Meet BetaVersity in St. Louis

Global entrepreneurship program lures a Raleigh startup

BY LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman5.21.14
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Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

A Raleigh startup is joining a high-profile startup mentorship program that's helping St. Louis tackle its brain drain problem.

BetaVersity's co-founder Sean Newman Maroni (right)—a founder of N.C. State's Garage, HQ Raleigh and ThinkHouse member and very involved startup founder in town—promises he's keeping his roots here (he has a co-founder in St. Louis). But the high-profile, global Arch Grant program awards a $50,000 grant and promises access to the higher education market he's anxious to present with BetaVersity's plan to make learning more interactive and engaging.

In particular, Maroni wants to put permanent interactive BetaSpaces and shipping containers-turned-makerspaces called BetaBoxes, on college, high school and corporate campuses around the nation. Here's a video to show how they work. Outfitted with 3D printers and other prototyping equipment, the first BetaBox was used during last month's Maker Triangle Startup Weekend.



The Arch Grants have gotten a lot of attention nationally—the wealthiest and most influential leaders in the Rust Belt town pooled their money to lure talent from around the world to build their businesses in the city. So far, they've awarded $1.9 million to 35 companies. According to the St. Louis Business Journal, 32 are still operating and one has been acquired. In total, they've raised another $17.7 million, created 192 net new jobs and earned $6.5 million in revenue.

BetaVersity joins 19 others in the newest class. Nine are from Missouri; two California; two London; one Colombia; three from Boston and three from other states. The teams are required to stay in St. Louis for at least a year—Maroni will spend two weeks there this summer and BetaVersity product developers will spend one to two months each.

They'll get access to Arch Grant partners Washington University, St. Louis University, University of Missouri at St. Louis, Webster University, and Harris Stowe University, along with startup mentors, venture capital connections and other resources. At program's end, they could qualify for a second $100,000 grant.

To date, BetaVersity has won a $5,000 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance E-Team program. Otherwise, the men have bootstrapped the company with revenue from BetaBox rentals and BetaSpace programs.

Maroni says that offices in St. Louis and San Francisco will help grow the company nationally faster, but product development efforts will remain in Raleigh.

"We had an open dialogue with Arch Grants demonstrating that the strategic investment we have made in the Raleigh area is too valuable to abandon," he says. "We are confident that St. Louis and Raleigh will both help BetaVersity accelerate and succeed."







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