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.
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.
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:
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:
Key Dates for 2023:
SQ1 Boot Camp Application Opens June 12 – Click here to submit an application
SQ1 Boot Camp Application Closes August 15
SQ1 Boot Camp Classes Begin September 11 and ends November 14
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:
Click here to submit an application
Key Dates for 2023:
SQ1 Ignite Session One – February 27 to March 20
SQ1 Ignite Session Two – June 6 to June 27
Starting From Square One
Starting from Square One further supports you in your small business journey and is a program hosted at Venture Cafe STL that aims to support entrepreneurs and innovators in the St. Louis community who are starting a new business. Each session features expert speakers and interactive workshops that offer practical guidance and advice on navigating the startup process. Starting from Square One is designed to be accessible to entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and experience levels and provides opportunities for networking and connecting with mentors and resources in the local ecosystem. Starting from Square One is presented at Venture Café STL on the 4th Thursday of the month at 4:00 PM.
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.
VOICES- STL Inclusive Entrepreneurship Affinity Group
VOICES is an affinity group that supports and elevates the voices of women, persons of color, foreign-born, and LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs. The group provides a platform for members to build meaningful connections, collaborate, and obtain resources. VOICES welcomes members from all backgrounds and industries who share its values and commitment to advancing equity and diversity in St. Louis. VOICES meets on the 2nd Tuesday of each month from 4-5 PM. VOICES is provided in partnership with BioSTL.
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.
Keep an eye out for other programs provided to you by Cortex’s Entrepreneurial Talent Training Team.