Francis Chmelir: New Director of Operations for ITEN
Q&A with Francis Chmelir
Welcome to ITEN! How are you adjusting to your new job?
I am very excited by my role here at ITEN. I had been involved in the past as a mentor, but seeing the breadth and scope of the program up close is very impressive. Jim Brasunas and Jing Stiffler have done a tremendous job adding both quality mentors and exciting new companies to the network. In addition, our programs such as the Business Model Validation (BMV), Mock Angel, and the future Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) will be powerful tools for companies to use.
What kinds of things will you be doing initially?
My initial focus will be a fairly intensive listening tour consisting of meeting with both mentors and companies. The important feedback I will be collecting will help with the delivery of ITEN mentoring and programs. This should lead to even better experiences for everyone involved, while accelerating the growth of our client companies.
I will also be taking an active role in administering our venture acceleration programs, with particular emphasis on the BMV program. ITEN has several events planned in 2012 to celebrate our mentors and our companies and I will be involved in implementing those as well.
What makes ITEN such a valuable resource to local entrepreneurs?
ITEN has tremendously loyal and dedicated mentors, willing to share their experiences with entrepreneurs. Additionally ITEN is establishing a sense of community that challenges the notion that you have to leave St. Louis to develop a successful IT startup. There are resources, talent and capital coming together right here in our region. ITEN is playing a vital role in making that happen and that makes it very exciting.
You worked with IT startups before from 2004-2008 at the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC). How has the environment changed in the St. Louis region for IT entrepreneurs?
There is more of a commitment to developing local entrepreneurial talent than ever before in St. Louis. The ecosystem is evolving quickly, where several years ago it was much harder to even find resources as an entrepreneur. Funding opportunities with groups like Capitol Innovators and Arch Grants are very promising developments that didn't exist for the time I was at TEC. At the state level the Missouri Technology Corporation is playing an active role in funding some early stage technology companies.
I am also impressed by the sense of community that I see in local entrepreneurs. I have heard from a number of these companies that they want to remain in the region and grow their company here. Their long term goal is to help the next generation of entrepreneurs and become mentors themselves.
How do you see the IT ecosystem in the region developing in 2012 and beyond?
I am very optimistic about the future of IT startups in this region. The efforts of many organizations in the region to bring capital to our area will only help matters. There are many companies in the ITEN portfolio that are getting significant funding and in a growth phase. I believe 2012 and beyond will see several success stories about ITEN companies and the further development of a vibrant IT ecosystem.