Lee Enterprises, the owner of more than 300 publications in 21 states, is placing its bets on St. Louis, Missouri, as where their future innovation will come from.
Lee Labs is the name of the entity and it is based in the 4220 building in the heart of the Cortex Innovation Community. Jimmy Hendricks, manager of Lee Labs, told the St. Louis Business Journal that the technology venture arm provides a low-risk way for Lee Enterprises to develop technology in-house and partner with startups. “Our goal is to combine digital and software revenue to support news so that we can be sustainable long term,” said Hendricks. “If it’s existing in the market and the sales people can sell it, we want to partner. If it’s something that we think we could push through our emails and subscriber lists and online through ads, it’s probably something we’re going to build.”
Hendricks and Lee Labs are also investing in the future talent pipeline in the region by helping launch Venture School, with Venture Café, joining the list of Missouri’s innovative talent and startup solutions that includes organizations like LaunchCode, CyberUp, Square One and Claim Academy. The first class with Venture School started March 5, 2020, and is a 12-week class helping aspiring software and technology founders move from the idea stage to launching a real company. The school is designed and led by other entrepreneurs and focused around knowledge sharing in order to allow visionaries to launch their companies successfully.
As Hendricks and Lee Labs looks to the future, they have launched a pilot with one St. Louis-based startup, nativeMsg, which created a conversational AI-enabled advertising platform. Hendricks said the growing technology sector in St. Louis and Missouri is ripe for identifying cutting-edge technology. “There is more community support than I’ve seen in most (technology) markets,” he said. After graduating Mizzou and then spending 14 years in California and 7 years running a VC backed technology company, that’s high praise indeed from Missouri’s latest innovator.