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NASA to coach UC students on technology commercialization

If you mention NASA in casual conversation, it's almost guaranteed that you'll get a reaction — a good one at that.
This year, those enrolled in undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship classes at the University of Cincinnati's Lindner College of Business will be able to add that impressive acronym to their resumes.
UC's Center for Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (CEC), a part of the business school, has teamed up with NASA's Ames Research Center to bring NASA scientists into UC classrooms. With a focus on technology commercialization, the entrepreneurship courses will connect students with the globe-trotting NASA scientists via webcam or telephone.
The term "technology commercialization" encompasses the varying processes that occurs after certain technology has been patented. That technology could end up sparking the creation of a startup, encourage a partnership with a certain organization or be released into the marketplace.
Through this program and partnership, UC students will learn to assess the commercialization of some NASA patents. They'll examine investor options and possible business plans and consult with NASA specialists along the way.
CEC Executive Director Tom Dalziel sees this program as unique in that students are able to plan a future for these technologies as opposed to examining the past. Before their careers have even started, UC students will be able to see the immediate effects on their work.
"These plans aren’t meant to sit on the shelf," Dalziel says. "The best plans will garner the attention of investors, entrepreneurs and key constituents in the Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurship ecosystem who will want to bring people and resources together to enact them."
The NASA partnership isn't the only thing UC is doing to increase their students' post-graduation connections. UC's Small Business Institute allows students to work with startups and other small businesses looking to put together a solid business plan.
"This gives our students the opportunity to learn and support company efforts to bring cutting-edge technologies to market," Dalziel says.
With practical experience under their belts, it won't be surprising to see UC students flooding the marketplace in the coming years.

Introducing UCrush, the "missed connections" of mobile apps

In a frantic rush to fund a snuggle buddy for Valentine's Day? You might be in luck via a new Cincinnati-based app.
The recent release of UCrush, a new dating app created by Xavier University alum and HCDC resident Anthony Breen, means that college students can now find that guy or girl they couldn't stop staring at in Astronomy class.
UCrush is a geolocation-based app whose database is limited to those who attend the same school or are currently located in the same geographic area. The app is designed for those who see an intriguing person and immediately want to know how to get in touch with him or her. It's kind of like Craiglist's Missed Connections but better — not to mention safer.
All information is kept confidential until a connection is made. Even then, the users can communicate through the app — sending messages, pictures — and no identifying information needs to be shared.
The app finds people using an identification system that asks the "crusher" to list gender, hair color and clothing style as well as a description of the encounter. The app identifies the location of the user immediately, which helps identify where the sighting may have taken place.
UCrush CEO Anthony Breen is a Boston native and a 2014 Xavier grad. Breen came to Cincinnati for college in the hopes of gaining corporate experience before jumping into the startup world. Fortunately for him, he caught the entrepreneurship bug a little early.

The company was born during a brainstorming session with his buddies from back home, Kyle Garvan and Danny O'Connell. Last winter break, Garvan and O'Connell pitched him the idea of a dating website that allows the user to connect with crushes. They looked to Breen to take it one step further.
The three were looking for an alternative to the bar hookup scene on college campuses, wanting to create a platform that helps crushes break the ice.
"UCrush is here to say that we are giving you the opportunity to be heard, noticed and found," Breen says. "We want to try and take the awkwardness out of that first hello."
Unlike Tinder, UCrush requires an actual connection of some sort. Instead of randomly swiping through photos, users will undoubtedly share something in common with the person crushing on them, whether it's the same school, the same workout class or the same sporting event.
The app also allows users to rate the "genuineness" level of other users. That rating appears on each user's profile along with photos of the user's "life crushes," which could be anything from a Starbucks latte to a view of Great American Ball Park.
"This is not an app for one-night stands," Breen says. "This is for people who are moving toward a date."
Though Breen recognizes the potential for abuse, so far the app has been successful. Since its launch in mid-January, UCrush boasts a 90 percent success rate with a 2 percent abuse rate among its 15,000 users. Right now, the app is in active use at Ohio State, University of Cincinnati and Xavier. The UCrush team has plans to expand to over 150 campuses nationwide in the next three months.
UCrush is currently headquartered at HCDC's incubator in Norwood. 

Mercy Health Cincinnati offers anti-gravity treadmill to rehab patients

Anti-gravity treadmills are nothing new. In fact, most big sports universities have one in their training facility. You can even find a YouTube video of Lebron James and Kobe Bryant trying one out.
Fortunately for Greater Cincinnati residents, these machines — which can reduce a user's actual weight by 20-99 percent — are now available at Mercy Health. The Orthopedic Sports and Medicine Center in Anderson Township recently acquired an AlterG state-of-the-art treadmill for their physical therapy patients.
Developed first by NASA, anti-gravity treadmills use an inflatable air chamber that surrounds the runner's lower body and actually lifts them as they run. As the runner becomes lighter, the impact on their muscles and joints is lessened. From a physical therapy standpoint, that's a really good thing.
Normally, physical therapy patients have to postpone weight-bearing exercise at the risk of causing further injury. With the anti-gravity technology, patients can begin the rehabilitation process more quickly and with far less pain.
The treadmills also allow the user to adjust their weight to whatever they'd like. A runner can learn what it would feel like to be 20 pounds lighter just by adjusting the settings.
As much as the average physical therapy clinic would love to have one of these machines on its floor, the high price tag keeps that from happening. The recent addition to Mercy Health is therefore indicative of the organization's strong commitment to staying on the cutting edge of rehab technology.
AlterG, the company responsible for Mercy Health's particular machine, is based in California. In 2013, the company added a bionic leg to its list of products.

Science rules: High school paves the way for tech-oriented careers

The recent technology boom has brought a newfound appreciation for science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) courses in high school classes, including at Cincinnati's Mount Notre Dame.
Several young women at the all-girls Reading school have already made a name for themselves with their recent Best in State recognition in a national mobile app competition.
The app, called Do It, was designed to prevent procrastination by blocking certain social media applications from the user and incentivizing focus on a particular task. Though the six girls responsible for the app concept didn't make it past the regional round of the competition, the experience — combined with MND's curriculum — has some of these girls looking toward careers in the tech sector.
And let's face it: The technology sector could use a few more girls.
Mount Notre Dame offers a relatively flexible curriculum after freshman year with a plethora of STEM-related options, including engineering. With a focus on hands-on science courses, students interested in the STEM fields also find themselves in a lab at least once per week.
Christine Clark is a senior at MND and member of the award-winning team. She feels that the wide variety of courses and freedom to choose allowed her to determine which path she wants to follow next year.
"Before I took engineering I thought I wanted to go into the biomedical field," Clark says. "I'm glad I was able to take that because now I know that it isn't for me."

Clark will be studying biology at Miami University next year.
Not all of the girls on the Do It team are pursuing STEM-related fields after graduation. Maggie Dolan hopes to go into electronic media and broadcasting and says the STEM courses were the perfect way to test her academic limits.
"(Science and math courses) challenge the kind of people who want to be challenged but aren't sure if they're up to par," Dolan says. "When I started at MND, I finally felt challenged."
Though the app competition is over, every girl on the team expressed a desire to learn more about mobile app development. With a strong foundational background in STEM courses from their time at MND, chances are good that the tech world will be seeing more from them.

Startup jobs in Cincinnati and where to find them

Finding jobs in the startup world can be tricky. The postings are rarely found on traditional job search websites, and many companies hire from within.

The good news for job hunters is that the startup world in Cincinnati is hiring ... and hiring often. Some of the available openings are posted online and some require a little more digging. Here's a list of startup hiring resources, from helpful job boards to career fairs to investment portfolio pages at some of the areas key startup investor groups.

If you're looking for a startup job in Northern Kentucky, look no further than the Feb. 9 UpLink career event at UpTech's offices, 112 West Pike St., Covington. In addition to numerous internships, UpTech's startups will be looking to hire candidates for over 30 openings, from sales to design to project management to web development.

The Brandery
The all-star accelerator organization keeps a running list of job openings for their graduate companies on their website. The accelerator's companies are hiring everything from social media managers to designers to front end developers. Part- and full-time positions are available immediately.

Runs a constantly updated job board that posts openings from startups across the tristate area.
This huge financial supporter of area startups in the area hosts a portfolio page offering a long list of companies that are likely looking for talent.
Queen City Angels
The investor group has an impressive roster of companies that have already proved themselves worthy of investor support. QCA's portfolio page, featuring over 40 companies, is another great job resource.
The Hamilton Mill
Though the startups at The Mill aren't currently hiring, the incubator will be welcoming Municipal Brew Works in the coming months, a brewery that deserves a second look for career opportunities. 

HCDC, Inc.
Formerly called the Hamilton County Development Co., this Norwood-based group has a large number of companies in their accelerator. Though not all of them are hiring, this list of the companies currently housed there can provide a good lead on who to contact.

The Brandery announces $50,000 grants for sixth class of startups

The Brandery's four-month accelerator program for tech startups is raising the bar by providing its newest class members with an additional $30,000 in initial investment.
Since 2010, The Brandery, which is partially funded by the Ohio Third Frontier, has provided each of their 10-12 class members with a $20,000 grant in exchange for a 6 percent stake in their company. Their success stories include companies like Roadtrippers, ChoreMonster and Frameri — ones that have already established a national presence since their time at the accelerator. Their continued progress aside, The Brandery is always looking for new ways to attract national noisemakers in the startup scene.
"Every year we assess the needs of our startups, the depth of our cohort, the funding environment and how we can continue to compete globally for the best startups," Brandery General Manager Mike Bott says. "This year in particular we felt very strongly that increasing our investment in each startup will allow us to continue to attract the best founders globally and, more importantly, give our startups the best opportunity to succeed."
With its sixth startup class on the horizon, the accelerator believes that an increase in initial investment will make sure that the companies are financially sustainable beyond the four-month mark.
"Increasing funding from $20k to $50k will afford our startups a runway through the holidays into the spring, giving them an opportunity for more validating data and stronger positioning with potential investors," Bott says.
The Brandery is able to provide a higher grant due to an increase in funding from the Ohio Third Frontier. The state's support of technology-based companies has played a tremendous part in turning cities like Cincinnati into startup hubs.
Private partners, both locally and nationally based, also continue their support of The Brandery and its companies.
The accelerator is now accepting applications for its sixth class of startups, which will enter The Brandery this spring.

Democratizing translation: What to expect from local startup Keego

When Valentina Farallo and Rodrigo Galindez met in San Francisco two years ago, the last place they thought they’d end up was Cincinnati.
Farallo, who is from Italy, and Galindez, who hails from Argentina, had spent their lives traveling the world and living in large cities like London, Paris and New York. When they began thinking about applying to The Brandery, they'd never heard of Cincinnati.
The idea that brought them here is called Keego, a multi-functional translation service for the professional world.
“Our wanderings around different countries with different cultures made us think how valuable communication between different people is, and how challenging (it) can be to try to eliminate any obstacle to it,” Farallo says. “Our vision is to remove the language barrier by democratizing translation.”
Farallo, who speaks four languages, and Galindez, a design expert, describe Keego as a marketplace where bilinguals and professional translators can work together to solve language barrier issues.
Since working with The Brandery, however, Keego’s idea has expanded even further. The company is now in the process of creating a product that connects to content creation programs like MailChimp, WordPress or Intercom, time at pulls the translatable content and then immediately returns the content to the particular program.
“Forget about emails, attachments or missing files,” Galindez says. “Our product will solve the biggest pain point of the translation industry, making translation easy for companies and individuals and, in the end, helping our clients reach new markets easily.”
While this product is in development, Keego currently offers certified translation for immigration, business documents translation and website translation, among other services.
Since they graduated from The Brandery last fall, Keego has been recognized by big players in the startup world. The Rise of the Rest Road Tour, spearheaded by investor and entrepreneur Steve Case, selected Keego as one of its startup finalists.
And while Farallo and Galindez never envisioned themselves in Cincinnati, they've embraced it fully since moving here.
“Since the first day we arrived to Cincinnati, we were overwhelmed by it,” Farallo says. “We were so pleasantly surprised to be able to create … a network of connections with people from all kinds of backgrounds.”
Farallo and Galindez commute to their office by bicycle every day and try different cuisines during their lunch break. Though their workdays are often long, the two took full advantage of the Fountain Square concert series over the summer, even if it meant heading straight back to the office afterwards.
“Cincinnati is a very inspirational environment for building a company,” Farallo says.

Speech pathologist brings child language development to your doorstep with Hi-Coo

Libby Willig-Kroner is no stranger to the trials and triumphs of parenthood. The Cincinnati native is a working mother of two young boys with a Masters degree in speech pathology and a position at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Even before becoming a parent, Kroner found herself confronting questions from young moms and dads about speech and language development on a semi-regular basis.
"Most parents don't learn about their child's speech development until the child starts exhibiting delays," Kroner says. "I wanted to find a way to make parents feel more confident and on track."
Kroner's innovative solution to the confusing world of child language development is called Hi-Coo, a subscription toy kit that includes language development tools, tips and activities to help infants and toddlers reach their language milestones. Kroner has been developing her business plan since enrolling in the CO.STARTERS startup class at ArtWorks this past fall.
With most of the pieces now in place, Kroner hopes to launch the company by the end of March. Once available, Hi-Coo kits will be sold as yearly subscriptions with four shipments per year customized for children ages 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and 9-12 months. The company's initial launch will cover the first year of development, with plans to expand based on subsequent success.
Each kit will include 3-5 books or toys hand chosen by Kroner herself to optimize speech and language development. Most of the toys will be handmade by small-batch crafters or local manufacturers, including children's bookseller Blue Manatee Press and Kroner's own mother. Their kits will also include "coo-cards" with instructions and activities to accompany the toys and promote beneficial, productive use.
"I like toys that are kinesthetic and encourage exploratory play and social interactions," Kroner says.
Many parents struggle to understand the impact of speech development in the first year of growth, when their child is still non-verbal. Kroner is more than familiar with such concerns, as her youngest son is in his first year of development.
"Recent research strongly suggests that language interactions during the first year, both quantity and quantity, really matter," she says. "(The kits) hope to promote interaction but also exploration of textures and sounds while encouraging imaginative play."
Although she's yet to finalize Hi-Coo pricing, Kroner anticipates that a yearly subscription with Hi-Coo will cost parents between $150 and $175. The kits can be purchased by subscription or even as gifts for friends with young children.
"My hope is that gift-givers can give the gift of language or that new parents can subscribe and unlock the conversation with their little one while feeling confident they are doing their best to nurture their child's development," Kroner says.

New scholarship for Gateway students encourages study of advanced manufacturing

A Gateway Community and Technical College student is the first recipient of a new scholarship for students enrolled in the college's advanced manufacturing program.
The VonLehman Scholarship in Advanced Manufacturing is offered each semester by the VonLehman Company, a tax and accounting firm with offices throughout the tristate area. Many of their clients are involved in manufacturing and distribution, and the company is an active partner with Gateway. VonLehman hosts a Partners for Industry event with Gateway each year to discuss the state of manufacturing in Kentucky, trends in the field and insights on day-to-day problems industry participants may face.
Second-year Gateway student Brian Wardia was awarded the scholarship at the Partners for Industry event in November and just received his first $750 check to start the spring semester.
Advanced manufacturing involves applying innovative, cutting-edge technologies to the manufacturing process and is a rapidly growing field, specifically in Northern Kentucky. The region alone is home to 70 advanced manufacturing companies with a workforce requirement of as many as 6,000 skilled workers. Most of the jobs require more than a high school diploma.
Gateway offers six advanced manufacturing majors, including Manufacturing Engineering Technology, Computerized Manufacturing and Machining and Industrial Maintenance Technology, among others.
The VonLehman Scholarship is open only to full-time Gateway advanced manufacturing majors who have maintained a GPA of 2.5 or above. Wardia, this year's happy recipient, is from Erlanger.

Electric cars welcome at new dunnhumby garage

A new 3CDC development in Cincinnati's Central Business District is making a name for innovation, and it's not a new residential building or office space. It's a garage.
The new dunnhumby Centre Garage, located at the corner of Fifth and Race streets, is the first of its kind to include charging stations for electric cars in its design.
The 1,000-space garage features three Level 2 charging stations that will allow six cars to charge at a time. Electric car users will pay the same parking rate as other drivers and will have access to the charging stations on a first-come first-served basis.
The "green" garage idea is a response to city reports of doubling electric car usage over the past year. The reports estimate that nearly 3,000 electric vehicles requiring plug-in access are now registered in Southwest Ohio.
"We plan to integrate charging stations into any of our future developments that involve the construction of a new parking garage," says Joe Rudemiller of 3CDC.
With the construction of dunnhumby's new office space still ongoing, dunnhumby employees are not expected to use the garage until the company moves in April. At that time, about half of the garage will likely be used by dunnhumby employees. At the moment, the garage is mainly public parking and is used by valet services at the Hilton at Netherland Plaza, 21c Museum Hotel and Metropole Restaurant.
According to a recent 3CDC inquiry, three or four dunnhumby employees currently drive electric cars to work.
If the number of electric car drivers in the city dramatically increases, this garage and others like it will be ready for them.
"The (charging) stations are very easy to install," Rudemiller says. "We'll be able to keep up with the demand quite easily."

Two Hamilton Mill companies attract investor attention

In mid-December, the Hamilton Mill announced a partnership with Queen City Angels, a group of over 50 investors who are strong believers in supporting the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The group's attraction to the Hamilton Mill had a lot to do with the fact that many of the Mill's manufacturing and clean tech projects fit nicely into the fund requirements set by Ohio Third Frontier. Two companies in particular that attracted QCA: kW River Hydroelectric and WaterOxyChem.
Founded by Paul Kling and Fred Williams, kW Hydroelectric is working on creating a micro-turbine for low-head dams. Since the city of Hamilton and the Great Miami both have low-head dams, the company has found an ideal location at the Hamilton Mill.
WaterOxyChem, founded by Kerry Jackson, has created a unique wastewater treatment solution that uses an aerobic environment to algae and other contaminents from forming in sewers. The solution promises to save thousands of dollars for city water treatment.
By investing in companies such as these, Queen City Angels is adding to their network and bringing attention to Butler County.
"We chose to focus on areas that made the most sense for our base of business," says QCA Executive Director Scott Jacobs. "We have so much expertise within our group that I can find Angels that will immediately know and understand the types of business the Mill is trying to attract."
The lead angel on this project, John Bruck, happens to be the owner of an environmental engineering firm, BHE Environmental. With a career focused on renewable power consulting, Bruck has worked as a project manager for both the EPA and the Federal Energy Administration (FEA) and has been active in groups such as the American Wind Energy Association. With his skill set behind them, the Hamilton Mill's clean tech emphasis will likely grow considerably over the next several years.
"His background in perfectly suited for Hamilton Mill," Jacobs says.
CB Insights recently recognized QCA as one of the top two private seed-stage venture capital investors in the United States. With this new partnership secured, the Mill will now have access to numerous mentors like Bruck as well as other regional resources.

Hamilton County Development Center changes name, honors champion of minority entrepreneurs

The Hamilton County Development Company has rebranded once again. The Norwood center, which encompasses an incubator (the HCDC Business Center) as well as economic development and lending service providers, will now be known as HCDC, Inc.
"We are branding as a single entity instead of having three names for our three different economic development programs," says Bridget Doherty, marketing and communications director.
On the same day they announced the rebranding, Jan. 16, HCDC, Inc. honored Mel Gravely, longtime supporter of minority entrepreneurs, with the Larry Albice Entrepreneurship Award. The award is given yearly to successful entrepreneurs who have given back to the community and is named after former HCDC chairman and board member Larry Albice, who played a considerable role in the expansion of the Business Center and received the award in 1998.
Gravely, who is responsible for starting the Minority Business Accelerator, is a published author on the topic of race in business. His passion for supporting women and minorities in their business ventures has characterized his work for decades. He's currently the majority shareholder, president and CEO of TriVersity Construction Company, which specializes in construction management, contracting and design. He also founded the Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking, a think tank for minority business initiatives. And he's the immediate past chair of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce. The list goes on.
"Mel is the type of leader who puts others in the limelight," says David Main, president of HCDC, Inc. "We thought we would shed some light on him and his outstanding contributions to entrepreneurship. He has dedicated his life to helping others innovate and achieve."
Gravely's recognition came at HCDC's annual meeting, where the organization presented its annual business awards, including awards for lending, economic development and HCDC resident company of the year. Startup Get Noticed Get Found received the resident of the year award, with lending awards going to Fifth Third, Huntington and Listermann Brewing Co.

New Findlay Market public art project seeking artist proposals

Findlay Market is next in line for a major public art installation.

The site is the western plaza and esplanade of Findlay Market, next to Elm Street and steps away from the site of a future streetcar stop.

An artist for the permanent work is expected to be selected this summer, with installation in Spring 2016.

"Hopefully it will become something that people everywhere will recognize as Cincinnati’s icon, something we’re all proud to share with the world," says Tim Maloney, president of The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.

In late 2013, Maloney announced the Haile Foundation would spend $600,000 for three public art projects over three years. He was inspired  by public art he had seen in other places — Denver’s "I See What You Mean" by Lawrence Argent, a large blue bear peeking into that city’s Convention Center, and Chicago’s Millennium Park "Cloud Gate" by Anish Kapoor, also known as "the Bean" — and believed Cincinnati needed public art that would be a strong symbol for the city.

The first of the three Cincinnati projects, Tony Luensman’s neon "CAMPGROUND," was installed on the western wall of the Cincinnati Art Museum last fall. It was supported by both the Haile Foundation and Macy’s.

ArtWorks Cincinnati, which is administering the Haile Public Art Fund, has put out a call for artists’ concepts for the $150,000 project, with proposals due Feb. 15. Two to three artists or teams of artists will be selected as finalists and paid $500 to develop design proposals. 

Criteria for the Findlay Market project: It should complement the market and its iconic status in Cincinnati, it should delight and leave a lasting impression, it should have "visual gravity" and it should be made of durable materials. The chosen project will have a budget of $140,000 for full design, fabrication and installation, plus $10,000 in a maintenance fund.

See the project's "call for artists" website for more details.

City's new CPO to bring Baltimore's city innovation lab model to Cincinnati

Cincinnati's new Chief Performance Officer has had the public service “bug” since he was a kid.

Chad Kenney grew up in Pennsylvania, where his dad worked for both the local township and county. When Kenney left home to study math at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, he found that he shared his father’s passion for public service. He started tutoring local kids for the SATs and became enamored with a local school there.
“I was interested in Baltimore as a city with a lot of issues,” Kenney says. “I realized that education was at the center of it.”
Johns Hopkins had a partnership with Kenney’s school, called the Academy for College and Career Exploration, so he found himself there quite often. After he graduated, he knew he wanted to work there full time. He taught math at the school for two years through a local Teach for America program.
“It was incredibly challenging,” Kenney says. “I knew I couldn’t work there for a third year, but I still wanted to be involved in service of some sort.”
Fortunately, the Baltimore CitiStat office was hiring. Tasked with making the city faster, cheaper and better in general, Kenney found himself overseeing city functions like transportation, housing and the police force.
“I loved that job,” Kenney says. “To be able to learn about a variety of city operations and add my mathematical and analytical capabilities … it was a great experience.”
When Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black was hired in 2014 from Baltimore, where he served as Finance Director, he decided that he wanted Kenney to be a part of his plan for our city. So Black created Cincinnati’s new Office of Performance and Data Analytics and brought Kenney to town.

“(Black) has a comprehensive vision for how (performance management) should look,” Kenney says.
Unlike Baltimore, which already had differing, hard-to-integrate systems in place, Black and Kenney came to Cincinnati and were able to start from scratch. The Office of Performance and Data Analytics’ primary role will be to provide city residents and businesses with better customer service, faster services, cheaper services and efficient and effective city services.
On Kenney’s plate over the next few months is designing and building the city’s new CitiStat Innovation Lab. The lab, modeled after the one Kenney worked with in Baltimore, will provide analysts, researchers and city problem-solvers with dedicated space to confront real city problems — from trash collecting to efficient permitting services.
“We’re going to take different processes and get everyone in a room together and deconstruct the problem, then put it back together and streamline it,” Kenney says of the lab.
The space should be fully functioning by spring. For now, Kenney is spending his time creating a professional foundation with the other 18 departments and familiarizing himself with the 122 city programs already in place.

Outside of work, he and his girlfriend are enjoying their East Walnut Hills home and getting to know the city one recommendation at a time.
Findlay Market has become a part of our weekly routine,” he says. 

New accelerator Ocean sets the record straight on religious affiliations

Since Cincinnati accelerator Ocean announced its flagship class of startup companies in December, the phrase "faith-based" has been bounced around quite a bit. Though the accelerator's website uses the term and local media have deemed them a "faith-based venture," co-founder Tim Brunk says that the term may be getting more attention than it should.
"This is a high-tech accelerator," Brunk says. "This is not a mission. We are here to bring jobs. We're here to help the kind of people who are going to build hospitals and create jobs."
If anything, Ocean seems to be more of a faith-integrated startup accelerator. Though the founders — Brunk, Tim Metzner and Chad Reynolds — are all Crossroads church members, Ocean isn't a church program. The accelerator has partnered with Crossroads due to the overwhelming support the three got from the 25,000-plus congregation members and the organization itself. Ocean also uses space on the Crossroads campus in Oakley to conduct its operations.

Though the founders may feel a theological tie to Crossroads' mission, such a tie or connection isn't required when recruiting startups and definitely not when recruiting investors.
In fact, Ocean's new class actually includes two self-proclaimed agnostics.
"All we ask is that they are willing to explore," Brunk says. "Religious involvement is not a requirement."
The accelerator's main goal is to create startup founders with character — ones that investors can truly trust with their money. Generosity, honor, intelligence and integrity are all qualities Ocean hopes to foster alongside their business-related curriculum.
"Faith is a foundation, not a guarantee," Brunk says. "We foster a belief in respect, of not taking advantage of or exploiting others."
When asked if the companies that come out of Ocean would perhaps be at a disadvantage without the dog-eat-dog mentality that can lead to Fortune-500 status, Brunk shakes his head.
"There's a perception that good people are naïve, and a lot of times, unfortunately, that assumption is true," Brunk says. "But I see (our program) as putting our companies at a significant advantage, not a disadvantage."
To the Ocean team, success is measured by more than money. If its startup founders can find a way to build balanced, successful personal lives alongside their steadily-growing businesses, the accelerator will have done its job.
The thing that makes Ocean unique from other accelerators — and the part that earned the term "faith-based" — can be found in its supplemental curriculum. The session speakers include CEOs who have gone through tumultuous marriages due to their never-ending hours at work discussing faith, family and community with startup founders. Some members of the Ocean class go to church, others do not. As for the Ocean founders, all they want to do is open doors.
In the meantime, Brunk is tasked with finding the types of investors who are looking for a well-rounded, likable, trustworthy individual or team. He spends his time connecting with investors and making sure that the companies who have signed on are receiving the highest quality business education possible.
Though Brunk did quote the Gospel once during our interview, it's apparent that the label following Ocean may not be entirely accurate. Right now, the accelerator is in its second week of what is best described as "business boot camp," getting their companies ready for any investor that could walk through the door.

Just like any accelerator, they're most interested in making sure their companies are poised for success. The accelerator plans to have weekly practice runs with potential investors to make sure their companies stay on their toes. If they emerge as better people, that bodes well for the future.
"This is still an experiment," Brunk says. "We still don't know if it is going to work. But if we can succeed in creating a dialogue, well, that's all we can ask for."
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