Answers to Your Questions about Gateway Accelerate

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What is Gateway Accelerate?

As the collaborative arm of UMSL Accelerate, Gateway Accelerate facilities entrepreneurial growth in the St. Louis region by attracting entrepreneurs from around the world to St. Louis to contribute their expertise to the mission of UMSL through our International Accelerator. The program focuses on fostering collaboration between existing organizations in the St. Louis Region with the united goal of attracting technologies and founding companies to the market through collaboration, capital formation and mentorship. New program participants will be selected twice a year through an application process, and the qualifying entrepreneurs will receive assistance with the cap-exempt H-1B visa application process.

What is UMSL Accelerate?

UMSL|Accelerate is an interdisciplinary, new model entrepreneurial resource that serves as a catalyst for developing the UMSL students, faculty and community to inspire entrepreneurship and innovation. The mission of UMSL|Accelerate is to foster a community of thought leaders by providing a vibrant ecosystem through a three-pillar structure of Educate (curriculum), Innovate (non-curriculum), and Collaborate (Accelerate). The program brings together UMSL students and faculty, community entrepreneurs, technologists and mentors to work on real-world projects, addressing industry innovation needs and providing cross-disciplinary experiential learning opportunities to participants. It is designed to enhance the St. Louis region’s entrepreneurship infrastructure, introduce novel solutions in specific industry spaces, create new ventures, and license applied research.

Learn more about UMSL|Accelerate here: http://umsl.edu/accelerate/

What are the goals of Gateway Accelerate?

The goals of the Gateway Accelerate program are to:

  • Create pathways for international entrepreneurs to accelerate businesses in St. Louis and create job growth and wealth creation for the region.
  • Attract best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world to St. Louis.
  • UMSL will act as the lead university, proof of concept for St. Louis region, and proof of community resources for regional administration among future participating universities.

 

How does Gateway Accelerate help entrepreneurs?

International entrepreneurs looking to base their businesses in the United States are often faced with several barriers to in the visa application process. Through participating in the Gateway Accelerate program, entrepreneurs are helping UMSL further their missions and as such the entrepreneurs then qualify for cap-exempt H-1B visas. As part of the application process, entrepreneurs must enter into a collaborative agreement with UMSL that describes how they will further the mission and goals of UMSL (such as by hiring or mentoring students, developing programs, contributing to academic research, etc., depending on school needs). In addition, participating entrepreneurs will receive discounted shared office space and receive access to office amenities, support services, and technical equipment for up to 18 months.

Disclosures:

Establishment of employer-employee relationships: Gateway Accelerate provides entrepreneurs with the connections and resources to establish suitable independent boards of directors for their companies, which can then petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the company for H-1B status for the entrepreneur.

Visa decisions will be made by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Gateway International Accelerator nor UMSL will be in any way responsible for, undertake, certify, or guarantee any aspect of the H-1B visa application process or outcome.

Who is eligible to participate in Gateway Accelerate?

To be eligible to participate in the Gateway Accelerate program, entrepreneurs must have an existing business or sufficiently funded startup operating abroad that they would like to relocate or expand to St. Louis and must be able to qualify for a standard H-1B visa. International students graduating from U.S. universities who have started their own businesses and/or have sufficient funding are also eligible to participate. All entrepreneurs must also be proficient in English.

How does the Gateway Accelerate application process work?

Application cohorts will be open twice annually. Entrepreneurs may submit applications online beginning in September 2016. Entrepreneurs who progress to the final round of consideration will be asked to participate in a phone or video interview. Those ultimately selected to participate in the program will be notified of acceptances, contingent upon execution of collaboration agreements with UMSL and fulfillment of specific corporate requirements, such as formation of a board of directors in the United States.

Once all requirements have been satisfied, entrepreneurs’ companies must submit applications for cap-exempt H-1B visas directly to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applicants have the option to engage UMSL Legal Counsel or any other attorney of their choosing to assist with visa processing. Visa decisions will be made by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Gateway International Accelerator nor UMSL will be in any way responsible for, undertake, certify, or guarantee any aspect of the H-1B visa application process or outcome.

How many participants will be selected for the program?

Up to 10 entrepreneurs will be selected for the program within its first two years. Program participants will be selected twice a year during set open application periods.

If I am not accepted into the program the first time I apply, is it possible to reapply?

Yes, applicants may re-apply if they are not initially accepted into the program.

What is the duration of the program?

Upon entering the program, entrepreneurs will participate in a 12-week accelerator program boot-camp. They also receive discounted shared office space, support services and technical access for up to 18 months. UMSL will host Gateway Accelerate entrepreneurs for a minimum of 18 months, but may agree to host entrepreneurs for a longer period of time.

How will entrepreneurs be selected for the program?

The selection process for entrepreneurs will be based on three primary criteria as outlined below.

  1. Company Profile & Performance
    • Each entrepreneur’s participation in the program will be based on the current quality and performance of their company
  2. Fit for the St. Louis Market
    • Each application will be evaluated on how much the entrepreneur’s company is a good fit for the St. Louis market, including:
      • Suitability of offered product/services for the St. Louis market and surrounding region
      • Feasibility of expansion to St. Louis
      • Ability to further St. Louis economic development objectives (e.g., contribute to growth in priority sectors, neighborhoods, etc.)
  3. Fit for Program
    • The candidate’s understanding of the program’s structure and their responsibilities will be assessed in order to determine the applicants fit for the program as well as their alignment with mission of UMSL and ability to further goals of UMSL
Will schools pay entrepreneurs to perform the agreed-upon activities?

No, UMSL will not pay entrepreneurs for the performance of any activities because only the entrepreneurs’ companies – as the employers and petitioners for entrepreneurs’ H-1B visas – may compensate the participating entrepreneurs.

The work that Gateway Accelerate entrepreneurs do within the UMSL community must be alignment with both the entrepreneur’s business activities and UMSL’s mission. As such, all activities will be designed to benefit both UMSL and the entrepreneur’s business (e.g. acquiring interns, research, etc.). The alignment between the entrepreneur’s business and UMSL’s mission is a critical component of the program and for entrepreneurs to be able to qualify for cap-exempt H-1B visas.

Must an entrepreneur have a prior affiliation with UMSL to be eligible for the program?

No, entrepreneurs do not need to be affiliated with UMSL or one of Gateway Accelerate’s partners to participate in the program.

Will UMSL become involved in the operation of entrepreneurs' businesses?

No, UMSL will not become involved in the operation of participants’ businesses. UMSL, Gateway Accelerate and all program partners may provide advice or assistance on specific matters upon request, but business decisions will be made solely by the entrepreneur’s company management.

Will UMSL gain any ownership in entrepreneurs' businesses, such as an equity stake?

No, UMSL will not acquire any ownership in program participants’ businesses.

Where will entrepreneurs work and who will pay for their office space?

Each entrepreneur will be based in a co-working space on the UMSL campus or at a co-working space in St. Louis. Entrepreneurs’ companies will be responsible for paying monthly rent for the space, similar to any other tenant in the co-working space but Gateway Accelerate Entrepreneurs will receive a special discount on rent.

How expensive is the space rental?

The cost of space rental varies based on location, as does the range of amenities (e.g., facilities, office support, etc.).

What opportunities does Gateway Accelerate create for students?

Gateway Accelerate creates opportunities for current UMSL students to acquire hands-on experience in international entrepreneurship through working is the participating entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs participating in the Gateway Accelerate program will provide opportunities for UMSL students through teaching, mentoring, and/or providing students with internship and employment opportunities. Further, Gateway Accelerate also provides international students who have started their own businesses and are in the process of completing their education in the United States the opportunity to remain in St. Louis so that they can continue to grow their businesses in the US.

When will applications become available?

Applications are currently closed. Please stay tuned to find out the time frame of Gateway Accelerate Cohort 2’s application period. .

What are the expected H-1B petition fees?

You will be required to pay United States Citizenship and Immigration Services fees as well as attorney’s fees. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services fee for an H-1B petition can range from $750 to $1,500. An employer that has 25 or fewer employees (count your full-time equivalent employees in the United States, including those at any U.S. affiliates or subsidiaries) the fee is $750. Petitioners with more than 25 employees (count your full-time equivalent employees in the United States, including those at any U.S. affiliates or subsidiaries) the fee cost is $1,500. Using premium processing will result in additional costs but is usually encouraged/needed because of lengthy United States Citizenship and Immigration Services processing times. Attorney’s fees can vary.

More information on the H-1B visa can be found here: http://www.umsl.edu/~intelstu/International%20Scholars/h1binfo.html

What resources are available for entrepreneurs moving to St. Louis?

There are many resources available to qualifying entrepreneurs as they prepare to move to St. Louis. Please visit the websites below for more information on how to best plan your relocation: