Entrepreneurs happy to be in St. Louis

Monday, September 1, 2014 | 4:15 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — A young entrepreneur's removal from Canada turns out to be fortuitous both for him and St. Louis.

Marshall Haas intended to work in British Columbia for the company that bought his startup software firm, but when it was apparent he wouldn't get a work visa, "very stern" government officials urged him to return to the U.S.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Haas is from Dallas. He landed in St. Louis after his software firm, Obsorb, won a $50,000 Arch Grant in 2012. After his brief effort in 2013 to relocate to Canada, he decided to try another startup in St. Louis.

Haas and business partner, Jon Wheatley, are co-founders of Need/Want, a consumer products firm with an eclectic mix of products, from a super-thin iPhone case to a paper Mod Notebook that can be scanned and digitized.

Wheatley founded a photo-blogging site called Dailybooth and sold it to Airbnb. He created some buzz for St. Louis in January with a blog post titled "Why I'm moving my business from San Francisco to St. Louis," citing the high cost of living in San Francisco.

Wheatley, for instance, spent $3,900 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. He pays $1,200 for two bedrooms in St. Louis. Need/Want pays just $300 a month for its office in the T-Rex incubator downtown.

The entrepreneurs say that what they save on rent, they can spend on marketing or product development.

"Even though we have had nearly $100,000 in revenue in three months, it wouldn't have worked in San Francisco," Wheatley said. "We've basically proved the thesis for moving here."

St. Louis has also been a good place to make connections, Haas said. An executive in St. Louis introduced him to someone at a national retailer who may pick up one of the Need/Want products.

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