Ameren Accelerator partners empower energy startups during inaugural cohort

WIFIPLUG CEO Leon Doyle displays the U.S. model of his company’s smart plug during the Ameren Accelerator Demo Day Thursday at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Over the course of 12 weeks, Dan Lauer repeatedly advised the entrepreneurs around him to act generously selfish.

With a vast network of resources offered through the innovative Ameren Accelerator program, selfish action was necessary for the participants to maximize the opportunity – even if the advice went against traditional etiquette training.

Chris Mertens, co-founder and CEO of blossom, heeded the guidance by requesting monthly meetings with Lauer, founding executive director of UMSL Accelerate, after the conclusion of the cohort.

Representatives of blossom, a St. Louis-based startup, speak with attendees of the Ameren Accelerator Demo Day prior to formal presentations.

“Dan was always quick to pull us aside after meetings with mentors, meetings with subject matter experts and make sure we’re doing the right thing, saying the right things and asking the right questions,” Mertens said. “Basically he was trying to make sure we went into our next meeting more prepared than we were for the last one.”

These preparations led blossom and six other cohort participants to present their energy solutions and ideas to hundreds of potential investors, business executives, academic leaders, community representatives and guests on Thursday as part of the Ameren Accelerator Demo Day at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.

The participating companies – which came from around the globe, across the country and within the St. Louis community – include blossom, Hyperion Sensors, Omega Grid, Rebate Bus, SensrTrx, Switched Source and WIFIPLUG.

Ameren launched the public-private partnership with the University of Missouri System, UMSL Accelerate and Capital Innovators in March with the goal of assessing, mentoring and investing in energy technology startup companies. After reviewing more than 200 applications, the partners narrowed the field to seven and have been working with the companies since announcing the cohort participants on July 27.

In addition to access to subject matter experts from Ameren, the startups have been able to draw upon the full resources of a public university system. University of Missouri-St. Louis and other UM System faculty and staff provided deep expertise, guidance and coaching throughout the accelerator program. Ten UMSL student interns also offered much-needed services including research activities, promotion and office staffing.

This enhancement to corporate acceleration has provided mutual benefits for the four-campus system, its students and the startups.

“This program has kept our faculty engaged and our students inspired as they delivered the kind of support necessary to help these seven energy-tech startups succeed and move to the next level,” Lauer said.

Many of the startups that have taken part in the Ameren Accelerator are committed to maintaining a St. Louis presence, and several have hired employees for their St. Louis-based enterprises.

During the Demo Day presentations, participants noted several advancements to their business as a result of the accelerator.

“Ameren has been so, so helpful. It’s unbelievable,” WIFIPLUG CEO Leon Doyle said during his presentation. “Every single resource we could have, we got.”

St Louis-based SensrTrx also closed a deal with a major customer during the program, and the company is currently working with Ameren on a concept to help improve the efficiency of the systems at one of Ameren’s energy centers.

The list of advantages goes on for each of the seven startups.

Warner Baxter, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Corporation, discusses the benefits the Ameren Accelerator program will bring to the energy industry as well as the St. Louis region.

“We are excited about the Ameren Accelerator program,” said Warner Baxter, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Corporation. “Engaging with entrepreneurs and innovators is consistent with our focus on delivering innovative solutions to meet our customers’ energy needs today and in the future. This forward-thinking, public-private partnership also will enable the University of Missouri System and its students to become more engaged in the energy business, as well as help drive economic development and bolster the St. Louis region’s reputation as an innovation hub.”

Ameren plans to open the application process for its next Ameren Accelerator program in spring 2018.

About Ameren Corporation
St. Louis-based Ameren Corporation powers the quality of life for 2.4 million electric customers and more than 900,000 natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area through its Ameren Missouri and Ameren Illinois rate-regulated utility subsidiaries. Ameren Illinois provides electric distribution and transmission service, as well as natural gas distribution service, while Ameren Missouri provides vertically integrated electric service, with generating capacity of over 10,200 megawatts, and natural gas distribution service. Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois develops regional electric transmission projects. Follow the company on Twitter @AmerenCorp. For more information, visit Ameren.com.

About the University of Missouri-St. Louis and UMSL Accelerate
The University of Missouri–St. Louis is the largest public research university in eastern Missouri with the greatest concentration of alumni in the region. Its UMSL Accelerate initiative fosters entrepreneurism and innovative thinking in and outside the classroom and helps bring concepts from mind to market. For more information, visit umsl.edu/accelerate.

About the University of Missouri System
The University of Missouri System is the State of Missouri’s largest public university, with four campuses serving more than 76,000 students, a health-care system, an extension program and more than 500,000 alumni worldwide. The UM System was created in 1963 when the University of Missouri (founded in 1839 in Columbia) and the Missouri School of Mines (now the Missouri University of Science and Technology, founded in 1870 in Rolla), were combined with the formerly private University of Kansas City (now University of Missouri–Kansas City, founded in 1933) and a newly created campus in suburban St. Louis (University of Missouri–St. Louis).

About Capital Innovators
Capital Innovators is an innovation engine that creates practical solutions across industries that can shape the future of organizations. Capital Innovators provides consulting and entrepreneurial-based programs, acts as a liaison between corporations, universities and startups and invests into attractive early-stage businesses. Capital Innovators has in-depth knowledge into the most cutting-edge solutions through the accelerator division of its business, which has been ranked as a top accelerator in the country for four years in a row and has invested in and guided 70 companies to date. The Capital Innovators model is simple and effective: innovation, iteration and implementation.

Media coverage:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Forbes
KMOX

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