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Innovation News

Making life easier: Two new companies create platforms for homeowners, busy socialites

With the large influx of new and growing businesses in Cincinnati, there are going to be a lot of new homeowners looking for contractors, plumbers, and other service providers to help them settle in and adjust. HireWheel, a member of the Brandery's Class of 2014, is here for them.
 
While HireWheel is not the first to answer this call (Angie's List, Yelp, and the Yellow Pages all offer sites where homeowners can search for the best service provider), founders Steve Sperry and Matt Lenahan are quick to distinguish their growing business from the review-driven companies already in existence.
 
"Reviews are subjective," Lenahan says, "and less than 1 percent of homeowners actually write them."
 
The HireWheel solution is to take a data-driven, objective approach. The HireWheel team uses city permit data to track how many home improvement jobs are being completed, and by whom. The team then organizes the data and crunches the numbers to create a rating that users can grasp: one that is based on the experience of the service provider rather than popular opinion.
 
Hailing from New York, Lenahan and Sperry were pleasantly surprised by Cincinnati and have no intention to leave at this juncture, especially after having such a positive experience at the Brandery.
 
"We're light years ahead of the curve now," Lenahan says.
 
While many members of this year's class hail from elsewhere, there are a few examples of local talent. One of these companies, Venn, is made up of three native Cincinnatians who will probably stick around for a while.
 
"Being able to sit down [at the Brandery] and talk with the founders from successful startups—casually—is so huge," founder Steffan Howey says.
 
Howey, a startup veteran who handles the business end of things, joins Ian Donahue, a University of Cincinnati grad in charge of design and aesthetics, and Tim Giblin, a graduate of St. Xavier high school and Miami University who specializes in web development.
 
The Venn idea was born when a run-of-the-mill Craigslist meet-up went awry. Attempting to sell a phone, Howey says he was held up at gunpoint in a parking lot. The initial idea was that of a marketplace that would solve the problems that can arise when planning meet-ups, both social and otherwise. After working with the Brandery for a few months, the trio discovered an even bigger opportunity. Instead of a marketplace, Venn has now redirected its focus to creating an application that will provide a useful tool for developers.
 
"Developers will be able to build a new class of web and mobile applications where things like reservations, transportation, payments, identity verification, scheduling and location recommendations are as easy to integrate into their app as flipping a switch," Howey says.
 
Venn's most notable recent project is an app called Meetloaf, or, as Donahue describes it, "the Tinder for places." With a little help from Interbrand, the app features an adorable character named Marty Meetloaf who helps you navigate the when, where, who and how of getting together. The app is currently under review at Apple.
 
For those looking for a startup job, Venn is also hiring iOS developers. In the meantime, they can't wait to get little Marty off the ground.
 

Read more articles by Kristen Franke.

Kristen Franke is a Cincinnati native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Florida State University College of Law. When she's not editing the Innovation + Job News section for Soapbox Media, she works as a freelance technology writer.
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