Cincinnati's newest dream team: The faces of Cintrifuse
A lot of ink has already been spilled about the new venture capital fund, Cintrifuse
, and how it's the natural next step for the burgeoning entrepreneurial scene in Greater Cincinnati.
But what about the people behind the name? Well, as Cintrifuse CEO and “Chief Bottle Washer” Jeff Weedman says: “Let’s just say I was told that I wasn’t very efficient with writing job descriptions. And to say this was a neat and tidy process is a gross overstatement.”
Indeed, Weedman and the task force that created Cintrifuse received more than 1,000 resumes for different positions, and even found a few key players through the chutzpah of one member who just showed up to pitch her company and her workers.
Before we go there, here are a few quick facts about Cintrifuse:
• It’s being funded by several major corporations and organizations in town, including Duke Energy
, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center
, the University of Cincinnati
and Procter & Gamble
, among others.
• It will try to bring new companies and jobs to the region with a unique approach: Following a model out of Michigan that doesn’t mandate companies locate here, only that the venture capital funds create some sort of local presence in Cincinnati.
• It has already raised more than $40 million for its initial fund, which will be pumped into other venture capital funds and not directly into companies.
• The goal is not only to generate a return for those who invested in Cintrifuse jobs, but to create new jobs and companies in Greater Cincinnati, including Northern Kentucky.
In the end, it will be incumbent on the team to carry out this message. And Weedman, the former vice president of global business development at P&G, says, he is “tickled to death” with the Cintrifuse staff, and points out that several have run their own companies, and most have both startup and big business experience.
“I love the diversity we have with the number of women and men, and the racial and ethnic makeup of the company,” Weedman says. “We went after the people we thought would fit and help the local community, and we succeeded.”
Here’s a look at each member of the Cintrifuse team:
Jeff Weedman, CEO and “Chief Bottle Washer” or Connections by “Weedman”
Resides in Indian Hill
Weedman was one of P&G’s representatives on the original task force that created Cintrifuse, and was eventually asked to lead it. In his prior position at P&G, Weedman helped change its culture from what was once described as “Kremlin-like” to allowing outside companies to license the thousands of patents under the control of the consumer product giant.
“It really was a surprise, but after they came to me and after some contemplation, I decided this was a natural extension of what I had already been doing,” Weedman says.
He has set up his desk in the middle of the Cintrifuse office so there are no status symbols. He wants to be involved in everything, not sitting in the corner office.
“Even though I have been at P&G for my entire career, this is now a startup and everyone needs to pitch in,” he says. “I’ve washed my share of coffee pots and the like. But I really think I can fundamentally leverage my skills and network that I have developed over the last decade and a half at P&G to help not just the company, but the region and a lot of companies in the region.
“And this is not the flavor of the month. It's not something that you can look at over a 30-, 60-, 90- or even a 365- or 720-day period. This is for the long haul—I’m talking 10 years and we can really have an impact.”
The Money Man
Tim Schigel, Fund of Funds Manager
Resides in Madeira
Schigel is another of those former CEOs Weedman mentions—having started and built the well-known web app firm ShareThis
, which has become the world’s largest sharing network online. Now, he will oversee the funds and where the money goes.
“My background as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist makes me uniquely qualified for the position,” says Schigel, who started ShareThis in Cincinnati, moved to Atlanta, and has now returned to Cincinnati. “Cincinnati has a unique strength to nurture entrepreneurial initiatives, and the vision for Cintrifuse is to act as the bridge between the young entrepreneurs and the toolkits needed for their success.”
As for fun, Schigel loves the guitar and has been known to try to jump out of a plane after flying it for the first time.
Kristine Sturgeon, Director of Marketing
Resides in Mt. Auburn
Sturgeon was so committed to her last entrepreneurial effort—the startup Define My Style
—and the people involved that she showed up at Weedman’s desk soon after Cintrifuse launched to ask for funding. And when told that Cintrifuse wasn’t investing directly in companies, she didn’t give up, Weedman says.
“She then tried to get me to take on some of her staff,” Weedman says. “That really showed me a level of commitment that you just don’t see every day.”
As a native Cincinnatian, Sturgeon says that she realizes what Cintrifuse can mean to the area.
“Not only is the mix of team talent fantastic, but our community and partners are engaged and eager to contribute to developing the Greater Cincinnati region as a sought-after destination where high-growth startups thrive,” says Sturgeon, a married mother of three. “My diverse background allows me to view a situation and opportunities through many lenses. I've launched my own startup, raised money here and on the West Coast for my business and others, developed and signed global strategic partnerships, led sales, business development, strategic planning and marketing teams.”
And Sturgeon isn’t afraid to show her Cincinnati roots. She proudly boasts that she once sold beer at Reds and Bengals games.
“In my career, I have been fortunate to work with bright, creative and talented individuals around the world,” Sturgeon says. “Every interaction reassures me this trend will continue here at Cintrifuse.”
Jacob Hodesh, Director of Mentoring
Resides in Downtown
Hodesh is another Cincinnati native who returned home for this opportunity. He also is another of the ex-CEOs, having started Geekend
, New Moon of Savannah
and Refuel Savannah
And he says his experience is perfect for helping others through the startup and venture capital process.
“I have worked in development, and I have founded my own companies,” Hodesh says. “I have been on both sides of the launch: funding and fund receiving. I have failed, and I have succeeded. I know how to hire and fire, process payroll, think about revenue, clients, customers and inventory. I know what it is like to not sleep because the business is overwhelming.”
And like Sturgeon, he has also sold beer. He worked as a vendor at the New Orleans Superdome, even though he says he doesn’t partake himself.
“I see Cintrifuse as revolutionary in its approach to leverage institutional funding (and access),” Hodesh says. “Cintrifuse can serve as the major catalyst for continued startup and entrepreneurial growth in the Cincinnati region. The momentum and activity prior to the Cintrifuse launch was great, and the job now is for the entire ecosystem to move together with synergy.”
Erika Patterson, Operations
Resides in Covington
Patterson is a self-proclaimed addict to Newsweek
and Anderson Cooper on CNN, and had a pretty comfortable life in her hometown of Chicago.
But the Cintrifuse opportunity was one of kind and I could not pass it up, she says.
“The chance to impact an entire region through the mission of Cintrifuse is amazing,” Patterson says.
Patterson creates and executes Cintrifuse’s entrepreneurial programs, which have already begun. She also helps create related projects for the organization.
“Erika is a perfect example of what we’re all about and how we all roll up our sleeves and get started,” Weedman says. “Within a day or two of getting the job, she had already put her condo up on the market and was at work down here.”
Roanne Lee, Business Development Analyst
Resides in Prospect Hill
Remember how Sturgeon was selling her staff to Weedman as much as her company? Well, one of those she was looking out for was Lee, who was part of the Venture for America
It’s similar to the Teach for America
organization, but instead of sending highly qualified people in to teach, they send them in to work for startups for about $36,000 per year for a two-year commitment.
And after just one phone interview, the 23-year-old was already sending Weedman information and research, even though she hadn’t gotten the job yet.
“She likes to say that she was the first person hired by Cintrifuse, and she may be right,” Weedman says.
In her role, Lee will help research and find out more about potential companies and venture funds to invest in.
“It isn’t like any regular job where my role is well-defined; I have the opportunity to facilitate collaborative relationships and develop programs that engage and inspire the community,” Lee says. “I am passionate about entrepreneurship as a driving force in today’s economy, and through my role at Cintrifuse, I am uniquely positioned to discover and promote Cincinnati’s budding entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
The Magician Behind The Curtain
Kathy Rice, Senior Executive Assistant
Resides in DeMossville, Ky.
Rice has been working as Weedman’s assistant since 2009 and jumped at the chance to tag along as Weedman made the move over to Cintrifuse.
“I have worked on what is now “Cintrifuse” from the very beginning—the concepts of innovation, collaboration and startups are very intriguing to me,” Rice says. “When Jeff asked me to join him on the Cintrifuse team, I did not hesitate to say yes.”
Rice’s experience at running an office at P&G has prepared her for her current job because she's seen ideas grown into businesses, she says.
And not only that, but she also raises Quarter Horses at her rural home in Northern Kentucky, and “raising them from babies and watching them grow and blossom into magnificent horses is the same as watching startup companies grow and blossom into spectacular companies.”
Weedman, for one, is glad she tagged along.
“She has been an incredible trooper and jumped right in and go us off to the right start administratively,” Weedman says. “I don’t know where we’d be without her.”
By James Pilcher