The Bioscience & Entrepreneurial Inclusion Initiative strengthens the region’s bioscience ecosystem by identifying high-potential, talented women & minority bioscience entrepreneurs and providing a systematic pathway for them to create viable high-growth ventures. This is accomplished through Entrepreneurial Inclusion Pipeline Programming and the convening of the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective.

Some ESOs are partnering with other community stakeholders to take a collective impact approach to promoting inclusive entrepreneurship. In St. Louis, BioSTL supports the creation and growth of new companies as a key lever to drive the growth of a regional bioscience cluster. In November, BioSTL launched St. Louis’ Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective, a partnership of regional ESOs, funders, and industry leaders working at a regional ecosystem level to address issues of race and gender equity in early-stage, tech-based entrepreneurship. This work builds on BioSTL’s Bioscience & Entrepreneurial Inclusion Initiative, a stream of programming designed to increase awareness about the field among professionals underrepresented in the biosciences, and provide them with entrepreneurial training and network connections.

Upcoming Events

An Evening With... Rachel Simon-Lee and Dr. Jennifer Silva

In celebration of Women's History Month, meet Rachel Simon-Lee and Dr. Jennifer Silva who are making history TODAY! 

Rachel Simon-Lee
leveraged her undergraduate degree, background and expertise in media production and knowledge of cardiac surgeries to engage some of the top pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons in the country and create her new venture, Heartwork Videos. Heartwork Videos is a surgical training company that helps improve surgical training and patient outcomes with surgical video production and analysis. These videos inform, educate and reinforce surgical techniques for all medical professionals.

Dr. Jennifer Silva is a practicing Pediatric Cardiologist at Washington University/St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the co-founder of SentiAR, Inc. SentiAR is a digital health software device company developing the first 3D visualization platform using real time holography of the patient’s anatomy and catheter location, with a goal to provide the clinician and patient a faster, safer delivery of care. Jennifer and her team are SBIR Fast Track awardees and are collaborating with industry partners including Abbott and Microsoft.

Thursday, March 8th
4:30 – 5:30pm
Venture Café
4240 Duncan Ave
within the Cortex District

Register Here





What would be possible if St. Louis proactively built race and gender equity into its ecosystem of organizations, investors and mentors supporting early-stage, tech-based entrepreneurs? 

The St. Louis’ Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective is an intentional effort of regional entrepreneur support organizations, investors, funders and company founders working to ensure that systems built to support new entrepreneurs operate equitably, especially related to race and gender.  The St. Louis’ Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective is a winner of the Kauffman Inclusion Challenge, and one of the only efforts across the country that is focused on building equity in tech-based entrepreneurship ecosystems at a regional level, making the critical work we do together a potential blueprint for the rest of the country.


On November 30, 2017, more than 100 members of St. Louis’ entrepreneurship ecosystem gathered for the first-ever regional summit on race and gender equity in early-stage, tech-based entrepreneurship.  Entrepreneurs, support organizations, funders and investors imagined and committed to actions that build race and gender equity into St. Louis’ existing entrepreneur ecosystem.  The summit will featured an Equity Primer delivered by Nicole Hudson, Deputy Mayor for Racial Equity and Strategic Initiatives, a panel of investors, entrepreneurs and ecosystem leaders, as well as solution-building work session that identified strategies that are launching a year of action in 2018.

Review the day’s presentations here

Review the Summit Executive Report here

Review the Summit Report-Full Report here



Four working groups are forming to carry the work of the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective.  If you are interested in serving on one or more of the Action Team (one meeting/month, approximately), please email Natalie Self at

  • Data Transparency and Accountability -Measuring equity and sharing data across organizations

  • Intentional Network Cultivation – Building systems to intentionally diversify networks of mentorship & leadership

  • Coordinated Investment in M/WBE Skill Development and Capacity - Aligning entrepreneur development activities across the region

  • Unbiased Concentration & Distribution of Resources – Determine, and build equity into systems that determine how time, talent and treasure (investment) is distributed

If you are generally interested in joining our community of practice around race and gender equity in early-stage, tech-based entrepreneurship in St. Louis, but aren’t sure about joining an Action Team, please email Natalie Self at

I’m tired of going to meetings and talking, when are we going to start acting?

This effort is for you! At the end of 2017, we held a regional summit where we had a common conversation across our roles as entrepreneurs, funders, investors, members of entrepreneur support organizations and other stakeholders. During the event, participants identified short and long term strategies for building race and gender equity into our ecosystem.  These actions are the starting point for the work of our Action Teams, which launched in January, 2018.  To review the recommended actions, please read the Report or Executive Summary above.  To join an Action Team, please email Natalie Self at  

2. My program already serves women, entrepreneurs of color and other historically underserved/ underrepresented groups. How is the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective different?

The focus area for impact is explicitly on the ecosystem as a whole, understanding how the work of individual organizations add up to more St. Louis women and entrepreneurs of color creating tech-based businesses. We know company founders rarely receive support from only one advisor, mentor or organization; the Collective is focused on the alignment and amplification of individual organizational efforts...AND helping those who personally interact with entrepreneurs to do so in a more equitable way.

3. What does “early-stage, tech-based” mean? Does my business or organization fit in that focus area?

Generally we are referring to companies in business for less than 3 years, and leveraging technology to create enterprises with a scalable impact. Anyone interested in this specific type of entrepreneurship, or race and gender equity in new business creation is welcome to join the effort.

4. Why focus solely on “early-stage, tech-based” businesses? 

We recognize that scope of entrepreneurship and small business is broad. We also recognize that these issues are complex. Starting with a narrow focus allows for more immediate impacts and lessons learned to be applied to a larger swath of entrepreneurship. We also know that women and people of color are underrepresented in tech-based venture capital funding, company leadership and other metrics of entrepreneurship success compared to their make-up of the broader American population.

5. You mention racial equity-is this effort related to the work of the Ferguson Commission?

Though not officially affiliated with the work of the Ferguson Commission, the Ferguson Commission’s call to understand the impacts of racial inequities in St. Louis influenced the creation of this effort. The increased focus on racial equity across St. Louis, as well as local partners engaged (currently and historically), in both race and gender equity work offers ample opportunities for cross-effort learning and collaboration.
This is work is also informed and connected to other efforts in St. Louis addressing topics that are related to who can be successful in entrepreneurship, including education, criminal justice, public health and banking.  We are informed by the following regional efforts and reports:

For more information about how these overlapping efforts are related, please contact Natalie Self at

6. Who is engaged with St. Louis’ Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective currently?

To date, we have had 150 community members and organizational representatives engaged in the effort.  We are working towards formalizing our partnership structure, in 2018, and will publish the list in Q1.
The effort benefitted greatly from organizing activities and perspectives of the following organizations: Arch Grants, BioSTL, Brazen Global, CET (Center for Emerging Technologies), Cortex, ITEN, Missouri Small Business Development Center, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, St. Louis Makes, St. Louis Regional Chamber, T-Rex, Venture Café St. Louis

8. I have more questions. Who can I contact?

Please contact Natalie Self at


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Entrepreneurially Thinking Podcast

Recently mentioned by the St. Louis Regional Chamber as a podcast to check out, Entrepreneurially Thinking is a must-listen for anyone interested in the St. Louis startup ecosystem. With their own special brand of humor, sincerity, and inquisitiveness, Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore and Christy Maxfield explore what it means to think entrepreneurially. The best and brightest trailbrazers and thought leaders from throughout the St. Louis region are in the studio to share insights that can unlock your personal potential for creativity, innovation, and experimentation. 

Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or Spreaker.
Produced in collaboration with CET and RareGem Productions.

We Are Now in Season 5.
Check out our latest episodes HERE.



The Initiative

In 2008, BioSTL began organizing on-going collaboration aimed at creating a network of organizations and individuals committed to collaborative action that increases inclusion within biosciences.  The effort began with meetings of a small group of CEO-level community leaders and has since evolved to include 85+ leaders and practitioners from organizations throughout the community.  In 2014, with an award from the Blackstone Foundation, BioSTL began programming a series of activities along a pathway: build awareness about opportunities in bioscience; engage individuals in learning more about those opportunities; provide training to support an individual’s engagement in biosciences; and, finally, build connections to resources to help move individuals toward employment in bioscience or starting a new bioscience venture.  Our programing continues to evolve annually.

  • Awareness-raising activities about bioscience entrepreneurship: Introducing St. Louis innovation opportunities across bioscience, IT and advanced manufacturing sectors, and providing training around unique considerations for bioscience ventures through the VISION symposium
  • Programming to expose high school students to bioscience and agriculture biotech through the EXPLORE externship program with Diversity Awareness Partnership, KWS, MilliporeSigma and Venture Café St. Louis.
  • Exposing community members to local examples of bioscience entrepreneurs in a causal setting through “Evening With” conversations with local female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color.
  • Strengthening new businesses through recruiting participation for, and providing follow on advising to, select graduates of CET’s Square1 programing through the BioSTL Fundamentals program.
  • ​Convening regional leaders to identify and create opportunities to increase race and gender equity in the systems of supporting entrepreneurs from ideation through implementation and scalability of a business idea
Key Accomplishments 
  • 450+ people participated in informational events that raised awareness among women & minority professionals of opportunities in the region’s innovation economy (including bioscience, technology and advanced manufacturing). Participants were connected to 34 entrepreneur and workforce support organizations
  • 150 female and students of color from middle and high schools across the region have participated in hands-on externships in the areas of bioscience and agriculture with corporations and innovation-focused nonprofit organizations
  • BioSTL has awarded $25,000+ to high-potential, high-growth women & minority-owned startups
  • Three times a year, BioSTL convenes representatives from 140 partner organizations to share best practices, align activities and strengthen efforts to build a wholly inclusive innovation ecosystem in St. Louis
  • ​BioSTL received a $420,000 Kauffman Foundation grant aimed at helping women and minority entrepreneurs.
Program Director

Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore serves as Director of Bioscience & Entrepreneurial Inclusion, BioSTL. Cheryl bolsters existing collaborations with organizations across the St. Louis region, seeks new partnerships to promote inclusion in entrepreneurship, and directs the programing of the Initiative.

Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore began her career as a physician, then added an M.B.A. from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and developed business leadership experience by managing teams in large global and start-up organizations in the life science industry. Cheryl is CEO of UPstart Innovations, LLC and Accelerated Rehabilitation Technologies, LLC, both start-up companies focused in the bioscience technology market. Most recently, Cheryl served as an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR) with the BioGenerator, supporting the formation and growth of new bioscience startups. She concurrently served as a mentor for tech entrepreneurs with the Capital Innovators accelerator program as well as mentored entrepreneurs in Washington University’s Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Previously, in her role as Vice President and General Manager, Cheryl led the Integrated Biomarker Solutions business and prior to that role headed the Analytics Division for the North American market of EMD Millipore, the U.S. subsidiary of Merck KGaA. Prior to Merck, Cheryl managed the U.S. marketing operations for Swedish-based biotech start-up company, Biora Inc.

Images courtesy of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Confluence Life Sciences