Washington University Alumni Have Human Periscope at Events

Washington University alumni now have a new proxy at St. Louis business mixers.

authors Julie Brown Patton

Washington University alumni have eyes, ears — and now a smartphone — at novel St. Louis business mixers, keeping graduates ‘in the know’ when they personally cannot attend such events.

Abe Cross, senior director of development for the university’s engineering school, started sharing live photos and observations from select events through social media platforms to help more of the university’s alums have access to contributing to contemporary problem-solving for entrepreneurial concepts.

“In supporting new community ideas, part of the process for those pursuing creative business concepts is to gain exposure to a diverse set of people to have their ideas validated,” said Cross. “If I can assist with drawing in potential partners, or connecting people with different resources, by posting what it’s like to attend some of these meetings, then I’m happy to help.”

One of the first gatherings at which Cross posted images and observations for this alumni-connecting purpose was an innovation event hosted last fall by venture capital firm iSelect. The event assembled hopeful team members of 23 medical startup companies with 200-plus physicians, industry managers and potential investors from within St. Louis’ Cortex Innovation Community. Cross zigzagged his way through the crowd, trying to show what was occurring the night of the event. “It was an interesting mix of professionals, and I wanted to share how specialists in pharmaceutical, mechanical, technical, electrical engineering, orthopedics, ergonomics and mobile application areas were coming together to talk,” he said.

The Cortex is a 200-acre nucleus and technology district integrated into St. Louis’ historic Central West End and Forest Park Southeast residential neighborhoods, surrounded by nationally ranked universities, medical centers, cultural offerings and recreational assets. Some people refer to the area as ‘little Europe;’ some call it ‘little New York.’

Cross said it was invigorating to hear iSelect’s special event attendees discuss new ideas that would affect patients, administrators and doctors. “These events draw out experts, and reaffirm there’s a vibrant startup environment in St. Louis.”

Incubator-oriented events also knit together the right variety of organizations, he said, with people passionate about users, physicians and funders.

Cortex President and CEO Dennis Lower states since the entity was founded in 2002, it became the Midwest’s premier hub of bioscience and technology research, development and commercialization, anchoring St. Louis’ growing ecosystem for innovative startup programs and established companies. As a nonprofit, Cortex was formed by leaders of Washington University in St. Louis, BJC Healthcare, University of Missouri – St. Louis, St. Louis University, and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Cross said he knows there’s a strong network of people interested in the concepts bubbling from St. Louis, so he hopes to steer more of them toward ways to get involved.

“The intellectual capacity in St. Louis is pointing the way, and companies are being formed. I think many angel investors among Wash U alumni want to support these remarkable ideas, even though they know not all of the companies will make it,” he said.

As a professional who focuses on fundraising for the university each day, Cross believes any effort is worthwhile when it links alumni with demonstrations of Washington University-associated representatives who are changing the future healthcare landscape in the United States. He said all positive experiences related to the university help boost the overall results stemming from the campus.

Community participation in the university’s current donation drive, “Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University,” enables the institution’s teams to educate and inspire, improve human health, advance innovation and entrepreneurship, and enhance the overall quality of people’s lives, Cross added. As a comprehensive effort to raise $2.2 billion by June 30, 2018, the Leading Together campaign is a record-setting endeavor.

“I’d really like to convey how exciting it is to see people whose mindsets are that there are no obstacles or speed bumps blocking their ideas, or nothing really tethering them. I know Wash U alums enjoy supporting this next generation of innovative idea makers,” he said.

Cross also said it was encouraging to see his photos retweeted or favorited after the event. “I received favorable feedback, with several people saying they were going to look up other future events,” he noted. “I hope it helps everyone explore more opportunities.”


PHOTO CUTLINE/NOTES: Abe Cross, representing development efforts for Washington University’s engineering school at entrepreneurial meetings in St. Louis, said reactions to his new social media ‘live event sharing’ were favorable in that alumni indicated they previously didn’t realize events’ significance and excitement.



St. Louis’ Cortex Innovation Community

Washington University

Washington University School of Engineering Leading Together Campaign

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