate in St. Louis.

Arch Grants seeks to develop an environment in St. Louis where entrepreneurs and young people want to start and grow businesses and live in a vibrant community that is affordable and where there’s a huge level of support from business and community leaders.