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Yearly IX event opens its doors and ideas to the public for the first time


Innovation Xchange might just be the biggest #StartupCincy event you’ve never heard of, and for good reason. When Cintrifuse launched the program four years ago — and in the three iterations since — it’s been an invitation-only matchmaking event for BigCos and startups.

“Cintrifuse saw an opportunity to draw startups from coastal ecosystems to Cincinnati to help BigCos address their challenges,” says Eric Weissmann, director of marketing at Cintrifuse. “We worked with the local CIO roundtable to find out what problems their companies struggled with, which platforms interested them and what technologies they wanted to learn more about.”

Based on what Cintrifuse gleaned from those meetings, it grouped those challenges into segments and put a call out to its network, including not only startups based in Cincinnati, but also those in the portfolios of its investment funds and other startup ecosystems.

The 70 responses Cintrifuse received for the inaugural event were curated down to about 24 companies that came to Cincinnati to pitch the BigCos on their companies and solutions.

“IX is the physical manifestation of the Cintrifuse purpose,” Weissmann says. “Encouraging BigCo innovation by working with startups; not acquiring them, but working with them as partners and vendors.”

The IX event is not a fancy RFP process or a hackathon weekend. BigCos present focused problems in areas like the internet of things, employee engagement or workforce management. Startups with existing products that offer solutions pitch directly to these potential partners and clients, hopefully resulting in new business.

“Participating in IX is a big deal for startups,” Weissmann says. “Cintrifuse is acting as the business development rep, vetting the briefs from BigCos to ensure they have resources to spend and project management systems to run a partnership. The startups do the rest.”

Although the first two IX events were extremely successful and resulted in dozens of pilot partnerships and projects, Cintrifuse saw room for improvement.

“We found that BigCos need help defining their problems and learning how to work with new vendors,” Weissmann says. “Last year, we held workshops for the BigCos to think through the challenges where they needed solutions and put together innovation briefs for startups to address. We also added a keynote speaker to talk about innovation and set the stage for the pitches.”

For the 2017 IX event, tickets to the morning program will be available to the public. It will feature keynote speaker Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, followed by a number of breakout sessions. Owyang, an expert on corporate innovation and disruptive technologies, will speak on adaptive business models and his recent white paper.

“Attending IX will be a great opportunity for startups interested in enterprise sales to see how other similar companies are operating,” Weissman says. “The thought leadership session will also help venture capital and BigCos see what’s coming on the radar and it could serve as a sounding board or validation tool for their investments.”

Tickets for the June 22 IX event will go on sale May 22.
 


Ignite Institute to help jumpstart hands-on job training within Boone County School District


When Toyota leaves Kentucky later this year, its Quality and Production Engineering lab in Erlanger will become a regional hub for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning, and will be renamed the Roebling Innovation Center.

“Two years ago, Mike Goss, general manager of Toyota Social Innovation, went to the governor to discuss the legacy Toyota would leave behind,” says Dr. Karen Cheser, superintendent of the Boone County School District. “After brainstorming with the community, the idea for Ignite Institute at the Roebling Innovation Center coalesced.”

The Ignite Institute at Roebling Innovation Center, which will be owned and operated by Boone County schools, will be open to any student in the region interested in an in-depth, hands-on learning environment.

“All content areas will be taught, but they will be taught differently,” Cheser says. “An interdisciplinary approach will focus on hands-on learning and technology. Students will create, make and perform as they focus on solving real-world problems.”

Teachers for the Institute will be trained using Harvard Case Studies and Partnership for Innovative Education curriculums. They will also learn how to communicate and collaborate with business industry partners.

“Information technology, logistics, advanced manufacturing, construction technology and health science have been identified as focus areas for the program,” Cheser says. “Students will explore career pathways in one of those areas to determine their level of interest and obtain a certification."

For example, if a student was interested in health science, they would get traditional credits in math and science, but they may also want to explore the EMT career path. They would spend half of each day in the field with Gateway Community and Technical College and the fire department.

"The student will learn what it takes to have a career as an EMT and where else it could lead; they will also earn their EMT certificate," Cheser explains.

The Boone County School District has formed a nonprofit foundation to help cover the costs of serving non-Kentucky residents who attend the Insitute. They have already received $6.7 million from the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative but will need to raise more to renovate the building into a 108,000-square-foot school with a state-of-the-art fabrication lab.

The Institute will utilize 80 percent of the building, with the remaining space to be used for a community child care center, teacher training center, university practicum classes and possibly a business incubator.

“Boone County is a state district of innovation,” Cheser says. “We need a school that caters to the way kids learn now; a program that offers personalized pathways and hands-on learning that will provide 21st-century skills and in-depth career exploration that creates a pipeline to jobs in our region.”

The school is scheduled to open in time for the 2019-2020 school year. The Boone County School District is currently reaching out to regional businesses to collaborate on the project.
 


Cincinnati first U.S. city to host data analytics MeasureCamp "un-conference"


Cincinnati has been selected as the first stateside destination for a popular international gathering of data scientists, data engineers, marketers and business analysts.

Founded in London in 2012, MeasureCamp is a free event that invites anyone interested in digital analytics to share ideas, ask questions and collectively discover new approaches to gathering consumer data. The event has now attracted sold-out crowds in 14 cities around the world.

For the first time, this “un-conference” — so dubbed due to the event’s intentional absence of any formal agenda — will take place in the United States, with Cincinnati chosen as the first of two venues. (A second MeasureCamp event will follow later this year in San Francisco.)

The daylong event begins at 9 a.m. on May 13 at Cintrifuse’s Union Hall, located at 1311 Vine St.

Dave Paprocki is part of the team bringing MeasureCamp to Cincinnati, along with data experts from consumer insights firm Astronomer, Kroger Corporation and other sponsors.

“(Hosting MeasureCamp locally) solidifies Cincinnati’s reputation internationally as a hub for data and analytics enthusiasts,” says Paprocki, who also serves as director of marketing at Astronomer. “We not only wanted to sponsor it, we wanted to be on the ground floor and help to organize it.”

Eschewing the traditional conference format, MeasureCamp attendees will instead exchange ideas as a group and create on-the-spot “sessions” that could range from deeper-dive technical conversations to creative brainstorming. Organizers say all attendees will be encouraged to discuss and participate in the sessions, and each attendee will have the opportunity to lead their own session according to the info they find most interesting and useful.

"Tapping into our collective experience as a community is key to solving our personal and corporate missions in digital analytics,” says Hananiel Sarella, lead developer at Kroger and MeasureCamp Cincinnati organizer. “I am thrilled with the excitement and support we have received in organizing this event.”

Click here to learn more and to register for the event.
 


Two of Cincinnati's startup incubators announce changes


The seven-year itch usually implies a level of unhappiness or dissatisfaction, but for two Cincinnati startup accelerator programs, turning seven has inspired exciting and positive changes.

The Brandery

In 2010, The Brandery began an accelerator program to leverage the marketing and branding talent in the Greater Cincinnati region. Since then, 66 graduates have completed the program. Last month, The Brandery announced a new focus for future cohorts, emphasizing Digitally-Native Full Stack Products and startups that support those companies.

“We are playing to our strengths as an accelerator,” says Justin Rumao, program manager at The Brandery. "The expertise of our mentors, our most supportive and engaged venture capitalists/investors and the work our creative agency partners do with consumer brands every single day. Bringing in 8-10 companies that our accelerator can better speak to and support makes all the difference, both during the program and after.”

The Brandery is looking for companies that have built a physical product that they sell primarily online; startups that use artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and analytics to connect digital and physical shopping; and marketing technologies focusing on CRM, mobile marketing, analytics and sales technologies.

“We’re seeing a higher quality of application, as the companies applying now understand the value of our relationships with P&G, Kroger and other bigcos in town,” Rumao says. “Investors know Cincinnati is the place to launch a consumer brand, so the firms that are investing in this space have already taken an active interest in the region. They expect great things from The Brandery as the opportunity to invest in startups that are disrupting the Consumer Goods space grows across the country.”

The first class with this new emphasis will start June 20; applications are being accepted through April 29.

Bad Girl Ventures

Bad Girl Ventures started in 2010 to provide capital investment to small, female-owned startups. Last week, the incubator announced a new name and brand: Aviatra Accelerators.

“We saw the female entrepreneur evolve from an edgy, bootstrapping entrepreneur into a corporate woman who is leaving a really big job to pursue her dream,” says Nancy Aichholz, president and CEO of Aviatra. “Changing the name to a more mature, professional name meets women where they are and brands us as a more substantial player in the ecosystem of startup organizations.”

The rebranding was driven by research conducted by Northern Kentucky University and Lindner Women in Business. Brand evolution agency Hyperquake conducted additional market research and to help craft the new brand.

“Aviatrix, or female pilots, stood for pride and strength,” says Holly Shoemaker, creative director at Hyperquake. “The name embodies the feeling of moving forward, confidence, passion, strength and drive.”

The name — Aviatra — combines two Latin words: avis for bird and atria, meaning open to the sky.

“Our mission has not changed,” says Aichholz. “We just need to do it differently now than we did in the past because women have changed and the ecosystem has changed. ‘Ventures’ in the original name only represented part of our work. We do so much more. We help women from ideation to exit and everything in between. We’re here to help all women entrepreneurs, not just women who have come through our programs. Aviatra Accelerators has become a resource center for all women entrepreneurs.”

The first class of Aviatras will graduate in May.
 


First class of Pipeline H2O hosting demo day on May 18

 

Over the past few weeks, we’ve profiled the six members of Pipeline H2O’s first cohort. This spring, the 15-week commercialization program will come to a head with its first ever Demo Day.

 

Pipeline’s mission is to identify and commercialize the leading water-based startups around the world. It leverages the country’s public-private water innovation cluster to provide customers, mentors and support to its members.

 

Since February, Pipeline members have been working through their trials and successes, and will present their ideas and products to the public on May 18.

 

The water tech companies pitching on Demo Day are:

  • AguaClara, a social enterprise that designs non-electric municipal scale water treatment technologies that are sustainable in underserved communities
  • ANDalyze developed DNA-enzyme sensors to bring real-time water testing to the field
  • kW River Hydroelectric developed technology to extract renewable energy form low-level dams using their patented micro-turbine
  • PowerTech Water developed a disruptive technology platform to clean and purify water
  • Searen is using vacuum air-lift technology to harness the power of nature while streamlining water treatment
  • WaterStep International developed the “Water on Wheels” mobile unit to provide a rapid response mini-water treatment solution in the case of emergencies or disasters

Demo Day will be held at Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; the program will begin at 6 p.m. Pitches will be followed by light snacks, drinks and networking until 8 p.m.

 

Tickets are free, and can be reserved here.

 

Pipeline H2O’s Demo Day is presented by The Hamilton Mill, Cintrifuse, #startupcincy and Village Capital.
 

 


Women In Digital conference to feature Cincy's most influential female leaders


On April 6, professional association Women In Digital will host its first ever symposium, featuring some of Cincinnati’s most recognizable female marketers.

The day-long event will take place at Rhinegeist and, according to the group’s website, will feature talks and activities “meant to inspire, educate and empower women in digital media and marketing; leaving them with a powerful local network.”

Featured topics and speakers will include:

  • Welcome, Women In Digital founder Alaina Shearer, who also founded Columbus-based Cement Media
  • Building and Communicating Confidence, Kelsey Pytlik, co-founder and CEO, Gild Collective
  • Women in Leadership: You Have the Power to Make a Difference, Amy Vaughan, creative director, POSSIBLE

A panel entitled “The Future of Influence” will feature:

“Ultimately, we aim to create a network of women in digital across the country who are bound by a pledge to grant each other what we call ‘asks’ and ‘gives,’” says Shearer. “(These are) essentially favors all meant to improve each other's personal and professional lives. The power of learning to ask each other for help is transformative for our members and you can imagine the impact that has for each of them.”

Shearer says speakers and panelists for the event were selected through a combination of “good old-fashioned LinkedIn stalking” and organic outreach via WID’s extensive network. She hopes event attendees will leave feeling empowered to organize their own quarterly meetings and facilitate conversations on the critical issues facing women in marketing around the world.

WID currently extends membership exclusively to women; however, the group plans to extend a portion of tickets for programming later this year to male participants. Specifically, four percent of ticket sales will be reserved for men — a number that reflects the percentage of women nationally who occupy CEO positions with Fortune 500 companies.

Shearer adds, as a special note for Soapbox readers, that readers whose “male bosses will not purchase their tickets” to the event should contact Alaina@womenin.digital for assistance.
 


Founded in Honduras, AguaClara looks to broaden clean water scope


AguaClara LLC came to Pipeline H2O not to produce and sell proprietary water technology, but to develop a sustainable business model so it can provide clean water to isolated communities.

“We are a certified B corporation so profit is not our main goal,” says Maysoon Sharif, AguaClara's managing director. “Our bottom line is creating a real impact building sustainable water treatment plants.”

AguaClara grew out of a Cornell University project led by Dr. Monroe Weber-Shirk. After spending time in Honduras, he collaborated with local NGO Agua Para el Pueblo to devise a system using local materials and local labor to build water treatment plants that were simple to operate and required no electricity to run.

“I joined AguaClara as a student at Cornell and was asked to stay on after I finished my engineering degree,” Sharif says. “We were getting requests from other organizations working in other countries to develop new designs for their communities.”

The LLC company formed in 2012 to work in the field to get water treatment systems constructed and deployed for communities. AguaClara consultants train on-site partners how to install, maintain and operate the systems.

“We create the water treatment system designs in collaboration with community partners,” Sharif says. “We provide the required hydraulic design. But the system needs to be built according to local construction processes.”

AguaClara currently operates in Honduras and India but is evaluating expansion into other countries, as well as applications domestically.

“Small systems don’t always meet EPA water quality standards, so we’re looking into what we need to do to pilot our technologies here and demonstrate that AguaClara offers a feasible alternative,” Sharif says. “Pipeline is trying to get us in front of customers and start to explore the U.S. market and where we can be helpful.”

The Pipeline network has provided AguaClara with an outside perspective on its business model, as well as guidance and mentorship in developing a financially sustainable company.

“It has been challenging, but that’s a good thing,” Sharif says. “Pipeline is forcing us to focus on what we need to do to grow the company, which is something we really needed. It’s easy to retreat into the design work and forget about business development and building our internal capacity. The program is providing a sanity check on our work, recognizing our strengths and picking out glaring faults. That’s exactly what I want.”

The Pipeline cohort just completed its second on-site week at The Hamilton Mill, which included pitching their ideas at the Regional Smart Cities Initiative roundtable on March 15. In between their time in Hamilton, participants are busy running their companies and working on program homework. The inaugural Pipeline class will graduate at a demo day in May.

Read profiles of other Pipeline members Searen, ANDalyze, kW Hydroelectric, WaterStep International, PowerTech Water and WEL Enterprise.
 


LISNR tech startup partners with CAC for interactive museum experience


Thanks to a new partnership with LISNR audio-technology providers, the Contemporary Arts Center will soon launch a “digital docent” app to help visitors connect more deeply with installations like the current lobby exhibit “Solar Bell Ensemble” by artist Tomás Saraceno, which will run through June 18.

The app will be activated and powered by LISNR and will feature exclusive content, messages and experiences, including a personal greeting from the artist. Visitors can download the app, which is available for both iOS and Android. Pre-loaded content is then unlocked as they explore the exhibit.

“For the visitor, it's about the experience,” says LISNR co-founder Chris Ostoich. “You get to hear directly from the artist, and the app brings to life the exhibit in ways that the physical world won't allow you to. For example, the exhibit that is installed in the lobby is actually built to fly — you can be standing in front of the artwork, and then in the app you can be simultaneously watching video of that same exhibit flying through the sky.”

The idea for the partnership was born from last year’s ArtsWave “tech hackathon,” a problem-solving event that brought together the region’s most talented tech, design, marketing and creative professionals to solve real-time business problems in the arts sector.

“A participant in the event had the idea to use LISNR technology to enhance the visitor experience,” says Ostoich, who co-hosted the event. “We launched version one of the app in the winter and rolled out more formally last month.”

Ostoich and fellow co-founder Rodney Williams started LISNR in early 2012 with four other members of the local startup scene. Since then, the company has raised millions in investments and garnered international recognition, with accolades that include being named among Extreme Tech Challenge’s “Top 25” and Consumer Electronics Show’s “Top Software Product in 2017.”

Similar to Bluetooth, LISNR links digital devices, but instead of relying on radio waves, LISNR’s technology uses inaudible sound waves — a process that proponents say is faster, more efficient and more sustainable, as it requires less battery power than its traditional alternative.

Organizers say the CAC partnership is just the beginning. Whether users are attending a sporting event, visiting a museum or unlocking their car, fairly soon all those experiences could be powered by LISNR technology.

“There are myriad ways organizations can use our technology to revolutionize their business,” says Ostoich. “For example, we are working with arts organizations and venues to re-invent their ticketing process. Instead of spending money on paper tickets or expensive bar code scanners, a Smart Tone could be used as an audio ticket. We replace scanners, paper and the need to wait in line at the box office.”
 


Regional Smart Cities Initiative explores mobility and sustainability at third group discussion


Last week, the Regional Smart Cities Initiative held its third roundtable in Cincinnati, this time exploring mobility and sustainability.

“The idea of a smart city means different things to different people,” says Zack Huhn, director of RSCI. “We started with creating consensus among the stakeholders around the four pillars of smart cities: connectivity, security, mobility and sustainability.”

The first roundtable introduced the idea of smart cities and was followed by a session on connectivity and security. The programs, which have been open to the public, have drawn several dozen representatives from the private and public sector, as well as regional universities.

“We want to create an aligned brain trust of regional stakeholders to explore how we can work together to establish the first smart region,” Huhn says.

The foundation for creating a smart city or region, according to RSCI, is connectivity: getting usable, real-time feedback on the people, places and resources of a city or region.

“A smart city is similar to a smart home,” says Jon Salisbury, chief technology officer at Nexigen. “We need to look at how devices and networks communicate, and their power needs to come up with efficient solutions.”

Protecting those technology solutions, as well as ensuring overall public safety, is central to the security pillar of RSCI. Connectivity is also closely tied to the issues of mobility, including infrastructure for smart transit and opportunities for economic mobility. RSCI’s mobility pillar is also integral to its focus on sustainability.

“Next generation transit infrastructure offers a solution to three of the problems we’re talking about: smart land use, congestion and access to education,” Huhn says. “Mobility also overlaps with sustainability since so many of the particulates in the water and air come from transportation.”

One solution for future mobility and connectivity was presented by University of Cincinnati student Sid Thatham. He and his Hyperloop UC team are creating a prototype of next-gen transit, a high-speed, zero carbon pod that could move people from Cincinnati to Chicago in 30 minutes.

UC civil engineering professor Jonathan Corey addressed the need to develop smart infrastructure not only to communicate with autonomous vehicles but also to help buildings interact with the environment. Sensors used by smart cities could direct self-drive cars to parking spaces or tell buildings how to adjust temperature and lighting in response to weather changes.

“The mechanisms that built cities 100 years ago — roads, bridges, electrical lines — were the smart cities of their era,” says Chris Lawson, executive director of The Hamilton Mill. “Today, smart cities are built with fiber optics, sensors and smart meters. As we rebuild our infrastructure, we are creating opportunities for economic development.”

Following the speakers, the Pipeline H2O cohort, in town for its second week of classes, pitched their ideas for creating sustainable energy and renewable water sources.

The nonprofit RSCI, steered by a team of regional leaders, launched the roundtable series to create more engagement around the project leading up to its first smart cities summit, which will be held on April 25 at Union Hall.

Tickets for the summit are $60-125, and can be purchased here.

 


Pipeline H2O member engages in program, continues partnership with University of Kentucky

 

Lexington-based PowerTech Water, part of the inaugural Pipeline H2O class, formed to commercialize a water treatment technology developed at the University of Kentucky.

 

“We are looking forward to exploring Pipeline’s strong network and plugging into the ‘city as lab’ model to further test and validate our systems,” says Cameron Lippert, CEO of PTW.

The water purification system developed by PTW removes dissolved salts, minerals and metals such as sodium, calcium and lead from water supplies through de-ionization. Its proprietary system runs water through stacks of porous carbon and titanium plates where carbon electrodes remove the ions, cleaning the water as it moves through the system.

 

“Our system uses low energy, and has no filters to replace,” Lippert says. “The technology requires less maintenance, requires no anti-foulant chemicals, has a long lifetime and therefore will have substantially lower capital and operational costs than competing solutions.”

PTW is in the process of scaling up its module to be able to process one gallon of water per minute. The startup is also continuing to partner with the University of Kentucky.

“We have access to the scientist and engineers that developed the IP to answer any technical questions we may have, and if need be, we have access to lab space and instrumentation,” Lippert says.

The carbon electrode system can be used to clean water for disposal after being used in industrial processes, as well as reclaim water for re-use. In addition, the process is reversible and the system itself is renewable, providing significant cost savings in energy usage and replacing filters.

“We achieve a lower cost of treatment without the use of added chemicals, membranes or consumables, yielding a 60 percent reduction in cost, a 70 percent reduction in energy consumption, a 90 percent reduction in maintenance time and a 40 percent increase in water efficiency,” Lippert says.

Currently, PTW is targeting clients in the food and beverage industry, particularly distilleries and beverage bottlers.

“We are actively producing commercial prototypes that are being tested by potential customers for pilot and demo testing,” Lippert says. “Meanwhile, we are looking for pilot customers and strategic partners that can help reduce the time it takes to get to market.”

In addition to PTW, the Pipeline cohort includes two other water purification systems, Searen and WEL Enterprise.

“We are talking with both parties to see if we can all do a pilot together,” Lippert says. “Searen targets solids and VOCs, not dissolved solids or ions, and WEL is more of an engineering firm that installs technologies.”

Like several other cohort members, PTW is only on site in Hamilton each month during the week of classes and programming. Pipeline cohort members are then given assignments to work on during their time away from the program.

“Luckily the homework for Pipeline aligns well with the needed duties of running a startup,” Lippert says. “So it is a complementary process.”

Read profiles of other Pipeline members Searen, ANDalyze, kW Hydroelectric and WaterStep International

 


'Engaged' local orgs win big at Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit


Five Cincinnati grassroots organizations each received $10,000 in city grants to fund their innovative ideas at the 2017 Engage Cincy Grant Awards ceremony. The event took place last weekend at Xavier’s Cintas Center as part of the annual Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit.

The annual Neighborhood Summit is presented by Invest in Neighborhoods, in partnership with the City of Cincinnati, the Community Building Institute, LISC and the CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati. Hundreds of community leaders, volunteers, city officials and nonprofit professionals were on hand for day-long discussions focused on helping groups work more effectively to improve the quality of life across Greater Cincinnati.

More than 120 applicants submitted proposals for this year’s Engage Cincy grants. The field was then narrowed down to 10 finalists by a selection committee. City Manager Harry Black reviewed the committee’s recommendations before awarding grants of $10,000 each to the following projects:

Healthy Food for All Northsiders
Project leads: Churches Active in Northside (CAIN), Apple Street Market Cooperative Grocery Story and the Northside Farmers Market
This group’s mission is to build community through food-sharing by offering quarterly community meals and cooking demonstrations based on healthy, affordable recipes that use ingredients from community gardens and farmers’ markets.

Just Hire Me
Project lead: Lawrence Jones
This staffing platform offers a website and mobile app that works to connect neighborhood teens with businesses that are looking for employees. Participating teens age 14-18 can take part in a four-week job-readiness “boot camp” that helps them effectively interview, establish their own bank account and secure employment in the community.

Physi
Project lead: Marty Boyer
Physi’s state-of-the-art activity platform uses artificial intelligence to promote active lifestyles by connecting like-minded residents based on activities, interests, physical proximity and availability. Physi is available via mobile app and online.

Bridgeable
Project lead: Dani Isaacsohn
Bridgeable organizers collect community data and feedback and alert leaders to the conversations going on in their communities, thereby enabling conversations that lead to healthier relationships, better decisions and stronger communities.

Faces of Homelessness
Project leads: ArtWorks and Strategies to End Homelessness
This public art, public education and community engagement program was designed to encourage empathy and understanding by engaging local agencies and shelters with the populations they serve. The program pairs paid youth apprentices with professional artists on a variety of art and community-building projects that will include a permanent public art mural on Vine Street, in partnership with the Over-the-Rhine Community Housing’s Recovery Hotel.

“Every year it seems that the submissions become more creative in the ways they want to go about making our neighborhoods more engaging places to live,” says City Manager Black, who received unanimous support from the Mayor and City Council for the awards program. “We want that trend to continue for years to come.”

For photos from the event and more information about the Neighborhood Summit, check out the event’s Facebook page.
 


Dayton KY to commemorate native Slush Puppie founder with custom sculpture


Community organizers have hired local sculptor John Hebenstreit to create a six-foot bronze sculpture of the iconic Slush Puppie mascot, whose creator, the late Will Radcliff, hailed from Dayton, Ky.
 
The artwork will be displayed on the new 11-mile Riverfront Commons walking and biking trail that will connect all six Northern Kentucky waterfront communities. The sculpture will take about nine months to complete and carry a price tag of $55,000. Organizers have secured private funding and hope to gain further financial support from the Slush Puppie corporation, City of Dayton and other sources.
 
“Based on the unanimous support of all six council members at last month's meeting, I am optimistic that this is a project that ultimately through fundraising grants and donations will become a beloved hallmark on the riverfront,” says Catherine Hamilton, whose nonprofit NKY First is heading up the project.
 
Slush Puppie made his debut at last summer's River Cities Relay before attending the NKY Kite Festival in October. Last month, the furry mascot co-hosted a rededication ceremony for the Dayton Heritage Museum.
 
“The goal of creating a permanent tribute to founder Will Radcliff is twofold,” Hamilton says. “It first will capture the story of a kind and brilliant man who had a tremendous work ethic, as well as generous nature, and was a true role model for the community.”
 
Secondly, Hamilton says, the statue will signify to Riverfront Commons pedestrians that they’re entering Dayton, a welcoming gesture she feels “can reverberate for a great many miles and years.”
 
Hamilton plans to work with downtown architectural firm KZF, which is designing the Riverfront Commons project, to customize a Dayton segment that will prominently feature the new statue.

“Will everyone get it or appreciate the statue immediately? Of course not,” Hamilton says. “But I look forward to the day when a traveler from Greater Cincinnati stumbles across a Slush Puppie in the United Kingdom or South Africa and claims kinship with this sweet, icy beverage that now will have its forever home in Dayton.”
 

Nonprofit WaterStep International brings third-world water solutions to the U.S.


WaterStep International isn't the traditional accelerator program participant, as it is the only nonprofit organization in the inaugural cohort of Pipeline H2O.

“We are doing things a little backward,” says Mark Hogg, WaterStep's CEO and founder. “Usually, a corporation eventually forms a nonprofit to give back. We’re trying to figure out how we can sell, market and develop a plan for our products that will bring financial strength to our nonprofit.”

As a nonprofit, WaterStep works in developing countries to help communities get access to safe water solutions by providing water purification systems and health education, and by teaching residents how to repair and maintain their own wells. The solutions offered by WaterStep are often technologies it developed with community partners.

“There are so many engineers and innovators who want to be part of our work,” Hogg says. “During the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, we received a call from Project Hope requesting help obtaining bleach. We had developed a chlorine generator for other purposes, but we were able to work with GE and the University of Louisville to develop the product they needed.”

The chlorine generator, also known as the M-100 Chlorinator, was recognized in 2013 by Sustania as one of the 100 most promising solutions and projects in the world. The small device generates chlorine gas, which can be used to kill pathogens in water.

The portable bleach maker also won the New Product of the Year award from Environmental Protection, an online resource for environmental professionals. The device uses water, salt and a 12-volt car battery to make bleach on demand through electrolysis.

WaterStep came to Pipeline for help forming a business and for assistance in developing its latest product, a portable system that can provide safe drinking water in an emergency or disaster.

“The City of Louisville had a couple of major water main breaks and emergency management came to us asking if we had a response to provide safe water fast,” Hogg says.

The solution is a mini water-chlorination plant, about the size of a housekeeping cart at a hotel. WaterStep has already sold several to regional cities, including Louisville and Indianapolis, and is interested in expanding its market to hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities where access to clean water is critical.

In addition to seeking new clients, WaterStep has several other challenges it is exploring through Pipeline. The culture and language of nonprofits and businesses can be quite different, yet Hogg hopes to form a corporation with a culture that will complement WaterStep's existing nonprofit. In addition, WaterStep is learning how to tell its story to investors rather than philanthropists.

“We’ve proven ourselves in the developing world,” Hogg says. “We manufacture our own products. So we’re not coming to this hat in hand. Pipeline takes us seriously and challenges us. Everyone in Pipeline wants to change the world. This is the greatest moment to be working in the water field when we can do things that impact lives now and could still be making a difference in 100 years."

Read profiles of other Pipeline members Searen, ANDalyze and kW Hydroelectric.


AIGA supports future female leaders with March 31 gallery event


Cincinnati AIGA, the local chapter of a national group that supports female leaders, will extend its message to school-age girls with a Spicefire gallery event later this month.

For the second year, AIGA Cincinnati will honor Women’s History Month by presenting a “Words of Wisdom” gallery show in collaboration with the organization’s 18-month-old WomanUp initiative, which was created to address the challenges women face in obtaining creative leadership positions both locally and nationwide.

“Nationally, women only make up 11 percent of creative director jobs, despite the fact that the majority of designers, marketers and advertisers are female professionals,” says AIGA Cincinnati president and WomanUp co-founder Autumn Heisler. “We’re still having trouble getting women into that highest leadership level.”

“Words of Wisdom” will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on March 31 at Spicefire art gallery in Over-the-Rhine. The exhibit will feature work from established local artists and designers, as well as work by young women from area schools. That portion of the artwork will be presented by Girls with Pearls Cincinnati, a local chapter of the national nonprofit that focuses on empowering underserved girls who are facing challenging situations.

Girls with Pearls was founded locally by Tamie Sullivan. It started at Rockdale Academy in 2016, providing elementary and junior high school girls with a safe space to talk about and work through issues like self-esteem, their bodies and body image, sexuality and healthy relationships. 

"I could not be more excited about this new partnership with WomanUp ‘Words of Wisdom’ and the opportunity to expose girls in our program to professional women in creative fields,” Sullivan says. “These African-American girls are often forced to grow up faster than their counterparts in more affluent communities. They face more difficult life circumstances and increased responsibilities, so allowing them to just be girls and dream about their futures is what it’s all about." 

Sullivan says that she and other GWP organizers are extremely invested in the success of young women in the program. “One of the girls told me she had just been elected class president,” Sullivan says. “I was so proud and excited for her, almost like she were my own daughter.”

The free AIGA “Words of Wisdom” event is open to the public, but make sure to register ahead of time. Artists and designers interested in submitting work for the show should click here for more info.
 


Thrive Impact Sourcing's disruptive methods impact local employment rates


Since Thrive Impact Sourcing started in January 2016, the company has connected 35 unemployed and underemployed local residents with high-quality IT careers.
 
Kelly Dolan and Michael Kroeger started the company to address three realities in our region:
 
  1. Greater Cincinnati has a shortage of IT professionals; there are 3,000 unfilled positions at any given time. Many organizations have looked to offshore IT services or bring offshore resources onshore to fill this IT talent gap. 
  2. This creates a number of challenges in itself, and the challenges are likely to grow exponentially with policies being discussed under the new presidential administration.
  3. Cincinnati has an alarming poverty rate, with one in four residents living in poverty due to unemployment or underemployment.  
Dolan explains that when you look at these three factors combined: “Creating a business to be used as a force for good in being part of the solution is a no-brainer.”
 
Last year, Soapbox explained the disruptive “urban impact sourcing” model that Thrive uses to create high-quality opportunities in low-employment, urban areas. Thrive partners with nonprofit IT trainers Per Scholas — which has 20 years of experience — to give individuals free training they couldn’t receive anywhere else, as well as ongoing mentorship from senior IT professionals.
 
Using this model, Thrive brings a competitive and competent pool of IT talent to the marketplace.
 
“Thrive is fortunate to have mission-aligned, client partners who were early adopters of this disruptive business model,” says Dolan. “Our services also met a real need for their growing organizations.” CareSource and Crossroads are two area employers that have partnered with Thrive in its first year of business.
 
Dolan points to personal stories from Per Scholas graduates as evidence that the program, one of only two of its kind in the nation, is working to transform lives.
 
“I was living my dream as a stay-at-home mom when I found myself widowed at 31 with five young children to raise,” says Thrive software QA analyst and Per Scholas graduate Kelly K. “I had a few part-time jobs paying around $10 per hour and was getting increasingly distressed because I didn’t have any marketable skills to find a job that pays a sustainable wage. The Per Scholas software testing course was my ‘hail Mary,’ and now that I’m working at Thrive, I have a bright future and my family’s lives are changed.”
 
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