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Cincinnati : Innovation News

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Cintrifuse CEO joins world's largest startup accelerator board


In a move that could have national implications for Cincinnati’s tech scene, Cintrifuse CEO Wendy Lea will join the board of directors for Denver-based Techstars, the world’s largest tech startup accelerator network.

Lea’s involvement with Techstars can be traced back to the accelerator’s founding in Boulder, Colo., in 2006. She became CEO of Cintrifuse in 2014 and worked in 2016 to establish Cincinnati as a host for FounderCon, an annual gathering of Techstars alumni.
 
“As a Techstars mentor since 2007, Wendy understands the value of our mission,” says Techstars co-founder and co-CEO David Cohen. “In 2016, she was instrumental in bringing the most recent Techstars founder event, FounderCon, to Cincinnati, an emerging startup hub in the Midwest. We plan to lean on Wendy for strategies that make this a win-win for founders, startup communities and corporations with a desire for innovation.”
 
In addition to growing entrepreneurial endeavors, Techstars is a philanthropic foundation. Lea will help steer the organization as one of seven directors.
 
To date, more than 1100 entrepreneurs — including a few Cincinnati companies — have completed the Techstars accelerator program.
 
Cincinnati leaders like CincyTech president Mike Venerable hope that Lea’s addition to the Techstars board will mean opportunities for Cincinnati and growth for our tech scene.
 
"Wendy's energy and experience have already had a great impact here, capped by her work to bring Techstars' FounderCon to Cincinnati late last year," Venerable says. "Her seat on the Techstars board gives our region the collected wisdom and learnings of the Techstars global community and connections that are unmatched in the startup space."
 

Faith-based startup accelerator OCEAN announces third class

 
Oakley-based OCEAN Accelerator recently named the third class of entrepreneurs to enter its business-incubation program. OCEAN is the first faith-based business accelerator in the nation, and is located at the Crossroads Church campus in Oakley.
 
Since its founding in 2014, OCEAN has accepted up to 10 startups each year, taking participants on a five-month global journey where their business ideas receive faith-based mentoring and support.
 
The 2017 OCEAN class will run Jan. 16 through the end of May. While OCEAN has always offered seed investment opportunities, the amount has increased this year to $50,000.
 
Visit OCEAN's website to learn more about the 2017 class of startups, which includes:
  • AraJoy Inc. Software: enables drones to film sporting events without a human operator.
  • Bundle: a mobile inventory, low-price tracking tool.
  • Cloverleaf.me: a visualization and scenario-planning tool for team management.
  • ConsultMates: healthcare consulting marketplace and info-sharing tool.
  • FLX: financial software for farmland rental contracting.
  • Kwema: emergency alert system that connects smart bracelet to a mobile app.
  • Owl Labs: a research and development lab that facilitates human-machine interaction. 
2017 participants hail from as nearby as Cincinnati, Illinois and Georgia, and as far away as Sudan, Chile and Australia. The class is comprised of 43 percent female and 25 percent minority founders.
 

UC law students provide free legal counsel to 230 local entrepreneurs


The University of Cincinnati College of Law is giving its students real-world experience with Cincinnati entrepreneurs through a partnership with the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) and MORTAR.

“One of the best ways for our law students to learn how to practice law is by actually doing it,” says Lew Goldfarb, director of the ECDC. “In the clinic, law students assume responsibility for managing attorney-client relationships from start to finish, an experience that cannot be duplicated in the classroom.”

The ECDC opened in 2010 to provide hands-on training for law students and to provide free legal services to local entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations that might otherwise be unable to afford professional counsel. In the past six years, 147 students have provided over $1 million in free legal help to 230 local businesses and organizations.

“The ECDC is different than most other business clinics due to its extensive community involvement,” Goldfarb says. “We partner with many local business organizations, law firms and local lawyers, which helps enhance our impact on local entrepreneurs and law students alike.”
 
Under the supervision of Goldfarb and attorneys from local law firms, students prepare and review contracts, work on trademarks and copyrights and handle issues around corporate governance and employment practices, as well as prepare applications for tax-exempt status. Fellowships with ECDC are offered each semester and over the summer.
 
In addition to ECDC’s relationship with MORTAR, students have worked with other local incubators like Bad Girl Ventures, The Brandery, First Batch, the Hamilton County Business Center and OCEAN Accelerator. The students' experience with each accelerator program is similar, but their work must be tailored to the varied needs of their clients.
 
“Most MORTAR business owners are starting lifestyle businesses and not high-growth, venture track tech businesses, like those participating in The Brandery program,” Goldfarb says. “Students sometimes must adjust their legal priorities and how certain agreements are drafted.”
 
Goldfarb’s commitment to support and strengthen the local entrepreneurial community extends to serving as a member of MORTAR’s board.
 
“I was thrilled when I read about the launch of MORTAR,” Goldfarb says. “I believe its mission met a significant, unmet need in the entrepreneurship community. I reached out to Derrick Braziel to find out more about their plans and to discuss a potential partnership with the ECDC.”
 
ECDC also works with independent clients that are not affiliated with one of the local accelerator or incubator programs. Community partners refer businesses that are in need of assistance, and other clients reach out for assistance directly through an application on the group's website.

With the tremendous growth in the local entrepreneurial community and redevelopment efforts underway in many Cincinnati neighborhoods, ECDC anticipates there will be an increasing need for its services.
 
“I am open to collaborations with other organizations in the community as long as it will benefit our students and our resources allow it,” Goldfarb says. “By working together, I believe we can make a big difference in the community.”
 

Family advocacy group The Breeding Ground launches social network


This month, a new, Cincinnati-based social network will officially launch to help support working parents and their families.
 
The Breeding Ground is a national organization for parents that works to raise awareness and ensure family-supportive legislation and workplace policies. The group emphasizes inclusivity with regard to age, gender, marital status and sexual orientation among its members.
 
Attorney and social entrepreneur Rachel Loftspring returned to Cincinnati to start The Breeding Ground after living in Chicago and giving birth to her first child with her husband Dan.
 
“We aim to harness the collective power of parents — and at 35 million American families with children under the age of 18, we're a powerful group — to deliver change,” Loftspring says. “And for those parents who want to take on a leadership role, we are organizing our steering committee now.”
 
The Breeding Ground’s three-person team works with advisors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Hughes Strategies Ltd. and Centric Consulting to advocate for gender-neutral paid leave, affordable and quality early childhood education, flexible workplace policies, equality at home and at work and other issues that affect working parents.
 
By accessing The Breeding Ground’s interactive platform, registered members can share their experiences, connect to legislators, plan meetups and take advantage of other family-focused resources.
 
Members can also apply to lead a local chapter and host regional events related to awareness and legislative advocacy. Those interested in getting involved should email hello@thebreedingground.org.
 

Local tech startup tilr receives job-creation city grant


Last month, the City of Cincinnati granted a Job Creation Tax Credit to tilr, a company that will use the funds to hire 150 employees over the next three years.
 
The tech startup uses a patent-pending algorithm to connect qualified workers with area companies on an as-needed, on-demand basis. tilr endeavors to save time for both candidates and employers by streamlining the job application process and eliminating the need for cover letters and lengthy interviews.
 
Interested employers can visit tilr’s website and browse hundreds of vetted, trusted workers to meet a variety of short- and long-term placement needs. For employees, tilr provides a background check, introductory phone call and membership in the online community.

The company was incorporated in October of 2015 by five co-founders: Carisa Miklusak, Summer Crenshaw, Luke Vigeant, Sam Pillersdorf and Stephen Shefsky.

"Not only is tilr a local direct employer that will grow to a projected 100-plus jobs over the next three years," says Crenshaw, who, along with her team has grown the company to 17 employees since launching. "It is also a marketplace with over 13,000 community members in the Cincinnati area placing individuals with companies for work opportunities."
 
tilr recently moved into a new space at 308 E. 8th Str. downtown.

"As tilr launched beta and market release of the product in the Cincinnati region, Cincinnati rose to the top as a premier destination for a tilr office," Crenshaw says. "After months of working in the market (and one of the co-founders being a Cincinnati native), the co-founders agreed that Cincinnati would become the operational headquarters for the organization. Working with REDI Cincinnati, tilr was able to secure an incentive package that encourages tilr’s growth and expansion."

Its partnership with the city involves a 12-year tax credit that is based on future job creation with an average salary of $55,000 per year.
 

Watch list: Five local startups positioned for big growth in 2017


As Greater Cincinnati’s tech scene continues to experience rapid growth — jumping from 35th to 16th out of 40 metro areas polled in 2016 — a few startups have begun to break from the pack and show serious promise.
 
Here are five tech companies to watch in the coming year:
 
Astronomer: Veteran entrepreneurs Ry Walker and Tim Brunk secured $1.9 million in seed capital to found this big-data startup, which in 2016 scored some big-name clients as well as a partnership with CVG to analyze airport-collected data.

Everything but the House: Since the estate-sale marketplace launched in 2008, EBTH has raised $84.5 million in capital, and they’re not slowing down anytime soon. Currently active in 27 U.S. markets, the startup is growing at a rate of one new MSA per month.

FamilyTech: What started in 2012 as the popular ChoreMonster app has become a behemoth organization aimed at helping families stay connected as they grow. Millions of families worldwide now access the FamilyTech suite of apps, which includes Mothershp, ChoreMonster and Landra.
 
Lisnr: Billed as “the world’s most advanced ultrasonic audio technology,” Lisnr started out as an app to unlock special content from music. It has since grown into a unique service that allows users to transfer data using sounds inaudible to the human ear, with in-app capabilities that include mobile payment, event ticketing, instant replay and more.
 
MedaCheck: “Never forget to take your medications again,” is the tagline for this tablet-based service, which experienced meteoric growth in 2016 after a successful pilot with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The startup also recently expanded its audience to include adolescents and seniors, and they’re exploring further expansion in the coming year.
 

80 Acres Farms to reduce the number of miles produce travels from ground to plate


Winter in Ohio is not the season for fresh, homegrown strawberries and tomatoes — for now.

80 Acres Farms has big plans to change the local food system by bringing fresh, nutritious and environmentally-friendly produce to local plates year-round.
 
“Taste, nutrition and texture are based on many variables, such as healthiness of the plants and distance they are grown from market, which leads to picking the vegetables before they are ripe,” said Mike Zelkind, CEO of 80 Acres Farms. “Unfortunately, food today is bred to survive the complex global supply chain. By taking food miles out of the equation, we can provide high-quality, tasty, nutritious foods at a good price point. We’re not going to replace farmers. We want to provide year-round, locally grown produce.”
 
80 Acres Farms recently purchased a vacant building on an industrial site in Spring Grove Village. By February, its “plant paradise” will be up and running. The building will be converted into a fully-enclosed hydroponic farm. Using efficient technology and vertical growing systems, 80 Acres Farms will leverage its quarter-acre building into the equivalent of a 50-acre farm. The facility will also include a visitor center for the public.
 
“Our customer experience center will invite in the community,” Zelkind said. “We want to bring in local chefs for demonstration and have school kids come to learn about science, photosynthesis and nutrition. This project will show we can farm at a commercial level, but it will not be a massive production facility. Our intention is to have a lot of these farms all over. We want to be part of the community, so each farm needs to be right-sized for that place.”
 
The 80 Acres Farms growing system is water efficient, using 90 percent less water than traditional agriculture. As a completely closed system, the crops will be grown without pesticides. The efficiencies of the process will also increase the crops’ grow cycle.

Lettuce grown in a traditional garden can take 90-120 days from planting to harvest, depending on variables like heat, precipitation and pests. Inside the controlled environment at 80 Acres Farms, that same lettuce could be ready to harvest after 28 days, allowing for 12 crop cycles annually instead of the one or two harvests in traditional agriculture.
 
“Whether you are using soil or hydroponic methods to grow food, both are capable of providing delicious produce,” Zelkind said. “There really is an art to each method and one has to understand exactly what the plants need environmentally in order to grow a flavorful product. In both cases, an incredibly important aspect are the food miles. The further the product travels, the earlier it had to have been picked, which means the less time it had to develop its full flavor potential.”
 
80 Acres Farms has been working with small growers in Alabama to perfect its process. The research involves experimenting with temperature and light, as well as the equipment that supports the plants. 80 Acres Farms recently opened a manufacturing facility in Granite Falls, NC, to produce that equipment.

“With any new industry, there are folks trying to figure out the best way to do it,” Zelkind said. “We have an engineering team in North Carolina to build our own grow systems. We’ve teamed up with the best technology to build what will work for our needs.”

80 Acres Farms currently has 23 employees at its various sites. Over the next three years, Zelkind plans to hire 50 additional staff for the Cincinnati location.

“Our mission is to provide healthy, nutritious and affordable local food,” he said. “Our vision is to feed the world with locally grown, fresh and tasty produce, reconnecting people with the food they eat.”
 

Cincy Metro awarded for sustainability efforts that divert tons from landfill


Cincinnati’s transit agency has been recognized both locally and nationally for its ongoing sustainability programs, which this year included successful efforts to divert nearly 80,000 pounds of waste from local landfills.
 
In August, Cincy Metro earned The American Public Transportation Association’s bronze-level sustainability award for those and additional efforts to keep our city green.
 
More recently, Metro received the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District’s “2016 Recycle at Work Program” award.
 
Metro’s Green Team is made up of employees from around the organization who volunteered to complete the Federal Transportation Administration’s Environmental & Sustainability Management System training. The group is tasked with finding new and innovative ways to make the organization and its practices more environmentally sustainable.
 
This spring, Metro celebrated its one-year anniversary as part of the American Public Transportation Association and its national transit environmental commitment. During its first year of involvement, Metro recycled 500 pounds in light bulbs alone and reduced trash collection costs by 57 percent.
 
Metro, a nonprofit, is funded by tax dollars and overseen by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. It provides about 16 million rides to local residents and visitors annually.
 

Cintrifuse invests in Silicon Valley fund to spur connections, support for local startups


Cintrifuse’s Early Stage Capital Fund — also known as the Syndicate Fund — recently invested in a Silicon Valley venture fund called Bullpen Capital.
 
The details of the deal were not disclosed, but Bullpen represents the first Silicon Valley fund to receive an investment from Cintrifuse. As Cincinnati’s startup catalyst, the moves that Cintrifuse makes have major implications in terms of putting our local startup scene in line with others around the country and Silicon Valley at the national forefront.
 
"This is a big deal as it draws us closer to that startup epicenter of Silicon Valley," said Cintrifuse spokesman Eric Weissmann. "Actually, it's vice versa — drawing them closer to us and engagement with StartupCincy."
 
The Syndicate Fund is one of three legs of Cintrifuse’s organizational mission. By investing in venture funds around the country, Syndicate hopes to ensure reciprocal attention to Cincinnati’s most worthwhile projects and startup organizations.
 
Syndicate is funded by major local investors, including Procter & Gamble, Kroger and Western & Southern.
 
"(Startup life) is insular,” said Cintrifuse CEO Wendy Lea. “When you see other people are doing the same thing, it's important. And when they go to London, to San Francisco, to Berlin to call on a customer. And guess what? They'll call on that entrepreneur there. Now they know people there. How else would that have happened? A sterile LinkedIn connection? Relationships are the gas that drives a business."

 

Drees builds 200-home "agrihood" in Deerfield Township


Drees Homes has begun work on a model home at Elliot Farm, a 100-acre site in Deerfield Township that will eventually be home to a 200-unit agriculturally based community.
 
The so-called “agrihood” will feature community gardens, walking trails, a pool, parks, fishing lake and additional residential amenities.
 
“Our pre-sales are doing fantastic,” said Ray Neverovich, president of Drees’ Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky division. “This is a Drees flagship community.”
 
The land that Drees purchased from the Elliott family this summer for $2.5 million will be subdivided into three distinct neighborhoods: Legacy, Traditions and Heritage.
 
Legacy at Elliot Farm is the patio-home portion of the community, providing lawn care and snow maintenance with homes priced between $290,000 and $350,000.
 
Traditions will feature ranch-style homes with mostly two- and three-car front entry garages, priced between $346,000 and $435,000.
 
Finally, Heritage at Elliot Farm will include larger-scale homes with side-entry garages and a price range of $466,000 to $600,000.
 
Elliot Farm, unlike other neighboring agriculturally driven communities like Aberlin Springs by Pendragon Homes in Morrow, will not feature a full-fledged farm.
 
Once completed, the Elliot Farm development is expected to cost about $90 million.
 

Price Hill seeking applicants for storefront business expansion


Price Hill Will, the comprehensive community development corporation serving all three Price Hill neighborhoods, is looking for local entrepreneurs to apply for a new program to start or expand small businesses.
 
Successful completion of the program will include storefront space in Price Hill’s Warsaw Business District. Interested parties should start by applying here by Dec. 16.
 
Selected applicants will participate in a four-week workshop featuring information sessions and professional networking to help grow their business and compete with fellow entrepreneurs for the storefront location.
 
“The primary motivation is to start to reactivate the Warsaw Avenue business district,” said PHW spokesperson Sam McKinley.

Through the program’s culminating pitch competition, McKinley said, the strongest of those businesses will earn a “pop-up” storefront presence to further boost the recovering business district.

“We also want to do everything we can to set them up for success and, we hope, a long-term home in Price Hill," McKinley said.
 
PHW has worked with organizations like the East Price Hill Business Alliance, the West Price Hill Merchants Association, Mount St. Joseph University and the Incline Incubator to revitalize Glenway, Warsaw and Price avenues, the W. Eighth Street corridor and areas of Lower Price Hill. The organization’s goals include supporting longstanding businesses and bringing in new commercial ventures to reinvigorate the up-and-coming neighborhood.
 
To learn more about the program, contact phwopportunity@gmail.com or McKinley at sam@pricehillwill.org.
 

City's new web feature connects residents with real-time data


In a sneak-peek demonstration on Dec. 7, the City of Cincinnati unveiled its new interactive CincyInsights dashboard, which will allow the public access to real-time information on weather, emergency response, roadway projects and other residential issues.
 
The CincyInsights dashboard will be accessible 24/7 on the city’s new CincyInsights webpage, where any user can easily analyze and interact using geo-targeted filters for neighborhoods, as well as day/time, activity type and more.
 
This new public tool will feature real-time reports on crime, emergency response, potholes, registered vendors and blight reduction, plus other ongoing projects the city oversees.
 
City Manager Harry Black established five strategic goals for the project, including safer streets, growing economy, thriving and healthy neighborhoods, innovative government and fiscal sustainability and strategic investment.
 
Users will tap into continually updated datasets provided through the city’s existing Open Data Portal — the difference is that the new dashboards were designed to make provided data more visually appealing, conveniently accessible and user-friendly.
 
“Having this data at our fingertips will enable us to enhance City services and become a more efficient organization,” said Mayor John Cranley. “This is also a great way to utilize technology to increase transparency.”
 

WEL Enterprise receives $25,000 in funding from Bad Girl Ventures


On Dec. 6, the fall Bad Girl Ventures LAUNCH class graduated, with WEL Enterprise taking home $25,000 in funding.
 
“All the money is going entirely towards my pilot project, which has a total cost of $100,000,” said Katrina Eckard, CEO of WEL Enterprise. “So now I will be pursuing other funds to complete the total, then I will be able to immediately build the first WEL system for wastewater treatment and reclamation of its kind. I have an incredible team of experts in place who have been working with me in my research and development over that past couple of years so we are ready to go!”
 
BGV Executive Director Nancy Aichholz said that the selection committee faced a difficult decision in choosing a winner from the cohort but expressed her confidence in the entire class to secure capital and move forward with their businesses.

Douglas Craven, director of corporate advancement for the Economic Community Development Institute, who served on the selection committee, said that ECDI will offer financing to another cohort member, Chica Sport.
 
“We plan to utilize the funding from ECDI to dramatically increase our inventory of our flagship product, the Seat Hero, in order to grow our retail partnerships, as well as open our own retail space for all of our athletic accessories,” said Meredith Finn, president and owner of Chica Sport. “Thanks to BGV and ECDI, Chica Sport is ready for our next big step.”
 
The graduation event, which was held at Rhinegeist, was the culmination of a big year for BGV, starting with the implementation of its new curriculum: EXPLORE, LAUNCH and GROW. The organization also moved into its new office space in Covington, and held its first open-to-the-public pitch night in November.
 
“We expected 50 people, and we had over 80 in attendance from the startup and business community from both sides of the river,” said Angela Ozar, BGV program manager. “It was a strategic move for BGV going forward, and was great exposure for the cohort to gain recognition and connections from our network." 
 
The LAUNCH accelerator program focuses on established, women-owned businesses that are looking to expand. The fall 2016 cohort included Chica Sport, Cinfully Sweet, Dry Moon Pillowcases, SecondNurture and WEL Enterprise. BGV is accepting applications for the next LAUNCH class through Feb. 10.
 
“I learned so much that I am able to apply to my business right away and in the future,” Finn said. “I know I am part of the BGV family, and with that comes an invaluable network of fellow women entrepreneurs.”
 
LAUNCH cohort member Debra Mooney of Dry Moon Pillowcases completed the EXPLORE program earlier this year, and is helping BGV with the GROW program that will begin next year.
 
“BGV is as much about process as it is content,” Mooney said. “The network of motivated, energetic, creative, diverse and supportive women is terrific.”
 
Mooney is using her LAUNCH experience to move her product into local retail locations, supplementing her online operation. She will facilitate a GROW seminar, Entreleadership, Mastery and Moxie, on Jan. 18 at BGV’s Mentor Avenue offices.
 
"Our GROW program is designed to help all entrepreneurs further their knowledge and skills to grow their business,” Ozar said. “The program will feature a la carte monthly workshops on a topic relevant to entrepreneurs.”
 
The first BGV GROW workshop, a partnership with VonLehman CPA & Advisory Firm, takes place Feb. 14 on HR & Risk Management, registration is required. The next EXPLORE class will begin in the spring.
 

Ludlow circus entrepreneur continues work on brewery concept


Paul Miller is the driving force behind Ludlow’s popular Circus Mojo — a training ground for circus arts — where Miller serves up performances and libations to patrons in the Ludlow Theatre building at 322 Elm St.

Circus Mojo has featured artists from 36 countries in an effort to put Ludlow on the global map for theater arts destinations.  
 
Seven years ago, Miller purchased the 68-year-old building, as well as a neighboring liquor distribution center. He has since used those spaces to headquarter his circus operations; he also sells beer.
 
Now, Miller will partner with Belgium native Matthew Vermael to combine a new brewery concept with the circus business under the appropriately named Bircus Brewery.
 
“The theater is a great venue, but you don’t make enough money selling other people’s beer,” Miller said.
 
The pair will draw upon Belgian-inspired brew recipes, and proceeds will support Circus Mojo’s Social Circus Fund, which assists Ludlow’s children, nursing homes and hospitals.
 
Miller was able to raise $150,000 for the project from a variety of sources, including an investment by Blue Oven Bakery. The grassroots bakery, which started in 2007, has been providing grains to local breweries and distilleries for many years and is now the largest investor to date in Bircus.

Bircus is the first brewing company in the United States and the first business in Kentucky to obtain Tier 1 of Regulation A+ with Securities and Exchange Commission. This designation allows anyone who lives in Indiana, Kentucky or Ohio to invest in Bircus, with a minimum investment of $1,000.

“What’s so neat about this is my butcher invested, my doctor invested, a lot of people are investing, and I’ve been really specific and strategic in raising this money,” he said. “I wanted to tie in the whole idea of giving the gift of beer this year — buy your dad a share in the brewery.”

The brewery has also be labeled a Qualified Small Business with the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, which qualifies it for the Angel Investment Act that requires a minimum investment of $10,000 to receive a 40 percent tax credit.

With $150,000 in investments and all of the necessary permits, Bircus has been given the green light to start brewing, and is currently searching for a brewmaster. They're accepting applications for a brewmaster with commercial experience who is open to creating recipes with Blue Oven's grains.
 

WEL Enterprises launches water reclamation system in Hamilton


WEL Enterprise started out with a mission to solve an environmental problem: water pollution. Its industrial water reclamation system that launched at Municipal Brew Works in Hamilton on Nov. 22 not only deals with pollution — it’s creating drinkable water and byproduct-based fertilizers, as well as reducing water usage and saving money.
 
“Breweries use a lot of water, about 10 gallons for every one gallon of beer,” said Katrina Eckard, WEL Enterprise CEO. “We can save at least half of the water they use and eliminate at least 95 percent of the pollutants in it, such as residue from ingredients and piping.”
 
Because those pollutants are neutralized and turned into a high-grade fertilizer, the brewery doesn’t have to pay a sewer surcharge, and the local water treatment facility doesn’t have to dispose of it. It's a win-win.
 
WEL Enterprise’s reclamation system is unique in that it addresses reclamation of the entire waste stream, not just water.
 
“Large industries that require a lot of water, like meat processing, paper mills and steel manufacturing, also generate a lot of waste,” Eckard said. “It takes two components to galvanize steel, water and hydrochloric acid. There’s up to 100,000 gallons of water going down the drain every day. We can recycle not only the water, but also pull the hydrochloric acid out of it and put it back into the process.”
 
Eckard already has a patent on the industrial segment of the reclamation system. WEL is currently trying to raise $100,000 to test the process at scale, including its software that monitors flow, optimizes the equipment and provides real-time data on usage and savings. Once the process is tested and tweaked, it will be adapted to other settings, including municipal services and even Third World villages.
 

Corporate and municipal clients are already expressing interest, including a barge-based desalination project.

WEL has been working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency on research and testing. The Ohio EPA has already certified WEL’s system as a verified system for reclamation. The EPA is also considering tax credits for industries adopting the system, similar to the Energy Star appliance credits available to homeowners.
 
 “We’ve been part of the Hamilton Mill incubator for two months and already have the brewery system designed,” Eckard said. “The progress has been unbelievable. I’m surprised by how much we’ve accomplished working here.”
 
“Katrina has done really well leveraging the expertise we have in Hamilton,” said Antony Seppi, director of operations at Hamilton Mill. “Our city-as-lab approach has been a great fit for her. She’s been able to work with the water treatment plant and establish a partnership with Municipal Brew Works.”
 
In addition to its work at Hamilton Mill, WEL Enterprises is firmly embedded in the Startup Cincy scene. The company is part of Bad Girl Ventures' current LAUNCH class, is collaborating with 2015 OCEAN graduate SEAREN on a pilot project at the Hamilton sewer district and has applied to participate in the first Pipeline H2O cohort.
 
Pipeline H2O, the water-focused accelerator program based at Hamilton Mill, has received over 60 applications from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. It will announce its inaugural class in a few weeks, and the class will begin in February.
 
“The quality of the applications was top notch,” Seppi said. “The challenge now is to identify the top nine or 10 startups that are addressing the major challenges related to water.”
 
“Cincinnati will be the Silicon Valley of global water technology, and I’m going to be a part of it,” Eckard added.
 
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