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Cintrifuse names new Director of Syndicate Fund, looks to increase investment in local startups


Cintrifuse has named long-time team member Sarah Anderson as Director of its Syndicate Fund, the “fund of funds” designed to generate venture capital and resources for the Cincinnati startup ecosystem.
 
The for-profit fund is one of three major branches of nonprofit Cintrifuse’s work to support the startup and innovation ecosystem in Cincinnati in unique ways. The other two are services provided to entrepreneurs and the Union Hall building that houses Cintrifuse, The Brandery, CincyTech, multiple co-working startups and other related organizations like Flywheel Cincinnati.
 
The $57-million Syndicate Fund was founded by the Cincinnati Business Committee in 2012 to invest in other funds instead of investing directly in startup ventures and made its first investment in 2013. Cintrifuse searches out funds around the country that believe in Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem and are likely to invest in it, with the hope that when those funds do invest in local startups they’ll attract other investors into the mix.
 
This “syndication effect” is where the fund gets its name, Anderson says.
 
“We’re really looking for that ‘needle in a haystack’ fund that can provide strong returns in the region,” she says. “We are looking at funds that can really be building companies.”
 
In addition to the financial performance any investor expects, Cintrifuse uses its Syndicate Fund to build regional engagement of funds and a “return on innovation” for its backing limited partners — large local companies like Kroger and Procter & Gamble — that can also benefit from all the innovation coming from small startups and entrepreneurs.
 
To foster this kind of innovation and growth here, the Syndicate Fund adds a few twists.
 
Anderson says the best and most effective funds want “no strings attached” to their investments, so the Syndicate Fund chose not to require funds to re-invest in Cincinnati. Instead, she actively works with funds to develop relationships and make sure investors share Cintrifuse’s commitment to innovation across Greater Cincinnati.
 
Anderson also takes a hands-on approach to fostering and connecting with funds that fit Cintrifuse’s mission. Although the Syndicate Fund has invested in just 13 funds nationally, it has a network of 250 partners with which it actively engages. Cintrifuse has been able to bring a 7:1 return on its investments back to Cincinnati so far, and Anderson is looking to make sure that ratio gets even better going forward.
 
The Syndicate Fund will be finishing up Fund I around the end of this year and is already looking toward its next second round, Fund II. Anderson says that there will be tweaks and improvements based on what she and her staff learned in the first round, just as the Cincinnati entrepreneurship ecosystem is always learning and growing.
 
“There’s really not another model that we’ve been able to find like Cintrifuse,” she says.
 

Flywheel social enterprise hub moves to "startup central" at Union Hall


The region’s social enterprise hub will soon be found in the heart of #StartUpCincy headquarters, Union Hall, when Flywheel Cincinnati completes its long-planned move to Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine.
 
Although Flywheel focuses on connecting nonprofit, for-profit and faith-based social enterprises to resources and each other, Executive Director Bill Tucker sees an important point of overlap between the city’s social enterprise economy and its startup ecosystem.
 
“A couple of years ago,” he says, “I started to realize that in order to have a real impact in this community it’s really about job creation.”
 
Flywheel works to provide the social enterprise community with momentum toward the greatest social impact possible, ranging from the economic development of job creation to the sustainability, scalability and funding opportunities of local social enterprises.
 
Moving into Cincinnati’s urban core from Covington will allow Flywheel to expand its network in the civic, venture funding and business communities, although Tucker emphasizes that the organization will maintain deep connections in its Northern Kentucky home as well.
 
“It’s remarkable how being shoulder to shoulder with other individuals in this space has created opportunities for connections that I never could have predicted,” Tucker says.
 
In addition to the networking connections, the move to Union Hall allows Flywheel to expand its services to social enterprises by providing co-working space. Tucker has wanted to start this program for a long time, but the move makes it possible without Flywheel having to develop its own brick-and-mortar building.
 
Tucker points out that work spaces new nonprofits are often able to afford come nowhere close to the environment provided by Union Hall.
 
“For a nonprofit or social enterprise to be able to step into a space like this that has the latest technology, it enables a totally different kind of connection than anything else can,” he says.
 
To Tucker, the presence of social enterprise at Union Hall provides a crucial link between startups and social enterprise. Flywheel can provide visibility and resources to tech-focused companies that may want to do social good, while the startup ecosystem provides sustainability (and sometimes even “fast failure”) models for organizations focused on social good.
 
For Flywheel, being an integrated part of the local startup environment highlights the economic legitimacy of social enterprise in Cincinnati. To demonstrate the impact of the “real work, real jobs and real people” involved in Greater Cincinnati social enterprise, Tucker tells the story of Flywheel’s 2016 Social Enterprise Award MASTER Provisions, which finished second in the recent SVP Fast Pitch competition.
 
This organization began by providing food, clothing and orphan care in Northern Kentucky and grew enough that it was able to purchase refrigerated trucks for food deliveries. When staff members weren’t using the trucks for food deliveries, MASTER began renting them out to partners for expedited food delivery, earning revenue to support the rest of its work. MASTER then added another dimension to this social enterprise — using the trucks for a job training program for drivers, allowing individuals with barriers to employment to learn and grow into full-time employment.
 
For Tucker, it’s a perfect example of the benefits and sustainable reinvestment social enterprises can achieve.
 
“This is all about moving a larger community around social enterprise,” he says.
 
That community will surely grow with Flywheel’s move to Union Hall in addition to the recent expansion of its board and look forward to 2016’s Social Enterprise Cincy week in October.
 

Kitchen Convos series shines light on local food industry entrepreneurs


Entrepreneurship is typically associated with the tech industry. But Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen (NKIK) hopes to expand that perception by highlighting “foodpreneurs” in its Kitchen Convos series.
 
“There is a need for food people to come together,” says Rachel DesRochers, founder of Grateful Grahams, NKIK and The Hatchery. “I was going to all these entrepreneurial programs and always felt like I can’t really relate to any of that.
 
“One of the things our incubator kitchens do so well is work together, not in competition — no one is better than anybody else and there is a willingness to help each other. So hopefully Kitchen Convos are creating a space for people to meet and connect.”
 
Kitchen Convos will be available in two formats: a live monthly discussion held at NKIK in Covington and a weekly podcast.
 
The live discussions will bring together people from across the regional food industry, including branding, packaging, growers, famers, brewers, manufacturers, writers and chefs.
 
“I put it out on Facebook that I was looking for people who want to share their stories in and around the food industry,” DesRochers says. “Within three days I had three speakers a month booked through September, each month bringing together like-minded people.”
 
The live Kitchen Convos begin with panelists introducing themselves and talking about their experience in the food industry, followed by a conversation moderated by DesRochers and audience questions.
 
“At the February and March programs we had people who just love food, as well as manufacturers,” DesRochers says. “For people who are in the small food business industry who want to come and learn or make connections, it’s a great space to connect into this community. But it’s also for people who just love food and want to hear the stories of why people do what they do.
 
“Everyone loves to eat, but who are the people producing our food and what are we consciously making a choice to support with our dollars? We’re doing cool stuff, we just need to share our stories and tell people that we’re here in your back yard working really hard together as a community of foodies to help each other.”
 
Unravel Productions is recording the live discussions and editing them into one-hour podcasts. They’re also working with DesRochers on mini Kitchen Convos, a weekly podcast featuring one-on-one interviews with regional food industry professionals. The first mini Convo will be released on March 23.
 
Live Kitchen Convos are scheduled for the second Wednesday of each month, although the April program will be held on Monday, April 11. They’re held at the Northern Kentucky Incubator Kitchen, 1032 Madison Ave., Covington. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the program begins at 6:30; admission is $5.
 
The April Kitchen Convo panel features Alice Chalmers, founder of Ohio Valley Food Connection; Kate Cook, Garden Manager of Carriage House Farms; and Amy Paul, Advertising Director of Edible Ohio Valley.
 
“These people are creating their dreams through food,” DesRochers says. “I want people to listen to it and really be inspired.”
 

Digital Dialogue conference focuses on consumer conversations in the digital world


What do banking, paper, healthcare and coffee have in common? They’re consumer marketing fields represented by various keynote speakers at this year’s Digital Dialogue conference March 29-30.
 
The event, begun eight years ago as the “Digital Non-Conference,” is an opportunity to learn about new and emerging trends in digital marketing. This year’s theme, says conference co-chair Nicole Ball, is “How to market in a world where everybody can participate.”
 
“Digital is so wide that it really opens it up to conversation,” Ball says. “We’re here, and we need to talk to each other.”
 
The keynote speakers represent a variety of industries, including Deep Focus, Leo Burnett Chicago (gave Fifth Third Bank its “curious bank” brand), MediaVest, Eric Mower & Associates (managed the digital campaign #PaperBecause for the very non-digital paper business) and Death Wish Coffee.
 
The conference will focus heavily on how to prioritize and engage the consumers that marketers want to reach in a digital environment where they have more and more opportunities for engagement.
 
That’s where one of the keynote speakers, Mike Brown of Death Wish Coffee, comes in. The small business that produces “the world’s strongest coffee” won Intuit Quickbooks’ Small Business Big Game Competition and had a fully produced commercial air during the 2016 Super Bowl. Death Wish Coffee got the most votes in the competition by effectively leveraging social media and engaging its fan base to vote, even after entering the competition a month late.
 
“We’ve broadended our horizons because consumer centricity is everywhere,” Ball says. “You might ask ‘why Death Wish Coffee?’ but when you hear his story you start realizing how consumer-focused it was and yet it was all on digital.”
 
Ball says that she and other Digital Dialogue organizers think these new stories of consumer engagement will be a major draw for the conference. Just because everyone can participate in the digital world doesn’t mean they are yet.
 
Digital Dialogue will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown March 29-30. Registration is available here.
 

MusicNOW festival keeps experimenting and exploring in 11th year


The annual MusicNOW festival continues to bring musical experimentation and dialogue to Cincinnati, and its 11th version this weekend will once again partner with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. MusicNOW founder and Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner (The National) and CSO Musical Director Louis Langree have planned three nights of new music and classics like you’ve never heard them before.
 
“It’s truly a unique CSO experience,” says Meghan Berneking, the Symphony’s Director of Communications. “From the flip side, these composers now have at their disposal 90 orchestra musicians excited to play their music.”
 
For the CSO, the three-day festival — two nights of which center around the CSO and Music Hall — is a chance to live up to one of its core values of being a place for musical experimentation. For Dessner, MusicNOW is an annual return to his home town and an opportunity to compose and play music in a totally different way.
 
“This is music that people don’t get to hear every day,” Berneking says. “Bryce talks a lot about how Cincinnati is really the only place MusicNOW could happen.”
 
The experimentation of the festival will begin Friday, March 18, with a night filled with contemporary music by composers who are still writing. The night focuses on the world-renowned Kronos Quartet in conversation with the full orchestra, the music inspired by themes ranging from historical immigration to 9/11. Joining Kronos, CSO and Dessner will be MacArthur Genius Fellow and new host of Prairie Home Companion Chris Thile, performing his own works for mandolin.
 
The collaborations and conversations continue into the second night of music Saturday, March 19, opening with a piece by 20th-century Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski followed by Dessner's response to it. Adding to the conversation is a piece by composer Terry Riley inspired by the first Gulf War. The night will end on a more uplifting note with Magnus Lindberg’s Feria, or “Festival.”
 
MusicNOW will continue with the Punch Brothers (one of Thile’s side projects) at Cincinnati Masonic Center downtown on Sunday night, March 20.
 
Berneking encourages MusicNOW audiences for any of the nights of the festival to come with an open mind, pointing out that even Beethoven’s 5th Symphony was once new to listeners. She also says there might be more surprises in the works for the festival.
 
“We didn’t even announce what’s on the program until about two months ago,” she says. “That’s how new it is.”
 

UC team prepares for finals of Space X Hyperloop Pod competition


A team of University of Cincinnati students that’s part of a global effort to build a new Hyperloop transportation system will present its design at the Official Space X Hyperloop Pod competition in June.
 
Hyperloop is intended to provide high-speed, solar-powered, zero-carbon transportation between cities less than 900 miles apart. Passengers seated in a pod would be propelled through tubes on an air cushion, similar to how air hockey pucks move. Getting from Cincinnati to Chicago currently takes roughly four hours by car; the trip via Hyperloop would be a mere 30 minutes.
 
Elon Musk, founder of electric car company Tesla and private space craft technology manufacturer Space X, is Hyperloop’s highest-profile backer and advocate. Last year, Space X committed to constructing a test track at its facility in Hawthorne, Calif. and announced an international competition to generate models to test there.
 
More than 1,000 university, high school and corporate teams from around the world entered the initial competition. Last fall’s first round required a preliminary design briefing to outline a complete Hyperloop transportation system. The field was narrowed to 300 teams, including Hyperloop UC, a team of 60 undergraduate and graduate students representing an array of University of Cincinnati departments and disciplines.
 
“At first, a few of my friends in engineering made up a core team of five or six people,” says Dhaval Shiyani, Team Captain and Chief Engineer of Hyperloop UC. “Once we came up with a rough plan of what we wanted to do, we launched a recruitment drive to complete the team, interviewing candidates to find people motivated enough to work on something that will very surely change transportation.”
 
A diverse team was important, as the competition requires not only detailed engineering but also a manufacturing plan to construct and scale the project as well as business plan with funding models.
 
“We have people not just with an engineering background but also people from business, design and DAAP,” says Shishir Shetty, Hyperloop UC Director of Finance.
 
Team members traveled to Texas A&M University in January to present their final design, which included not only the passenger pod but also station renderings and a complete system engineering scheme. The event drew an impressive gathering of Hyperloop supporters, including Hyperloop Technologies CEO Rob Loyd and Chairman Shervin Pishevar, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Musk himself.
 
Hyperloop UC was selected as one of the final 30 teams to advance to the prototype competition in June. The UC team is now constructing a 14-by-3-foot pod prototype to ship to California for the trials on the track being built on the Space X campus. Although this remains a competition, Space X has encouraged participants to discuss the project with potential community partners so that the winning design will actually be scalable and buildable.
 
Hyperloop UC team members have been doing that, as well as reaching out to community organizations and schools to build excitement and interest about its project.
 
“In addition to our full-scale prototype, we are building a small-scale model to take to schools to raise awareness and excite young students to join an effort that will make a better future,” Shiyani says. “We want to ignite their passion not just for engineering but for technology in general.”
 
Hyperloop UC continues to raise funds and in-kind support for its project, including seeking assistance from local companies on manufacturing and technical issues, with help from their UC advisors and colleagues. Online donations are being accepted by the UC Foundation here (select Hyperloop UC on the Area of Focus pulldown menu).
 
“We owe a lot to (UC) President Santa Ono,” Shetty says. “He got on board as soon as we made the pitch to him and has been great about spreading the word around town. The UC faculty across campus in engineering, business and DAAP have been making calls, setting up meetings and helping with fundraising — without them this wouldn’t be possible.”
 

Casamatic plans expansion after receiving $1.1 million in seed funding


Local startup Casamatic has had a whirlwind first year. After starting with just an idea in late 2014, co-founders Alex Bowman and Chris Ridenour have grown their concept into a website and app operating in three cities and currently planning expansion to five more.
 
Bowman credits much of the organization’s explosive growth to the help they’ve received though the Cincinnati startup ecosystem, including going through accelerator programs at Ocean and The Brandery and serving as a Startup in Residence at 84.51°.
 
“When we started the Ocean program, we knew we were tackling buying a home,” Bowman says. “We had the name and had a Twitter handle, and that was about it.”
 
They came out of Ocean with their now signature quiz for matching buyers with homes, and by the time they graduated from The Brandery they had users/customers and were beginning operations in Chicago.
 
Casamatic currently operates in Cincinnati, Chicago and Dayton and recently added its fourth team member, but those numbers won’t stay the same for long. In January, the company closed its first seed round of investments, garnering $1.1 million to fund further expansion.
 
The company’s growth matches its audience growth. Everything about Casamatic is designed with Millennials in mind, the fastest growing segment of home-buyers, particularly first-time home-buyers. The company is choosing markets for expansion based on that audience.
 
“The goal now is really to find where the other cities are where Millennials are buying homes,” Bowman says.
 
Casamatic is planning expansion to Phoenix, Raleigh, Columbus, Charlotte and Nashville. Bowman says that, once they launch in those markets, they’ll begin to look for the next 10-15 cities to target.
 
“We want to be in every city in the U.S.,” he says, “but more importantly, we want to be to de facto way for Millennials to buy homes.”
 
If growth continues at this rate, that goal doesn’t seem too far off.
 

HCDC to host its first startup Business Showcase and Innovation Village


Business incubator and economic development corporation HCDC is hosting its first Business Showcase and Innovation Village March 15 at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
 
The event will be an opportunity for residents in HCDC’s Business Center startup incubator to display and tell their story to an audience of over 300 people representing sectors of the community ranging from the business world to local universities.
 
Business Center Director Pat Longo explains that the Showcase is an opportunity for the companies to tell their story and make connections in the community as well as for the public to learn more about the work HCDC does. He says the idea came about after bringing on two new business mentors who subsequently told him how much they’d learned about the organization’s work in such a short time.
 
“They said, ‘We thought we knew what the Business Center was about, but we need to give these companies an opportunity for Greater Cincinnati to know what they’re doing,’” he says.
 
Only a few of the HCDC Business Center residents will be able to show off their work at this event, however. The organization had an internal competition to select 10 companies to give full pitches at the showcase, while an additional 30 startups will man display tables in the “Innovation Village.”
 
The exclusivity is a matter of space and practicality — with 72 startup companies currently in its program, HCDC is the region’s largest incubator.

Norwood-based HCDC also operates slightly differently than most other accelerators and incubators in the area, which is partly why it’s never hosted a showcase before.
 
While The Brandery, UpTech, Ocean, First Batch and Mortar take in several startups together as a class and “graduate” them together with a culminating pitch or demo event, HCDC both accepts and graduates startups on a rolling basis. The organization is able to meet the needs of a variety of types of new businesses, then — while entrepreneurs launching an app might only need a year or two to get off the ground, a biotech company commercializing a tangible product might stay in the incubator for four years or more.
 
Longo is proud of this diversity of businesses in HCDC’s portfolio, which he says will be visible at the Showcase among the startups giving pitches as well as those in the Innovation Village.
 
“The idea of technology commercialization is alive and well at HCDC,” Longo says. “Seeing these nascent ideas percolate, I hope that people will see what’s going on and say, ‘I can’t believe that’s happening here!’”
 

OTR Chamber's Star Awards mixing it up March 16


The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual Star Awards March 16 at The Transept. The event features a change in venue, timing and format, shifting from a presentation-packed luncheon to a shorter program with more networking time.
 
“We have had a really successful luncheon in a room packed with 400 people, where the program goes to the last second and then everyone has to race back to their offices,” Chamber President Emilie Johnson says. “This year, we tried to embrace a format that would allow this group of people who are committed and passionate about the neighborhood to have more time to enjoy each other’s company.”
 
The brief program for the 2016 Star Awards will feature keynote speaker Harvey Lewis, a marathon runner and educator.
 
“He is an amazing individual,” Johnson says. “Harvey is an educator at the School for Creative and Performing Arts and has been in the neighborhood a number of years. He’s also an athlete with a really compelling and inspirational story.”
 
Lewis won the Bad Water ultramarthaton, a 135-mile race in California’s Death Valley. He teaches social studies and economics at SCPA, running to and from work every day.
 
The program is scheduled for 4-6:30 p.m. Following Lewis’ talk, Star Awards will be presented to these 2016 winners:
 
Mortar, Chairperson’s Award
Woodward Theater, Norma Petersen Arts and Culture Award
Chatfield College, Property Development of the Year
Sundry + Vice, New Business of the Year
The Transept, Business of the Year
Red Door Project, Individual Contribution of the Year
OTR Community Housing, Nonprofit of the Year
Cydney Rabe, Off the Vine and Core Movement Studio, Entrepreneur of the Year
Taft’s Ale House, Restaurant of the Year
Future Leaders OTR, Community Impact of the Year
 
The Star Awards Review Committee chooses winners for the Chairperson’s Award and the Norma Petersen Arts and Culture Award, while the remainder of the awards are selected by the committee based on nominations from the community.
 
“What’s really cool about this process is that anyone can submit a nomination for the Star Awards,” Johnson says. “This year we had the most nominations we’ve ever received. These nominations celebrate Over-the-Rhine and all the great things that are happening here. We’re glad to have such a diverse pool of recipients who are uniquely contributing to OTR.”
 
The Chamber is also gearing up for the 10-year anniversary of the OTR 5k on May 21, with runner registration open now. Organizers are looking for volunteers to help with the race and the Summer Celebration in Washington Park immediately after.
 
“The 5k highlights the neighborhood and all that’s happening here,” Johnson says. “City Flea will kick off its season with us again. Art on Vine is also back on board, bringing their festival to the bandstand area. And the OTR 5k is still one of the few races that’s stroller- and dog-friendly.”
 

After pause to rework Haile Fellowship goals, People's Liberty names 2 winners


People’s Liberty announced last week that Chris Glass and Brandon Black are its 2016 Haile Fellowship winners and will each receive $100,000 grants, office space and mentoring over the next 12 months.

Glass will celebrate local communities by photographing every Greater Cincinnati neighborhood while engaging residents and local organizations throughout the process. Black will explore traditional apprenticeship in the age of technology by connecting Baby Boomers and Millennials through home repair projects that bring out the best in both generations.

After a successful first year of the Haile Fellowship program in 2015, People’s Liberty originally planned to have this year’s Haile Fellows start work in January but called a timeout in late Fall. Staffers were actually nearing the end of the 2016 application process when they decided it needed to change.
 
CEO Eric Avner explained that the catalyst for the change was a forum the organization hosted of funders from all over the country who provide grants to individuals, where it was suggested the People’s Liberty team stop the application process to rethink the questions it was asking applicants. The goal changed to focus less on the proposed projects and more on the applying individuals in order to grow strong local leaders and create lasting impact beyond the fellowship year via “a civic-based sabbatical.”

People’s Liberty says Glass’ project will be “transformative for him and will bring together the collection of creative pursuits he has built over the years.” Black, meanwhile, “hopes to reimagine the role of elders, beautify neighborhoods and increase home values (and) to develop a model that could incorporate other disciplines with intergenerational apprenticeship.”

This week, People’s Liberty is opening the application process for its next round of Project Grants, which provides eight winners with $10,000, a launch event and access to office space and mentorship. Applications will be accepted through March 23, with winners announced by April 22.

An information session will be hosted at 6 p.m. March 2 at People’s Liberty HQ in the Globe Building, 1805 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. Get more information here.
 

Cincinnati TEDx chapter hopes to use talks to build community

 
TEDx Cincinnati will host a “Salon” happy hour event March 9 featuring speakers giving short, 2 1/2-minute talks on a subject of their choice. The audience will vote for an audience choice award, and several of the speakers may be invited to give a longer presentation at the TEDx Main Stage event in June.
 
The Salon and Main Stage events will be very different, says TEDx Cincinnati Director Jami Edelheit, describing the Salon happy hour as a more relaxed focus on networking. Speakers were invited after filling out applications, but unlike Main Stage speakers they haven’t been coached by event organizers.
 
“We don’t really know exactly what they will say,” Edelheit says, explaining that’s part of the beauty of an event that brings people together to listen to each other’s ideas. “The Salon events are really fun and are a chance for people to meet others who you may not usually get a chance to meet.”
 
One thing both the Main Stage and Salon events have in common is that they bring together larger and larger numbers of people. The Salon has received so much interest that it’s moving to a larger venue this year, The Redmoor in Mt. Lookout, with a proper stage for speakers.
 
Edelheit is also looking to expand in another way by recruiting new members to the TEDx Cincinnati board, which organizes and promotes the local events. She hopes new blood will help continue growing TEDx Cincinnati into the kind of top-notch organization seen in other cities around the country.
 
“We are building a community, not just an event,” Edelheit says. “The idea that I think is really important for our city is that TEDx is a platform for people to share ideas in Cincinnati, to get things out of Cincinnati and to bring things into Cincinnati.”
 
Applications are still being accepted for the June 16 Main Stage event. Tickets are available for both the Salon and Main Stage events here.
 

Bikes O.R.O. launches bicycle-focused social enterprise with Indiegogo, Rhinegeist party


Chelsea Koglmeier made a New Year’s Resolution about a year ago “to try to come to terms with the risk of failure,” and she’s been working to put that into practice ever since.
 
The native Cincinnatian was no novice in taking risks. She’d already cut her teeth in the innovation and entrepreneurship world as a fellow at The Brandery and a staffer at local startup Roadtrippers to help it scale up.
 
In the past year, though, Koglmeier has taken on a different kind of risk, combining her experience in entrepreneurship and her passion for social good to venture into the world of tangible products with Bikes of Reckless Optimism.
 
Bikes O.R.O. is a social enterprise inspired by companies like TOMs Shoes that operate with a “double bottom line” of both profit and social good. Koglmeier’s goal is to sell quality everyday bikes in the U.S. and, for every unit sold, make it possible for someone in need to access a bike.
 
“Nonprofits absolutely have such an important role in the world,” she says, “but if businesses could do something good and have a double bottom line, what a wonderful place we would live in.”
 
The idea has been Koglmeier’s dream for a long time. She studied abroad in Uganda seven years ago and witnessed the power of bicycles to transform lives in places with little established transportation infrastructure. She remembers seeing children who were able to go to school more frequently if they had a bike to get them there faster and more safely each day.
 
Since returning to the U.S., Koglmeier has gotten even more involved in bike culture and sees the benefits of biking for the States as well.
 
“At the core level I wanted to get more access to people who need bikes,” she says, noting both the need for bikes around the world and the need for a different, less technically-focused kind of messaging around bikes in the U.S. “I think there needs to be a company that speaks to consumers in a different way.”
 
And so Koglmeier started Bikes O.R.O. in January 2015, spending the past year researching bicycle-making, manufacturing prototypes and identifying partners. Bikes O.R.O. will start its social aspect by working with World Bicycle Relief, and Koglmeier hopes to add other partners as the company grows.
 
Now she’s at the moment of truth. Bikes O.R.O. launched an Indiegogo campaign this week to fund the first batch of bicycle manufacture and launch the company in earnest. Koglmeier raised about 10 percent of her $45,000 goal in the first five hours.
 
“The process has been crazy, it’s been a really interesting roller coaster,” she says. “This is our proof of concept. Does this idea resonate enough to translate into a large scale purchase and potentially lifestyle decisions about whether you’re going to ride a bike?”
 
To go along with the Indiegogo launch, Bikes O.R.O. is hosting five launch parties around the country, including one right here in Koglmeier’s home town. Anyone interested in Bikes O.R.O. can meet Koglmeier and her team at 5-9 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at Rhinegeist and even ride one of their unique bicycles.
 
Koglmeier hopes that the Indiegogo is just the beginning.

“I want to work on building a world of reckless optimism,” she says. “I want to build the company into something that can make the biggest impact on the world while building quality products.
 
“But I never want to lose the product of the bike.”
 

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.”
 
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