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Watch list: Five local startups positioned for big growth in 2017


As Greater Cincinnati’s tech scene continues to experience rapid growth — jumping from 35th to 16th out of 40 metro areas polled in 2016 — a few startups have begun to break from the pack and show serious promise.
 
Here are five tech companies to watch in the coming year:
 
Astronomer: Veteran entrepreneurs Ry Walker and Tim Brunk secured $1.9 million in seed capital to found this big-data startup, which in 2016 scored some big-name clients as well as a partnership with CVG to analyze airport-collected data.

Everything but the House: Since the estate-sale marketplace launched in 2008, EBTH has raised $84.5 million in capital, and they’re not slowing down anytime soon. Currently active in 27 U.S. markets, the startup is growing at a rate of one new MSA per month.

FamilyTech: What started in 2012 as the popular ChoreMonster app has become a behemoth organization aimed at helping families stay connected as they grow. Millions of families worldwide now access the FamilyTech suite of apps, which includes Mothershp, ChoreMonster and Landra.
 
Lisnr: Billed as “the world’s most advanced ultrasonic audio technology,” Lisnr started out as an app to unlock special content from music. It has since grown into a unique service that allows users to transfer data using sounds inaudible to the human ear, with in-app capabilities that include mobile payment, event ticketing, instant replay and more.
 
MedaCheck: “Never forget to take your medications again,” is the tagline for this tablet-based service, which experienced meteoric growth in 2016 after a successful pilot with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The startup also recently expanded its audience to include adolescents and seniors, and they’re exploring further expansion in the coming year.
 

NKU hosts national cyber security symposium, encourages awareness of hackers


On Oct. 21, Northern Kentucky University hosted a Cyber Security Symposium. It was the ninth annual event, and featured national and local experts in the field of cyber security.
 
The symposium focused on online privacy and ethics in the information age; how to secure mobile apps, cloud storage and databases against cyber attacks; and security for the medical industry.
 
NKU was designated by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in information assurance and cyber defense. It’s also the first university in Greater Cincinnati to offer cyber security programs, such as minors in information security and computer forensics, and graduate certificates in secure software engineering and corporate information security — these programs were all added to the course catalog in 2006.
 
“In 2016, we have a large team of security-oriented faculty and we offer a broad array of cyber security education programs,” said Dr. James Walden, director of the Center for Information Security.
 
The symposium is more important now than ever as hackers are obtaining consumers’ credit card information daily, and both local, national and international websites are hacked regularly as well.
 
“Prevention technologies like firewalls only slow attackers,” Walden said. “It is essential for an organization to have robust incident detection and response capabilities.”
 
He encourages people to use fully updated software and two-factor authentication.
 
“Citizens need to understand public issues related to cyber security, like why it will never be secure to vote online, why backdoors inserted by law enforcement make computers less secure for everyone, and how corporate and government surveillance of individuals and groups impacts their lives and futures.”
 

Artrageous cultivates next gen innovation where science, art, history, engineering meet


Innovation and creativity are sought after traits in the startup community, but nurturing and encouraging those qualities in the next generation in an era focused on STEM and standardized testing can be difficult. Nathan Heck addresses that challenge through his web series Artrageous with Nate.
 
“Creativity happens everywhere,” Heck said. “You don't have to be a painter to be creative. I want to change the conversation about innovation and look at it in the world, outside of siloed school subjects.”
 
The web series, available on YouTube and PBS Digital, takes a multi-disciplinary approach, exploring a different artist, style, or subject in each episode. The art historical cannon is well represented, but with a twist.
 
“Our episode on Michelangelo looked at his art, but also pulled back the curtain on what was happening at the time that allowed (artists) to be so creative and innovative,” Heck said.
 
Artrageous with Nate also tackles subjects that might not be considered art, including episodes on design and engineering at Delta Faucet, microscopic views of kidney cells, and the process of developing a roller coaster at an amusement park. Heck explores the intersection of science, engineering, history, and art.
 
For historical figures, episodes focus on little known biographic facts, like the name of their dog, to make them relatable as people.
 
“These artists were rebels who made their own path,” Heck said. “Some died in poverty. Some never sold anything. Yet today they’re world famous.”
 
Heck also interviews contemporary artists to talk about their process, and for those working in non-traditional art environments, how their creativity fits in with their colleagues who are scientists and engineers. Each episode ends with a hands-on activity inspired by the subject.
 
“I am all about the process, not the finished product,” Heck said. “Art materials are expensive, so I try to come up with things people can make with what they have handy.”
 
Heck collaborates with museums, including the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) , on his program. He has filmed three episodes at CAM featuring the Damascus Room, a dress by Issey Miyake, and a portrait by Gainsborough.
 
His most recent partnership, with the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City, will create an app for museum users. Heck is also working to bring Artrageous to the Curiosity network, a spinoff of the Discovery Channel.
 
Heck will talk about his methods for encouraging creativity at the 2016 Day of Innovation conference at Butler University on Oct. 13.
 
“I love talking to business people about art and creativity,” Heck said. “It's important they understand creativity, what happens in the brain when you're being creative, and how broad creativity is. I want everyone to walk out thinking about how they are creative and innovative.”
 
The event is familiar to Heck. Artrageous with Nate won an Indiana Innovation Award at the 2014 conference.
 
“Nate's program impressed our judges with its very unique and fun approach and the show's combination of art, history and creativity,” said Jason Williams, executive director of Centric. “Nate is taking a lot of interesting material and making it more approachable. Artrageous is passionate about inspiring creativity inside and outside of the art studio.”
 
“We focus so much on measurable results,” Heck said. “But the things you can’t measure are what makes people unique and creative. If we lose creativity, we lose innovation.”
 
Those attending his session at the Day of Innovation should be ready to explore their creative side.
 
“I love to have fun with big, massive art projects,” said Heck. “So I’m planning something that everyone can do, but it won’t be too messy since it’s a conference after all.”
 
 
 
 

FEASTY app joins Startups in Residence program at 84.51


FEASTY, which is the first app to connect people with restaurants in real-time, recently moved offices to the 84.51° building to be part of the company’s Startup in Residence program. The program launched in June 2015, and provides co-working space and mentorship opportunities to four companies at a time, all of which are graduates of regional accelerator programs.
 
Startups in Residence is part of 84.51°’s Innovation initiative, which focuses on connecting, empowering and transforming associates, the community and customers.
 
FEASTY — a 2016 graduate of OCEAN acceleratorlaunched in March with two full-time employees, and has since added four more full-time employees. The app aims to connect those who love to eat food with those who create it.
 
“There are two problems when it comes to dining out: people can’t make decisions about where to eat, and the second is that restaurants don’t know how to drive customers into their restaurants in real-time,” says FEASTY founder Anthony Breen.  
 
FEASTY allows restaurants to post offers or incentives in real-time based on how they’re doing at that moment and drive traffic during slow periods. Those offers go out to users, and they can swipe and search deals, choosing one that will work for them.
 
Since March, FEASTY has evolved. It now tailors offers to each individual user.
 
“We started gathering and collecting data about what users like to eat, what types of deals they like and any dietary restrictions they might have,” Breen says. “FEASTY can then post intelligent offers for customers, and make sure they’re seeing customized deals.”
 
Tony Blankemeyer, startup liaison at 84.51°, sought out Breen because FEASTY fits well into the Startups in Residence program, as it is interested in companies that are leading in the field of data. 84.51°, a.k.a. Kroger, has significant data around in-home grocery purchases and is interested in learning more about the patterns and behaviors of people when they’re looking for somewhere to dine out.
 
“84.51° is home to some of the best data scientists in the world, and being in that community, engaging and connecting with those scientists will be an awesome opportunity,” Breen says.
 
Although no formal partnerships have been announced, FEASTY hopes to incorporate some of the data 84.51° has and make the app experience better for users.
 
FEASTY currently serves over 200 restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area, including new partners like Q’Doba, The Rook and ZBGB. A 2.0 version of FEASTY will come out later this year, which includes a total revamp of the app. After the relaunch, Breen plans to begin scaling into other cities as quickly as possible.
 
“We’re excited to get as much knowledge from the Startups in Residence program as possible,” he says. “It will really help us make the right scaling decisions and moves, as well as help us establish the right contacts and networks.”
 
FEASTY is free and available for download on iOS, Android and the Apple Watch.
 

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.
 

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.”
 

The art of intractive technology sprouts at Cincinnati Art Museum

 
The Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) might be 135 years old, but the organization embraces technology as an innovative way to engage visitors.
 
In 2013, CAM joined the Google Cultural Institute, offering a virtual walk through of the museum and access to digital versions works of art.
 
“We’re also using Google to put together small online exhibitions,” says Emily Holtrop, Director of Learning and Interpretation. “For the opening of Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt in June, we are creating an online exhibit of other cats you can see at the museum. We hope to create more of these smaller web-based exhibits using themes that bring together objects from the permanent collection that would not usually be seen together.”
 
The success of these initial online efforts led to other opportunities to use technology to enhance the visitor experience. Last year, CAM started offering docent-led iPad tours of the Schmidlapp Wing, where many of the iconic pieces in the museum’s collection are displayed.
 
“Docents are able to use iPads to share additional content that supports the conversation,” Holtrop says. “For example, looking at our Robert S. Duncanson painting ‘Blue Hole, Flood Waters, Little Miami River,’ a docent is able to use the iPad to pull up a photograph of what John Bryant State Park looks like today. Or they’re able to show other Gainsborough portraits and compare them to ours. The iPad doesn’t replace looking at the object, it supports the looking and the conversation around the art.”
 
The iPads are also allowing docents to incorporate multimedia on their tours. Tours of the current 30 Americans exhibition may include listening to a piece of music by Charlie Bird Parker while viewing a painting of Parker by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
 
In October, CAM made a commitment to incorporate technology into the museum experience with the opening of its new Antiquities Gallery, which included two touch tables created by Paperplane Creative and Clifton Labs.
 
“The touch tables let us show the objects in the gallery as what they were, items from daily life,” Holtrop says. “They’re only considered art today because they’re displayed in a museum. They really are things like makeup compacts, vases and containers for storing wine. Now we can show visitors how these pieces were used.”
 
The touch tables offer multiple views of each object on display, fun facts and how it was acquired by the museum. An interactive map and timeline will show where the object was created as well as other objects in the gallery that were made around the same time.
 
In addition to providing layers of information, the touch tables also include games related to the objects. Visitors can make a virtual vase or mummy, and other games explore languages and religions of the ancient world.
 
At the end of April, CAM launched two new touchpad interactive features. Leave Your Impression in the Impressionist gallery encourages visitors to try their hand at “painting” part of a work by Renoir, Monet or Sisley. Context and Discovery lets visitors explore six 20th Century American masterpieces in greater detail, including additional information on the artists and the works.
 
CAM also continues to incorporate analog interactive features in the galleries. Visitors to the Asian art galleries can touch actual brushes, and 30 Americans has a feedback wall asking visitors to comment on pieces in the exhibition.
 
“We could have used technology to ask people how they felt about a particular object,” Holtrop says. “But being able to see everyone else’s responses is so much more impactful and creates conversations.”
 
CAM also participated in the Arts x Tech hackathon last month with a challenge that would allow people to pre-plan their visit and to create their own gallery of favorites from the museum collection.
 
“We aren’t going to use technology just because its flashy and fun, if it doesn’t get the message across,” Holtrop says. “Emerging technology in museums is great. But we’re surrounded by screens all the time, and that can interfere with what we’re looking at, so it’s about finding the balance between having too many screens or using screens as support. We want to encourage people to come into the museum and enjoy looking at art while extending their museum experience beyond their visit.”
 

Aitken to discuss using data to build strong customer relationships at Goering Center event


The Goering Center for Family & Private Business dives into data at its April 20 Luncheon Series event, “The Data Revolution” with 84.51 CEO Stuart Aitken.
 
Affiliated with the University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business, the Goering Center provides educational programs and resources to help family-owned and private businesses grow and network. Aitken’s 84.51 collects and mines customer data to inform business decisions and build strong customer relationships, issues important to businesses of all sizes.
 
“I’ve had the good fortune to work for many great companies and to really understand how basic business principals apply to big companies or brands just as well as they do to small companies,” Aitken says. “From a data and loyalty perspective, focusing on the customer is something that any size business can employ. It’s more a matter of what’s relevant to your customers and how, as a small business owner, you can inspire loyalty through the service you provide.
 
“The customer should be at the center of everything — knowing your customers as individuals, not based on generalities or demographics.”
 
The constant collection of data today can raise questions for businesses and customers about how much is enough.
 
“It’s not really about the quantity of the data as it is about the quality of the data,” Aitken says. “Looking at data over time actually helps us to be more personal with our customer outreach. We can understand what’s changing in their lives and that what may have been relevant a year ago may not necessarily be relevant today. Our customers provide feedback that they appreciate that level of personalization and that we understand how to reach them at the right time with the right message with the right channel.”
 
Aitken’s customer-centric approach to data has applications not only for product development but also for the marketing community.
 
“Since Procter & Gamble was established in Cincinnati nearly 150 years ago, Cincinnati has been recognized as a branding hub,” he says. “We have some of the largest and most well-known marketers right here — P&G, Kroger and Macy’s as well as world-class creative firms and academic institutions like UC’s DAAP — that produce creative and technology talents influencing brands and businesses everywhere.”
 
84.51 is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortune 500 company Kroger, and the firm is also invested in the Cincinnati entrepreneurial community through its startup-in-residence program. Aitken’s extensive experience working with established and new companies and how both categories collect and use data should generate an interesting and informative presentation.
 
The Goering Center Luncheon Series is open to the public, though reservations are required. The programs take place monthly with guest speakers on trending business topics. Upcoming events feature discussions on the economic and lending environment, attracting and retaining talent and business risks.

Family and private businesses are also able to join the Goering Center as Core Members for access to additional training, education and development programs.

“The Data Revolution” will be held 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. April 20 at the Sharonville Convention Center. Admission is $39 for Goering Center members and $99 for nonmembers. Register here.
 

Xavier University's student-run TEDx to explore unexpected sides of deception


TEDxXavierUniversity will hold its fifth annual TEDx event April 14 on Xavier’s campus.
 
The event is a TED-licensed, independently organized TEDx event very much like TEDx Cincinnati. The biggest difference is that this event is completely organized and run by Xavier students.
 
The top challenge for this year’s TEDx group was coming up with its intriguing theme: Decoding Deception.
 
“We spent about four months working on coming up with the theme,” says member Margaret Rodriguez. “We really wanted to find a theme that would be interesting not only to Xavier students but to the greater Cincinnati community.”
 
They chose an exploration of how deception might have positive or necessary uses in daily life and then took applications to come up with a diverse, dynamic group of speakers.
 
“We encouraged the speakers to we chose this year to look at deception from their own perspective,” Rodriguez says.
 
The speakers will be emceed by Mary Curan-Hackett of Xavier’s Center for Innovation. According to Rodriguez, Curan-Hackett was open-minded about the theme and helped speakers think about deception in positive and unexpected ways.
 
Speakers include Amber Hunt, Cincinnati Enquirer investigative reporter, who will explore how people can be deceiving without meaning to be and how as a journalist she tries to find objectivity in that subjective or unintentional deception. Other speakers are from Xavier University and the wider Cincinnati community, with diverse backgrounds in corporate, nonprofit and other worlds.
 
And that’s exactly the point. The event is meant not only to stand alone but to spark dialogue and conversation among audience members.
 
The TEDx student group has focused on building a large and diverse audience with Xavier students, working to advertise on campus and make the event as accessible and appealing as possible to the student body. Tickets are available online.
 
“It’s worth coming just to experience the atmosphere,” Rodriguez says. “It’s exciting to watch something like this. Decoding Deception is only two words, but it’s really taken on a life of its own.”
 

UC team prepares for finals of Space X Hyperloop Pod competition


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

Conference focuses on applying the predictive analytics of sports to business


The University of Cincinnati’s Center for Business Analytics hosts “Predictive Analytics Day” Feb. 29 featuring panels of experts who are applying predictive analytics to business and, more frequently, to sports.
 
The day-long mini conference is one of the public events presented by the Center of Business Analytics, which changes topics each year. This year, as Executive Director Glenn Wegryn explains, the chosen topic was predictive analytics.
 
“Predictive analytics is being able to anticipate better through understanding data with statistical and mathematical methods,” Wegryn says, explaining that the methods can be used to help anticipate everything from what your next click on a website might be to when a piece of industrial equipment will need to be replaced to overall business forecasting.
 
Wegryn says that as the Predictive Analytics Day was planned, a sports theme emerged organically through speaker recruitment. Those speakers include the Decision Science Technical Manager for Walt Disney Co., Louie Kuznia, whose background is with Disney-owned ESPN; a specialist in sports analytics, which uses predictive analytics to anticipate factors like how well a scouted player might perform or how many tickets will be sold for a particular game; and a technical speaker who has used predictive analytics to study athletes’ training videos.
 
Once the theme emerged, the Center decided to complement it by calling on some of their own members from the Cincinnati Reds, the Cincinnati Bengals and the UC Bearcats to put together a lunchtime panel about how predictive analytics works in those organizations.
 
Even though the day’s program has ended up focusing on sports, Wegryn points out that the topics will still be applicable to a much wider audience.
 
“The problem is the same whether you’re trying to sell your next baseball ticket or your next piece of clothing,” he says. “Coming to an event like this, you get to think outside the box a little bit about your own organizations.”
 
The Center expects more than 200 people at the event, breaking previous records for its public programming. Most attendees are coming from the Greater Cincinnati business world and use analytics or predictive analytics in their company work.
 
“It’s an explosive field right now,” Wegryn says. “Data is exploding, and everyone is figuring out how to leverage it effectively.”
 
Predictive Analytics Day will be held at UC’s Tangeman University Center at 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Feb. 29. Registration is $125 and is available here.
 

GCF grant helps Hamilton Mill hire industrialist-in-residence and expand student support


Just a short drive north of Cincinnati, Hamilton Mill offers a distinctive experience within the Startup Cincinnati ecosystem.
 
“We focus on technology that helps Southwest Ohio manufacturers have small and lean shops,” says Director of Operations Antony Seppi.
 
Hamilton Mill also emphasizes clean and green technologies through a special collaboration with the City of Hamilton. The city utilities department currently produces nearly 90 percent of its energy from renewable resources and shares that expertise with participants in Hamilton Mill’s programs.
 
Unlike the familiar short-term accelerator program, Hamilton Mill is an incubator that accepts applications on a rolling basis and tailors the length of the program to the participant, whether that’s nine months or three years.
 
“Some companies need a prolonged maturation process,” Seppi says. “We have startups at many stages in their development.”
 
Startups participating in the Hamilton Mill program receive marketing resources and assistance, technology resources, networking opportunities, and mentors to help the startups hit their milestones. Hamilton Mill is also building an innovation fund that will be available to qualified startups graduating from their program.
 
“We have a unique niche in the greater Cincinnati startup ecosystem,” Seppi says. “We are really trying to engage with the Cincinnati community, and we work closely with Cintrifuse and CincyTech.”
 
A recent grant of $50,000 from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) will help Hamilton Mill expand two of its signature programs.
 
Hamilton Mill is hiring an industrialist-in-residence to begin in a few weeks. It will be a rotating position featuring an expert in advance manufacturing who will consult regularly with the startups at Hamilton Mill.
 
“It offers added value to our participants, provides alternative perspectives, and helps formalize our program in advanced manufacturing technologies,” Seppi says.
 
The GCF grant will also support the development of a student entrepreneurship program, NextGen.
 
Hamilton Mill has been working with a couple of student startups, including one that has partnered with UC Health West Chester on a software project. However, there has is interest and opportunity to expand and further develop that program.
 
“NextGen lays a groundwork for high school and college students throughout Butler County to build and develop ideas,” Seppi says. “This is an expansive program that will include coding, app development, and technology.”
 
NextGen will incorporate students who have been participating in Butler Tech’s organization Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE). Hamilton Mill expects to work closely with Butler Tech and SAGE to develop the NextGen program and hopes the program will be up and running before the end of this academic year.
 
For bricks and mortar businesses looking to start or get assistance in Hamilton, the Hamilton Mill is also home to the Small Business Development Center supported by the State of Ohio. They have two consultants who offer workshops, information and training and have recently brought a grocery store and bakery to Hamilton.
 
In the spring Hamilton Mill will get new bragging rights as the only Southwest Ohio startup program with an on-site brewery. Municipal Brew Works is building out a brewery and tap room in the former fire department space in the Hamilton Mill complex.
 
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