Six years ago, there were plenty of ways to get involved with tech in St. Louis. But there was a discrepancy: the majority of those people seemed to be those with the right connections and the right skill sets in the right location.
What about the beginners? The people with the big ideas but no blueprints (or maybe even no WiFi connection)—what were they to do?
With that question in mind, three St. Louis entrepreneurs set out to build a better tech ecosystem. Those entrepreneurs were Gabe Lozano, Drew Winship, and Travis Sheridan: executives of Downtown startups LockerDome, Juristat, and Venture Cafe, respectively.
Their mission? Drive social impact through tech. As it turned out, this wouldn’t require more money or even more startups.
Downtown St. Louis needed a more active approach to meet the surging demand for tech talent. Having built brands of their own, the founders converged on a key insight: when you gather talented and motivated people into a collaborative environment, good things happen. If they wanted to make tech more accessible, they needed to create a platform—and that platform became GlobalHack.
Hacking the Tech Ecosystem With Hackathons
“As our day-to-day lives become increasingly complex, there’s a growing need for innovative methods to solve real-world problems,” says GlobalHack executive director Matt Menietti. “Hackathons bridge that gap by combining interdisciplinary talent in a fun, competitive environment.”
GlobalHack’s hackathons unite software engineers, designers, entrepreneurs, and citizens for weekend-long software competitions. After being presented with a challenge, teams trade sleep for work over the course of 48 hours to build software prototypes that solve real-world problems such as homelessness.
To close out the event, the prototypes are presented to panels of judges who award the top teams.
But hackathons are about more than prizes, explains Menietti. “They’re designed to elevate St. Louis to its potential as a tech city and drive a positive social impact on the region.”
Bringing Software Everywhere
It’s estimated that within 10 years, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs nationwide, but only 400,000 graduates qualified to do them. The GlobalHack founders knew they needed to tap into the youth talent pool in St. Louis. But instead of waiting for teens to approach tech, they brought tech to the youth.
One such example of this strategy in action is GlobalHack’s Youth Coding League (YCL), which turns coding into a competitive team spectator sport. Since transportation can be an issue for some middle and high schoolers, YCL meetings are held at individual schools where students work alongside computer science “coaches” to become coding pros.
GlobalHack’s summer camps also work to develop the next generation of tech talent. While some coding camps cost upwards of $800 per week and cater to highly-skilled students, GlobalHack’s camps are lower-cost and beginner-friendly, not to mention they offer travel assistance and full tuition scholarships.
“We recently received an email from a parent whose daughter attended one of our summer camps,” said Matt Menietti, GlobalHack’s Executive Director. “She was thrilled to tell us about her daughter’s newfound passion for coding and how grateful she was to work with like-minded girls.”
It’s stories like these that remind the GlobalHack team what it’s all about.
Making Downtown St. Louis a Tech Magnet
“From education, to government, to marketing, every industry influenced by tech,” says Menietti. “In the future, nearly everyone will need a baseline understanding of computer programming, and Downtown St. Louis is at the forefront of making sure that happens.”
In just six years, GlobalHack has turbocharged the tech ecosystem in Downtown St. Louis, and things are only looking up from here.