Square One Suite of Programs



The Square One Series of Programs is an innovative initiative offered by Cortex Innovation.   Located in the heart of St. Louis, our programs are designed to help concept- and early-stage- entrepreneurs bring their innovative ideas to life by providing them with the necessary tools, resources, and mentorship.


One of the most notable features of Square One programming is our commitment to diversity and inclusion. The program actively seeks out and supports underrepresented entrepreneurs, including women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. This commitment to equity and inclusion helps ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances. Additionally, Square One programming is deeply integrated into the larger Cortex community, which allows us to offer a number of additional resources and introductions.  We want to be a part of your entrepreneurial journey of innovation of growth and to cheer you on as you make your mark in the region and the world.


Cortex’s Square One seeks to help entrepreneurs find and access the resources, training and other tools they need, when they need them. We are updating our toolkit materials with original content and often cited sources from the startup community on a regular basis. Please feel free to share your favorites so we can consider adding them to the collection. Access the startup toolkit below.






Foundation Programs- Square One Ignite and Bootcamp


Cortex’s flagship program for entrepreneurs, Square One (SQ1) Ignite and Bootcamp, are hands-on training programs designed to provide support to first-time business owners in the early-stage of their journey in the St. Louis region.  We are excited about being actively engaged in the development of your bioscience, information technology, advanced manufacturing/consumer product enterprise, or food business.


SQ1 offers two training options: 


SQ1 Ignite is a 4-week program created to help founders quick-start their business model validation process. With an emphasis on the business model canvas, this process introduces entrepreneurs to the local ecosystem of support, challenges them to form and test the assumptions about their business idea, connects them with mentors, and helps them identify the crucial next steps in launching their business.


SQ1 Boot Camp is an in-depth 10-week, 50-hour program that combines formal instruction with hands-on learning, networking, and mentoring. The program’s structured curriculum seeks to instill in entrepreneurs the confidence and skills needed to succeed in high-growth industries. Sector experts lead the bioscience, information technology, and advanced manufacturing tracks, respectively. Participants work on specific deliverables such as a business model canvas, financial statements, pitch deck, 2-minute elevator pitch, and planning checklist. 


Applications now OPEN!



The SQ1 Boot Camp is offered once a year. Applications open June 15 and the class is seated by mid-August. Classes run from September 11 to November 14, 2023. Applicants are expected to be beyond idea/concept stage and to be working with at least one mentor and/or professional advisor. Participants are expected to attend all classes, on Monday and Tuesday nights, for the duration of the program.


Program Prerequisites Include:


  • First draft of a business model canvas
  • Phone interview at the discretion of the program director
  • Signed participant agreement
  • Completion of any pre-class assignments


Sector experts lead the bioscience, information technology, and advanced manufacturing tracks, respectively. New in 2023 is the food track, which will support food entrepreneurs.  Nearly 50 subject matter experts, including experienced entrepreneurs, investors and business owners present content throughout the program.

There are five main components of the SQ1 Boot Camp:


  • Core Business Competency Curriculum
  • Personalized Guidance and Mentoring – Cortex is fortunate to have a wide array of supporters in the community who provide their time and expertise help to grow St. Louis’ entrepreneurial talent.
  • Co-working Stipend – space permitting, Cortex and CIC St. Louis provide SQ1 Boot Camp participants who complete a client service agreement with 6 months of co-working at Cortex
  • Seminars, Workshops and Extended Learning Opportunities – Cortex provides a variety of workshops and seminars designed to help SQ1 participants and entrepreneurs throughout the region learn more about the skills needed to grow their ventures.
  • Support for Minority Inclusion – Cortex partners with the BioSTL Inclusion Initiative to promote awareness and engagement in new business formation by women and underrepresented communities in order to create a more diverse and inclusive pipeline of entrepreneurs into the SQ1 program and the entrepreneurship ecosystem.


Key Dates for 2023:



Program participation fee: $250. Need-based scholarships are available; please inquire if applicable.


Square One programming is made possible by the generous support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Wells Fargo, Missouri Technology Corporation, Enterprise Holdings Foundation, and Verizon.



SQ1 Ignite is best suited for individuals in the concept stage. The program was designed to introduce new/early-stage entrepreneurs to the ecosystem and quick-start their business model validation process. Some SQ1 Ignite participants will go on to apply for the SQ1 Boot Camp. Applications for Ignite are accepted on a rolling basis from December 15 to May 31. Participants are expected to attend all classes which are held on 4 consecutive Monday nights. Typically, class consists of 3 hours of content and mentoring.  New in 2023 is the food track, which will support food entrepreneurs and will include an additional 2 hours per week with food industry experts from Propel Kitchens.


Program Prerequisites Include:


  • Signed participant agreement.
  • Completion of all pre-class assignments. The business model canvas is the centerpiece of the program. Emphasis is placed on validating the entrepreneurs’ value proposition and customer profile. Other topics such as differentiation and competition, team building, and bootstrapping may be covered.

Click here to submit an application


Key Dates for 2024:

SQ1 Ignite Spring Session – February 26 to March 18
SQ1 Ignite Summer Session – June 3 to June 24


Program participation fee: $50. Need-based scholarships are available; please inquire if applicable.


Square One programming is made possible by the generous support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Wells Fargo, Missouri Technology Corporation, Enterprise Holdings Foundation, and Verizon.


Enrichment Programs


One Million Cups 


1 Million Cups STL is a weekly event that provides a platform for entrepreneurs to present their business ideas to a diverse audience of community members, mentors, and fellow entrepreneurs. At each event, two early-stage companies are given six minutes to present their business, followed by a 20-minute Q&A session with the audience. The goal is to foster collaboration, connections, and feedback that can help entrepreneurs refine their business plans and accelerate their growth. 1 Million Cups STL is open to the public and welcomes individuals from all backgrounds and industries who are interested in supporting and learning from the local startup ecosystem. 1MC STL meets every Wednesday at 9 AM at 20 S Sarah.


Small Business Legal Clinic


Cortex’s Small Business Legal Clinic is available to all entrepreneurs interested in receiving a consultation with an attorney from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. The clinic's team of experienced attorneys offers guidance on a range of legal issues, including business formation, contracts, leases, intellectual property, and employment law. By providing pro bono legal services, the clinic helps small businesses overcome barriers and gain access to the resources they need to succeed. Thirty-minute, virtual appointments are available on the 1st Tuesday of the month between 12 PM – 2 PM.


Other Programs


Keep an eye out for other programs provided to you by Cortex’s Entrepreneurial Talent Training Team.




 Follow Cortex Square One on our Social Media Channels!