As part the Summer Internship Program, the Skandalaris Center is hosting six panel discussions with St. Louis area startups who are hosting students through the program. These panel discussions are open to the public. We will recap the panels and share important insights from local ventures.
Continuing the St. Louis Venture Panel Series, representatives from five local startups joined the Skandalaris Center Summer Internship Program students and community members for a discussion about their ventures. Yuanyuan He (EN ’21), a summer intern at Pulse Therapeutics moderated the panel which include the following representatives from internship host ventures:
- Brian Handrigan, Co-founder and CEO of Advocado, a company that helps brands increase the value of their advertising by transforming linear TV into a real-time bidding engine for search and performance-based media that works to train and improve existing digital campaigns.
- Kevie Hendrix (GB ’01), Owner of National Material Supply Company, a certified SDB & HubZone supplier of a wide range of products and services in the United States and abroad.
- Mary Houlihan (Executive Coach in the Olin School of Business School Career Center),Chief Operating Officer at Generation Mindful, a company that creates tools and toys that nurture emotional intelligence by connecting the generations playfully.
- Brian Notario, Vice President of LTSS at TCARE, the only evidence-based, CMS 1115-approved, and ACL-accredited family caregiver burnout solution.
- Devin Turner, CEO of FocalCast, a tool that enables live collaboration on any tablet, mobile device, PC, or video conferencing system with no downloads or plugins required.
The panel began with a discussion of how the startups were founded and eventually evolved. Turner detailed how FocalCast today is completely different from the company he started when he was a senior undergraduate student. TCARE has similar roots with students as it began as a University of Wisconsin research project in their department of sociology and gerontology studying the effects of family burnout. Speaking of burnout, Hendrix started his company because he was tired of corporate America and wanted to branch out on his own. Generational Mindful began after the company founder Susan Tucker had been doing in-person parenting classes and a parent suggested it would be helpful if they had a reminder of what they were learning. Advocado began with a pitch that wasn’t great but had some interesting ideas.
Next the panelists were asked to describe the traits and qualities they look for in their employees. Many of the answers stressed the importance of being a self-starter who can learn independently while adding to the startup. Being a good cultural fit is also important to the ventures. Many of the answers also included being able to manage stress and push through fears as desirable traits in potential employees.
Those answers led to the question of how to know when to push through fear versus when to pivot. According to the panelists it’s important to seek positives, frame the fear in reality, trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to fail.
Continuing the theme of fear, a member of the audience asked the panelists how they handled fear in 2008. For Handrigan, Hendrix, and Houlihan it was a time of uncertainty that tested them professionally. Handrigan had to knuckle down and use focus and clarity to make difficult decisions. Through the experience he saw how amazing things can happen when you trust your team with the ugly reality. Houlihan had been working at Anheuser-Busch for twenty years when InBev offered to buy the company and the market crashed. That experience taught her not to rely on a job for her identity. At that time Notario was stationed in Iraq and Turner was in high school.
Throughout the discussion the panelists emphasized the importance of making sure wherever you chose to work has a culture and values that are aligned with your own values. They shared how the interns should make sure their work environments are comfortable, genuine, authentic. They also stressed the importance of being happy and honest about where you want to land.
As always the panelist where asked how St. Louis has been for the startups. Turner was deciding between St. Louis and Austin but decided on St. Louis because of the funding opportunities that were available through Capital Innovators, Arch Grants, and Arch Angels. For TCARE they were rescued from going under by RGA and moved from St. Louis as part of that. They have remained in St. Louis because of the regions low operating costs, supportive community, strong talent pool, and growth potential. Hendrix considers himself an advocate for St. Louis’ growing tech community and the many possibilities that exist in the area. Houlihan personally moved to St. Louis out of business school and has remained because everything is accessible and it is an easy nice place to live and work. Handrigan moved to St. Louis twenty five years ago and has stayed because of the city’s long history of innovation. He also sees value in the funding and talent, talent that is invested in their employers success.
Following the panel attendees and panelists joined the Center for a networking reception.
To find the next Summer Internship panel visit skandalaris.wustl.edu/events/.