Big news for iSelect: We have been named a winner of Owler’s 2016 “Hot in St. Louis” award!

Owler, a crowdsourced competitive intelligence platform, recognizes the top trending companies in cities around the world annually, choosing from the more than 15 million companies on its platform. Recipients are chosen based on several different metrics, including number of followers, insights collected from our community, social media followers and blog posts over the past year.

iSelect is thrilled to have been named one of the most popular, trending companies in the St. Louis metro area.

But this is just the first step.

As I have written before, the venture capital industry is going through a sea change, as tech investment attention moves from its traditional homeland — the Bay Area of California — to include the whole country. I believe that here in St. Louis, and the Midwest in general, we are sitting on a significant opportunity to harness this trend into significant economic growth.

Just consider the numbers.

According to the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), VCs invested a total of $59.1 billion in 2015, the highest amount since 2000 and the second-highest on record, and of that total, nearly three quarters went to just 4 metro-areas — the San Francisco Bay area, metropolitan New York, the Boston area, and Los Angeles. Still, nearly 60% of all VC funding goes to just three industries: Software, Media & Entertainment, and IT Services.

Here in the Midwest we’re focusing on “everything else.”

The Great Lakes/Midwest represents over 20% of U.S. GDP, receives 25% of research dollars, and graduates more computer science majors than anywhere else. For us, this means agriculture innovation. It means healthcare technology. It means energy and infrastructure investment. It means looking at all of the innovation that’s going on in this country, both locally and nationwide, and supporting it with our investments.

Work to Be Done

In August 2016, VentureBeat published an article by Chris Olsen, the founder of Columbus, Ohio-based Drive Capital, entitled “In 5 Years the Midwest Will Have More Startups Than Silicon Valley.”

“California is the eighth largest economy in the world,” he wrote. “The Midwest is the fifth. The Midwest is also bigger than Brazil, Russia, and India, each of which have recently caught many a venture capitalist’s eye. The Midwest receives 25% of all research dollars in America and graduates more computer science degrees than any other region or country on planet earth. There are gobs of tech exits at valuations just as large as other places, and yet, the Midwest receives just four percent of the annual venture dollars in America.”

Ben Casselman with came to essentially the same conclusion in early September, running the numbers and uncovering the fact the 9.7% of the businesses in St. Louis are startups that are less than one year old, the second highest rate for that figure in the country. Nationally the percentage of new businesses at that stage is around 8%.

Still, only a fraction of all VC investment finds its way to this area as of 2016.

We’re well on our way, but there’s still much work to be done. At iSelect, we’re thrilled to be out in front, helping to drive economic growth both locally and nationwide, but we recognize that this is not something that we can accomplish on our own. If we want the Midwest to blossom into the rich, growing startup ecosystem that we all know it can be, we need help. We need investors. We need advisors. We need innovators. And we need buy-in from the community help us all get there.

Let’s get started.