Small businesses increase in Columbia

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COLUMBIA — Statistics from an online database show a growth in the number of small businesses in Columbia over the past five years.

Paul Bateson, a Technology Development & Commercialization Specialist at the Missouri Business Development Program, said the increase can be attributed to a "growing ecosystem around entrepreneurism that's happening in Columbia."

Youreconomy.org is an extension of the University of Wisconsin that tracks various economic categories such as the number of employees in a region and revenue. According to the website, there were more than 2,000 more businesses in Columbia from 2010-2015. A significant portion of these establishments have fewer than 500 employees. The percentage of total jobs in Columbia at businesses with two to nine employees went from 15.9 percent to 19 percent. Those with 10 to 99 workers jumped from 31.1 percent to 34.4 percent.

Bill Turpin is the president of the Missouri Innovation Center, which is one of the entities that helps start-ups grow in Columbia. Turpin said the city is an attractive place for start-ups because of the community support and the variety of expertises concentrated at the universities in the town.

“Many innovations these days aren’t just one thing," Turpin said. "It takes a cross-functional team with a lot of different skills to do a lot of the innovations these days. So, we have a community here that has a lot of those skills all together, and where people are willing to work together to build something new.”

Entrepreneur.com recently named Columbia one of the top 15 cities in which to "live and launch" a start-up.

Christian Matlock is the Director of Marketing for Team Allegiance, a professional video game team and one of more than 20 businesses hosted at the Missouri Innovation Center. He said the start-up community has a variety of mentors who make a difference.

“Just the insights that they’re able to provide and how to structure our company," Matlock said. "[They tell us about] different opportunities that we may have overlooked or to do something we’re already doing, but in a more efficient or better manner.”

Turpin said an Accelerator Fund is being rolled out by the Missouri Innovation Center later in September. This is designed to keep bigger companies in Columbia with investments of around $50,000. He said many of them leave in search of more funding. 

"In the venture world, you have a bubble when you have too much money chasing too few good ideas," Turpin said. "I think Columbia is kind of the opposite situation right now where we have too little money chasing too many good ideas."

Although Youreconomy.org said there was a revenue increase of $2 billion from 2010, there was a drop of more than 2,000 total Columbia jobs in 2015. Applications to be one of the roughly 30 companies to get the money can be found on the institution's website

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