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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.”
 
 

Museum Center hosts Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire

Power tool drag races, Ping Pong ball explosions, robots and … bellydancing? Yes, you read that right, and no, this isn’t “guess which one of these things doesn’t fit.” In fact, you can find all of these and much more at the Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire, taking place Sept. 13 and 14 at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
 
Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire is a community-organized event and is part of the national Maker Faire created by MAKE Magazine. MAKE describes the event as "the greatest show (and tell) on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement."
 
“It’s about the act of creating, celebrating that, and getting people excited about science and arts as spectacle, in the same way they might get excited going to a sports event,” says Jason Langdon, founder of the Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire. “We’re bringing together different groups of creative types and cross-pollinating them, and you can never really know what’s going to happen.”
 
This year’s faire will feature more than 30 makers of all ages and backgrounds showing off their inventions, as well as focused workshops and communal interactive experiences. After a somewhat rainy Maker Faire last year outside at Washington Park, this year’s location at the Cincinnati Museum Center will further emphasize the idea of craftsmanship.
 
“This year, we find ourselves in a location with tremendous historical significance for the maker movement," Langdon says. "Cincinnati Museum Center shares our mission of providing a forum for discovery, creativity and invention, so we anticipate one incredible party."
 
The event is free, but tickets are required to be reserved by visiting http://www.cincymuseum.org/events/cincinnati-mini-maker-faire.
 
 

Grand City Experiment aims to make inclusivity viral in Cincinnati

By now, anyone with a Facebook account and/or Internet access is familiar with the ALS ice bucket challenge. Now imagine a similar charitable idea but one that is instead focused on your specific city, community and neighbors. In just over a month, we’ll see such an idea come to fruition when the Grand City Experiment begins.
 
The Grand City Experiment (GCE) is an initiative started by 15 members of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s young professional leadership development program C-Change. Their challenge is to make Cincinnati a more welcoming city; they aim to do so by engaging Cincinnatians with daily activities that can have a large cumulative effect on the city.
 
“Each year we provide a guiding principle to our C-Change class,” says Julie Bernzott, manager of C-Change at the Chamber. “The idea of making our community more welcoming had been on the top of our mind for several months. We’d all read an article in the Enquirer about a woman who lived in Cincinnati for two years and didn’t feel like she made one close friend. That story got an unprecedented response from others who felt the same way about our city, and we knew we wanted to do something about it.”
 
The Grand City Experiment is one of several answers the C-Change class has come up with to tackle this issue. Right now, they are collecting email addresses at www.thegrandcityexperiment.com, and starting October 1, every person signed up will receive a daily challenge via email to take some action that can brighten someone’s day, build community, encourage diversity and strengthen the city.
 
“One challenge might simply be to ask some personal questions to a person in the service industry the next time you’re in a cab or a restaurant,” says Aftab Pureval, an attorney at P&G and a member of the C-Change class working on GCE. “Or simply to offer to buy coffee for the person behind you in line. We also have a some challenges that will deal with themes of culture, health issues and more, but the idea is to find small ways to have a large impact on someone’s day.”
 
Through social media and word of mouth, GCE’s initial push has garnered them more than 1,000 participants via email; their goal is to have 30,000 signups by the end of the month of October.
 
“I want people to challenge themselves to learn something new about another person or community,” Pureval says.
 
To find out more information about other C-Change projects and application materials, you can visit http://blogs.cincinnati.com/cchange/ or attend the C-Change information event on August 28 at Mt Adams Pavilion.

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: C. Jacqueline Wood, Golden Hour Moving Pictures

Throughout the summer, Soapbox is profiling each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, presented by U.S. Bank, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.

It was the radio station or the film festival. It was going to be one of those two and for whatever reason, the film festival won out. That was 11 years ago, and since then, C. Jacqueline Wood has continued her passion for film and made it her career. Now back in her hometown of Cincinnati, she is the one-woman show behind Golden Hour Moving Pictures.
 
During her freshman year of college at the University of Michigan, Wood decided to walk into the office of the Ann Arbor Film Festival. She wound up working for the festival in a variety of capacities throughout her time at the university before moving to Chicago, where she received her master’s degree from the Art Institute of Chicago in film video/new media. From there, Wood returned to Ann Arbor, where she began teaching film and video classes to high school students through a program with Eastern Michigan Unveristy.
 
“It was great to get to teach students about experimental film and video and to expose them to some things outside of the mainstream Hollywood aesthetic,” Wood says. “But I was getting antsy and really had an urge to spend more time creating my own work. So in 2012, I decided to quit all of my jobs and move back to Cincinnati, and on the day I moved, I began the CO.STARTERS program.”
 
After graduating from the CO.STARTERS program, Wood had an LLC and a business plan for Golden Hour Moving Pictures, but the business itself was still very green. Two breakthrough moments came for her one right after another when she landed an opportunity to create a video for Nicola’s, one of Cincinnati’s most esteemed Italian restaurants, which led to her creating a video in anticipation of the opening of Boca’s downtown location, which opened just over a year ago.
 

Boca from Golden Hour Moving Pictures on Vimeo.

“For the Boca video, I traveled all around and got footage of farmers, painters, woodworkers, engravers and more,” Wood says. “That video got a lot of attention for Boca and ended up being show on the jumbotron on Fountain Square. It also opened a lot of doors for me, and it’s just been project after project since then.”
 
Since then, Golden Hour’s clients have included organizations like the Contemporary Arts Center, The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, Random Snacks of Kindness and more. Wood does all of her editing and production work in her studio at the Essex building.
 
“Even though I’m from here and I’m moving back here, it’s just a whole new place,” Wood says. “It’s not the same Artworks I remember 12 years ago when I was in high school. It’s just an amazing organization. In any other big city, there’s no other way I would be at this point in my business. Artworks has truly helped make my business what it is every step of the way.”
 
Through the Big Pitch competition, Wood is hoping to secure the funding that would allow her to expand her staff and catch up on the demand for her work. She sees lots of room to grow here and also has her sights set on some bigger dreams further down the line.
 
“In the long term I want to open a micro cinema, a small movie theater that has a focus on experimental film and video,” she says. “That’s a huge part of the culture right now, and it’s not represented here in Cincinnati. I’d love to see the cinema as a place that focuses on exhibition and education, where people can take film-making classes for all ages.”
 
In the meantime, Wood has plenty of video production work to keep her busy for a long time.
 
“I’ve done virtually no PR, so the fact that people have seen my work and notice it, I can’t describe what that means to me,” she says. “I can’t imagine that happening this quickly or in this capacity in any other city.

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

Artworks Big Pitch Finalist: Heather Britt, Heather Britt Dance Collective

Throughout the summer, Soapbox will profile each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, presented by U.S. Bank, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.
 
Heather Britt is not a movement. She is movement. She is also one of those people you meet every now and again who, once you know who they are and what they do, it’s impossible to imagine them doing anything else in life.
 
Britt is a dancer and what she’s created here in Cincinnati, in addition to an impressive career, is an outlet for expression, creativity, energy and emotion through dance. She is the founder and operator of the Heather Britt Dance Collective (HBDC), which acts as the umbrella organization for her various projects including her dance class, DANCEFIX, choreography for the Cincinnati Ballet, flash mobs and more.  
 
“I’ve been dancing since I was 3. I went to the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in Cincinnati and have been dancing, teaching and choreographing ever since,” Britt says. “I’ve lived in San Francisco and Colorado, as well, but have been back here since 2000, and this year decided that I wanted to bring all the work I do together under the HBDC name.”
 
While in San Francisco, Britt became involved with a dance fitness class called Rhythm and Motion that changed her life.
 
“In San Francisco, I saw people of different, diverse backgrounds, who were not professional, but were passionate nonetheless, and I thought that that was it for me,” Britt says. “Dance has always been therapeutic for me. It’s also a great way to stay in shape, but I do it because I have no choice—I have to do it. When I saw other people like that, I came back to Cincinnati and I thought, ‘Cincinnati needs this.’”
 
So Britt brought the Rhythm and Motion concept back to Cincinnati, only she found that the community was different and the structure needed some changing to meet the needs of the people here. As a result, she adapted the program and changed the name to DANCEFIX.
 
“It’s all about making connection through dance and getting in shape in the process,” Britt says. “It’s all choreographed by myself and teachers I’ve trained; all different styles are represented in the class, and it’s been really successful so far.”
 
Currently, Britt has 10 teachers and 16 classes, both downtown at the ballet and in Kenwood at Yoga Alive. Britt hopes to continue growing into the surrounding areas including Northern Kentucky, the suburbs and eventually, perhaps, to neighboring cities. She hopes to use the cash prize from Artworks Big Pitch to help her with this growth.
 
“Everything so far has been word of mouth, but my hope is to be able to have someone to help out with marketing, social media and just general online presence,” Britt says.
 
When asked to compare her class to other dance classes in the area, Britt is quick to note the difference: “Zumba, for example, uses dance as a way to get fit and get in shape, which is great, but that’s not what I’m about,” she says. “DANCEFIX is more about dancing for the love of dance and creativity, and it just also happens to be an awesome workout. The class is open to anyone at any level. You don’t have to already be a dancer; we’ve become really good at meeting everyone at their own level.”
 
Britt is excited to continue working on her business throughout the weeks leading up to the Big Pitch and is appreciative of the opportunities afforded to small business in Cincinnati.

Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists:

Cintrifuse invests in major New York City venture capital fund

Cintrifuse, the downtown-based company that develops and supports entrepreneurialism in Cincinnati, has announced that its newest investment is New York City-based Lerer Hippeau Ventures IV (LHV), a top tier venture capital fund, to increase seed and early stage venture leadership in Cincinnati.
 
With more than $130 million under management, Lerer Hippeau invests in the earliest stages of a startup’s life—a complementary strategy for the growing startup ecysystem in Cincinnati and a piece of the puzzle that Cintrifuse saw as a crucial addition.
 
“Seed stage investment is very important here in Cincinnati,” says Tim Schigel, Cintrifuse fund manager. “CincyTech and Queen City Angels are doing a great job, but we need more. Lerer is a great firm and very compatible with our region.”
 
LHV is widely viewed as one of the top firms in NYC with investments in such companies as Buzzfeed, Birchbox, Thrillist Media Group and nearly 200 others. With this specialization in digital media and publishing, particularly in the tech world, Cintrifuse is betting that this will continue to bring attention and, more important, investment to the Cincinnati region.
 
“Since our founding four years ago, we’ve been focused primarily on fueling the New York and West Coast tech scenes,” says Eric Hippeau, managaing director at LHV and former CEO of the Huffington Post. “With our fourth fund, we’re looking forward to selectively seeking investment opportunities outside these regions. Cincinnati is particularly interesting with a great deal of startup growth potential, and we are extremely excited to be partnering with Cintrifuse, which sits at the center of innovation in the city.”
 
Schigel is excited for what this means for the city, and while it is not yet certain how this specific relationship will play out, he is optimistic for the future.
 
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Schigel sats. “We could go for two years without anything happening, but the good thing is that it is already happening. There are already investments imminent. The question is, how does it continue and at what kind of pace. We’re building relationships and multiple touch points for those venture firms within the community and will continue to build resources and connections for our entrepreneurs.”
 

Cincinnati Chamber's Minority Business Accelerator grows portfolio with three new firms

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) has had a busy year. This month, the MBA has announced the addition of three local corporations to the organization’s current portfolio of 34 companies, ensuring those minority-owned enterprises the MBA’s assistance with working with larger companies of substance. 
 
Additionally, two new MBA Corporate Goal Setters were unveiled today, joining the ranks of 37 regional organizations that have pledged a significant commitment to using a diverse group of suppliers.
 
Joining the MBA as Portfolio Companies are K-COR, LLC, a specialty subcontractor specializing in reinforced steel led by former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Kevin Walker; PAK/TEEM Acquisition Company, Inc., a dust control technology leader; and Business Technical Services, LLC, an infrastructure company specializing in pipeline integrity management.
 
“The Cincinnati region is made up of somewhere around 20 percent minorities. We want to make sure that they, as individuals and companies, are given every opportunity to grow to their fullest potential,” says Crystal German, vice president of the MBA and economic inclusion at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “These three portfolio additions are not only examples of the measured growth of our MBA, but represent strong minority advancement in manufacturing, one of our region’s most significant industry sectors.”
 
In addition to this, the MBA announced last week at its 2014 Annual Stakeholder meeting that the Goal Setters companies spent $1.04 billion with local minority-owned companies in 2013, the highest level in the MBA’s 11-year history. Goal Setters are local corporations and nonprofit organizations that commit to an annual spend goal. Also announced at the meeting, average revenues for the MBA’s 34 Portfolio Firms reached $32 million in 2013, a 10 percent increase from 2012, and a 100 percent increase from 2009.
 
“Thirteen years ago, there was major racial tension here, and one of the biggest issues was a lack of opportunities for minorities, specifically in business,” says Lance Barry, public relations manager at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “To be able to say that now we have one of the leading minority business accelerators in the entire country is incredible.”
 
Indeed, since the MBA’s formation 11 years ago, the cities of Dayton, Ohio, Lexington, Ky., Greensville, S.C., and Charlotte, N.C., have all begun similar programs in their respective cities and have modeled them on Cincinnati’s MBA program

River Cities Capital closes largest fund to date, celebrates 20th anniversary

River Cities Capital Funds (RCCF), a growth equity firm investing in high-potential health care and IT companies, announced today the final closing of its fifth fund. The RCCF Fund V capped at $200 million, surpassing its $150 million goal, with the continued support from many longtime limited partners as well as new participation from several large national and international institutions. The firm, based in Cincinnati and Raleigh, N.C., has raised more than $500 million to date.
 
“With Fund V, we’ll continue to build market-segment leaders that combine disruptive technologies, innovative business practices and disciplined sales and marketing expansion to become frontrunners in their target markets,” says Dan Fleming, managing director of RCCF.
 
The Fund V portfolio includes three companies to date: Trax Technologies, a Saas provider of logistics-spend management solutions; TissueTech, a pioneer in regenerative tissue-based products; and StepLeader, a business-to-business provider of mobile technology platform and data-driven mobile ad networks for local media outlets. With robust deal flow and fundraising completed, new investment activity is expected to accelerate over the coming year.
 
“We see thousands of companies each year and, as always, our mission is to provide our investors with premium returns, while building strong communities that make a positive impact in the market and create job opportunities in the areas of the country that are often underserved by larger VC and PE firms,” Fleming says.
 
After 20 years in business, RCCF has seen the industry change quite a bit.
 
“When we started, the whole investment ecosystem was starting from scratch,” Fleming says. “Now, CincyTech, the Brandery, Queen City Angels, Uptech and Cintrifuse, our region has a tremendous amount of resources focused on new company formation. We currently have two portfolio companies in Cincinnati, and we’ve helped build more than 20 companies in Ohio over the years. We’d of course love the opportunity to put more money to work locally, and we make a concerted effort to track early companies to be ready if they need growth capital.”
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