Accelerate STL Challenge Winners 2016

As entrepreneurism and innovation continue to reshape the business landscape of greater St. Louis, the community came together at the region’s premier startup event, Startup Connection, on November 15 at Washington University in St. Louis. Startup Connection gives St. Louis’ top startups the opportunity to present their companies to a packed house of over 1,000 entrepreneurs, investors and other members of the innovation community. The event combines a startup showcase, resource fair, and is topped off with a fast-paced pitch session.

The Accelerate St. Louis Challenge, presented by Edward Jones, awarded a total of $120,000 to the latest crop of St. Louis’ top early stage companies. In its seventh year, the Accelerate St. Louis Challenge was created to recognize top startups in the region. Each year, it highlights local entrepreneurs and helps fund their ventures with non-dilutive cash prizes, with the first place winner earning $50,000, second place winning $30,000 and third place taking home $20,000. Multiple Bright Futures awards, at $5,000 apiece, are also announced.

Meet the top three winners of the Accelerate St. Louis Startup Challenge:


Geneoscopy, which received $50,000, developed a method to isolate and preserve biomarkers in stool samples using a customized detection algorithm providing patients with a non-invasive screening test that can accurately diagnose and treat colorectal cancer more accurately than a traditional colonoscopy.


“I feel honored to have been selected for this prestigious award,” said Erica Barnell of Geneoscopy. “The competition itself was instrumental in developing Geneoscopy’s business plan and the award will provide funds to support a 1,000 patient pre-clinical FDA trial. This pivotal trial will bring our test one step closer to the 80 million Americans recommended to undergo regular colorectal cancer screening.  Beyond this competition, I feel proud to be a part of the growing entrepreneurial community here in St. Louis that is turning significant scientific discoveries into products that improve the healthcare industry. St. Louis is the place to be for young entrepreneurs like myself.”



Babyation, which received $30,000, developed a whisper-quiet, smart-phone-enabled breast pump that also seamlessly fits into jogging bras, allowing women to pump without removing their shirts.



Pro-Arc Diagnostics, which received $20,000, is developing a next-generation laboratory test for patients at risk of Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), which is caused by the John Cunningham virus and is responsible for thousands of deaths each year.


Other award winners at Startup Connection included commercial drone fleet management platform AirZaar, which receives $5,000 in the Bright Futures category; customer feedback technology platform Idiomatic, which receives $5,000 as a minority-owned business in the Bright Futures category; and Upaya Pharmaceuticals, which develops and commercializes new drugs that revitalize existing antibiotics for the treatment of antibiotic resistant infections and receives $5,000 in the immigrant-owned Mosaic Bright Futures category.

airzaar idiomatic upaya


“We had lots of terrific contest applicants this year,” St. Louis Regional Chamber VP for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Jason Hall said.  “Several national media outlets have called St. Louis a top region for startups, and the quality of these businesses would certainly support that perspective.  These entrepreneurs are critical to our future growth and prosperity.”


Other finalists for the 2016 Accelerate St. Louis Challenge include Cotton Cuts, Eureka Analytics, Ivani / Network Presence Sensing, Lifepack, MathBRIX, NanoGuard Technologies, PawFriction, PEDECARE, Public Funds Investment Tracking and Reporting, Pyngby and Sports Valet.


Awarded privately by St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger earlier in the week and announced publicly at Startup Connection, the Accelerate St. Louis Challenge rewarded three top companies with equity-free cash and provides one year of professional services and new office space.


“This year’s Accelerate St. Louis Challenge was a really tough competition, so I want to congratulate all of the winners,” Stenger said.  “The St. Louis startup scene is really exploding. My team and I are committed to supporting local startups in any way we can.  I truly believe the next Express Scripts, Edward Jones and World Wide Technology are already right here and growing.”

See Accelerate St. Louis Challenge Award winners from 2010-2016 here.

View additional photos from award winners at Startup Connection 2016.
Startup Connection & Accelerate STL Challenge 2016