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Local startup Physi app now helps whole family get active


Cincinnati-based fitness app Physi recently announced that it has added family play opportunities to the range of activities it offers. It launched in 2015, and is a free app that is currently available for download in the Google Play or Apple Store.

The announcement makes sense, given Physi’s social focus. What makes it different from other fitness apps is that it’s not just about getting people exercising — it’s about connecting users to each other so they can get active together.
 
“There are a lot of technologies out there that are very performance-oriented, and that’s great if you’re training for a triathlon,” says Physi's President and COO, Marty Boyer. “But this is just as much on the social side as it is about just being active.”
 
Physi works to connect users based on location, interests and skill levels. It helps people build communities and social networks as much as it helps them be healthier. The activities offered range from yoga to dog walking, and users can meet each other through planned activities or spontaneous “play now” options, like if a flag football team needs an extra sub that day.
 
The new family play offerings continue this trend, but provide opportunities for parents and families to meet each other by arranging active play dates. Physi is also planning to roll out improved pairing soon by offering “proactive pairing,” where the app will suggest pairs or groups based on interests and skill levels, then users will be able to message each other to set up activities. This way, the app puts an even greater emphasis on those connections.
 
Physi also has a corporate option, which Boyer points out works well because it gives employees easy, organic ways to get active together, rather than feel like a corporate kickball tournament is forced on them, or maybe it just doesn’t appeal to them.
 
“For people to get active, you have to remove the overhead of decision-making,” Boyer says. “On Physi, there’s always someone out there ready to play.”
 

People's Liberty hosts Globe Grant info session, accepting applications for 2017


People’s Liberty hosted “Globe in the Dark” June 24 to introduce Julia Fischer’s Play Library, the second of three winners of its 2016 Globe Grants that award exhibition projects $15,000 and six weeks in its Globe Gallery storefront across from Findlay Market.
 
Fischer’s Play Library is exactly what it sounds like, a “library” that loans toys and games instead of books. Through donations, memberships and the help of volunteers, the project aims to make a variety of toys and games accessible to people of all ages to encourage the benefits of creative play.
 
For visitors who might be inspired by Play Library’s opening to ask themselves what they’d do with the gallery space, Globe in the Dark came at a perfect time — the 2017 Globe Grant application process is now open.
 
“We are extremely excited about the next round of Globe Grants,” says Jake Hodesh, People’s Liberty Vice President of Operations. “We have high hopes for 2017, and we think the applications will be as strong as ever.”
 
For applicants who want to learn more about Globe Grants, People’s Liberty is hosting an information session at 6 p.m. June 28 at its Over-the-Rhine headquarters. Like all People’s Liberty grants, winning projects should be fun and engaging but also have a lasting impact on the community.
 
“The best applications to date have given the public a reason to come back to the Globe storefront again and again,” Hodesh says. “We’re looking for individuals in the Greater Cincinnati area who have exciting ideas to transform the storefront. This isn’t just an opportunity to hang artwork — this is a chance for someone or a small group of folks to create a one-of-a-kind unique experience.”
 
People’s Liberty staff members are available for one-on-one informational meetings with potential applicants July 5-19. The final deadline to apply for a 2017 Globe Grant is July 20.
 

Tech Cafeteria serves up community, technology, and grade school nostalgia


Where can you learn what a city’s water system has in common with Facebook? Where can adults in Cincinnati eat delicacies from elementary school like square pizza served on vintage lunch trays? And what does any of that have to do with the local entrepreneurship ecosystem?
 
The answer is Tech Cafeteria, a program hosted every month by local software development consultancy Gaslight.
 
When Gaslight moved to Walnut Street downtown in February 2015, the company wanted to make sure it was involved in the innovation and technology community there and in Over-the-Rhine. The six-year-old firm, which works on custom software and projects like Bus Detective, opens its office every Friday morning to the community for free coffee and conversation, but they were looking to do a different kind of program to invite people into their space.
 
“We wanted to do something sort of kitschy and fun,” says Gaslight’s marketing director, Michelle Taute. “We thought, ‘What if it was like a cafeteria?’”
 
And so Tech Cafeteria was born. Gaslight invested in divided lunch trays and found sources for cafeteria-style foods. It gives out free lunch on the first Wednesday of each month, while hosting speakers on a variety of innovation-related topics.
 
They even have a lunch lady — sort of. Ruby the Lunch Lady is the Tech Cafeteria mascot, whimsically named after one of the programming languages they use. Lunch is served by lunch ladies or lunch gentlemen wearing smocks and hairnets.
 
“There’s a great nostalgia from picking up a vintage lunch tray and getting served square pizza,” Taute says.
 
That nostalgia has proven appealing to the Cincinnati tech and innovation community. Each event can accommodate 50 people, and there’s often a waiting list.
 
Of course, the speaker topics are just as big a draw as the cafeteria theme. Tech Cafeteria had its first event in March 2015, and over the past year has covered topics like designing Lumenocity, getting women involved in technology, and open data in the City of Cincinnati. The events often include different demos, such as 3D printing.
 
Taute says the company tries to engage a broad variety of interesting topics.
 
“I try to think of something I would like to learn more about,” she says. “We’re able to get a variety of different speakers now that we’re more established.”
 
Gaslight will continue that trend at its next event on July 6, with Sam Hatchett of CitiLogics speaking on data, analytics and water systems. Hatchett will talk about how innovative technology is being applied to municipal water systems that are crucial to daily life, but are often in disrepair and even crisis.
 
“Water pipes are actually a lot like Facebook in the way they work,” Taute says.
 
But to learn just how exactly, you’ll have to RSVP to join Ruby for hamburgers, oven fries and ambrosia salad.
 
 

SE Cincy launches Elevator program to accelerate social enterprises


Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub and its Social Enterprise Cincy program continue to make big strides and take local social entrepreneurs with them. Now the organizations have added another tool for supporting and growing nonprofits and businesses with a “double bottom line” that aim to do good and earn revenue at the same time.
 
Flywheel moved into Cintrifuse’s Union Hall building on Vine Street several months ago, linking the organization even closer to the #StartupCincy community.
 
Flywheel Executive Director Bill Tucker and staff have been able to see first-hand how programs like The Brandery, Ocean and UpTech make a substantial impact on local startups. These accelerator and incubator programs inspired SE Cincy to start a similar resource and support program for social enterprises dubbed Elevator.
 
“Our move to Union Hall in March really helped accelerate that because we were immersed in the community and those organizations are interested in what we’re doing,” Tucker says.
 
According to Tucker, many social enterprises face similar challenges as new for-profit startups, and it made sense that they could benefit from a similar program.
 
With collaborators and inspiration from Design Impact, United Way and elsewhere, SE Cincy is currently taking applications for its new program, dubbed an “elevator” to set it apart from accelerators and incubators. Like an accelerator or incubator, the program will provide social enterprises with classes, resources and mentorship to help them get their footing and raise capital.
 
“Unlike the other accelerators, we don’t have a financial reward at the end,” Tucker says. “Our focus is on getting people in front of impact investors and ready to be investable.”
 
Using this “teach a man to fish” model, SE Cincy Elevator will use curriculum and mentorship to position participants in front of funders who see their return on investment as both financial and having social value.
 
SE Cincy Elevator will differ from other accelerators and incubators in a few other ways as well. To tailor the program to social entrepreneurs, SE Cincy has formatted it to fit the schedules of individuals working full time — meaning much of the 20-hour-per-week, eight-week-long commitment will take place on evenings, with options for online curriculum.
 
Applications are open until July 4 for the program’s first round, and only five social enterprises will be chosen for this pilot run. SE Cincy is looking for enterprises that are market-tested (either through market research or taking the solution to market), can have a substantial impact on the Cincinnati region and are viable, scalable and ready to grow. Incorporating technology would be helpful but isn’t a requirement.
 
Tucker says that the most important requirement of any applicant is a team of dedicated, passionate people willing to work hard for eight weeks in preparation for Demo Day at the Social Enterprise Cincinnati Summit on Oct. 3.
 

Bad Girl Ventures graduates first "Launch" class of women entrepreneurs


Bad Girl Ventures will hold a graduation event for its first “Launch” class at New Riff Distilling on Wednesday, June 15. The eight graduating businesses have just completed the “Launch” segment of BGV’s revamped “Explore, Launch, Grow” program, meaning they’re women entrepreneurs already somewhat established in their businesses and ready to take them to the next level.
 
BGV Executive Director Nancy Aichholz explains that the new format of Launch classes provide participants with a smaller, more intimate and more focused experience than they would have gotten in BGV’s previous class formats.
 
“We saw extreme growth from the day they started in Launch,” Aichholz says. “We were so impressed. This group was very supportive of each other, but they were all business. There was no messing around — these women were serious.”
 
The graduation event will give attendees a chance to learn about the companies, both through conversational networking and short 30-second pitches given by each business. The event will also feature tours of New Riff Distillery in Bellevue, refreshments and the presentation of a $25,000 investment loan award to the winning participant’s company.
 
Although BGV doesn’t directly fund all the participants of its classes, it does set them up to fundraise for capital on their own. The organization is also trying a new peer-to-peer fundraising platform on its Facebook page to encourage individuals to fundraise and become funders.
 
In addition to the pitches and awards, the event’s keynote speaker will be Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann, speaking about the innovation and entrepreneurship boom in Northern Kentucky. The choice of speaker is particularly appropriate as BGV is preparing to move into its new permanent facility in downtown Covington in about a month.
 
“We really want it to be a resource center for all female entrepreneurs,” Aichholz says of the new Pike Street space. “I think it’s going to be very exciting.”
 
Aichholz says the space will allow BGV to continue to expand, including fully kick-starting its “Grow” workshops in the fall. Those workshops, the final puzzle piece of the “Explore, Launch, Grow” system, will offer la carte classes and discussions of issues of interest to women entrepreneurs but, unlike most of BGV programming, will also be open to men.
 

Second annual NewCo Cincinnati expands with more host companies and programs


NewCo Cincinnati, the inside-out international innovation conference, returns July 21 for a second year, with even more host companies and new options for attendees.
 
“NewCo really demonstrates how strong the business community is here in Cincinnati,” says Patrick Venturella, content marketing specialist at Cintrifuse, which organizes the local event as an affiliate partner of NewCo. “Last year we had more host companies than Austin, and even out-trended Sharknado 3 on Twitter. This year, we have 95 host companies from all over the region.”
 
Rather than gather as a group in one central location, participants visit host companies to learn about their innovation breakthroughs. The day is broken into six 45-minute sessions with multiple programs happening in each time slot, and none of the sessions repeat.
 
Based on feedback from last year’s inaugural event, NewCo has added extra time between sessions so attendees can get from one area to another in time for programs that are spread across Greater Cincinnati.
 
“Host companies invite people into their offices to talk about their work, show off their products, and tell their stories,” says Cindy Edington, volunteer on the NewCo Cincinnati committee. “NewCo is a cross-industry, cross-region event offering many opportunities to connect and network.”
 
NewCo Cincinnati host companies include startups, Fortune 500s, nonprofits and manufacturing, each offering a wide array of facilities and industries to explore. The Brandery, which just announced its new class, will be hosting, along with other startup stalwarts such as LISNR, Bad Girl Ventures and Ocean. ArtWorks, Elementz and ArtsWave will add a dash of Cincinnati culture, and foodies are represented by Findlay Kitchen, Grateful Grahams and Sundry and Vice.
 
“NewCo offers a great opportunity to put smaller startups and organizations on the national map,” Edington says. “First Batch was just featured in the NewCo newsletter, and since we’re part of an international festival that can do a lot to raise profiles and foster innovation.”

Venturella says that NewCo is great for job seekers, business development, marketers, design agencies or anyone interested in engaging with the startup ecosystem or who is looking for inspiration, clients or connections.
 
“It’s really a mindshare across the business community and for people who are passionate about Cincinnati,” he says. “There are opportunities across all industries for takeaway lessons to help your business.”
 
To facilitate the mindshare and engagement as well as make schedule planning a little bit easier, NewCo has sorted the sessions into themed tracks. The 95 host companies are broken out into Accelerators and Incubators; Breweries and Distilleries; Creative, Diversity and Inclusion; Economic Development; Makers; and Nonprofit. For those who don’t want to change locations, Union Hall will feature a day of sessions in the #StartupCincy headquarters in Over-the-Rhine.
 
“Diversity of ideas, experience, and people is important both personally and professionally,” Venturella says. “The Diversity and Inclusion track highlights businesses owned and operated by women and minorities, as well as some of the organizations that help those businesses succeed. Festival participants in this track will hear new ideas and continue the discussion on how we ensure everyone in the region has opportunities to prosper."
 
NewCo Cincinnati wraps up with a happy hour at Anderson Pavilion, which overlooks Smale Riverfront Park. Attendees must register for the happy hour in their NewCo schedule in order to attend.
 
Session speakers and topics are being added daily to the 2016 NewCo Cincinnati schedule. Registration is $20 for general admission, $10 for students, and $100 for VIP access, which includes a special reception July 20 at The Transept. Group tickets are also available this year.
 
After Cincinnati, NewCo conferences are scheduled throughout the remainder of 2016 in Austin, Toronto, San Francisco, Istanbul, Barcelona, Los Angeles and Mexico City.

“NewCo is building on the momentum of the startup ecosystem,” Venturella says. “We’re out there letting people know not only that Cincinnati has a strong and cohesive startup ecosystem, but that these companies are doing new and innovative things that can change the way we live. It’s all part of Cincinnati redefining itself and deciding what kind of city we want to be in the 21st Century.”
 

TEDx Cincinnati Main Stage event aims to open minds and share ideas


TEDx Cincinnati’s seventh annual Main Stage event will take place June 16 at the Cincinnati Masonic Center downtown. The theme is “LEAP,” inspired by the fact that 2016 is a leap year.
 
“It’s really about what are the big leaps in the future,” says organizer Jami Edelheit. “How do we advance? How do we grow? As a community, as a people, as technologies?”
 
These themes are evident in the signature element of any TED or TEDx (independently organized) event — the series of short talks given by people passionate about a wide variety of ideas. This year’s speakers include a mixture of local names and national personalities, and the topics they’ll cover range from virtual reality to stem cell medical technologies to music and acrobatic movement, just to name a few.
 
But Edelheit emphasizes that the Main Stage event is about more than the individual speakers. It’s an entire experience created by combining speakers and the earlier Innovation Alley happy hour prior and the conversations sparked by both.
 
“We try to have a bunch of different themes that are kind of like a puzzle when you’re putting it together,” she says. “These are all short talks, and it’s all woven together into a production. I just find it fascinating.”
 
The production begins with the interactive Innovation Alley at 5 p.m. (registration begins at 4:30), curated with the help of Xavier University’s Center for Innovation, where attendees will be able to see and learn about a variety of innovations and ideas. The happy hour event will include food and drink and serve as the venue for the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association to present its GCVA Recognizes awards.
 
Following Innovation Alley, 15 speakers will present in the theater. For Edelheit, though, this doesn’t mean stopping the evening’s participation, only changing it. She hope the talks will spark new ideas in Cincinnati makers, doers and thinkers and encourages audience members to be present, engage with the ideas and talk with each other.
 
“The main thing is to be open, just be open,” she says. “You’re not coming to get lectured at. Have fun and meet new people who are thinkers and doers.”
 
Tickets to the Main Stage event are available here.
 

Arts Atlas data tool to help local arts organizations target programming to underserved communities

 
ArtsWave has created a first-in-the-nation model with the new Arts Atlas online tool that integrates data on arts organizations and their programming with community demographic data.
 
Arts Atlas offers a searchable aggregation of community data — such as income, age, households and ethnicity — and arts data including organization locations, services and partnerships. Users can search around a specific Zip code, address or by a host of other criteria.
 
“As ArtsWave shifted our funding approach, we started to think about data around community impact: how to collect it, how to analyze it, what that would look like,” ArtsWave Chief Impact Strategy Officer Tara Townsend says. “Arts Atlas evolved from the need for a place to collect and analyze data while also understanding the gap in access to the arts around the region.”
 
In order to keep the data current, ArtsWave is working with PolicyMap, a national data gathering organization. PolicyMap collects, organizes and maps the public data while ArtsWave manages the arts- and culture-related data that’s specific to Greater Cincinnati.
 
ArtsWave anticipates that Arts Atlas will eventually be used by a range of audiences, from parents and educators to funders and Realtors, but the initial focus in rolling out the program is arts organizations.
 
“We view Arts Atlas as strategic tool to help justify where ArtsWave is making investments and for arts organizations deciding where they invest their time and energy in terms of their programming,” Townsend says. “We are also currently using the Arts Atlas to provide information about which schools have art and music teachers and which don’t for the Cincinnati Public Schools’ subcommittee on arts and culture as they advocate for how CPS’s new equity policy should relate to arts education.”
 
Arts Atlas will also be a helpful tool for CPS Resource Coordinators in neighborhood Community Learning Centers.
 
“Resource Coordinators need to be able to connect the dots between the services offered at the school and those offered by other organizations,” ArtsWave Impact Specialist Alison Taylor says. “With the Arts Atlas they’ll be able to look for arts and cultural organizations to partner with to provide programming for the students in their school.”
 
The ability to drill down into the arts and cultural resources in a particular geographic area could be a useful tool for many audiences: parents seeking classes for their children, Realtors talking up the assets of a neighborhood or businesses recruiting new talent to Cincinnati.
 
ArtsWave staff are currently offering free general Arts Atlas demonstrations on the third Thursday of each month that are open to anyone with advance registration; register for the June 16 event here. They’re also providing targeted introductions to specific groups.
 
In addition to its practical application, ArtsWave also hopes that Arts Atlas will help regional arts organizations leverage new funding.
 
“We scoured through PolicyMap’s available data to find data sets that would support a better understanding of the community within this region,” Townsend says. “It is extremely valuable to have in one place all of the data that you would need to make a case for why a particular program should happen in a particular community, school or school district. Arts Atlas does that.”
 
Although Arts Atlas just launched at the end of May, it’s already garnered national attention.
 
“The original funding came from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John A. Schroth Family Charitable Trust at PNC Bank, so the NEA has been watching the development very closely and they’re very excited about what we ultimately created,” Townsend says. “Americans for the Arts approached us and are very interested in talking about it. The ArtPlace blog of the National Creative Placemaking Funding Initiative will also be writing about it.”
 
Once again, the innovation in Cincinnati’s arts community is putting the region on the map.
 

Per Scholas software testing class shows promise thanks to unique partnership


Cincinnati’s technology and innovation sector is often described as an ecosystem, with companies and organizations working together and relying on each other in order to create economic impact.
 
Recently, three different organizations – Per Scholas, Ingage Partners and Thrive Urban Impact Sourcing – came together to make sure the information technology sector is providing opportunities for those most in need. The partnership’s result is an eight-week intensive course in quality assurance software testing for Cincinnatians unemployed or below the poverty line and a promise by Thrive to hire at least half of the graduating class.
 
Per Scholas is a nonprofit organization founded nearly 20 years ago in New York City to provide free intensive IT training and job placement to individuals living in poverty. It now operates in several cities around the country and started its IT training program in Cincinnati about three and half years ago.
 
Per Scholas is able to expand its offerings to this software testing course with the help of Ingage Partners, a management and technology consulting company that strives for a “business for good” model, and its new organization, Thrive, which practices Urban Impact Sourcing.
 
The idea of impact sourcing is to make a dent in poverty by connecting well-paying jobs and opportunities for advancement with the underutilized talent pool of people living in poverty. According to Ingage/Thrive Co-Founder Michael Kroeger, it’s often been practiced in rural areas in countries like India, and Thrive is pioneering the model in an urban environment.
 
Impact sourcing more or less aims to reverse outsourcing by bringing often-outsourced technology jobs back into places like Cincinnati and making sure there’s a trained talent pool to fill those jobs. That means the model fits perfectly for software testing positions.
 
While most software testing has been outsourced for the past few decades, language and time zone barriers and rising overseas labor costs mean the market is ripe to bring those jobs back to the local market, says Per Scholas Managing Director Paul Cashen, adding that Per Scholas aims for its training programs to be market-driven.
 
“Software testing is in especially high demand and is a skill that can be trained in a reasonable amount of time,” Kroeger says. “We saw this as a way to quickly make strides to end poverty in our region while meeting market demands.”
 
“We were very excited about the fact that we drew interest from both alumni and new students,” Cashen says.
 
Cashen describes the collaboration of Per Scholas, Ingage and Thrive as a win-win-win situation: Per Scholas provides the curriculum and technical training the organization specializes in, Thrive and Ingage support the program and the job opportunities for graduates and the software testing students receive training and opportunities that can transform their lives and help end the cycle of poverty.
 
“For our students, the impact is not only from a career and competence standpoint but also about confidence,” Cashen says. “It has an emotional and mental impact, not just on their pocketbooks.”
 
Kroeger also emphasizes this impact on students’ confidence.
 
“They come out of this course with the confidence that they have the acquired technical knowledge needed for a career in software testing along with life skills that will help them maintain a successful career,” he says. “Thrive has committed to hire at least half of every class, including benefits and a competitive salary.”
 
For this class however, Thrive has far exceeded that promise.
 
“We're excited that 21 students are set to graduate next week and Thrive has already made offers to 15 of them,” Kroeger says.
 
The software testing course and partnership is so successful that Per Scholas is already taking applications for the next course, set to begin July 18. Classes are held at CityLink Center in the West End.
 

GCVA launches new kind of awards program for startups at TEDx Cincinnati


Always looking for new ways to support area entrepreneurs, the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association (GCVA) is launching a new program, “GCVA Recognizes,” to honor young people and fresh ideas in Cincinnati’s startup ecosystem.
 
Like many things in the startup world, GCVA Recognizes has grown quickly from an idea to a reality. The organization’s leadership team came up with the concept only two months ago, then solidified it a couple weeks later during conversations with TEDx Cincinnati organizers.
 
“We really didn’t have anything yet, it just seemed like the right idea and we were interested in figuring out what it might become,” GCVA President Kevin Mackey says.
 
When talking with TEDx folks about how the two groups could collaborate, GVCA learned about the upcoming TEDx Innovation Alley happy hour event and something clicked.
 
“We thought it would be really cool if we had this awards thing as their happy hour,” Mackey says.
 
GCVA wants its “Recognizes” program to not be just another awards show, pointing out that several already exist in the city’s startup and business communities.
 
Mackey emphasizes that since the recognition will be community-driven, so will the choices about who and what to recognize. Awards could be presented to everything from a blog post to a community dinner.

GCVA collected open nominations in categories like “Most Inspiring CEO” and “Best Pivot,” and the community now gets to vote through June 10 to choose the winners, who will be honored at TEDx Cincinnati’s Innovation Alley happy hour on June 16.
 
“I’m really enjoying seeing the number of names identified by multiple people,” Mackey says. “It really indicates that we’ve got some strong people and strong companies here.”
 
Those people and companies deserve recognition, which GCVA is excited to provide. The awards aim to honor the full breadth of the local startup ecosystem, from entrepreneurs to mentors to angel investors — the kind of recognition that can be really helpful to early startups and young entrepreneurs.
 
“This is about helping each other out,” Mackey says. “At the end of the day, this stuff comes back to community feedback. We’ll see where it goes!”
 

Brush Factory takes pitch idea to reality with new "bff" furniture line


Brush Factory, an emerging high-end furniture manufacturer and winner of 2015’s ArtWorks Big Pitch competition, has launched its first ready-made furniture line, “bff.” The new line was the idea co-owners Rosie Kovacs and Hayes Shanesy pitched in the competition, and thanks to the funding they won, as well as the mentorship and networking provided in the process, the idea has now become reality.
 
“We’ve really wanted to do this for a long time, and when this came up, it seemed like the perfect opportunity,” Kovacs says. “It just seemed like a really great way that anyone could have something of ours in their house. Custom is often intimidating to people.”
 
Custom furniture has been Brush Factory’s bread and butter for several years, but the new line opens the company up to expanding audiences, who might have no idea where to start with custom-designed furniture. That doesn’t mean the new tables and chairs will lose any of their signature Brush Factory quality — each piece in the new is made to order, so there remain opportunities for customization and personalization for buyers.
 
In fact, personal connections are the name of the game. The line’s name stands for “Brush Factory furniture” but also plays off the common abbreviation of “best friend forever.” Kovacs and Shanesy have named individual bff collection pieces after their own friends.
 
“Naming them after our real life bff’s felt authentic and like a great way to get inspiration for new pieces,” Kovacs says. “If you have friend Peter, you might conjure up you’re own mental image of what the tables personality might be.”
 
Kovacs and Shanesy hope this personal but timeless style will make their work accessible to a whole new audience, which is exactly what they set out to do with the Big Pitch competition. It’s also what ArtWorks set out to do with the competition as well.
 
“The main focus of a program like Big Pitch is that we want to help local creative entrepreneurs take their business to the next level,” says Shailah Maynard, director of ArtWorks’ Creative Enterprise Division. “Brush Factory’s new line is the perfect example of how the combination of mentorship, guidance from a U.S. Bank Small Business Specialist and access to business grants can all be used to positively expand and grow a business.”
 
As the fruits of last year’s competition continue to blossom, a new season is just starting up. ArtWorks is taking applications for the 2016 Big Pitch competition through June 30.
 

Inventor's Council awards prizes to members trying to bring their inventions to life


The Inventor’s Council of Cincinnati recently held its third annual First Filament Awards, a competition for members to be judged by experts and to receive cash prizes to fund development costs of their inventions.
 
The awards are just one way that ICC provides support for its member inventors. The Council also invites experts as monthly speakers and provides networking opportunities, offers classes in patents and trademarking and hosts one-on-one mentoring with board members.
 
For co-founder Jackie Diaz, one of the most important resources ICC provides is the community and support from other inventors. She’s been active in local inventors’ groups for nearly 25 years, since launching her first invention, the Culinique Surprise Inside baking pan, in 1991.
 
“As I started to look at commercialization, I got to thinking, ‘Maybe there’s help locally,’” Diaz says.
 
That led her first to the Cincinnati Inventor’s Club and, when that group disbanded, to a Cincinnati spinoff of the Inventor’s Council of Dayton founded by George Pierce.
 
“Unfortunately, in 2004 George found the management of the ICC, as well as several other satellite organizations in surrounding cities, to be taking too much of his time and had to call a halt,” Diaz says. “As the only board member interested in moving forward at the time, I recruited a President and she and I co-founded the current 501c3 organization.”
 
Diaz also helped found the First Filament Awards three years ago.
 
“I wanted to create a program that would help get our members out of the garage and onto the freeway, not only for their own benefit but for the sake of the community at large,” she says.
 
The awards ($1,000, $750 and $500 for the three finalists) are designed to make it possible for the winners to commercialize their ideas. This year’s winners were Joseph Collins for a child safety product for door jambs, Geoff Saylors for a construction tool that makes finding studs easier when on a ladder and Tom Hortel and Mike Mullens for a new and improved way of cleaning stains from rugs and carpets.
 
First Filament competition participants must be members of the Inventor’s Council of Cincinnati. Diaz stresses that the group is always looking to expand its membership and provide training and a support forum to more area inventors.
 

Startup Weekend focuses on social entrepreneurship via United Way partnership


Startup Weekend Cincinnati returns May 20-22 with a special edition focusing on social entrepreneurship in partnership with the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
 
“The United Way came to us in December and proposed working with Startup Weekend to engage the community in coming up with creative solutions to problems affecting the region,” says Julia Chick, content partnership manager at Ahalogy and a member of the Startup Weekend Cincinnati organizing team.
 
United Way launched its Bold Goals initiative in 2011, directing resources toward making significant improvements in education, income and health for area residents by 2020.
 
“In 2014, we took a step back to see how we were doing in making progress against those goals,” says Mike Baker, United Way’s director of community impact. “Although we were making progress, it was incremental. So we looked at what we could do to accelerate the pace of change in the community and encourage innovation in the social sector.
 
“One of the things we could do was expand the circle of people focused on the issues we care most about, particularly by connecting with the corporate sectors and startup community. Startup Weekend is a really great opportunity to get to know the people in the startup community and to attract their minds and resources to issues around education, income and health.”
 
Startup Weekend: Social Edition will work much like other startup weekends and hackathons, with a key difference — the event’s focus is creating a business or product that solves a social problem. On the Startup Weekend website, the organizers have included an explanation of social entrepreneurship as well as some “idea starters” related to the Bold Goals issues.
 
“The weekend itself is open to any ideas or creative solutions that attendees bring,” Chick says. “We worked with the United Way to come up with some thought starters to give examples of the problems facing the region. The idea is not to limit participants but to jump-start them.”
 
Mentors and coaches from the social enterprise sector will be around throughout the weekend to make sure the ideas that teams pursue really will address a particular issue. Their guidance will be reinforced by Saturday morning speakers Keri Dooley Stephens and Keith Romer from The Garage Group, who will talk about consumer validation.
 
Anyone can participate in Startup Weekend: Social Edition as long as they register before the program starts at 6 p.m. on Friday. The event is being hosted at the 84.51° headquarters downtown.
 
“There is great energy around a startup weekend,” Baker says. “It’s a really awesome way to get involved in the community, meet other people who care about the same issues you do and potentially solve big hairy issues. We’re looking for people who are willing to bring their creativity and ask the ‘why not’ questions: Why not try this? Why not move forward?”
 
Startup Weekend will provide food and beverages for the participants throughout the weekend to ensure teams can focus on developing their ideas. Everyone is encouraged to bring his or her own laptop and iPad and any other materials they’ll need in their work process.
 
“There are a lot of passionate people out there who may have some creative solutions to the problems United Way is addressing,” Chick says. “By bringing people together, we can collaborate to make Cincinnati an even greater place.”
 
Those unable to participate in the entire weekend can register for the free Demo Day event at 5 p.m. Sunday, when teams will pitch their ideas to the judges. The winning team will receive pro-bono consulting services from FlyWheel Cincinnati to help develop and implement their idea.
 
“I think Startup Weekend will be a great opportunity for people to experience the hustle and fast-paced creativity, problem solving and adjusting on the fly that goes into a startup, while connecting with and making improvements against the important issues so many of us care about in the community,” Baker says. “It will be both meaningful and fun for everyone participating.”
 

UC School of IT awarded exclusive national designation for cybersecurity program


The University of Cincinnati’s Information Technology School was recently designated by the National Security Administration and Department for Homeland Security as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), a title awarded to just nine U.S. universities so far. The designation will last until 2021, and in addition to prestige it gives UC’s IT program access to special funding and grants open only to schools with CAE-CDE designation.
 
The exclusive designation is impressive, especially considering that cybersecurity is still a new program at UC’s School of IT.
 
“The Cybersecurity specialty (track) accepted its first class of 40 students in the fall of 2014,” School Head and Associate Professor Hazem Said says. “A year later, more than 100 students are selecting cybersecurity as their technical track.”
 
Said explains that several factors set the UC program apart from many other cybersecurity courses of study. Grounded in the university’s school of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services, the program supplements the technical skills necessary for cybersecurity expertise with contextual knowledge of business and other disciplines.
 
The program provides a variety of opportunities for personalization and project-based learning and requires co-ops for on-the-job experience. The program also aims to develop interpersonal skills, most notably communication, with three writing classes required of cybersecurity students and oral presentations wound throughout the curriculum. The goal is for students to be able to communicate the value and concepts of cybersecurity work to a variety of audiences, both with and without technical expertise.
 
“For the students, this designation significantly increases the value of their degree,” Said says. “The CAE-CDE designation opens experiential experiences in highly advanced and critical functions of the government and the private sector.”
 
While the term “cybersecurity” might bring up images of the NSA and hacking nuclear programs, UC’s graduates have many more opportunities than just government or military jobs. Said and his colleague ChengCheng Li, Assistant Professor in the School of IT, explain that thanks to the proliferation of digital data cybersecurity impacts all of us every day.
 
“The data we care about are being digitized,” Said says. “The more we put it on the digital network, the more it becomes not only important but also political. The ’90s were all about efficiency. There’s a lot of work now coming after the fact but also to set up the future.”
 
Since data is something we all use, more and more companies, from the startup level to Fortune 500, will be interested in hiring cybersecurity analysts in the near future to make sure their data networks are secure, defend them from attacks and gather the data necessary to prosecute attackers if necessary.
 
“Cybersecurity is becoming more and more important, cybersecurity nationally and cybersecurity locally,” Li says. “We will need more of a cybersecurity workforce in the next decade.”
 

Feasty app appeals to local food fans, shoots for national recognition


Like many of you, my smartphone is constantly blinking different colors, telling me to check on my email, my text messages or a Facebook event I’m still on the fence about attending. For the last week, however, those little blinking lights have been making me hungry.
 
That’s because about a week ago, after Ocean Accelerator’s second annual Demo Day, I downloaded the new Cincinnati-based app Feasty. I now get a reminder twice a day to check deals in my area, with mouthwatering pictures attached of free frites with a sandwich from Taste of Belgium or $3 off Gomez Salsa’s turtles.
 
According to founder Anthony Breen, a Xavier University graduate and serial entrepreneur, the app is designed to connect people passionate about eating food to those passionate about creating it. Put another way, it’s designed to help the relatable circular conversation of “Where do you want to eat?” (Closely followed by, “I don’t know, where do you want to eat?”)
 
“I’m not someone who uses apps for everything,” Breen says. “I usually err on the side of not using apps, but it seemed like no one had perfected the restaurants app.”
 
Breen points out that most consumers know the choices generally available to them and what appeals to them at area restaurants. What they need is an incentive, and Feasty allows restaurant managers to provide that incentive in real time by posting limited-time (one to two hour) deals in order to fill seats.
 
Feasty is an easy sell for restaurant-goers, but there’s another layer to the app than the images fed to consumers on the front end.
 
It’s this back end layer that Feasty is constantly working to improve through data and innovation, and as a result the company recently won the right to compete in the 2016 PYMNTS/Alexa Tech Challenge. The competition challenges 13 companies across the nation to use Alexa, Amazon’s voice activated assistant, to solve a problem related to the payments and commerce system.
 
For the five-week challenge, Feasty has joined forces with Zipscene, the local company that “brings data to dining” in order to aid restaurant marketers understand consumer behavior. Together, Feasty and Zipscene will be working on a solution Breen says will simplify the complex decision of where to eat.
 
While working on the project, they’re up against some pretty big competitors. The 13 companies competing include Visa, Discover and Western Union.
 
“I think we’re the smallest combined group,” Breen says. “I think it shows that if you have a lot of passion and create a product that speaks to people, you can compete.”
 
Even after the challenge, Breen says Feasty and Zipcene will continue to work together to improve the app’s current format. As they continue that innovation, they’re also eyeing expansion to Dayton and Columbus, a logical next step for the current Cincinnati-centric app.
 
“A week before (Ocean’s) Demo Day, we decided to expand throughout Greater Cincinnati,” Breen says, explaining that before that the app had focused solely on five key neighborhoods. “For us, it’s very easy to scale.”
 
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