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Eight startup myths ... busted

Whether they're actually involved with one or not, people love talking about startups. And amongst all the chatter, several stereotypes have emerged. Here to set the record straight are a few of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky's startup connoisseurs.
 
Special thanks to Eric Weissmann of Cintrifuse for the pitch.
 
 
MYTH: Startups are full of young people in hoodies.
 
"Startup life isn't for everyone. I came from the corporate world where I was used to dressing up more times than not. Now I find myself participating in no-shave November and wearing hoodies, athletic attire. I have even been caught wearing socks and sandals..." – Alex Burkhart, Tixers
 
"Entrepreneurship spans all ages. Out of the 60-plus companies inside HCDC's business incubator at the Business Center, the average age of entrepreneurs is 42 years old." – Bridget Doherty, Hamilton County Development Co. Business Center
 

MYTH: Venture capitalists (VCs) sit on bags of money and live a glamorous life.
 
"(VCs) are hard workers hard workers, very smart, travel a ton and don’t make very many investments in a year. They’re patient and deliberate with their funds (see Dov Rosenburg at Allos Ventures)." – Eric Wiessmann, Cintrifuse
 
"VC's are very much like entrepreneurs. They are out raising money themselves. They are constantly fundraising and tied to performance. They definitely don't just sit back and kick it, that's for sure." – Alex Burkhart, Tixers
 

MYTH: Every startup has to be a tech startup, and every employee is tech-savvy.
 
"We work with over 100 entrepreneurs each year, and of those 10 percent fall into the tech category." (See PetWants, Creative Invites and Events, Project Blue Collar, Functional Formularies.) – Corey Drushal, Bad Girl Ventures
 

MYTH: Startups have to go to West Coast or East Coast to find investors.
 
"(Some entrepreneurs) don't consider the advantages of things like an increased runway because of cost-of-living if you build a company in the Midwest." – Patrick Henshaw, Strap
 

MYTH: There are no women in startups, no women in tech and no system in place to support them.
 
"The Greater Cincinnati/NKY startup eco-system has a friendly and inviting environment for female founders. The latest Uptech class has five female founders, including myself and Amanda Kranias of Seesaw, a family social network. ... We also have a fantastic female founder, Brooke Griffin, at the CincyTech-funded company." – Candice Peters, Seesaw
 

MYTH: If you start your own business, you will have fewer people telling you what to do.
 
"Some people want to start their own businesses to get away from long hours ... or the horrible bosses of the world. However, starting your own business requires a substantial time commitment and possibly more people telling you what to do." – Bridget Doherty, HCDC Business Center
 

MYTH: In the startup world, no one gets paid until you have a big exit.
 
"Many startups have attractive pay and competitive benefits (see InfoTrust)." – Eric Weissmann, Cintrifuse
 

MYTH: Startup owners just eat Ramen noodles and drink beer from their office fridge all day.
 
"Not just Ramen — if you add hotdogs, it makes it that much classier and better tasting." – Patrick Henshaw, Strap
 
"There is never a problem finding beer. No keg per say, but always a case of Miller Lite or craft beers in the fridge." – Alex Burkhart, Tixers

Roadtrippers launches new app to ease holiday travel


Forty-eight hours before its users were hitting the road for Thanksgiving last week, Cincinnati-based startup Roadtrippers released their new iPhone app. A redesign that's been in the making for three months, version 3.0 arrived just in time to make traveling easier for the millions of Roadtrippers users across the country.
 
In the hopes of encouraging holiday travelers to "ditch long airport lines and expensive ticket fares for the open road," CEO James Fisher wants this version of the app to take advantage of the 41.3 million Americans projected to travel over the holidays (AAA). The timing of its release was entirely on purpose.
 
Known for highlighting off-the-beaten path destinations for road-trip enthusiasts, Roadtrippers' new app combines every element of planning a trip into one place. The newer features include weather forecasting and a GPS-enabled function that locates nearby gas stations, hotels, restaurants and other noteworthy stops as you drive. The interface is cleaner than the company's last iPhone app, and the maps are clearer and more detailed.
 
The app also features a virtual "concierge," which offers suggestions when users are not quite sure of where they want to end up. The concierge greets the user upon opening the app, helping the planner to do exactly what they want to do at that moment.

"It helps you plan but also act on the fly," says Roadtrippers business development manager Chelsea Koglmeier. "Unlike the usual map app, which shows you nearby places within a certain radius, our app keeps you on your route."

Users can also browse categories of destinations by using the "Discovery" feature. Place cards offer visual and descriptive information on each of your stops as you drive, and particularly appealing places can be saved under a kind of "favorites" list.
 
Though Roadtrippers gained popularity through its online planning tool, this updated app will likely inflate the company's already-booming success. It encourages travelers to change up their initial plan if something interesting comes along while still staying informed and on track.
 
With $3.25 million in brand funding on the books, it's likely that the app will only continue to develop and evolve as its popularity increases.
 

Better for buyers: Shelfie and Popad give consumers control

The folks over at Popad hate advertising.
 
"It disrupts your experience," says John McClelland, co-founder of the company. "What if people in your community could make the ads you see … your friends, your family?"
 
McClelland and his Brandery-trained team are self-proclaimed data geeks. Their chief technology officer, Luke Libraro, has an RFID (radio frequency identification) card in his hand that allows him to enter the Brandery building with a simple wave.  Their "boy wonder" engineer, Skylar Roebuck, was head of product at a company called Mobiquity by the time he was 25. And Rachel Bires, their Instagram connoisseur, is actually a licensed attorney who is unbeatable at darts.
 
Together, they have created an interactive app where users can submit a photo of themselves using or displaying a particular product. That photo, after a series of votes by other Popad users, then becomes available to Popad clients for purchase. In return for their submission, the creator of the image will receive royalties if their "ad" is purchased. Right now, all submissions come through Instagram.
 
The idea behind Popad emerged when McClelland's wife posted an Instragram photo of his (presumably very cool) shoes. When friends saw the photo and subsequently bought the shoes, a lightbulb turned on. By allowing regular Joes to submit photos of themselves actually using or enjoying a product, Popad hopes to create a stronger, more authentic personal connection with the consumer. This, they believe, is much more effective than advertising in the abstract.
 
"There's more of a dialogue now—there's been a fundamental shift in how people are operating," McClelland says.
 
Consumer communication is a key part of another Brandery graduate's business plan. Shelfie was founded by Edward Betancourt, a quinoa-obsessed runner with mad programming skills, and C.J. Acosta, a Reddit loyalist with a knack for marketing and pink hoodies. Together, they've put together a data-generating application that has already seen stellar success in in-store audits.
 
The app itself gives shoppers the power to do something about an absent product on the shelf. If they notice a product is missing, they simply snap a "shelfie" of the empty shelf, send it through the app, and are rewarded for their participation with points that they can redeem later.
 
"Think of it as an easy, one pic review of the in-store experience," Acosta says.
 
By generating real-time data, Shelfie could potentially create solutions ranging from contacting sales representatives at the site to arranging to have the missing product shipped to a customer's home.
 
For now, Shelfie is looking for investors. By staying in marketing-friendly Cincinnati, or "the little city that could," Acosta and Betancourt have made incredible connections and are building on the consumer-first approach that was born during their time at the Brandery.
 
"The concept of tackling the problem, from the consumer's side, proved to be the radical and most disruptive thing we could do," Acosta says.

The customer is always funnier: The story behind Barefoot Proximity's new CIO

The existence of Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs) at growing creative companies is nothing new. It is, however, a role that is becoming more and more necessary as newer businesses emerge and already-existing companies fight to stay relevant. Barefoot Proximity, a Cincinnati-based advertising and communications agency, recently hired its new CIO both in response to this trend and to make sure that any opportunity to disrupt convention—or "innovate"—is seized will full force.
 
The man filling this role, Troy Hitch, is a character. His creative background in theatre and musical production is immediately apparent upon meeting him; he is animated, sarcastic and quick on his feet. After graduating from Northern Kentucky University, Hitch dabbled in everything from medical text illustration to creating interactive installations for the Cincinnati Zoo. As a creative individual, Hitch always knew that the Internet was a powerful tool. In 2004, he and a partner started their own content-generating studio, Big Fat Brain.
 
Big Fat Brain was based in Covington and dubbed a "new media studio" by its founders. Hitch and his partner made webisodes and short-form video content for companies looking to vamp up their websites.
 
"It was lo-fi production value, high content value stuff," Hitch says.
 
Big Fat Brain's national success led to a connection with the former president of CBS radio who had just started MyDamnChannel, an entertainment studio and distributor of web and TV content. Big Fat Brain's work with the company, which involved producing numerous creative webisodes, is what ultimately led Hitch and his partner to realize the power of consumer input.
 
"We could actually engineer a connection [to the user]," he says.
 
This realization came to a head with the success of Hitch's trans-media web video series, "You Suck at Photoshop," in 2008. The episodes, which have reached 100 million views to date, centered around a pissed-off guy, whom the viewer never sees, begrudgingly providing a YouTube tutorial.
 
When an overwhelming amount of fans insisted the "You Suck at Photoshop" guy was comedian Dane Cook, Hitch and his partner realized they could use that user connection to their advantage. They brought Dane Cook onto the show, and the Internet exploded.
 
Today, as the CIO at Barefoot, Hitch hopes to find more opportunities to truly involve the customer/consumer/audience when considering strategies for his clients. By integrating their inclinations and preferences in every way possible, Hitch hopes to expand on the opportunities presented to the company. As the person in charge of hiring Barefoot's creative department, he also plans to draw in talent that knows how to deal with that kind of data.
 
"This is not about me anymore," he says of his work. "The consumer is fickle—there are a million different options these days. We need a value exchange. My job is to engineer [the material] so that other people can create and think and inspire."
 
According to Hitch, the power of the media is that people want to participate. CIOs, he says, are necessary because the consumer expects something different than what the old agency formulas can deliver. That said, if it were up to him, the word "innovation" would be cut right out of the title.
 
"Innovation is an overused and abused word," Hitch says. "I like to describe my role as embracing complexity and delivering simplicity."
 
Every company's CIO may see their role differently. Still, when individuals like Hitch are hired to force companies to think way beyond the box, "innovation" in inevitable. 

RevolutionUC's hackathon brings young tech talent to Cincinnati

These days, the internet is littered with lists of life "hacks" that take everyday frustrations and make them mind-blowingly simple. This weekend, from November 14-16, students from across the tri-state area will spend two sleep-free days programming to create real solutions to real problems at the second annual hackathon, RevolutionUC, at the University of Cincinnati.
 
Local engineering and business data group Zipscene joins the list of sponsors for the event's second run. The hackathon provides a space for hundreds of talented students to hash out ideas for some sort of product or service that provides a solution to a common problem (a hack). During the two-day event, participants create a basic business plan that is detailed enough to implement into the University system. Last year's winner was a campus safety smartphone tool that sends a discrete call for help and uses GPS to track an individual's location when they may be in danger. UC is currently considering the tool's integration into its campus safety system.
 
Attendees can expect rows and rows of computers, laptops and charger cords with students congregating on the floor, in the corners, and on lounge chairs at the 800 Baldwin location, a part of the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science. Not many hackathon participants sleep; those that want to are encouraged to bring a blanket and a pillow. All meals are provided, from breakfast from Panera to lunch from Jimmy Johns and Currito to dinner from Adriaticos and Alabama-Q. Insomnia cookies will be providing sweet treats as well.
 
RevolutionUC is largely student run, and this year's event expects a turnout of more than 300 hundred young, creative minds from UC, Ohio State, Perdue, Kent State, Wright State and the University of Dayton. As a sponsor, Zipscene is there all weekend to support and mentor the students in attendance. That, and scope out a little talent for themselves. Last year, Zipscene hired two students they encountered at the hackathon.
 
Some hackathon participants continue working on their hacks long after the competition comes to a close. The exposure and connections gained at this weekend's event give them a leg-up in the industry.
 
Contestants will be judged based on the utility of their products, the creativity and technical difficulty involved, and overall polish. All experience levels are welcome, and high school and graduate students are equally encouraged to sign up.

Making life easier: Two new companies create platforms for homeowners, busy socialites

With the large influx of new and growing businesses in Cincinnati, there are going to be a lot of new homeowners looking for contractors, plumbers, and other service providers to help them settle in and adjust. HireWheel, a member of the Brandery's Class of 2014, is here for them.
 
While HireWheel is not the first to answer this call (Angie's List, Yelp, and the Yellow Pages all offer sites where homeowners can search for the best service provider), founders Steve Sperry and Matt Lenahan are quick to distinguish their growing business from the review-driven companies already in existence.
 
"Reviews are subjective," Lenahan says, "and less than 1 percent of homeowners actually write them."
 
The HireWheel solution is to take a data-driven, objective approach. The HireWheel team uses city permit data to track how many home improvement jobs are being completed, and by whom. The team then organizes the data and crunches the numbers to create a rating that users can grasp: one that is based on the experience of the service provider rather than popular opinion.
 
Hailing from New York, Lenahan and Sperry were pleasantly surprised by Cincinnati and have no intention to leave at this juncture, especially after having such a positive experience at the Brandery.
 
"We're light years ahead of the curve now," Lenahan says.
 
While many members of this year's class hail from elsewhere, there are a few examples of local talent. One of these companies, Venn, is made up of three native Cincinnatians who will probably stick around for a while.
 
"Being able to sit down [at the Brandery] and talk with the founders from successful startups—casually—is so huge," founder Steffan Howey says.
 
Howey, a startup veteran who handles the business end of things, joins Ian Donahue, a University of Cincinnati grad in charge of design and aesthetics, and Tim Giblin, a graduate of St. Xavier high school and Miami University who specializes in web development.
 
The Venn idea was born when a run-of-the-mill Craigslist meet-up went awry. Attempting to sell a phone, Howey says he was held up at gunpoint in a parking lot. The initial idea was that of a marketplace that would solve the problems that can arise when planning meet-ups, both social and otherwise. After working with the Brandery for a few months, the trio discovered an even bigger opportunity. Instead of a marketplace, Venn has now redirected its focus to creating an application that will provide a useful tool for developers.
 
"Developers will be able to build a new class of web and mobile applications where things like reservations, transportation, payments, identity verification, scheduling and location recommendations are as easy to integrate into their app as flipping a switch," Howey says.
 
Venn's most notable recent project is an app called Meetloaf, or, as Donahue describes it, "the Tinder for places." With a little help from Interbrand, the app features an adorable character named Marty Meetloaf who helps you navigate the when, where, who and how of getting together. The app is currently under review at Apple.
 
For those looking for a startup job, Venn is also hiring iOS developers. In the meantime, they can't wait to get little Marty off the ground.
 

Pet Wants owners to open distillery in Over-the-Rhine

PetWants co-owner Michele Hobbs has a secret.
 
Well, two of them. First of all, she knows the origin of the ubiquitous "OTR$" stamp that has been appearing on paper money throughout the downtown Cincinnati area. Second, during a time when real estate in Over-the-Rhine is expensive and hard to come by, she and her wife (and PetWants co-owner) Amanda Broughton managed to purchase an old warehouse that will do much more than serve as a receiving area for the 25,000 pounds of food PetWants sells each month.
 
"People like me don't get these buildings," Hobbs says.
 
Hobbs discovered the structure after poring over public bankruptcy records. She stumbled across an owner who hadn't paid taxes since 2007 and jumped at the opportunity to make the building hers. For $225,000, Hobbs found herself with 17,000 square feet of space, including a warehouse and an attached garage. Two blocks from the streetcar, she has space for 250 cars and the kind of business potential people only dream of.
 
Though currently in the business plan stage, the groundwork has been laid to house OTR's first distillery in decades in the Central Parkway location. According to Hobbs, there used to be 80 distilleries in OTR. Though the city is chock full of craft breweries, liquor production has taken a back seat.
 
Born Again Distillery, a name Hobbs has already trademarked, will produce gin, whiskey and bourbon while also providing a large event space for rent. Hobbs hopes to collaborate with other OTR residents to make the place a neighborhood-driven destination.
 
Though she is excited about the project, Hobbs' main focus is still PetWants—that, and encouraging folks to buy local. Though money stamped with "OTR$" has been rumored to be linked to a neighborhood drug ring, its true origin is nowhere else but PetWants' own cash register. They created the stamp and stamps like it to make people aware of their company's commitment to spending money locally.

Hobbs' local commitment will become even more apparent with the emergence of her OTR distillery. The warehouse transformation should begin sometime next year.

The Brandery Class of 2014: Strap makes wearables doable

Two weeks ago, the Brandery celebrated Demo Day for its 5th graduating startup class. The graduation released the growing companies into the metaphorical "wild," though several will still maintain a presence at the Brandery until they find an alternate working space. This particular class, drawn from the Brandery's highest number of applicants to date, is made up of the most technically savvy founders the accelerator has seen yet. Not only that, but eight out of 10 of the members have decided to grow their businesses right here in Cincinnati.
 
"When you're in a vibrant place where people want to be, companies tend to stick around," says Mike Bott, general manager at the Brandery.
 
Bott is often quoted for his "swiss cheese" analogy when it comes to startups. When companies first come though the Brandery's doors, the foundation is there, but there are holes to be filled. When Class of 2014 graduate Strap first arrived at the Brandery, there were a lot of holes.
 
"When we arrived, we had a pretty narrow vision of what Strap would be," says Steve Caldwell, founder and CEO at Strap. "By the end, ... we had evolved personally and professionally into a well-rounded company."
 
Strap serves as a software development and analytics platform for wearables. The company's goal is to attract both developers and retailers who want to get the most from their wearable technology through an easy-to-use system. Caldwell and his team are thrilled to be developing their product in the cost-effective, startup-friendly Cincinnati area, a place he describes as combining the best of the big city with the friendliness of a small town. The resources don't hurt, either.
 
"If someone locally can’t provide something, we’ve been one degree of separation from just about any industry or area of interest through Brandery connections alone," Caldwell says.
 
The Strap staff is made up of a creative director who has a black belt in karate, an operations guru/former Army Ranger who spent time tracking and destroying the Taliban's bombs in Afghanistan, and two engineers who just dominate code.
 
"If you combined a musically inclined hipster kung-fu master with an Army Ranger, you’d be approaching our culture," Caldwell says.
 
Soapbox will profile the other nine members of The Brandery's diverse new class in the coming weeks.

Local startup Lisnr finds a home with Techstars and R/GA

When you’re a company like Lisnr, accelerators come to you, not the other way around. As a relatively established Cincinnati startup, Lisnr already has millions in investments, a solid employee base and an even more impressive product. So when one of the largest accelerators in the country approached its chief executive, Rodney Williams, he was not planning on settling for just anything.
 
That accelerator was Techstars, a Colorado-based, nationally recognized accelerator that has recently teamed up with R/GA, an equally acclaimed design and advertising firm. As the Wall Street Journal blog reported a couple of weeks ago, the duo is seeking startups that are far past the seed-stage and well on their way to generating revenue. Techstars and R/GA hope to attract companies just like Lisnr by offering them a worldwide network of investors, customers and developers.
 
That said, Techstars and R/GA’s more-than-appealing offerings were not what convinced Williams and his team to come on board. There had to be a spark.
 
"When I usually meet an agency, they’re trying to understand Lisnr," Williams says. "Within a few minutes of speaking with R/GA, they not only understood us, they understood how impactful we could be in the market."
 
Lisnr, which describes itself as a “premiere smarttone technology company,” develops software that uses ultrasonic technology to transfer data through audio. It could mean big things for retailers who want to reach their customers directly, in real time. Anything, from advertising data to promotional announcements, can be transferred through audio waves directly to a consumer’s smartphone or other device.
 
Working with Techstars and R/GA means that the technology can now become more prolific than ever. According to Williams, it has the potential to replace Bluetooth. This is no small task, and where an accelerator could prove very beneficial.
 
"The R/GA client base is incredible for Lisnr," he says. With success stories like Microsoft, Beats by Dre and Nike Fuel Bands on their resume, R/GA has proven extremely successful in marketing products to the exact customer base Williams hopes to reach. As for Techstars, Williams anticipates that they will help him to recruit even more top talent in the area to even further perfect the software.
 
"As we look at the next four months, it’s really about connecting with companies, creating standards," Williams continues. "Demo Day, for us, will be about becoming the new standard."
 
After their time with Techstars and R/GA, Lisnr hopes to appear on millions of devices and have developed a team both in Cincinnati and New York that can further that goal. Though their New York office provides an important hub for the business, Cincinnati is still home.
 
"There are no better developers than here in the Midwest," Williams says. "Cincinnati has been amazing for us."
 
The company plans to move into its new building at 12th and Broadway in the next month, where it will have more room to expand and grow as a brand.
 
"The team is uber-excited," Williams says, "and so motivated to speed this up within the market."

ArtWorks and Cincinnati Metro transform bus shelters into photo exhibit

ArtWorks and Cincinnati Metro recently collaborated on a venture to transform Cincinnati's bus shelters into a photo exhibit. As part of FotoFocus 2014, the project features the work of acclaimed photographer Richard Renaldi, as well as four ArtWorks youth apprentices and two local professional photographers.
 
The idea behind Renaldi's project, titled "Touching Strangers Cincinnati," is to capture interactions between strangers using the public transportation system—in which he encourages the subjects to pose together—and examine the diversity within the community. 
 
Renaldi visited Cincinnati in June to complete the project, and Cincinnati Metro hopes it will encourage people to use public transit.
 
"One of the reasons we agreed to host this display of public art in our shelters is because we wanted to show on public transportation, people can become friends," says Cincinnati Metro public affairs manager Jill Dunne. "We think it's really cool to show that if you put two people together, anything can happen."
 
Cincinnati Metro is hosting a celebration Oct. 16, in front of the Chiquita Center, between 5th and 6th streets. 
 
"It's meant to dedicate and really show off the shelters to the public," Dunne says. "We have some photos that are inside the bus, as well as a wrapped bus with one of the images on it."
 
ArtWorks has provided a map showing where "Touching Strangers Cincinnati" will be displayed. In addition, ArtWorks is hosting a lecture and presentation, featuring Renaldi, at the 21C Hotel at 6 p.m.

Cincinnati musicians collaborate on location-inspired project

A group of local musicians and other artists recently collaborated on a project involving finding inspiration from specific locations around the city and interpreting them into musical performances.

Locations included Spring Grove Avenue near Meeker, Union Terminal's South Side, Central Parkway near Liberty Street and West Mehring Way under Brent Spence Bridge, among others.
 
"I picked sounds that I thought were unique to Cincinnati, such as the peculiar melodiousness of the train yards echoing through the valley or the whirring of the Christian Moerlein Brewery late at night," says Isaac Hand, who organized the project.  "I had noticed these sounds when biking around the city over the years. I also aimed to capture a broad geographic spread, though most of the sounds ended up being concentrated in the Mill Creek Valley, where much of the city's industry—and therefore drones—can be found."
 
Artists who composed music on the album include Jarrod Welling-Cann, Chris Reeves, James Y., ADM, Zijnzijn Zijnzijn, Nick Denlinger, Mount Storm Park, Nebulagirl, Molly Sullivan, umin, Hmmmm and Saeed Piracha.  
 
The album was mixed and mastered by producer Ian Gullett.

"Every aspect of this project surprised me," Hand says. "When I initially spoke with friends about this project, I had anticipated an album of textured hums; somewhat monolithic, with minimalist ambient improvisation over top of them. Instead, I found the sounds of Cincinnati to be so incredibly rich and complex, that we ended up deciding to release a CD of just the drones in addition to the Cincinnati Dronescape project."
 
Cincinnati Dronescape can be listened to or purchased on bandcamp, and will be available at Rock Paper Scissors, Shake-It, Everybody's and Torn Light.

Zipscene announces new hires, renovation plans

Data analytics company Zipscene recently announced six new hires to its leadership team, in addition to its current office renovation plan downtown, which adds more than 10,000 square feet to its current space. Zipscene, which relocated from Short Vine in February, will soon occupy the entire ninth floor of the Gwynne Building on Main Street.
 
The Cincinnati-based company, which began in 2011, delivers data to restaurants nationally, focusing on restaurant specific data, as well as how and why people decide where they go out to eat.
 
"We have been doubling our headcount and revenue for the last three years, and it's been primarily driven by our client growth," says Tony Blankemeyer, Zipscene's director of strategic marketing. "A lot of that growth is on the technology side, as we build our development team."
 
With its recent success, Zipscene is now looking to expand its clientele and serve the growing number of restaurants looking to partner.
 
"The more clients we bring on board, the larger the demand there is, the more we want to be able to service that demand with strategic partnership from our account team, and then also from technology development to build the next best product," Blankemeyer says.
 
The company's new hires come from technology, restaurant and account backgrounds, including additions from dunnhumby, Boston Market, PF Changs, NTN Buzztime and PointRoll-Gannet, among others.
 
"We're bringing people with a proven track record in both restaurants and also consumer knowledge," Blankemeyer says. "I think by having a data background as well as a restaurant background, that's a winning combination for Zipscene and the reason we've identified those people."
 
The new hires include Lane Cardwell, Rick Lamy, Jenny Sanning, Brandon Hull, Brandy Sanger and Sanjiv Karani.

ArtWorks invites MidPoint attendees to 'Ink Your Love' for Cincinnati

In conjunction with this year's MidPoint Music Festival, ArtWorks organized an extra art and activities component that includes poetry, tattoos and skating. The project, CincyInk, will be held at the MidPoint Midway, on 12th Street, between Vine and Walnut.
 
Attendees will have the opportunity to submit reflections about Cincinnati in the form of poetry, visual art and postcards.
 
"Everyone is encouraged to respond to one or more prompts," says Cori Wolff, ArtWorks' director of public art. "Responses do not have to be in the form of poetry (letters, phrases and drawings are allowed), though they may be."
 
Chase Public and nipnip are curating the poetry ventures. Short-Order Poetry, Chase Public's project, invites attendees to answer various prompts and questions to allow the group to co-create poems—about personal connections with Cincinnati— which can then be taken or contributed to CincyInk as part of a larger, crowd-sourced poem.
 
The crowd-sourced poem will be divided and permanently tattooed on more than 200 participants, as part of 2015's Cincinnati Tattoo Project.
 
"Inked participants will be photographed, filmed and invited to a giant party, at which they will meet one another, share personal Cincy stories and view a video that features their photographed tattoos corresponding to a reading of the poem," Wolff says.  "There is also potential for a book and mural to be created as a part of this project."
 
Erasure, nipnip's project, encourages participants to create poetry by erasing words from existing prose or verse to create a new written and visual piece, and then frame the result.
 
Attendees can also design Cincinnati-inspired tattoos that will be inked on mannequins throughout MidPoint, as part of "Write It On Your Heart That Cincinnati Loves You Back," and participate in the "Ink Our Icons" project, which encourages people to design postcards in relation Union Terminal and Music Hall.
 
The MidPoint Midway will be open Sept. 25-27, from 5 p.m. to midnight.
 

AAF Cincinnati prepares for Digital Marketing Conference

Next Monday and Tuesday AAF Cincinnati will host its seventh annual Digital Dialogue (D²) Conference at Horseshoe Casino. The event, which originated in 2008 as the Digital Non-Conference, explores and celebrates digital marketing by allowing industry leaders to convene for open dialogue.
 
This will be the second year the event is hosted at Horseshoe Casino, as organizers aim to bring the conference to a more centralized location.
 
"We kind of wanted to rebrand to focus more on the customer side of marketing," says Sean Grace, D² chair and organizer. "In other words, 'How do we reach the customer through these digital channels, and how do we deliver a unique and invaluable experience to them that they couldn't get elsewhere?'"
 
Some key discussion topics will include how digital data is acquired and used (especially through social media) and how to create personalized experiences, how retailers are moving toward eCommerce, and how startups and marketers can collaborate to create better services.
 
"There's a lot of learning that you can get from this," Grace says. "We definitely open it up because we know that it's not just the presenters that are really well versed in digital marketing strategies. We try to make sure that there's plenty of give and take between the speakers and audience members, and there's a lot of time to network between as well."
 
Keynote speakers will include Matt Thompson of The Kroger Co.; Adam Symson of EW Scripps; Dave Knox of Rockfish and the Brandery; Rachel Hadaway of dunnhumbyUSA; and JB Brokaw of Sociomantic Labs.
 
Anyone can purchase tickets, but the event will be most beneficial to those involved with the marketing and advertising industries, Grace says.
 
General admission passes are $525 ($175 for full-time college students) and can be purchased at the D² website.
 

Social Enterprise Week kicks off in Cincinnati

This week marks the first ever Social Enterprise Week in Cincinnati. The week features two prominent events on September 10 and September 13 with the goal of raising awareness about the idea of social enterprises and rallying support around them.
 
“Nonprofits are the cornerstone of providing social services in our communities,” says Bill Tucker, executive director of Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub. “But there’s been less and less funding available to nonprofits recently, so they need new ways to generate revenue. That’s where social enterprises come in.”
 
Social enterprises help fill the funding gap by increasing the capacity of nonprofits to fulfill their charitable purpose while generating revenue in support of their mission. The first event of the week will be the Social Enterprise Showcase on Fountain Square on Wednesday, September 10 on Fountain Square from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm.
 
“We want to capture the attention of the business community and rally their support around this idea,” Tucker says. “The event will showcase 24 social enterprises, and the causes that these enterprises support.”
 
Tucker and others involved with the organization of Social Enterprise Week talk about the “triple bottom line” as what really makes these businesses special.
 
“A social enterprise may have a double bottom line, which would be to generate revenue both for the business itself and for the nonprofit it funds,” Tucker says. “But a triple bottom line will also include a larger purpose, for example the Freestore Foodbank’s Cincinnati Cooks Catering. It helps with workforce development and community building as well. Those type of businesses are really our sweet spot.”
 
On Saturday, September 13, the city will celebrate “Buy Social Saturday” where social enterprises around the city will have different types of special offerings in an effort to encourage consumers to support these organizations and thereby improve the community around them.
 
“Cincinnati is starting to do a great job of supporting its entrepreneurs here, and we see these social enterprises as capturing that same entrepreneurial spirit and grit,” says Lisa Striker, event chair for Social Enterprise Week. “As that entire culture grows here, we need to keep supporting these entities as well.”
 
 
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