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4th Floor Creative shoots and scores in first year

Tom Gelehrter had more than a decade of experience in sports broadcasting when, just over a year ago, he decided to take his career in a different direction.
“I was really ready for a different challenge,” he says. “I was talking to a friend of mine on a drive home from work at 10:30 at night and ended up having an hour and half long conversation.”
Out of that late-night conversation in January 2015 came the concept of 4th Floor Creative, a company that creates graphic, digital and video products for clients. Although the creatives work for a variety of businesses, they’ve found a special niche for themselves with videos and other products for the world of professional and college sports.
This specialty speaks directly to Gelehrter’s background as a sportscaster at the University of Cincinnati for nine years before starting 4th Floor Creative. He was heavily involved in bringing UC’s sports broadcasting department into the digital age by building the new media department and implementing new broadcasting techniques like live-streaming audio and then streaming video.
“We used to joke, ‘Why aren’t we in my basement doing this?’” Gelehrter says, recounting time spent with his staff creating and editing video and new media products for UC. About a year ago, they finally made that leap.
Gelehrter and longtime collaborators Shane Harrison and Marc Graham have been able to make use of their sports media experience in their new endeavor. 4th Floor Creative is barely a year old, but the company is already building a reputation by creating digital solutions for sports.
Part of the growth could be attributed to a close partnership with folks who are making big waves in local sports news. 4th Floor Creative has become the primary video and media producer for FC Cincinnati as it gears up and gathers fans.
“We’re able to provide everything they need to launch a new franchise,” says Gelehrter of the partnership.
The company has expanded into other high-profile sports clients, like producing high-quality facility tours for the University of Tennessee, and into non-sports clients such as Kroger and Rising Star Casino.
Luckily, the company isn’t actually producing all of its videos in Gelehrter’s basement but instead has received both mentoring and affordable office space from Norwood-based HCDC. That partnership is fitting even in unexpected ways — while the company’s name actually comes from the fourth floor of UC’s Richard Lindner Center, where Gelehrter worked for seven years, their office space in HCDC is also on the fourth floor.
“We’ve been very lucky in the first year to have a lot of support,” Gelehrter says. “It’s not something I really imagined happening until about a year ago. It’s different every day, and it’s exciting. I’m not going to say every day is great, but a lot of them are.”

Conference focuses on applying the predictive analytics of sports to business

The University of Cincinnati’s Center for Business Analytics hosts “Predictive Analytics Day” Feb. 29 featuring panels of experts who are applying predictive analytics to business and, more frequently, to sports.
The day-long mini conference is one of the public events presented by the Center of Business Analytics, which changes topics each year. This year, as Executive Director Glenn Wegryn explains, the chosen topic was predictive analytics.
“Predictive analytics is being able to anticipate better through understanding data with statistical and mathematical methods,” Wegryn says, explaining that the methods can be used to help anticipate everything from what your next click on a website might be to when a piece of industrial equipment will need to be replaced to overall business forecasting.
Wegryn says that as the Predictive Analytics Day was planned, a sports theme emerged organically through speaker recruitment. Those speakers include the Decision Science Technical Manager for Walt Disney Co., Louie Kuznia, whose background is with Disney-owned ESPN; a specialist in sports analytics, which uses predictive analytics to anticipate factors like how well a scouted player might perform or how many tickets will be sold for a particular game; and a technical speaker who has used predictive analytics to study athletes’ training videos.
Once the theme emerged, the Center decided to complement it by calling on some of their own members from the Cincinnati Reds, the Cincinnati Bengals and the UC Bearcats to put together a lunchtime panel about how predictive analytics works in those organizations.
Even though the day’s program has ended up focusing on sports, Wegryn points out that the topics will still be applicable to a much wider audience.
“The problem is the same whether you’re trying to sell your next baseball ticket or your next piece of clothing,” he says. “Coming to an event like this, you get to think outside the box a little bit about your own organizations.”
The Center expects more than 200 people at the event, breaking previous records for its public programming. Most attendees are coming from the Greater Cincinnati business world and use analytics or predictive analytics in their company work.
“It’s an explosive field right now,” Wegryn says. “Data is exploding, and everyone is figuring out how to leverage it effectively.”
Predictive Analytics Day will be held at UC’s Tangeman University Center at 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Feb. 29. Registration is $125 and is available here.

Bad Girl Ventures welcomes first Launch class of eight startups

Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) welcomed its first Launch class last week, part of the business accelerator organization’s revamped three-tier Explore, Launch and Grow programming.
“We had over 50 applicants for the class,” BGV Executive Director Nancy Aichholz says. “Our volunteer selection committee chose the class based on stringent criteria. The eight companies represent completely different industries. They’re energetic and engaged, and we’re excited about them.”
The 18-week program began last week. Since all of the participants are also running their companies, classes are offered alternating weeks with the off week providing time to do homework and meet with mentors.
“BGV’s job is to cultivate these companies and help them be as successful as possible,” Aichholz says. “They are competing to receive a $25,000 loan from us, but just as importantly they will learn how to access capital elsewhere to meet the needs of their business.”
Members of the first BGV Launch class are:
Meaghan Dunklee, Wedding Bags: creating custom gift bags for weddings
Debbie Immesoete, Route Fifty Campers: offering vintage camper rentals
Melyssa, Michele and Christine Kirn, Grainwell: making wood-centric home décor
Monica Kohler, Skube.Me: sewing modern tube skirts with American sourced fabrics
Lynn Love, LL Spirits: an adult lemonade stand at Findlay Market
Cullen Meehan, Wish Pretty: a line of accessory bags
Sara Swinehart, SRO Prints: a social enterprise screen printing business
Kimberly Turnbow, Hair Gem Elite Salon: restoring hair damaged by chemotherapy and chemical treatments
“We have all the right ingredients for our first Launch class,” Aichholz says. “The right staff, the right volunteers, the right sponsors and absolutely the right women. We’re very excited and hopeful for the quality and potential in this class.”
The first week of class included presentations on corporate culture by Steve Martin, Vice President of Organizational Development at Hubert Company; pitch practice with actress and coach Elle Zimmerman; meeting their mentors; and connecting with peer counselors from Northern Kentucky University and University of Cincinnati law schools as well as BGV’s legal counsel partner, Cors & Bassett.
Aichholz credits the quality and diversity of the Launch class with BGV’s efforts to recruit applicants for the class.
“We were more focused and intentional in our marketing,” she says. “Instead of just letting people come to us, we were more proactive in going out, meeting and getting to know women who were starting and running really neat businesses. We engaged them with BGV and got them interested in the program.”
Two Launch participants are graduates of BGV’s first Explore class held last fall, Debbie Immesoete and Meaghan Dunklee.
“Megan was using Etsy to sell her bags,” Aichholz says. “During Explore, she created her own website and she’s since hired her first employee. Debbie wants to raise capital to buy additional campers because her current inventory is booked all the time.”
BGV is accepting participants for the second Explore class through March 8; the nine-week class will begin April 7.
“The Explore class is meant for anyone, including men, who is thinking about going into business for themselves,” Aichholz says. “Our hope is that people who go through Explore will have a basic business plan at the end of the class, go and grow their business for a year or so, then come back and Launch with us.”
The third phase of the BGV program, Grow, which offers stand-alone workshops for established business owners, will begin in the spring. That’s also when BGV hopes to be located in its new permanent office space in Covington.
“BGV is different from other programs,” Aichholz says. “When women begin our program, they aren’t just taking an accelerator class, they’re joining an organization. This isn’t a ‘quick go in, get a business plan and find funding’ program.
“We want to see these women be successful. Five years from now they can call us and ask for help. We want to promote these business once they’re launched. And we hope they want to stay connected to BGV when they’re successful. It’s a unique value proposition BGV offers our members.”

Queen City Mobile Summit brings national recognition to local app developers

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Cincinnati will play host to the Queen City Mobile Summit, a collaboration among national and local players to spark discussion about the state of mobile app technology and where it’s headed.
This will be the fourth such mobile summit organized by ACT: The App Association, a national organization representing the app industry through education and advocacy. Previous summits were held in Salt Lake City; Eugene, Ore.; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to bring attention to the great app development going on where it might not be typically expected.
“It’s really about highlighting and getting to know the community outside Silicon Valley,” says Courtney Bernard, Communications Manager for ACT. “Contrary to popular belief, most of the highest grossing apps are not from Silicon Valley.”
A few of those have even come from Cincinnati, a market that seemed like a natural fit for the association’s next summit. The event will be co-organized by Possible, the global digital media and marketing agency with its second largest office in Cincinnati, and The Brandery.
For Possible, a major international player in the digital media and app technology world, the summit will be an opportunity to connect with the local technology and app ecosystem.
For The Brandery, the connections to the national app economy will come with a significant recognition: The startup accelerator will be the second ever recipient of ACT’s App Economy Spotlight Award. The award recognizes companies and organizations that foster a culture and community of entrepreneurship in the app technology economy. It will be presented at the Wednesday event by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
Bernard says that ACT chose The Brandery for the honor because of the exceptional level of support it provides to startups in their accelerator program, which includes successful apps like Roadtrippers and ChoreMonster, and the way it’s fostered a supportive culture of innovation in Cincinnati.
It’s that culture of entrepreneurship and encouragement in the Cincinnati ecosystem that both ACT and Possible want to highlight in Wednesday’s event.
“One of my hopes is that this event helps people recognize what a strong mobile app economy we have in Cincinnati,” says Brian Le Count, Executive Vice President for Strategy and Insights at Possible Cincinnati. “This is not only a great place where advertising happens but where mobile tech happens.”
“Cincinnati is a model for how cities can really have a community that fosters entrepreneurs and innovation,” says Bernard, who is a Cincinnati native herself and made sure there would be some local touches (like Skyline for lunch) at the summit.
The Queen City Mobile Summit will take place at The Brandery’s Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine at 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 17, with a press event and award ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Registration is free; you can sign up online here.

New grant program pushes to expand "good food" options across Greater Cincinnati

Food security has been a hot topic in the news with food-borne illness outbreaks at national chains and studies on the impact of urban food deserts.
Locally, the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council (GCRFPC), an initiative of Green Umbrella, is working to create a healthy, equitable and sustainable food system across the tristate. The council recently announced that it will award multiple grants of up to $10,000 each for innovative projects that promote more “Good Food” in the region.
The Cincy Good Food Fund Award is supported by a grant from the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.
“Addressing the need for a healthy, equitable and sustainable regional food system is right up there with the goal of world peace,” GCRFPC Director Angie Carl says. “The link between food and health, sustainability and the local economy is undeniable. Ideally it would be easy for all to make healthy eating choices. Yet we know many people in our region go hungry, many don’t have access to healthy food and many do not make healthy eating choices.
“Further, there are many practices, regulations and obstacles in our food system that present challenges for local food production and distribution. Some say our food system is broken. Whether or not that’s true, it is definitely true that our region's farms are decreasing and we desperately need to support and encourage more agriculture in both urban and rural areas.”
GCRFPC itself is a relatively new organization, coming together in October 2014 with a grant from Interact for Health to reactivate the Cincinnati Food Policy Council, which had disbanded in 2011. Today, 40 representatives from organizations operating in the 10-county region are addressing issues facing the regional food system through four working groups: Healthy Food Access and Consumption; Distribution and Procurement; Food Production and Land Use; and Community Assessment, Planning and Zoning.
Each work group identified priorities for its focus area, established a work plan and are conducting research on best practices that will provide information for case studies, position papers and policy recommendations.
The Good Food Fund Award seeks to engage the wider community in achieving GCRFPC goals. The award is modeled on similar programs in cities like Cleveland, Indianapolis and Hartford, Conn.
“There is no ‘Department of Food,’ so we are determined to help our region put a higher priority on a healthy food system,” Carl says. “GCRFPC will provide some financial assistance for innovative, impactful and viable food-related projects to help promote our mission.”
The program will award up to $40,000 in grants in 2016. Applications are welcome from nonprofits as well as commercial businesses and are due March 3.

Successful entries will address at least one of the following GCRFPC priorities:
• Healthy food access for Greater Cincinnati residents,
• Production of local foods and value-added food products,
• Community development to support local foods and coalitions,
• Food security for Greater Cincinnati residents,
• Educational programs that promote healthy eating habits and
• Beneficial reuse or minimization of food waste.
“We hope the Cincy Good Food Fund will help raise awareness in our region of some of the good work that is going on to improve our food system,” Carl says.

Let's Dance uses ballroom dancing to teach discipline and teamwork to Avondale students

It was dance that first connected Greg Norman and Kathye Lewis two and a half years ago, and dance has been their passion ever since. As the two began dating, they talked about ways they could share and pass on their passion.
Norman previously taught ballroom dance classes in Los Angeles, where they’d grown to include the children of his adult students. The couple was captivated by the idea of dance classes for young people in Cincinnati’s inner city, similar to those held in New York City and many other places and featured in the documentary film Mad Hot Ballroom.
So, at the recommendation of Lewis’ friend, the two applied for a People’s Liberty project grant and were awarded $10,000 to start “Let’s Dance,” a 10-week ballroom dance class for fifth and sixth graders at South Avondale Elementary School.
“We wanted to be able to have an impact in the community,” Lewis says.
The first 10-week class had its graduation ceremony on Feb. 10, when students got to perform two ballroom dances they’d learned — the Waltz and the Cha-Cha-Cha — for their parents and families.
“They loved everything that they learned, and they showed off at graduation,” Lewis says. “It was just wonderful.”
Lewis and Norman say they’ve already been able to see dancing’s impact on the students. Because learning ballroom dance requires discipline and teamwork, the teachers say they’ve even been able to see improvement in the children’s behavior. The experience speaks to the importance of arts education, they believe.
“I think that this program should be in all the schools because the arts have been taken out,” Norman says. “What we have learned is that the arts really do help children. It shows how you can take students that might not feel like they can contribute and expose them to the arts and they discover they may have other unique talents.”
Norman and Lewis started with that mindset of “life lessons through ballroom dance” as well as with the goal of exposing students to different kinds of music and artistic expression as they dance to artists like Nat King Cole and Cuban Pete. They also see themselves as passing on a legacy of black ballroom dance in Cincinnati, particularly in Avondale, recalling how important that artistic exposure has been in both their lives.
“This is an experience they will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” Norman says.
The students from the first class certainly won’t be leaving the experience behind soon — many will return for the second 10-week session to act as mentors for new students. Norman and Lewis are also dedicated to making the program available in more ways and on a long-term basis across the city.
“That’s the good thing about People’s Liberty,” Lewis says. “It gives people the opportunity to try out concepts and build things around them.”

Flywheel Cincinnati to host new round of social enterprise workshops

Social enterprise hub Flywheel will soon start a new round of workshops for Cincinnatians interested in starting social enterprises.
The workshops are one of the ways Flywheel provides training to potential social entrepreneurs, along with educating the public about social enterprise and nurturing a social entrepreneur community.
The workshops, which have been offered since 2011, were recently re-branded from a “Social Enterprise 101” concept to “Exploring Social Entrepreneurship” and “Becoming a Social Entrepreneur.” According to Flywheel Executive Director Bill Tucker, the rebranding was influenced by Flywheel’s Social Enterprise Cincy arm, an effort to bring together the best of different types of social enterprise.
“It goes right back to when we launched the Social Enterprise Cincy brand,” Tucker says. “It was with the idea of bringing best practices from for-profit spaces into the nonprofit space.”
Tucker explains that various sectors of social enterprise do different things exceptionally well. While nonprofit social enterprises are often especially good at delivering services, for-profit social enterprises tend to be better at branding and marketing.
The upcoming workshop series will bring the strengths of both those sectors together for people considering social entrepreneurship as a way to make their ideas a reality. The three workshops build on each other to create a detailed how-to guide for social entrepreneurs.
Exploring Social Enterprise (8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Feb. 22) will serve as an introduction to the concept of social enterprise, exploring how individuals might be situated to start a business for social good or a business where society profits.
“This is for the beginners,” Tucker says. “Maybe someone who has an idea and wants to see if they’re going down the right path.”
If they are, they could follow up on March 22 by attending Becoming a Social Entrepreneur (8:30 a.m.-12 p.m.). That workshop will get into the details of determining if a social enterprise is a feasible idea, giving attendees the tools “to evaluate their business so they can fail quickly and fail cheaply,” Tucker says. He explains that about one third of people who take Flywheel training actually decide not to start businesses, “and we consider that a successful outcome.”
For those who do decide to start a venture, the third workshop in the series is Business Plans That Stand Out (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. April 22), providing a longer, more in-depth exploration of the best ways to create a plan for their enterprises. That event is sponsored by Interact for Health — which hosts the meetings at its Roodwood Tower offices in Norwood — and is the only workshop with a fee.
Tucker encourages potential social entrepreneurs considering the workshops to think outside the box, because social enterprise doesn’t have to mean just traditional nonprofits.
“We’ve trained a ton of people in the community around starting businesses that have a social purpose,” he says.
It’s likely that, with the continuation of these classes, they’ll train a ton more.
Register for one, two or all three workshops here.

Greater Cincinnati Venture Association starts 2016 with Breakfast Club at Braxton Brewery

Greater Cincinnati Venture Association kicks off its 2016 educational programming this week with the year’s first Breakfast Club. They’re held every other month to alternate with GCVA’s Joe Thirty gatherings to create a year-long schedule of educational and promotional programming for local tech startups and entrepreneurs.
Each Breakfast Club event features four speakers: three early-stage tech startups, who each give an eight-minute pitch about their venture, plus a “keynote” speaker talking about his/her entrepreneurship experience. They’re typically attended by between 100 and 150 entrepreneurs, investors and fans of the Greater Cincinnati startup ecosystem. The year’s first event is at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at Braxton Brewery in Covington.
Entrepreneurs presenting at the event will include Atumsoft, a pair of chemists who launched a business to commercialize their technology allowing lab equipment to transfer data directly to the cloud. Their technology has the potential to be a major disruptor in product manufacturing and distribution.
Also presenting is SowOrganic, “the Turbo Tax for organic certification,” says Kevin Mackey, President of GCVA since December. The company designed software to streamline the process for growers and farmers to be certified as “organic” and for agricultural inspectors becoming certified as organic inspectors.
The third pitch will be given by Fanbloom, which targets social media “influencers” in specific geographic locations. The technology helps marketers effectively reach targeted audiences while still feeling very organic to audiences.
“We always try to curate companies who are prepared to pitch,” Mackey says. “So we ended up with all three of those because we wanted a good mix of tech startups.”
After the three pitches, the keynote will be given by Braxton Brewery founder Jake Rouse. His talk is designed as the morning’s educational section, a chance for early-stage startups to hear from someone else’s experiences.
“His story combines entrepreneurship with a specific focus on the trials and tribulations of being an entrepreneur,” Mackey says.
Rouse is himself a former tech entrepreneur and hasn’t entirely left that world behind in his brewing venture, since Braxton provides resources like open co-working space in its taproom to local startup entrepreneurs.
“One thing we’re going to be doing this year is trying some mixed-up locations,” Mackey says. “We want to highlight some more spaces that are a little more native to tech startups.”
Elaborating on Braxton’s involvement with and support of the tech startup scene, he adds, “People won’t usually associate a brewery with a place you might want to go in the morning, but startups work out of there every day.”
Despite the location, there will be no beer at the Breakfast Club event. Instead, coffee and light breakfast will be provided for those who register here.

The Brandery opens applications for its seventh accelerator class

The Brandery has begun taking applications for its seventh annual startup accelerator class focusing on branding, design and marketing. Each of the selected 10-12 teams will receive $50,000 in seed funding and a year of free office space and mentorship in exchange for a 6 percent equity stake in their company.
The application deadline is April 15.
The Brandery is looking for the best and brightest startups inside Greater Cincinnati as well as from across the country and the world, says Program Manager Justin Rumao.
“We talk about how we have a marketing and branding bend,” he says, “but we encourage anyone with an idea to apply.”
In other words, applicants don’t have to have a completely fleshed out business plan to be considered for a slot in the four-month class. In fact, Rumao states that having a strong team is often just as important, if not more so, than the idea itself — ideas often transform in the startup world, but a strong team can carry a company through that type of transition.
For prospective applicants who aren’t quite sure yet or want to learn more, The Brandery has scheduled four sessions of “Open Office Hours” before applications are due as a chance for startups to meet its staff.
“The goal is not only to share their idea through the application but to bounce it off other people and really start building that network,” Rumao says, emphasizing that those networks are crucial to the Brandery program.
The class isn’t just about accelerating startup ideas through branding and design, it also helps entrepreneurial teams leverage the resources of Cincinnati’s startup ecosystem — access to big companies like Procter & Gamble and Kroger and a spirit of collaboration found throughout the region’s innovation scene. In fact, Rumao jests that the city’s environment is almost an “unfair advantage.”
“We’ve got something special brewing here,” he says. “There is no reason The Brandery can’t become a top-5 accelerator in the country.”
The program doesn’t want to just use the city’s and region’s resources, Rumao says — The Brandery wants to build them up as well, encouraging the entrepreneurs who go through their accelerator to stay here and invest in the area. They even provide opportunities for out-of-town startups to live in Branderyhaus three blocks from the accelerator’s Over-the-Rhine offices, helping newcomers get to know the local community while in the accelerator program.
“We want to make sure that as many people as possible who come through here stay here,” Rumao says.
Considering the stories of graduates like Natasia Malaihollo, founder and CEO of Wyzerr, it seems like The Brandery is succeeding on that front. Malaihollo recently told Soapbox that, after relocating from New York and California for a Brandery class last year, she’s hoping her startup can become the Google of Covington and help improve her new Northern Kentucky community.
If the past six years are any indication, The Brandery’s 2016 class will add plenty of valuable assets to Startup Cincinnati.

The Women's Fund rallies allies to promote economic empowerment for women

The Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation has been working to ensure women’s economic self-sufficiency for more than 20 years, supporting programs and conducting research around economic empowerment of women.
The fund looks at how gender affects a variety of issues in the community, and that gendered lens often helps reveal solutions to those issues. Women’s Fund Executive Director Meghan Cummings uses the example of child poverty to illustrate the approach.
Cincinnati has the second highest rate of child poverty in the country, and the majority of those children in poverty are living in single-parent, female-headed households. Cummings points out that when those facts are combined with Women’s Fund research like the PULSE: 2020 Jobs and Gender Outlook study conducted in 2014, it helps to illuminate the problem’s roots.
That study found vast differences in women’s and men’s economic opportunity as different job markets grow at different rates. Even though many job fields in Cincinnati are predicted to grow in the next five years, Cummings and the Women’s Fund looks more critically at those numbers.
“When we take a closer look at what kind of jobs are growing and who traditionally holds those jobs, it’s a much bleaker picture,” she says.
According to research, some of the biggest growth might happen in some of the lowest-paying sectors and subfields, like medical assistance and home health aides — jobs held overwhelmingly by women.
The Fund takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the economic well-being of women and girls along with issues like the high childhood poverty rate. It helps facilitate and connect the dots across the community from groups like the mayor’s Poverty Task Force to initiatives like Preschool Promise.
“These issues of women’s self-sufficiency, we think they affect our entire community,” Cummings says. “Our issues aren’t red or blue, they’re purple. These aren’t partisan issues, they’re community issues.”
Cummings explains that because the issues she looks at affect the entire community, the Women’s Fund tries to include as many community stakeholders and partner organizations as possible to help solve them. The inclusivity is reflected in the Fund’s events as well as in its board room — the Cincinnati Women’s Fund is one of the few women’s funds around the country with men in leadership positions.
Aftab Pureval, one of the first three men to join the Fund’s board roughly three years ago, is passionate about the work the fund does.
“If we’re going to address the issues and challenges we face, it’s going to be through the leadership of women,” Pureval says.
The Fund even hosts a yearly “Guys Who Get It” happy hour event to raise money and engage men in the community in these issues.
“Who knew if it would be successful or not,” Cummings says, remembering the first event three years ago. “We took a risk, and it was really successful. It was an unusual angle that, being a Women’s Fund, we were engaging men’s voices.”
“No matter your gender, age or experience, we need you at the table,” Pureval adds.
You can expect that the tables will be full at the next Women’s Fund event, its fifth annual “A Conversation With” gathering April 5 at Xavier University’s Cintas Center. National political commentator Cokie Roberts will be the keynote speaker.

GCF grant helps Hamilton Mill hire industrialist-in-residence and expand student support

Just a short drive north of Cincinnati, Hamilton Mill offers a distinctive experience within the Startup Cincinnati ecosystem.
“We focus on technology that helps Southwest Ohio manufacturers have small and lean shops,” says Director of Operations Antony Seppi.
Hamilton Mill also emphasizes clean and green technologies through a special collaboration with the City of Hamilton. The city utilities department currently produces nearly 90 percent of its energy from renewable resources and shares that expertise with participants in Hamilton Mill’s programs.
Unlike the familiar short-term accelerator program, Hamilton Mill is an incubator that accepts applications on a rolling basis and tailors the length of the program to the participant, whether that’s nine months or three years.
“Some companies need a prolonged maturation process,” Seppi says. “We have startups at many stages in their development.”
Startups participating in the Hamilton Mill program receive marketing resources and assistance, technology resources, networking opportunities, and mentors to help the startups hit their milestones. Hamilton Mill is also building an innovation fund that will be available to qualified startups graduating from their program.
“We have a unique niche in the greater Cincinnati startup ecosystem,” Seppi says. “We are really trying to engage with the Cincinnati community, and we work closely with Cintrifuse and CincyTech.”
A recent grant of $50,000 from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) will help Hamilton Mill expand two of its signature programs.
Hamilton Mill is hiring an industrialist-in-residence to begin in a few weeks. It will be a rotating position featuring an expert in advance manufacturing who will consult regularly with the startups at Hamilton Mill.
“It offers added value to our participants, provides alternative perspectives, and helps formalize our program in advanced manufacturing technologies,” Seppi says.
The GCF grant will also support the development of a student entrepreneurship program, NextGen.
Hamilton Mill has been working with a couple of student startups, including one that has partnered with UC Health West Chester on a software project. However, there has is interest and opportunity to expand and further develop that program.
“NextGen lays a groundwork for high school and college students throughout Butler County to build and develop ideas,” Seppi says. “This is an expansive program that will include coding, app development, and technology.”
NextGen will incorporate students who have been participating in Butler Tech’s organization Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE). Hamilton Mill expects to work closely with Butler Tech and SAGE to develop the NextGen program and hopes the program will be up and running before the end of this academic year.
For bricks and mortar businesses looking to start or get assistance in Hamilton, the Hamilton Mill is also home to the Small Business Development Center supported by the State of Ohio. They have two consultants who offer workshops, information and training and have recently brought a grocery store and bakery to Hamilton.
In the spring Hamilton Mill will get new bragging rights as the only Southwest Ohio startup program with an on-site brewery. Municipal Brew Works is building out a brewery and tap room in the former fire department space in the Hamilton Mill complex.

ArtWorks launches alumni network to connect 20 years of "doers"

ArtWorks has been around for nearly 20 years, touching the lives of thousands of local youths and adults through public art and creative enterprise programming. The noprofit launches an alumni network Feb. 4 to connect those people as a community of “doers.”
“Essentially we realized that over the past 20 years we’ve engaged almost 4,000 individuals,” says Colleen O’Connor, ArtWorks’ Talent Manager. “It’s time to re-engage them.”
The alumni network will provide ways for ArtWorks to support the careers of alumni through networking, mentorship opportunities, professional development workshops and meaningful engagement. The network is designed to bring together participants from all of the organization’s various programs.
The Feb. 4 event will feature food by provided by three different graduates of the Creative Enterprise division’s Co.Starters classes. More than 200 alumni of that program will soon be joined by a few more entrepreneurs — a new Co.Starters class started last Wednesday night and will graduate in nine weeks with lessons and connections to help them put their business ideas into action.
Another ArtWorks Creative Enterprise program is Big Pitch, sponsored by U.S. Bank, which has awarded $50,000 in funding prizes to creative small businesses and provided invaluable opportunities for them to receive mentoring and share their stories with funders and the public. Planning is underway for the third annual Big Pitch event later this year.
Of course, most ArtWorks alumni were participants in a summer apprenticeship program, particularly the organization’s famous public murals (for which ArtWorks is currently recruiting apprentices and teachers). The alumni network gives these apprentices a chance to connect, sometimes for the first time.
“I think one of the great things about our apprentices is there are almost 3,000 of them,” says ArtWorks Communications Director Destinee Thomas. “The teams work really closely together for six to eight weeks and become very close. We’re really excited to about bringing them back together.”
Thomas and O’Connor encourage all ArtWorks alumni to come to the event in February or register to be part of the alumni network.
“I think really just from walking around, I’m really blown away by the footprint ArtWorks has,” O’Connor says, citing a recent walk in Over-theRhine when she passed or visited Big Pitch alumni like Brush Factory and Original Thought Required while seeing mural after mural along the way. As the nonprofit enters its 20th year, that footprint is sure to keep growing.

Miami students get a taste of Cincinnati startup ecosystem via year-round internship program

Miami University students are getting more opportunities to intern at Cincinnati startup companies thanks to its expanded Cincinnati Digital Innovation Program. The collaboration between the school’s Armstrong Interactive Media Studies and Institute for Entrepreneurship allows students to do full- and part-time semester-long internships in summer, fall or spring.
Based on an established program Miami hosts in Silicon Valley, the opportunity is more than just an internship — it’s an introduction to the world of entrepreneurship and innovation. Students spend four days a week working with startup or tech companies in Cincinnati and once a week get to visit other tech companies, startups, chambers of commerce, development companies and other components of the local startup ecosystem.
“The goal was to see as many different angles of Cincinnati and the tech and startup scene as possible,” says sophomore Interactive Media Studies major Sam Huber, who participated in the program this fall. “Being able to see my home town in a new light was exiting for me.”
Huber interned at Cerkl, where he was able to put his design skills to use as well as learn more web development working alongside the team developing the company’s app. He says the experience was incredibly valuable, as was the chance to see Cerkl co-founders Tarek Kamil and Sara Jackson run the company.
“It was great just to have the real-world experience,” Huber says. “As good as Miami is in teaching in my program, there’s no comparison to seeing it actually happen.”
According to Mark Lacker, Miami’s John W. Altman Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship, that firsthand experience is exactly why the program matters.
“We’re training the startup workforce,” he says. “What kind of skills do you need to be a valuable, valued member of a growing startup company?”
Lacker says that Huber is just one of over 100 students to do internships in Miami’s program, which has been arranging summer internships since 2010 and recently expanded to offer opportunities year-round. He says that interest from startups matches that from the students, with more than 90 percent of host companies wanting to work with Miami students again. Some even offer further opportunities to the same students.
Although his internship is over, Huber says he’s still doing contract work for Cerkl and looks forward to continuing the relationship.

FounderCon 2016 is coming to Cincinnati in October, a "dream come true" for local startups

It’s official: Cincinnati’s thriving startup ecosystem will host more than 1,000 like-minded entrepreneurs and innovation leaders from around the world this Fall to check us out for a weekend.
Cintrifuse CEO Wendy Lea gathered this morning with Mayor John Cranley and Reds COO Phil Castellini to welcome John Hill of Techstars to Cintrifuse’s still-new Union Hall HQ to announce that the city will host the Boulder-based accelerator’s annual FounderCon in October.
Techstars is an “early seed stage accelerator” with an international network of accelerators and entrepreneurship heavy-hitters as well as Techstars Ventures, which invests in startups and has an established relationship with Cintrifuse.

Hill, the company’s Network Catalyst, explained that FounderCon is a signature event for Techstars, providing a crucial forum for their alumni, mentors and network to connect with each other and the rest of the entrepreneurial world every year.
He also pointed out that, as Cincinnati joins cities like Boston, Chicago, Austin and Boulder in hosting the event, the honor is a testament to the vibrant and hardworking startup and tech scene here.
“You’re already to the point where we can raise it to a different level,” Hill said, “and that’s why we’re in this room right now.”
“I’m here to tell you dreams do come true,” Lea said.
The Cintrfuse CEO had been working for months with the local startup ecosystem, larger companies like Procter & Gamble and Kroger and city officials to bring FounderCon to Cincinnati. They sought advice from the Reds as hosts of the area’s most recent large national event, the 2015 MLB All-Star Game.
Excitement for FounderCon among audience members at today’s announcement event neared that for the sporting event. Cincinnati entrepreneurs like Amanda Grossman, who’s been involved in the Cincinnati innovation scene for years but left P&G last year to start Gamejoule, see FounderCon as a great opportunity to put the city’s startups on the map.
“This means being more connected to the startup community nationally,” she said, explaining that many startups may question whether Cincinnati is the right environment for them, but events like these show that the city isn’t isolated from national trends.
FounderCon, scheduled for Oct. 18-20, is expected to attract more than 800 founders of tech-based startups who are alumni of the Techstars global accelerator network. They’ll be joined by 300-plus corporate innovation leaders looking to source ideas and learn from them.
“We want to hold the biggest un-conference we can,” Hill said. “We want to do a conference no one has ever seen before, and we think Cincinnati is the playground to do that in.”

Ocean's new startup class "reaching people well beyond Cincinnati"

Greater Cincinnati’s faith-backed accelerator program, Ocean, welcomed its second class of startup participants last week. The nine companies include two from the United Kingdom and three from outside Cincinnati.
“We are thrilled that the concept of Ocean as an accelerator has an appeal that has grown to the point where we’re reaching people well beyond Cincinnati,” says Ocean CEO Scott Weiss. “It is a diverse and exciting group of companies.”
The new class includes companies at very different stages in their business development.
“Companies including Homefield, Riser and Devoo are just at the beginning of their journey,” Weiss says. “They have great insights, great founders and are beginning to pull together their product and the business plan to take that product forward. At the other end of the spectrum, we have companies like Liquid which are established and generating revenue and are ready to use Ocean to get to the next stage.”
Ocean also recruited a range of business types for the new class, including consumer applications, business to consumer and business to business.
The nine members of the 2016 Ocean class are:

Devoo: helps friends connect with activities and discounts

Feasty: matches hungry diners with nearby restaurant specials

Homefield: engages fans with each other and the game

Liquid: provides data collection, management and collaborative resources for scientific research

RISR: offers personal coaching for student athletes

Spatial: uses social media to analyze sentiment patterns and define the vibe of a neighborhood

Spirit Labs: developed Lepton to connect donors with causes, ministries and charities

We Help Others: works with churches and nonprofits to generate revenue with underutilized resources

We Love Work: matches job candidates to companies by evaluating the compatibility of the candidates’ values with the company culture to improve the success of recruiting and hiring
The Ocean participants will work with other founders, entrepreneurs, mentors and subject area experts over the course of their five-month residency at the organization’s work space adjacent to Crossroads Church in Oakley.
“We have a rich pool of mentors,” Weiss says. “As part of their commitment, they give active service to our companies. So a mentor with a financial background could help a company set up their initial charter of accounts; someone with a marketing background could be helping a company validate an insight. We are fortunate to have great partners.”
Coffee chats with other startup founders and entrepreneurs, including Ocean’s 2015 graduates, provides an opportunity for the current class to share experiences and ask questions. Teaching sessions are offered at least twice a week to address specialized business topics as well as the faith-based subjects that differentiate Ocean from other accelerator programs.
“Ocean is beginning to prove that it’s a very effective business accelerator,” Weiss says. “But it is uniquely an accelerator that builds into the founder by taking a spiritual journey that’s integrated into the business journey. So the founder, the person, comes out of our program with more insight, self-awareness and maturity, and that is what helps them succeed as an entrepreneur.”
The 2016 Ocean class will have its demo day on April 28, but the program continues through May to help the class handle the negotiating, media coverage and other opportunities that arise after their demo day presentations.
“The date of demo day is carefully planned with Cintrifuse and our other partners in the city,” Weiss says. “All these people are working hard to continue to grow the vibrant startup economy we’re seeing in the region. We want Ocean to be an additive experience to the startup ecosystem so the region continues to shine.”
Other Cincinnati startup news

Bad Girl Ventures will announce the first class of its new LAUNCH program at a Feb. 3 event at Rhinegeist. Cintrifuse CEO Wendy Lea will give the keynote address at the free event.
The next day, Covington-based UpTech holds its fourth demo day at 84.51 downtown. Reservations are required for both events.
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