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Former Cincinnati Bengal gains attention from startup community with $1.88M in seed funding


ActionStreamer, a wearable technology platform that can livestream point-of-view video off of athletes in action, has secured $1.88M in seed financing from CincyTech and its network of investors.

ActionStreamer pairs patented software and networking technology with ultra-lightweight hardware to deliver an engaging new source of content to live sports coverage: POV video from inside-the-game. The wireless system streams high-definition video from a miniature camera and other custom components embedded into a wearable outfit, such as a player’s helmet or a referee’s hat, in congested, bandwidth-constrained environments like crowded stadiums.

As another example of the incredible startup culture in Greater Cincinnati, ActionStreamer has strong roots here. Former Cincinnati Bengal Dhani Jones partnered with Ilesfay co-founder and technologist Chris McLennan (a Cincinnati native) and business development leader Max Eisenberg, who returned to Cincinnati in May after three years in San Francisco.

Each member of the trio has contributed something unique to the business. While Jones’ relationships and network helped relay what professionals in the industry were looking for, McLennan used his technical knowledge from a career spent solving data transfer-type issues for clients and Eisenberg drew from his business development experience and passion for sports and entrepreneurship.

The real movement behind ActionStreamer?

Connecting players and fans on a deeper level. “Dhani’s drive to further connect players and fans in meaningful ways, a passion that resonated strongly with me as a lifelong sports fan, led to ActionStreamer’s founding in 2015,” says Eisenberg, CEO. “Our mission is to bring fans closer to the action than ever before. We’re facilitating a path to premium content and an unprecedented fan engagement model that's revolutionizing sports broadcast and coverage.”

As for how the Average Joe can experience this innovative technology, live, in-game field-level perspectives are available in the Arena Football League this season and are expected to come online in other leagues and sports this fall.

“Imagine being able to see what an MLB curveball looks like from the batter, catcher or umpire's perspective; what a bunker shot at Augusta National looks like from a PGA Tour golfer’s or caddy’s perspective; or what a leaping touchdown catch looks like from an NFL player’s or referee’s perspective,” says Greg Roberts, head of strategic partnerships & development at ActionStreamer. “Not just what they look like, but also being able to live the moments with the athletes, to experience it through their lenses.”

ActionStreamer strives to enable teams, leagues, networks and media companies to showcase these moments for their fans and viewers — and not just on television, as many fans now turn to social media and other mobile platforms for their entertainment. The founders consider ActionStreamer very fortunate to be opening doors at this exciting time in media.

“Everyone wants more content, more access, more engagement, and they want it now,” Jones says. "ActionStreamer is the advancement necessary to facilitate the transfer of real-time data from the field to the fans. We’re the train tracks or pipes from the field, if you will, that make it all happen.”

“We do source our own cameras, procure custom-made chipsets, design, 3D print and manufacture form-factors or product enclosures, which all makes ActionStreamer even more valuable to the teams, leagues, networks and media companies we’re working with,” McLennan adds. “But what truly sets us apart is our use of patented approaches to wirelessly transmit data from wearables and other miniature gadgets and to deal with networking and bandwidth challenges.”

Of course, with the ever-changing and rapidly advancing nature of technology, it is often times hard to maintain pace, as any business may find.

“Technology startups are always hard-pressed to make improvements rapidly,” says Eisenberg. “Chris built the first set of prototypes himself, then set out to garner help from experts in a variety of fields, en route to drastically improving all aspects of the ActionStreamer technology stack and obtaining three patents on it. We're proud of what we've built, but we strive to make it better every day in order to continue delivering the most value possible.”

ActionStreamer is proud to be a CincyTech portfolio company and to have received follow-on funding from some of Cincinnati’s most prominent angel investors. For more information on the latest advancements and integrations from ActionStreamer, click here.
 


UC professor gets state grant for innovative education platform


University of Cincinnati professor Vali Tadayon says he's witnessed a variety of challenges that college students face when it comes to accomplishing their academic goals. 

With 29 years of experience as a faculty member at UC under his belt, he's not only witnessed these challenges, but he's committed to problem solving so he can help students tackle them.

"Millennials can be impatient, result-oriented and seek instant gratifiction," Tadayon says. "This is not a shortcoming of this generation, but rather a new trend that requires rapid innovation within the realm of education."


With the help of the HCDC Business Center, Tadayon launched his startup Always Education two years ago, and this past June, he launched Always UC — a pilot project that will place among UC's political science department this coming semester. 
 
"The current Learning Management Systems that are in place need to be fundamentally redesigned from the ground up," Tadayon says. "Always Education is designed to be a logical layer that connects various databases to create the next generation learning ecosystem."
 
Always UC will bring Always Education to life, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation Startup Fund. Tadayon applied for the grant after completing I-Corps@Ohio, a seven-week, hands-on training program designed to promote entrepreneurial success. He went throught this program with his HCDC business coach and mentor. 
 
"There has been significant growth in software, startup and jobs in Cincinnati," Tadayon says. "The TVSF grant has helped with the needed resources to launch our pilot successfully. We have hired local software engineers and hope to continue growing our business in Cincinnati." 
 
In addition to promoting economic growth throughout the region, Always UC will allow students to collaborate and engage with one another in new ways. After its one-year test phase, Always UC will be eligible for a new round of grants totaling $1 million and a potential learning platform that can mitigate the challenges millennials face in their post-secondary years.
 

NKU's Inkubator invests in people rather than their ideas


Right now, six teams of NKU students and recent alumni are “inkubating” their business ideas at Northern Kentucky University’s Inkubator.

Rodney D’Souza is the director for the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which houses the Inkubator as part of the Haile U.S. Bank College of Business. In 2012, D’Souza was working with a lot of existing business accelerators but discovered a missing link in the process.

“We found that there was a lack of a good feeder system to existing accelerators,” he says.

After a study of the best practices of university business incubators across the country, NKU’s Inkubator was founded in 2012. Now the program is ranked in the top 5 in North America by UBI Global, an organization that aggregates data on universities and their business incubators.

“It’s very selective,” D’Souza says. Of the 55 applications that were submitted to the Inkubator this year, only six teams were selected. The Inkubator tries to recruit students from all disciplines, not just business students.

“This year, we decided to put teams through boot camp so they understand what it takes to be a part of this process,” says D’Souza. “Not everyone understands what’s going to come up in these 12 weeks.”

The teams that proved their commitment are currently participating in the Inkubator’s 12-week summer program. D’Souza says that the program is different from other incubators with its focus on workshops rather than lectures. “Right now, we focus on how to get them the right tools to succeed."

In the five years since its inception, the Inkubator has seen a lot of success. 16 businesses have been launched as a result of the Inkubator and 10 remain in business. In addition to successful business launches, 57 jobs have been created.

One of the biggest success stories is Vegy Vida, a 100-percent natural dip to entice kids to eat their vegetables. Now Vegy Vida can be found in 1,400 Walmart stores all over the country.

D’Souza says that the Inkubator is successful because it invests in people rather than ideas. “We value them and their team rather than the idea. It’s very gratifying to see the transformation.”
 


Uptown is at the center of a new development that focuses on innovation, research and education


Over-the-Rhine and Covington are abuzz over startup innovation, as incubators and accelerators like Aviatra Accelerators, The Brandery, CincyTech and UpTech work to grow Greater Cincinnati's core. That innovative focus is now shifting Uptown, as Uptown Consortium partners with some of the city's largest institutions to create the Uptown Innovation Corridor.

Fifty-one thousand residents, including students, are at the core of this new economic development.

Three projects are already in the works: the Uptown Gateway, the 1819 Innovation & Research Accelerator for the University of Cincinnati and the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

With the new interchange at I-71 and Martin Luther King Drive expected to open this summer, Beth Robinson, president and CEO of Uptown Consortium, expects the area surrounding it to become “a gravitational force for accelerated industries that radically improve quality of life.”

Uptown Gateway — the project’s “flagship development” — will be a mixed-use office, retail, residential and parking development at the southeast corner of Reading Road and MLK Drive. Construction is slated to being later this year.

Plans for improved pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, in addition to shuttles, will increase residents’ ease of Uptown access, and as the project develops, residents will receive job training so they can immerse themselves more fully into the community while learning skills and generating income.

“Job training that’s informed by the Corridor will evolve as our past and current career-focused initiatives have — through partnerships,” Robinson says. “We want to make sure job growth is inclusive and diverse from the beginning of our projects. We hope to leverage our partnerships with UC, MORTAR and others to secure more job training programs in the area.”

The 1819 Innovation & Research Accelerator, slated to open next fall, will serve as a hub for both private and public collaborations. It will also provide space for startups launched from UC developed technologies, while the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute will open in 2019. Construction began on the Institute earlier this month.

“The Innovation Corridor is surrounded by our region’s research powerhouses,” Robinson says. “The Uptown Innovation Corridor tenants will learn from, inspire and most likely integrate with the institutions of Uptown and the region’s future-facing businesses. It will continue to unfold as a center for research, collaboration and entrepreneurship.”
 


TEDxCincinnati returns for its fifth year with a new format and location


TEDxCincinnati returns for the fifth year on June 17, but this time to a newly renovated Memorial Hall. The 2017 Main Stage Event not only features a change of venue, but also a new, innovative program format.

“We had a great turn out for our Thursday night Main Stage Events, but moving to Saturday opens up the event to an entirely new crowd,” says Jami Edelheit, director of TEDxCincinnati. “This year, we’re offering the Main Stage twice, which lets attendees make it part of a whole night out, grabbing dinner before or after the show.”

The 2017 Main Stage Event will feature a mix of local and national speakers and performers who will give their TED Talks at both shows.

“TEDxCincinnati had a big audition night in March and two of those speakers will be on the Main Stage,” says Edelheit. “We had great submissions and it was really hard to narrow them down.”

The first Main Stage Event will run from 5 to 7 p.m., and the second will be from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. In between the two shows, attendees will be able to network with each other and meet the speakers. The complete list of speakers and performers will be revealed next week; however, all previous TEDxCincinnati Main Stage Events have been sold out prior to speakers being announced.

“TEDxCincinnati is an experience,” says Edelheit. “There are some wonderful stories and ideas, but this is not about looking at a list of speaker's names and deciding to attend based on that. TEDx spurs conversations you might not otherwise have. It creates energy, excitement and engagement.”

The theme for the 2017 Main Stage Event, “Connected,” will be addressed by speakers that range from a retired member of the Special Forces, a 13-year-old working on artificial intelligence and Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco.

“This is one of the best themes we’ve had,” Edelheit says. “It’s about being human and all the ways we connect in the world through personal interactions, medicine and technology. And it’s central to our mission to live consciously, be authentic and empower others. We are right there in the word: connecTED.”

This year, TEDxCincinnati is also making an effort to connect with local organizations and businesses through its new Community Partners program.

“We want to feature what others are doing by bringing the community together to share ideas,” Edelheit explains. “TEDx is a neutral platform that builds relationships and connects people. We are always looking for new partners and ideas.”

Tickets for the Main Stage Event are on sale now. A limited number of bundle tickets are available, which includes two tickets for a reduced price of $99. All tickets include admission to the between-show reception.
 


Drone research lab provides wide-ranging solutions for American companies


Drones have officially landed in Cincinnati with the opening of Tata Consultancy Services' first U.S.-based Drones Research Lab at its Seven Hills Park Innovation Center earlier this month.

“In 2008, we established the Innovation Center to provide advanced technology solutions and niche capabilities for our North American customers,” says Greg Asher, TCS Delivery Center Head. “We have 20 labs globally and we wanted to bring the best in innovation to Cincinnati to serve as a showcase and provide pure research on topics that have traction and markets.”

Although drones are just one of the research areas at TCS’s Innovation Center, the multi-disciplinary nature of those devices has applications for a wide range of technologies and industries. The Drones Research Lab will explore IOT, machine learning, computer vision systems and sensor systems to create custom solutions for TCS customers.

“The U.S. market is the best place to launch these innovations,” says Asher. “America is on the forefront of technology and drone regulatory guidance. When solutions hit the market, U.S. companies will lead the charge.”

TCS’s drone research focuses on finding autonomous flight and data collection solutions to existing challenges that businesses face.

“Supply chain problems are an area where drones can help,” Asher says. “To do a physical inventory of a warehouse, a company has to shut down for at least a day. Drones could count automatically as they fly up and down the aisles, improving efficiency, accuracy and speed to market.”

At the Drones Research Lab, TCS staff build prototypes and establish proof of concept that they work. Drones are flown in large indoor spaces that replicate warehouse environments and soon will be tested outdoors on the 223-acre campus by on-staff FAA certified drone pilots.

“Although corporate applications are our first focus, we are building relationships with academic institutions as well,” says Deepak Sharma, Business Unit Head for TCS Cincinnati. “Cincinnati stands out for the local universities already excelling in research.”

Asher adds: “What’s going on in Cincinnati is very exciting for us. We are well connected with the startup community in town. Our job is to see what’s relevant and what we can apply now.”

TCS uses a co-innovation network model framework to collaborate with startups around the world. Innovations and technologies developed by partner startup companies are included in solutions that TCS can commercialize and produce for their customers.

As TCS expands globally, Asher and Sharma see continued growth opportunities for the Cincinnati facility.

“The secret sauce at TCS is our people,” Asher says. “Our rapid growth is one of the reasons our Innovation Center is here. Cincinnati has phenomenal talent attracted here by opportunities and produced by regional universities.”
 


POSSIBLE brings innovative ideas to the advertising industry


In Cincinnati, the presence of business partnerships between large and small businesses is furthering growth and bringing more innovative practices to what used to be a simple advertising build.

Local firm POSSIBLE dares to take on new approaches to more traditional advertising mechanisms. It has more than 1,500 employees around the globe with an innovative vision. Its ideas evolve with the ever-changing digital landscape to provide the full-service advertising experience from strategic planning and e-commerce to web development and analytics.

Among one of its most recent projects, POSSIBLE Cincinnati has taken on an iconic P&G brand for the launch of the ‘Febreze Song Ads.’

The creativity within POSSIBLE’s employee base shines through in these advertisements, which aren’t actually ads at all, but instead, a unique campaign that capitalizes on the growing popularity of streaming music services such as Spotify and Pandora by creating 30-second song ads for the air freshener brand.

The team at POSSIBLE worked with music industry icons to write, compose and produce original songs that make Febreze sound more like a band than a brand. The ‘advertisements’ blend in with the ebb and flow of listeners’ lives by using popular genres like rap and R&B.

The first #FebrezeSong video was released on Youtube in Aug. 2015 — to date, it has received over 300,000 hits. (Check out the Febreze commercials and jingles.

At the conclusion of the campaign, the Febreze song ads had been played more than 180 million times, and listeners sought the songs out on YouTube more than 1 million times. The campaign also generated a 56 percent higher tap-through rate compared to other ads on streaming music platforms, making it one of the most successful and innovative P&G campaigns thus far.

POSSIBLE is now being recognized for its hard work and creative thinking. The #FebrezeSong ads received special recognition from the 2017 WEBBY Awards, and the campaign recently won “Judge’s Choice” and gold in two categories at the American Advertising Federation’s District 5 ADDY Awards earlier this year.

In June, the campaign will head to the national ADDY Awards, where it has the chance to be named one of the best advertising campaigns of the year.

Other companies and brands that POSSIBLE has worked extensively with include Coca-Cola, other P&G brands like Pringles, Starwood Hotels, Heinken, the MLS app, the Better Homes and Gardens app, Amazon and many more.

To keep up with more projects and innovative ideas from POSSIBLE, visit its website or Facebook page.

 


More Cincinnatians going solar thanks to regional energy assistance program


The benefits of solar home energy are many: It’s better for the planet; it can increase property value; and perhaps most appealingly, it can drastically reduce or even eliminate monthly household electric bills.

Cincinnati currently leads Ohio in solar installations and regional leaders are taking steps to keep it that way, thanks to a partnership between the City of Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance.

Solarize Cincy, created in response to increasing demand and decreasing installation cost, is helping make solar power a realistic — and affordable — option for families throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Residents who take advantage of the program prior to June 30 can receive assistance with out-of-pocket installation costs.

Through the Solarize Cincy program and tax credits, residents can go solar for around $8,000 and meet most of their electricity needs without a monthly bill. Solar panel production has also evolved; panels have become sleeker, more durable and customizable to unique roofs.

“With competitive pricing and federal tax incentives, this is a golden opportunity for anyone thinking about going solar,” says city sustainability coordinator Ollie Kroner.

The GCEA is a nonprofit development agency that promotes investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the region. The organization provides education, project management and innovative financing solutions, with more than $40 million in projects completed. The GCEA, as part of the National Energy Alliance, receives funding from local foundations and governments, including the U.S. Department of Energy.

“The program was a huge success with residents last year,” says GCEA CEO Jerry Schmits. “This year, we’ve put together an even more compelling program. Through Solarize Cincy, we are looking to keep Cincinnati number one in Ohio for solar installations.”

For more information, visit SolarizeCincy.org or call 513-621-4232, ext. 2.
 


Chamber's new program to help increase cultural awareness and diversity in region


The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber launches a new program this week called Building Cultural Competence for leaders and influencers from around the region.

“When we did research on overall inclusion in our community for our Diverse by Design report, a key insight was that increasing the cultural competence of our community could be a competitive advantage,” says Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion advisor for the Chamber. “As markets and companies become more multicultural and more global, the ability to work across many identities and cultures goes from 'nice to have' to essential.”

Although some corporate and government entities offer implicit bias training or other cultural awareness classes, the Chamber was starting from scratch in building this initiative. It is unique in that it operates at a community-wide level.

“We worked with a thoughtful group of corporate and nonprofit volunteers to build a prototype program, which is what we are launching May 9,” says Stagaman. “The time seems precisely right, as the need to successfully and respectfully bridge differences in our community and our country has seldom been greater. Our long-term goal is to build a community of leaders who can effectively interact with our changing and challenging world and to have leaders who actively seek to engage and influence others to do the same.”

There is an application process and fee for the program, which will be led by nationally recognized diversity and inclusion experts and cover subjects like the neuroscience of bias, emotional intelligence, building rapport across cultures, conflict resolution and adaptive communication. Participants will also take the Intercultural Development Inventory and receive a one-on-one coaching session.

When the program ends in July, each participant will have developed an individual action plan to take back to their organization, business or community.

“The key strategy is to recruit leaders into the program,” Stagaman says. “While we have certainly attracted people in prominent positions in our region, we also have a wide range of individuals who have strong networks in unique sectors of our community. We believe that by raising their awareness around cultural competence, and giving them tools to be more effective, they will in turn influence others in their networks, creating a magnifying effect.”

The Chamber sought applicants from across the region and different sectors of the community; the inaugural class will begin at full capacity with 30 participants.

“We have a very diverse group with representatives from large corporations, large and small nonprofits, working media, law and law enforcement, secondary and higher education, the startup community, healthcare, real estate and more,” Stagaman says. “The age range of participants is from 26-70, suggesting that we can increase our cultural competence at any stage of life or career."

Upon completion of the pilot program, the Chamber will evaluate the results and determine how to move forward with future iterations of the program.

“The great thing about cultural competence is that it can be learned —it's not an innate skill that we are born with," Stagaman says. "Increased cultural competence can help us retain the talent we need to continue to attract jobs. It can ensure that people in our community, no matter what their country of origin, color, faith and so on, receive appropriate medical care. And it can help us build a workforce that reflects the changing demographics of our country as we reduce bias and increase welcoming people who represent different cultures and identities.”
 


Internationally recognized NKY Makerspace to host World Maker & Inventor Expo


On April 29, Northern Kentucky Makerspace will host its second annual World Maker & Inventor Expo at Boone County High School. The family-friendly event is designed to celebrate emerging technology and help engage students in STEAM subjects from an early age.

“We know students are losing interest in these fields as they progress through their education,” says spokesperson Emily Greene. “By connecting them to real-world experts, and providing authentic experiences, we are fostering the interest and providing the educational opportunities for growth during each stage of primary and secondary education.”

The daylong expo will feature workshops and competitions that highlight innovations in robotics, 3D printing, drones, aerospace, coding, micro-computing, graphic design and more.

In addition, visitors will enjoy local food, outlaw derby races, drone-flying obstacle courses, a “live” BB-8 robot, Star Wars-themed rides and a solar-powered telescope demonstration by the Cincinnati Observatory.

To learn more or to register for the expo, visit themakerexpo.com.

NKY Makerspace is a regional program serving K-12 students in Greater Cincinnati through field trips, workshops, internships, events and other hands-on activities.

The program is made possible through a partnership between Leadership NKY and Boone County Schools, with support from sponsors like the NKY Chamber of Commerce and Perfetti Van Melle, a locally based confectionery manufacturer.

The program was created in response to the growing national dependence on science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM) disciplines that are projected to make up about 80 percent of the fastest growing occupations in the coming years.

NKY Makerspace shares with its sponsors a mission of creating an academic environment to encourage “the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to think, create and build.”

The group’s facility at Boone County Fairgrounds currently features dedicated spaces for students learning about engineering, robotics, coding, 3D printing and audio-visual production. Northern Kentucky high schools can apply for credit-bearing internships through NKY Makerspace and its affiliate partners.

“The nature of our building, being owned and operated by Boone County Schools but located as an independent facility open to the entire region, makes us an incredibly unique facility and the first of its kind here in Kentucky,” Greene says.

For that reason, NKY Makerspace has received attention from the U.S. State Department and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, regularly hosting international delegations from those groups and guiding them through the makerspace’s STEAM-focused facilities.

“Generally speaking, these groups are coming to learn from our program to in turn build their own programs in their home countries,” Greene says. “Most times, our visitors leave us with wonderful insight and ideas for growth here in our own facility as well, building an invaluable international partnership.”
 


Dayton Startup Week brings startup ecosystem north of Cincinnati


Cincinnati has become a hub for startup activity, and is home to a number of business accelerators and incubators. But that energy is starting to spread beyond Greater Cincinnati.

Dayton is home to its own startup ecosystem, and the second annual Dayton Startup Week will be held June 12-16. The five-day event will offer about 100 sessions, all for free.

“Startup Week grew out of a give-first mentality,” says co-organizer Tiffany Ferrell. “It’s community driven and run entirely by volunteers. Over 100 people helped out last year. Fortunately, we have sponsors to help pay the bills and keep the event free and accessible.”

Dayton Startup Week, organized by the Dayton Tech Guide and sponsored by the Wright State Research Institute, The Entrepreneurs Center and the City of Fairborn, will feature regional CEOs, CTOs, CIOs and others who will present their successes and challenges at workshops, panel presentations and keynote talks.

With so many sessions running from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily — and covering subjects like The Lean Startup Workshop: How to launch on a shoestring budget and Social Media Masters: How to create a social media game plan — the schedule could become overwhelming.

But the online registration organizes the sessions by tracks, such as funding, marketing and technology, and the app will provide a customized calendar accessible on attendees' smartphones.

“We’re trying to ensure the event is as user-friendly as possible,” says Ferrell. “Dayton Startup Week will have sessions for everyone, it’s not just for startups or technology. Anyone in business in any industry or stage of business development will find a session that fits their needs."

Attendees will be able to choose from five specific tracks: Starting Up your Startup, Funding & Finance, Marketing & Branding, Talent & Culture and the Daily Grind. 

“Last year exit surveys showed 60 percent of attendees were already in business," she continues. "They came to make new connections, to plug into the startup scene, be part of a community and attend sessions that addressed particular issues or problems they were facing.”

Dayton Startup Week is part of a global program run by TechStars, which is based out of Boulder, Colo. The inaugural event, held in September 2016, included 50 sessions and drew over 500 attendees from the Dayton area and beyond. This year's event is twice the size, and promises to draw larger crowds.

“We were looking for a high energy event to bring the startup ecosystem in Dayton together,” Ferrell says. “The TechStars model was exactly what we needed.”

Participants can register for as many or as few sessions as they’d like. In addition to the educational sessions, Dayton Startup Week will kick off each day with yoga, and will offer coworking opportunities throughout the day. Each day will wrap up with special happy hour events, including one at a Dayton Dragons baseball game.

Although the focus of the event is the Dayton startup community, several featured speakers will be from Cincinnati and Columbus, and the organizers anticipate attendees will come from a much wider area, drawn to the program by their familiarity with TechStars Startup Week brand.

“Dayton Tech Guide is working hard to create a collaborative relationship with nearby startup ecosystems,” says Ferrell. “There is great opportunity to share resources and leverage each other’s strengths.”

Registration for Dayton Startup Week opens on May 1.
 


Sewendipity Lounge shines as product of SCORE Cincinnati's minority-focused business coaching


The face of Cincinnati entrepreneurship is changing, and one local group is working to support that change.

SCORE Cincinnati has long provided free business coaching and other resources for existing and new businesses, and the organization is currently tightening its focus on female and minority entrepreneurs. Its goal is to provide one-on-one mentoring and access to legal and financial resources via experienced Cincinnati leaders from those underrepresented groups.

“Recently, SCORE increased the number of both women and minority mentors in our ranks to better reflect and serve our clients,” says executive director Betsy Newman. “Currently, 58 percent of our clients are women and 39 percent are minorities, so it makes sense for us to reach out to experienced female and minority businesspeople and recruit them as expert mentors.”

In addition, SCORE facilitates a Women’s CEO Roundtable group that consists of 12 female business owners from non-competing organizations. The newly launched group meets monthly to promote discussion and confidential feedback between female CEOs and business owners.

Karen Williams relied on SCORE’s programs and services in starting her own business, Sewendipity Lounge, which offers a wide range of sewing courses and supplies.

“SCORE gave me the confidence to do something I’ve never done before,” says Williams. “In my former job, I learned every day, but it was nothing like having your own business. What really helped me the most is having the support of other women.”

Sewendipity Lounge recently celebrated one year at its downtown location, which is roughly the same amount of time that Williams has been a member of SCORE’s Women’s CEO Roundtable.

“When you see other women doing amazing things, it gives you the confidence to try new things too,” says Williams. “Many of us share similar issues, so you don’t feel alone. I call the roundtable a ‘finishing school’ for woman business owners. You get a little hand-holding and the camaraderie of other women. It’s been a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it.”

SCORE’s partnerships with the UC Entrepreneurial Center, Aviatra Accelerators (formerly Bad Girl Ventures), Cintrifuse, the Hamilton County Development Center, Morning Mentoring, Queen City Angels, MORTAR and The Hamilton Mill have resulted in making more than $500,000 in small business loans available to more than 600 female entrepreneurs since 2010.

Upcoming SCORE events include:

  • April Member Meeting, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 21
  • Small Business Dream to Reality (Part 1), 9 a.m. to noon, April 22
  • How to Build a Marketing Campaign to Meet Your Growth Objectives, 9 a.m. to noon, April 29
  • Small Business Dream to Reality (Part 2), 9 a.m. to noon, April 29
  • Your Nonprofit Dream to Reality - What It Takes, 8:30 a.m. to noon, May 6
  • Score Presents: The Business of Food, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 8

For more information about SCORE resources and events, or to volunteer as a mentor, call 513-684-2812 or visit greatercincinnati.score.org.
 


Yearly IX event opens its doors and ideas to the public for the first time


Innovation Xchange might just be the biggest #StartupCincy event you’ve never heard of, and for good reason. When Cintrifuse launched the program four years ago — and in the three iterations since — it’s been an invitation-only matchmaking event for BigCos and startups.

“Cintrifuse saw an opportunity to draw startups from coastal ecosystems to Cincinnati to help BigCos address their challenges,” says Eric Weissmann, director of marketing at Cintrifuse. “We worked with the local CIO roundtable to find out what problems their companies struggled with, which platforms interested them and what technologies they wanted to learn more about.”

Based on what Cintrifuse gleaned from those meetings, it grouped those challenges into segments and put a call out to its network, including not only startups based in Cincinnati, but also those in the portfolios of its investment funds and other startup ecosystems.

The 70 responses Cintrifuse received for the inaugural event were curated down to about 24 companies that came to Cincinnati to pitch the BigCos on their companies and solutions.

“IX is the physical manifestation of the Cintrifuse purpose,” Weissmann says. “Encouraging BigCo innovation by working with startups; not acquiring them, but working with them as partners and vendors.”

The IX event is not a fancy RFP process or a hackathon weekend. BigCos present focused problems in areas like the internet of things, employee engagement or workforce management. Startups with existing products that offer solutions pitch directly to these potential partners and clients, hopefully resulting in new business.

“Participating in IX is a big deal for startups,” Weissmann says. “Cintrifuse is acting as the business development rep, vetting the briefs from BigCos to ensure they have resources to spend and project management systems to run a partnership. The startups do the rest.”

Although the first two IX events were extremely successful and resulted in dozens of pilot partnerships and projects, Cintrifuse saw room for improvement.

“We found that BigCos need help defining their problems and learning how to work with new vendors,” Weissmann says. “Last year, we held workshops for the BigCos to think through the challenges where they needed solutions and put together innovation briefs for startups to address. We also added a keynote speaker to talk about innovation and set the stage for the pitches.”

For the 2017 IX event, tickets to the morning program will be available to the public. It will feature keynote speaker Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, followed by a number of breakout sessions. Owyang, an expert on corporate innovation and disruptive technologies, will speak on adaptive business models and his recent white paper.

“Attending IX will be a great opportunity for startups interested in enterprise sales to see how other similar companies are operating,” Weissman says. “The thought leadership session will also help venture capital and BigCos see what’s coming on the radar and it could serve as a sounding board or validation tool for their investments.”

Tickets for the June 22 IX event will go on sale May 22.
 


Ignite Institute to help jumpstart hands-on job training within Boone County School District


When Toyota leaves Kentucky later this year, its Quality and Production Engineering lab in Erlanger will become a regional hub for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning, and will be renamed the Roebling Innovation Center.

“Two years ago, Mike Goss, general manager of Toyota Social Innovation, went to the governor to discuss the legacy Toyota would leave behind,” says Dr. Karen Cheser, superintendent of the Boone County School District. “After brainstorming with the community, the idea for Ignite Institute at the Roebling Innovation Center coalesced.”

The Ignite Institute at Roebling Innovation Center, which will be owned and operated by Boone County schools, will be open to any student in the region interested in an in-depth, hands-on learning environment.

“All content areas will be taught, but they will be taught differently,” Cheser says. “An interdisciplinary approach will focus on hands-on learning and technology. Students will create, make and perform as they focus on solving real-world problems.”

Teachers for the Institute will be trained using Harvard Case Studies and Partnership for Innovative Education curriculums. They will also learn how to communicate and collaborate with business industry partners.

“Information technology, logistics, advanced manufacturing, construction technology and health science have been identified as focus areas for the program,” Cheser says. “Students will explore career pathways in one of those areas to determine their level of interest and obtain a certification."

For example, if a student was interested in health science, they would get traditional credits in math and science, but they may also want to explore the EMT career path. They would spend half of each day in the field with Gateway Community and Technical College and the fire department.

"The student will learn what it takes to have a career as an EMT and where else it could lead; they will also earn their EMT certificate," Cheser explains.

The Boone County School District has formed a nonprofit foundation to help cover the costs of serving non-Kentucky residents who attend the Insitute. They have already received $6.7 million from the Kentucky Work Ready Skills Initiative but will need to raise more to renovate the building into a 108,000-square-foot school with a state-of-the-art fabrication lab.

The Institute will utilize 80 percent of the building, with the remaining space to be used for a community child care center, teacher training center, university practicum classes and possibly a business incubator.

“Boone County is a state district of innovation,” Cheser says. “We need a school that caters to the way kids learn now; a program that offers personalized pathways and hands-on learning that will provide 21st-century skills and in-depth career exploration that creates a pipeline to jobs in our region.”

The school is scheduled to open in time for the 2019-2020 school year. The Boone County School District is currently reaching out to regional businesses to collaborate on the project.
 


Cincinnati first U.S. city to host data analytics MeasureCamp "un-conference"


Cincinnati has been selected as the first stateside destination for a popular international gathering of data scientists, data engineers, marketers and business analysts.

Founded in London in 2012, MeasureCamp is a free event that invites anyone interested in digital analytics to share ideas, ask questions and collectively discover new approaches to gathering consumer data. The event has now attracted sold-out crowds in 14 cities around the world.

For the first time, this “un-conference” — so dubbed due to the event’s intentional absence of any formal agenda — will take place in the United States, with Cincinnati chosen as the first of two venues. (A second MeasureCamp event will follow later this year in San Francisco.)

The daylong event begins at 9 a.m. on May 13 at Cintrifuse’s Union Hall, located at 1311 Vine St.

Dave Paprocki is part of the team bringing MeasureCamp to Cincinnati, along with data experts from consumer insights firm Astronomer, Kroger Corporation and other sponsors.

“(Hosting MeasureCamp locally) solidifies Cincinnati’s reputation internationally as a hub for data and analytics enthusiasts,” says Paprocki, who also serves as director of marketing at Astronomer. “We not only wanted to sponsor it, we wanted to be on the ground floor and help to organize it.”

Eschewing the traditional conference format, MeasureCamp attendees will instead exchange ideas as a group and create on-the-spot “sessions” that could range from deeper-dive technical conversations to creative brainstorming. Organizers say all attendees will be encouraged to discuss and participate in the sessions, and each attendee will have the opportunity to lead their own session according to the info they find most interesting and useful.

"Tapping into our collective experience as a community is key to solving our personal and corporate missions in digital analytics,” says Hananiel Sarella, lead developer at Kroger and MeasureCamp Cincinnati organizer. “I am thrilled with the excitement and support we have received in organizing this event.”

Click here to learn more and to register for the event.
 

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