St. Louis’ skyline and the Gateway Arch. Photo: Explore St. Louis.

By Adriaan Walpot
Economic Affairs, Communications, Netherlands Consulate General in Chicago

St. Louis is the fastest growing startup scene in the United States, but its potential remains widely unknown. We visited the city recently to find opportunities for scale ups from the Netherlands, and we were amazed by the completeness of the startup ecosystem and its potential for Dutch business.

Gaining notice is hard in Boston, and competition for talent is stiff in San Francisco. But St. Louis has many factors that make for a promising alternative to start and grow a business.

St. Louis is centrally located in the United States, has infrastructure capacity (rivers and railroads), boasts a favorable cost of living and high-quality educational institutions, enjoys an immense concentration of talent, and nurtures a broad, growing $137 billion regional economy.

The metropolitan region has 2.8 million people, nine Fortune 500 companies, and some of the largest private firms in the US. Entrepreneurship is at the core of the region’s economy — both past and present — with a rich heritage of startups evolving into America’s most recognizable companies, including Energizer, Purina, Anheuser-Busch, Express Scripts, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

It’s not all about agriculture

Even though St. Louis is in the middle of America’s agricultural heartland — the region is often dubbed the South Germany of the US — there are many more tech clusters present than just AgTech, BioTech, and FoodTech.

Sectors like FinTech, cybersecurity, medicine, HealthIT, and medical devices are booming in the area. FinTech and cybersecurity are thriving because of the surrounding financial corporations and nearby Scott Air Force Base.

Meanhwhile, medicine, HealthIT, and medical devices are boosted by Washington University (one of the top medical schools in the US) and the St. Louis University School of Medicine, which is a leading center of research in cancer, infectious disease, liver disease, aging and brain disorders, and heart/lung disease.

All of the universities in St. Louis also offer cybersecurity programs, which also leads to a lot of innovation.

A rising tide lifts all boats

We found everyone in St. Louis to be driven to develop the region.

All parties work together and want companies to succeed in the region, whether it is under their roof or someone else’s. You can expect a lot of willingness and help from the locals when you come to the area.

St. Louis and the Netherlands

St. Louis is working hard to attract and connect internationally. The Yield Lab accelerator, for example, is encouraging European applications for their cohorts, and Global STL was created by BioSTL to build an international network, recruit global companies to St. Louis, and ensure those companies thrive.

St. Louis residents who have experience working with the Dutch praised our business style. They like to know where they stand, and we Dutch say what’s on our minds.

This feeling is mutual. Dutch citizens who live and work in St. Louis explain that the people in St. Louis are friendly, down to Earth, and have an immense sense of community. On top of that they find the everyday living to be great, with lots of space, inexpensive housing, and many facilities for children.

Another similarity is, of course, our shared expertise in agriculture. Much of America’s agriculture production takes place in the Midwest, and the Netherlands is home to Wageningen University and Research, the No. 1 one AgTech university in the world.

St. Louis wants you to help them innovate

Maybe most telling of the St. Louis community spirit is the fact that Global STL provided a list of innovations that large corporations need. St. Louis really does everything they can to strengthen their regional economy!

Take a look at the demands for innovation, for there might just be a match.

So, St. Louis is a place to consider. There are a lot of arguments going for the city, and it is not without reason that it became the fastest growing startup scene.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you have. We’re here to help!