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Grippable keyboard "stands up" for healthcare industry at HIMSS15


When Mark Parker and his team created the TREWGrip Mobile Dock, a mobile keyboard featuring a "rear typing" design, his goal was come to the aid of the large number of professionals, specifically those in the healthcare field, who spend the workday on their feet.  He was unaware that many of those same healthcare professionals would recommend his product to their patients.
 
"Most of (TREWGrip's) early traction has come from the assistive technology industry and occupational health and safety professionals," Parker says. "Quite honestly, we didn’t think about the health benefits when designing TREWGrip, but there’s something called the 'functional position,' which is the ideal position of the hands/wrists. TREWGrip’s design allows for this ideal hand/wrist position when typing."
 
TREWGrip LLC is a spin-off of Parker's umbrella company, Outlier Technologies, headquartered in the Blue Ash area. The Mobile Dock's rear typing-enabled design requires the user to hold the device much like an accordion, allowing someone to type with both hands without using a surface (or your other hand) for support.
 
The product's multi-faceted health benefits brought TREWGrip to the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference last month in Chicago. Parker's experience at the conference proved that the healthcare market is ripe for change.
 
"A lot of the interfaces being used right now are pretty outdated," he says. "Companies have certain systems in place because there aren't other hardware platforms out there — they have very little incentive to upgrade."
 
According to Parker, doctors and hospitals have yet to embrace new technologies like the tablet over the laptop due to the fact that they don't truly transform their working experience. TREWGrip, on the other hand, does what tablets and laptops can't — it eliminates the need for a stationary workplace.
 
"Approximately 1.3 billion people around the world are considered 'mobile workers' and often find themselves sitting on the floor to get their work done," Parker says. "So if you want to understand what inspired TREWGrip, stand up in your office and try typing this story while holding your laptop or your desktop keyboard."
 
The unique tool still has its limitations. Users need at least half an hour to get used to the new keyboard and at least 8-10 hours of total use to reach their normal level of typing proficiency. The learning curve doesn't worry Parker.
 
"We are targeting the next generation of healthcare workers, emergency medical professionals and medical scribes," he says.
 
In the long term, Parker hopes to see his product evolve from a grippable keyboard to a grippable computer, complete with a screen and microprocessor.
 
"We can't get there in one big step, so we're taking a few smaller steps," he says. "Our first hurdle is getting users to appreciate the benefits of rear typing."
 
Unlike many growing businesses in Cincinnati, TREWGrip's focus on healthcare doesn't place it in the center of the city's startup ecosystem. On the contrary, most of their success has come from outside of Cincinnati.
 
"We are involved and have taken advantage of a lot of the opportunities offered by the 'innovation ecosystem,'" Parker says. "At this point, I think we know most of the players and most of the players know us, but I think TREWGrip is just too far outside their comfort zones to get directly involved."
 
That said, many of TREWGrip's investors are located in Cincinnati. Parker has also established his personal life in the city and doesn't intend to take his technology elsewhere any time soon.
 
"I live in Cincinnati because it’s a great place to raise a family, and that’s more important to me than anything else," he says.
 

PulsePoint app exposes NKU students to real life-and-death outcomes

 
PulsePoint, the CPR app developed by Northern Kentucky University students, has been credited with saving another life.
 
When Sunnyvale, Calif. resident Farid Rashti experienced sudden cardiac arrest in March while playing soccer in a public park, his teammates called 911. Their call triggered a PulsePoint alert that notified CPR-trained Walter Huber, who lives near the park, of the need for life saving intervention. Huber performed CPR until an officer arrived with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), reviving Rashti.
 
The PulsePoint app was created as part of a unique partnership between the San Ramon (Calif.) Valley Fire Protection District and NKU’s Center for Applied Informatics.
 
In 2009, the fire district had an idea for software that would connect CPR-trained individuals with people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
 
“They contacted several organizations with no luck in the Bay Area,” says Tim Ferguson, Executive Director for the Center for Applied Informatics. “They then approached Apple, and an Apple executive referred them to the College of Informatics. Apple has continually referred organizations wanting innovative and high tech solutions to us.”
 
Improvements in technology hardware and software led to an updated version of PulsePoint in 2011, which provided geographically targeted notifications through the app. San Ramon officials and NKU understood the potential for a wider application for the software.
 
“As our partnership grew, all of us realized that there was a greater need/mission that could be met with our work,” Ferguson says.
 
The PulsePoint Foundation was created in order to make the software more widely accessible.
 
In addition to connecting CPR-trained citizens with cardiac arrest victims, PulsePoint also tracks publicly accessible AED devices through a crowd-sourced registry. The registry is accessible through the app as well as by 911 call centers in order to direct callers on the scene of a cardiac emergency to the location of the nearest device.
 
In the past four years, cities subscribing to PulsePoint have grown from 600 to over 1,100 municipalities in 16 states, including three in the Cincinnati region in Crescent Springs, Erlanger and Elsmere, Ky.
 
NKU’s involvement with PulsePoint has generated new opportunities and visibility for the Center for Applied Informatics.
 
“The innovation of PulsePoint at NKU allowed us to work on projects relating to emergency services in Switzerland, which has been great exposure for our students,” Ferguson says. “In addition, we were invited to speak at a mobile conference in England where we presented PulsePoint. As a result of that presentation, we have been speaking to key government leaders in England about innovation there.”
 
Bruce Alan Pfaff, director of communications for NKU’s College of Informatics, added that former NKU students continue to be involved with the app’s development through the PulsePoint Foundation and Workday.
 
This year, the PulsePoint app was nominated by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for Webby awards in the categories of “Best Use of GPS or Location Technology” and “Social: Health & Fitness.” Although PulsePoint didn’t go home with a prize, every successful cardiac intervention is a win for the app’s makers and users.
 

Manufacturing accelerator First Batch accepting applications for next class through May 11

 
Cincinnati’s only manufacturing business accelerator, First Batch, is seeking applications for its 2015 class through May 11.
 
In its third year of growth, First Batch will accept six candidates this year, up from two in 2013 and four in 2014. Entrepreneurs participating in the program will receive up to $8,000 in financial support as well as business development services that include strategic planning, branding and marketing.
 
First Batch focuses on physical product development and is open to candidates who have existing prototypes of innovative product ideas. The 2015 class will work out of the Losantiville Design Collective in Over-the-Rhine, where they will have access to 3D prototyping tools and a collaborative work space.
 
“I think the biggest basis for us starting the program (in Cincinnati) was that there was this known expertise in consumer products and branding and a big push for entrepreneurship and tech,” says Matt Anthony, First Batch program manager and director of the Cincinnati Made nonprofit group. “We saw a need to tie that excitement into the often overlooked but robust manufacturing ecosystem here.
 
“With the great things happening in OTR and the urban core and the proximity of a lot of available light industrial space, you can afford to be an entrepreneur and still live somewhere exciting with great food where you can walk to bars and your production space. Cincinnati makes things. We’ve got all the wrap-around services to support it and an accessible urban lifestyle that entrepreneurs want and can actually afford here.”
 
First Batch works closely with the University of Cincinnati Department of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). Faculty serve as advisors and graduates are potential candidates.
 
“Every year I go to DAAP and personally encourage students to apply,” Anthony says. “In previous years I was disheartened to hear students say, ‘I really want to pursue my idea and passion but don’t know how to turn it into a real company.’ I’m happy that we’re offering an avenue to get design-based product companies started and keep them here.”
 
Participants in the 2013 and 2014 classes have manufactured an eclectic array of products, including musical instruments, textiles, men’s grooming, toys, furniture and home goods.
 
“I don’t know that I would have expected the mix we’ve seen so far,” Anthony says. “I always like to see variety, and in some ways it always reflects both our historic industry but also the future of what’s possible here. I’ve seen a few applicants already for 2015 that might really push the capabilities of what’s possible here in a good way.”
 
Although past participants were all local, First Batch is reaching out to national and international candidates by getting involved in events in places like Buffalo, Philadelphia, Oakland and Detroit. First Batch was also recently featured in Dwell magazine, which helps raise its national profile.
 
First Batch is also seeking sponsors, partners and mentors to help with the 2015 program.
 
“Sponsorship is mostly set up to help cover the costs of the production budget,” Anthony says. “Manufacturing sponsors aren’t necessarily locked in to taking an applicant if the pool doesn’t have a good fit, so ideally we would have a list of potential sponsors that also become judges in the process to decide on projects they’d like to support.
 
“Sponsorship can also come in the form of service donation. Donated services would allow us to select a few applicants that might need additional development support like engineering or industrial design, where we usually have to err on the side of picking entrepreneurs who already have the idea developed far enough and are capable of their own development.”
 
Mentors are a critical part of the accelerator experience. First Batch, with its focus on developing physical products, targets mentors from the manufacturing sector but is also seeking advisers with experience in marketing, technical writing, design and legal.
 
“Our goal is to make a small mentor team around each finalist and have a pairing session within the first week of the program to find the right balance of skill-sets and personalities to help keep each entrepreneur on track with their project road maps,” Anthony says.
 
First Batch will accept applications through May 11 and announce its 2015 class around June 1.
 

Xavier students use 3D technology to help three-legged service dog


Xavier University's Center for Innovation, home of a full-scale MakerBot 3D printing center, has proved once again that innovation comes in many forms.
 
On April 29, Gary Lewondowski's Human Centered Making students fitted a three-legged dog for a prosthetic leg at the Center. The dog, named Tiny, is a service dog for 4 Paws for Ability, an organization that provides aid to children worldwide.

When 4 Paws contacted Xavier in March about Tiny's need for a leg, the 3D-printer-equipped team barely knew where to start. It's one thing to craft a 3D-printed item, quite another to make it a functioning part of a living creature.
 
Fortunately for the students and faculty at the Center, a Xavier alum was able to come to the rescue. Christine Geeding, a prosthetics professional at J.F. Rowley Prosthetics and Orthotics, brought her expertise to the classroom as the Human Centered Making students brainstormed for several weeks.
 
“It was fascinating to explore 3-D printing and how it relates to prosthetics,” Geeding says.
 
Using the Center's new 3D printers, the Xavier students were able to fit Tiny with the flexible inner liner as well as the rigid frame. They also monitored Tiny's first steps to assess the harness suspension and alignment.
 
"Tiny did more than we ever expected," says Mary Curran-Hackett of the Center for Innovation. "Her quick adjustment to the prosthetic was incredible."
 
According to Geeding, Tiny reached a level 3 on the adaptation scale the first day. Most of Geeding's human patients can only reach level 1 on their first attempt.
 
Though the prosthetic itself, designed with software from Cincinnati startup Batterii, is still slightly rudimentary, it's the culmination of six weeks of hard work from the students. They'll now make length and fit adjustments based on what they observed the first day.
 
"It may sound funny to say it this way, but we've taken a huge step in the right direction," Curran-Hackett says.
 

Calling all creatives: ArtWorks Big Pitch applications are due May 11


In a startup scene dominated by tech, Cincinnati area business owners outside of the category are often left out of the funding game. Enter Artworks Big Pitch.
 
Among its numerous community contributions, Artworks' business mentorship program Co.Starters is tasked with boosting the business know-how for creative and artisanal businesses in the area. Artworks Big Pitch allows Co.Starters graduates — and plenty of other local businesses — to showcase their idea for the chance at up to $20,000 in business grants.
 
In its second year of operation, Artworks Big Pitch is a 10-week mentorship program and pitch competition for creative entrepreneurs looking to get their businesses off the ground. Companies from across a slew of categories are encouraged to apply, with the exception of nonprofits, restaurant/bars, tech and software and application-based companies. The focus here is on businesses that offer creative services or artisanal goods; Big Pitch is the only local program of its kind to maintain that emphasis.
 
Artworks will be accepting applications through May 11, at which time eight finalists will be selected for the program.

Much like an accelerator program, Artworks Big Pitch pairs the finalists with a business mentor as well as a small business specialist from U.S. Bank to guide them through the development process across the 10-week span. Then, much like a Demo Day, the eight companies are offered the opportunity to pitch their business idea in front of a large live audience and expert panel of judges.
 
The actual pitches will occur in August, when judges will decide who receives the $15,000 Grand Prize as well as the $5,000 People's Choice award.
 
Last year, Noble Denim took home the Grand Prize for its sustainable approach to clothing design and manufacturing. Earlier this month the company raised over $120,000 to launch a new athletic wear line, Victor Athletics. The 2014 People's Choice Award went to Canopy Crew, a company designing custom treehouses that are kind to both the tree and the canopy-lover.
 
Those interested in applying to the program must be for-profit businesses established for at least two years. The contenders must also plan on investing any award money in the company long-term growth.

The application fee is $25 prior to May 6 and $30 afterwards, while Co.Starters graduates pay a discounted fee of $20. To apply for Artworks Big Pitch 2015, click here
 

UpTech Class of 2015: Dr. Scribbles brings entertainment to the exam table


With patient-centric healthcare on the rise, it's about time someone made waiting at the doctor a little less maddening.
 
UpTech graduate Dr. Scribbles is giving it a try by transforming an extremely mundane item — exam table paper — into an interactive patient experience.
 
"The national average wait time (at the doctor) is 21 minutes," says Angela Malone, founder of Dr. Scribbles. "Dr. Scribbles is solving the problem by providing the patient, especially pediatric (patients), fun, educational activities to make their office visit more enjoyable as well as more efficient."
 
The unique Dr. Scribbles paper is printed with puzzles, activities and coded interactive features. When a patient scans the paper with Dr. Scribbles' ScribbleVision mobile app, the paper serves numerous purposes, unlocking advertising content, patient satisfaction surveys and more.
 
Dr. Scribbles is the brainchild of Malone and Sheila Stidham, both parents who are more than familiar with the doctor's office waiting game.
 
"I was in the pediatricians office with my two daughters," Malone says. "We were bored, I was playing charades, the doctor came in, and needless to say I was embarrassed. The light bulb went off right there."
 
Malone started her entrepreneurship career in the early 1990s with a line of designer cat and dog collars. In 2011 she started Creategivity, an umbrella company for socially-supportive businesses with a focus on family. Dr. Scribbles is Creategivity's first startup. Stidham is also a small business veteran.
 
Dr. Scribbles found its way to UpTech's informatics accelerator due to Malone and Stidham's desire to build a product with unique technological features and mobile app integration abilities. Their exam paper has features like augmented reality, geofencing and quick response code scanning. The company needed an accelerator to ease their entry into the increasingly technical healthcare industry as well as the world of successful mobile applications.
 
Dr. Scribbles graduated with the third UpTech class in March and has kept the momentum going.
 
"We are seeing repeat sales from local pediatric offices, distributorships and a large hospital system on the West Coast," Malone says. "We have little ones requesting Dr. Scribbles rooms upon a second visit."
 
Much like many UpTech companies, Dr. Scribbles is firmly established in Northern Kentucky and plans to stay there. With the healthcare industry in a state of constant flux these days, Malone and Stidham see incredible potential.
 
"Due to the ever-changing effort to increase patient satisfaction and with that trend growing, Dr. Scribbles is the right product at the right time for the right reason," Malone says.
 

People's Liberty announces first 8 Project Grants, final grant program to launch


People’s Liberty continues to redefine the mission and tools of philanthropy, announcing its first Project Grants April 24 at its new Globe Building headquarters in Over-the-Rhine. Like all of its grant programs, the Project Grants were awarded to individual area residents with innovative ideas to positively impact their communities and, in the organization’s hopes, disrupt the status quo.

Eight winners were presented by People's Liberty co-founders Eric Avner (Haile Foundation) and Amy Goodwin (Johnson Foundation) and asked to sign their contracts, which stipulate that each would receive up to $10,000 to complete their projects within the next 10 months. A second round of Project Grants will be awarded in the fall.

The winning projects represent a wide array of community engagement, from site-specific events to arts and culture to online community building to public transportation. They were selected by an external panel made up of local civic, creative and business leaders.

People’s Liberty has now launched all three of its intended grant programs: $100,000 Haile Fellowships, awarded in December to Brad Cooper and Brad Schnittger; $15,000 Globe Grants to activate the Globe Building's ground-floor gallery space, with the first exhibition, Good Eggs, on display through June 12; and these $10,000 Project Grants.

The Project Grant recipients are:

Giacomo Ciminello: Space Invaders
An interactive outdoor installation with a projection-mapped video game designed to activate Cincinnati’s abandoned spaces.

Anne Delano-Steinert: Look Here!
A site-specific public history exhibition to take place on the streets of Over-the-Rhine.

Quiera Levy-Smith: Black Dance Is Beautiful
A cultural event designed to showcase diversity in Cincinnati dance and encourage youth to pursue their passions and break down barriers.

Alyssa McClanahan w/ John Blatchford: Kunst: Built Art
A quarterly printed magazine featuring redevelopment projects of historic Cincinnati buildings.

Mark Mussman: Creative App Project (CAP)
A project to certify up to 20 local residents from a broad range of backgrounds during a three-month Android App Developers educational series.

Daniel Schleith w/ Nate Wessel and Brad Thomas: Metro*Now
A set of low-cost, real-time arrival signs for the Metro bus system to be installed in storefronts at or near bus stops.

Nancy Sunnenburg: Welcome to Cincinnati
A new tool is designed to effectively welcome newcomers to a community by connecting them with local organizations, businesses and civic opportunities.

Maija Zummo w/ Colleen Sullivan: Made in Cincinnati
A curated online marketplace to encourage shopping local by showcasing products created by Cincinnati’s best makers and artisans.

The eight grantees will have access to workspace, mentoring and design and communications support at People's Liberty starting May 30. Look for Soapbox profiles of each of these eight projects as they ramp up over the next few months.

Applications for the next round of Project Grants are due by Sept. 14.
 

Jewish Federation event asks nonprofit entrepreneurs to explain what "sparked" their life changes

 
Entrepreneurship and storytelling are popular topics in Cincinnati these days. “The Spark Behind the Change” takes a different approach to both April 29 at Japp's OTR, focusing on social innovation and exploring the inspiration that resulted in new organizations and programs.
 
The event, organized by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, focuses on individuals who created innovative entrepreneurial projects that are registered nonprofits or not focused on making a profit, says Sammy Kanter, Mentoring Coordinator for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati's Esther and Maurice Becker Networking and Mentoring Center.
 
“What is really exciting about the Spark presenters is that what they are doing is affecting our Cincinnati community directly,” Kanter says. “For the most part, their projects are based here and are for the people of Cincinnati.”
 
Several of the presenters come from the arts community, a sector not typically referred to as entrepreneurial — although that perspective is beginning to change.
 
“At ArtWorks we see a lot of our work within creative enterprise, especially Co.Starters and the ArtWorks Big Pitch, as a support and even an anchor for creative entrepreneurs,” says Tamara Harkavy, CEO and founder of ArtWorks. “One of our core values is we nurture emerging talent, artists and creative entrepreneurs, connecting them to corporations and the public at large in order to empower them to transform the region. Nothing comes from nothing — we take something great and make it better.”
 
In the nonprofit world, innovation often includes a call for social justice and personal discovery.
 
“We believe that art creates powerful change and often works toward social change,” says Kim Popa, Executive Director of Pones Inc., the local dance company and serendipitous art creator. “We hope to create awareness of issues that the community may not know about such as human trafficking in Cincinnati, homelessness and trans populations. Pones Inc. performers use their bodies to speak their minds.”
 
Other Spark panelists include:

• Barbara Hauser, founder The Red Door Project, a pop-up community art gallery showcasing the work of professional and hobbyist artists;

• Jordan Edelheit, who started the first TEDx at Ohio State and went on to organize the first prison-based TEDx series;

• Derrick Braziel, William Thomas II and Allen Woods, founders of MORTAR, an accelerator focusing on non-traditional entrepreneurs in underserved communities; and

• Rabbi Laura Baum, creator of the Our Jewish Community website that uses social media, YouTube and other technologies to meet the changing needs of the Jewish community on a national level.
 
The host and moderator of the event is Jake Hodesh, Vice President of People’s Liberty, the Over-the-Rhine-based philanthropy providing grants to individuals and organizations working to make positive changes in Cincinnati.
 
Spark organizers and participants hope this night of storytelling will generate ideas and inspiration in others.
 
Kanter would like “to see more people creating innovative projects that are locally based nonprofits, that are created with the goal of generating change and making the city a better place to live for all populations.”
 
“I think that the title of the event is my wish for an outcome,” Popa says. “I am most interested in opportunities where people leave inspired or questioning or moved to continue the conversation.”
 
“The Spark Behind the Change: An Evening of Storytelling and Networking with Cincinnati’s Biggest Social Innovators” is free and open to the public. Get more information or RSVP here.
 

1,500 local students learn architecture, construction basics through Design LAB program


Over the past four months, 1,500 students in 78 Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky schools have studied the basics of architecture and construction while designing a model dwelling. Their work is part of the 2015 Design LAB (Learn and Build), a program of the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati (AFC) in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects of Cincinnati (AIA), and is on display at the Main Public Library downtown through May 2.
 
“Design LAB encourages innovation by fully engaging students in the design process, broadening their perspective and asking questions that enable them to actively participate in the built environment,” says AFC Education Director Catrina Kolshorn. “With a focus on real world solutions, students develop and create unique approaches to a design challenge utilizing research, critical thinking, problem solving, creative expression and visual/verbal communication.
 
“As students create and model their projects, they build an awareness, knowledge and sense of community through sharing their ideas, gaining an appreciation of the built environment and understanding the interactive role they can play in shaping it.”
 
The Design LAB program is intended to adapt to many subject areas and grade levels. Participants this year include all grade levels in K-12 classes on architecture, art, biology, ecology, engineering, geometry, language arts, science and social studies.
 
The 2015 theme of “Dwelling” gave students the option of a rural or urban site to design a home for their chosen client. Each teacher shaped the project and client selection to fit with their class curriculum. Students have chosen Greek clients based on their study of The Odyssey as well as Maya Angelou, Picasso and Dr. Seuss, among many others.
 
Students typically work in teams to create a model and a tri-fold panel display that illustrates their design process. AFC expects at least 175 submissions for the Design Fair, where entries will be judged on both the model and the display.
 
Four awards will be given in each grade category: Build-Ability for the projects most able to be constructed in the real world; Sustain-a-Builder to the projects using the best green building technologies; Solution Builder to projects showing the most innovation and creativity in meeting the client's needs; and a Juror’s Choice award. The 30 jurors, as well as the 65 classroom mentors, are all volunteers.
 
Design LAB is a revamped version of Architecture by Children (ABC).
 
“The new name reflects the emphasis on design as well as the learning and building of the hands-on, project-based program,” says AFC Executive Director Kit Anderson.
 
ABC was managed by AIA Cincinnati volunteers for nearly 20 years.
 
“Over the last few years AFC has become increasingly involved as a collaborator and partner in the program and has been the primary financial sponsor of ABC for some time,” Anderson says. “As the program continued, it became clear that in order for it to grow and strengthen it required much more time and attention than a volunteer group could give it. We all agreed that AFC would manage, fund and implement the program in association with AIA Cincinnati.”
 
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit entity, the foundation was able to seek regional and national grants that ABC was previously ineligible for, increasing opportunities for professionalization and future growth. These changes are already generating results, with a grant from the Stillson Foundation supporting the 2015 program. Design LAB is also funded by contributions from the built environment community and AFC’s annual Apple Award Gala.
 
Those donations also provided the resources for AFC to hire Kolshorn to manage the program, recruit new participants and coordinate the many volunteers who work in-classroom with the students and as judges for the Design Fair.
 
The 2015 Design LAB Design Fair will be displayed in the first floor atrium at the Main Public Library all week, ending with a public reception recognizing program participants 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, May 2.
 

UpTech Class of 2015: Hello Parent embraces its new name


Covington informatics accelerator UpTech celebrated the graduation of its third class of startups in mid-March. One startup in particular, Hello Parent, is living proof that a lot can happen during the six-month program, particularly in an ever-changing startup market.
 
Hello Parent is an app created for parents by parents that hopes to improve communication within families, specifically when it comes to planning family-oriented get-togethers. When co-founders Candice Peters and Amanda Kranias came up with the idea, they named the company Seesaw. Then, during their time at UpTech, a small hurdle arose when they discovered another company released an app called Seesaw on iTunes.
 
"We could've whined about it, but that's not really our style," Peters says. "There was a problem, so we solved it."
 
A new name isn't the only thing Kranias and Peters gained during their time at UpTech.

The structure of the UpTech office allows for constant interaction with other startup founders, as UpTech grads are permitted to use the office space to continue product development for up to a year. One of Hello Parents' most helpful mentors was UpTech alum Alex Burkhart, whose startup Tixers was acquired just last month.
 
"He gave us some really great advice as we entered our fundraising phase," Peters says. "He always told us, 'Until they write the check, it doesn't mean anything.' From that we know to always stay in fundraising mode, no matter what promises are made."
 
The months at UpTech also provided Peters and Kranias with access to individuals whose technical knowledge far exceeded their own.
 
"We spent a lot of time just trying to navigate the system," Peters says. "A lot of us (at UpTech) are nontechnical founders figuring out the dos and don'ts of talking with developers."
 
Upon graduation from UpTech, the future for Hello Parent looks bright. The company is set to move into dunnhumby in June as a part of their Entrepreneur-in-Residence program. Peters and Kranias have also been selected as finalists in Venture Connector's Venture Sharks business competition, one much like ABC's Shark Tank. Hello Parent will learn if it's the winner of $10,000 in cash and a slew of professional services on May 6.
 
As for the app, the Hello Parent team is listening closely to user feedback.
 
"The app that exists right now will be entirely different in three months," Peters says. "Our users want more — more ways to communicate, more information on the other families."
 
Peters emphasizes how different the world is today than it was 20 years ago, particularly with social media allowing everyone to chime in on parenting techniques.
 
"If my child does go on a playdate, I may want to know if there are guns in the home, if any of the children have allergies, a pool, a dog," she says. "We want to provide a place for families to communicate about these things in a nonjudgmental way."
 
As the company develops, Kentucky will remain its home base. Peters and Kranias, both Cincinnati residents for over 20 years, are pleased with their decision to establish the company south of the river. The incentives for startup growth in the state are impressive, including a 40 percent tax credit for angel investors.
 
"We're sticking with Kentucky," Peters says of their future plans. "UpTech gave us a chance, all of our investors are from here. Kentucky is doing a great job of building a tech scene."
 

Ocean's first startup class sets sail at April 29 Demo Day


Ocean, the nation's first faith-based business accelerator, presents Demo Day April 29 at Crossroads Church in Oakley to showcase its inaugural class of 10 startup companies. Over the course of the six-month program, each Ocean startup received a seed investment of $20,000 as well as co-working space, intensive training, mentorship and legal and accounting services.
 
“Demo Day is a day,” Ocean Executive Director Genine Fallon says. “It's a wonderful day, it's a glorious day, but it's a day. We've been preparing since the moment our class stepped in here, and they've been preparing for it since the moment they conceptualized what they wanted to build.”

Fallon says that having Demo Day in the Crossroads auditorium commands attention and is the right place for the 10 startups to showcase themselves. She emphasizes that event is about community and is open to the public.

“As the first faith-based accelerator, we want investors, key leadership and city officials to attend, but we are also extremely pleased to be able to present in a space that is welcoming to everyone,” she says. “If I'm hoping for anything, past the normal things that an accelerator hopes for — positive feedback all around for our companies and success tenfold — it is also for that person who has felt that entrepreneurial charge to be sparked to say, 'Yes, I can do it! I'm in the right city. This is the right time. Startup Cincy is the right space for me to be.'

“Demo Day is deep and wide. The depth of what's going to be talked about is moving and is deeply profound, and it's wide because it will bring a wide variety of people who will come and join us.”
 
Participants in Ocean's inaugural class represent an array of content areas and experience.
 
Cerkl, one of the more established Ocean startups, provides organizations with personalized newsletter content.

“Demo Day is going to be a hallmark event to really showcase the Cincy startup movement and to celebrate,” says Sara Jackson, known as Cerkl's Distributor of Pixie Dust. “It will demonstrate that this is one of the best places in the nation to build your business.”

Jackson and Cerkl founder Tarek Kamil have been impressed with their accelerator experience.

“Ocean is itself is a startup,” Kamil says. “To watch the Ocean model has been really good for us. Here, there is no failure — there is success and there is learning. Ocean may be the new kid on the block, but they're right up there with other accelerators.”
 
Alex Bowman and Chris Ridenour started Casamatic in late 2014 to match buyers to homes they'd be interested in buying, manage their schedule of showings and allow them make an offer from its website, with the prospect of receiving a rebate check after the sale closed.

“We both bought homes last year, and the process was terrible,” Bowman says. “We were surprised how every other industry has innovated since 2008 but real estate has not. We had an original idea to completely change the way you buy a home. But over the first months of the accelerator we iterated and iterated and figured out through customer evaluation and meeting with people in the industry that the initial idea we set out to accomplish was crushingly impossible and not what the market wanted at the time. So we decided to refocus.”

Casamatic's focus is now on matching buyers with their “perfect home,” altering them when new homes hit the market and instantly arranging showings.
 
Chris Hendrixson of Blue Seat Media has been working on his baseball app company with partner Jeffrey Wyckoff for several years. Since starting at Ocean, they've hired two developers and plan to launch their product in July.

“Doubling our team has changed everything, and we did not expect to be able to do that so fast,” Hendrixson says. “Up until Ocean it felt like we were on an island and had to encourage each other. Coming into Ocean and the sense of community just ready and willing to help us has been amazing. The classes and mentoring have been great, but knowing there are so many people who have your back is really special.”
 
Lyfeboat recently launched a roadside assistance app for the iPhone, with an Android version to be available over the summer. Co-founders Michael Reha and Phat Le says they're “big into learning and personal growth” and felt Ocean's faith-based program “was a right choice to build a strong foundation as a team” and a great fit for the Good Samaritan attitude central to their company.
 
The rest of Ocean's Class of 2015 includes:

Arena19, a web platform for sponsorship and branding opportunities

benobe, a career exploration app for teenagers

Quality Renters, which helps landlords find tenants

RINGR, offering studio-quality sound recording over mobile devices

Searen, producing affordable water treatment technology for aquaculture and desalination

StreamSpot, which enables live and on-demand streaming for faith-based organizations

Seafaring metaphors abound at Ocean, where participants talk about setting sail on a journey and riding waves, while meeting rooms are named after ports on the Sea of Galilee — apt comparisons for new businesses setting a course for adventure and success.

So come aboard Wednesday, April 29, they're expecting you at Demo Day. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., and the program begins at 1:00 at Crossroads Church in Oakley. Entrepreneurs Elias Roman, co-founder of Songza, and Colleen Arnold, senior vice president at IBM, will also discuss their experiences launching and growing successful companies.

Admission is free, and tickets can be reserved here.
 

Last call for Brandery applications; accelerator offers more than ever to new class


This Thursday, April 16, The Brandery will close the applicant process for its 2015 accelerator class. This year, program hopefuls have even more to gain by putting their names in the mix.
 
The Brandery, in partnership with Urban Sites, has leased two residential buildings in Over-the-Rhine to house their program participants. The Brandery is the first accelerator in the nation to create such a housing model, answering a persistent call from young entrepreneurs hoping to take advantage of what Cincinnati has to offer without breaking the bank.
 
Many startups that come through The Brandery move long distances to take advantage of the accelerator's reputation and services. By providing subsidized rent prices to members of the program, the organization hopes to entice a wide variety of applicants by taking an expensive housing search out of the equation.
 
The apartment development opens June 1, just in time for the incoming Brandery class to experience the new perk. The buildings are located near 12th and Walnut, a few blocks from The Brandery, and will place the new class in walking distance of several flourishing Brandery alumni. Each building will contain 14 two-bedroom units.
 
The newest Brandery class is also eligible for two Procter & Gamble fellowships this year. The fellowships provide further support to growing startups, particularly when it comes to intelligent marketing and business strategy.
 
Procter & Gamble has provided these fellowships in the past to the startups that show promise in specific fields. This year, P&G is looking for companies specializing in Connected Products and Platforms, Seamless Brand Building & Commerce or Big Data & Analytics. All Brandery applicants are automatically considered for the fellowships.
 
If you're interested in applying to this year's class, stop by The Brandery's final office hours this Thursday and meet the selection team in person. Though office hours are optional, they're highly recommended — register for a meeting here.
 

Electric car charging gets jolt from city government efforts


Electric car charging station access just got a little bit easier in Cincinnati with the opening of five DC Fast Charger stations around the city.
 
The first new charging station opened in March at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, with four additional units up and running at the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Cincinnati State and Findlay Market.
 
These new stations are Level 3 chargers, which can bring most electric cars to a full charge in 20 minutes. Level 1 chargers take up to 12 hours for a full charge and are used at home by most electric car owners. Level 2 chargers provide a full charge in four to six hours. 
 
There are three models of Level 3 chargers: one for U.S. and European car models, one for vehicles manufactured in Asia and one specific to Tesla cars. Larry Falkin, director of the city's Office of Environment and Sustainability, says “the installed chargers work with any vehicle that can accept a DC Fast Charger. They are hard wired with two types of plugs to accommodate both the Asian and the U.S./European protocols. Teslas will need to use an adapter, which is available from Tesla.”
 
The DC Fast Chargers use approximately $2 of electricity for a full charge. All of the new charging stations are accessible to the public with no fee to charge a vehicle, though regular parking rates may apply.
 
In addition to the new Level 3 stations, there are three Tesla-specific chargers in the AT580 building garage on Sixth at Walnut for use by building tenants and 21c Museum Hotel guests. The new Dunnhumby Centre Garage at Fifth and Race streets has three Level 2 charging stations that can accommodate six cars. 3CDC plans to include charging stations in future parking garage developments.
 
Electric car usage in Southwest Ohio continues to grow, with an estimated 3,000 electric cards registered in the region. The city of Cincinnati has an All-Electric Vehicle Incentive Program that offers free parking at the Garfield Garage and at any parking meter in the city. Participation in the program has more than doubled in the last year, from 28 to 64 enrolled vehicles.
 
The charging stations record patterns of usage, and the data will be used to evaluate the demand for the stations and to plan for future charging station needs.
 

Noble Denim looks to Kickstarter campaign to help launch second clothing line


Over-the-Rhine-based Noble Denim plans to launch a new clothing line, Victor Athletics, if its Kickstarter campaign succeeds. The second line will feature vintage-style athletic wear for men and women made from organic materials.
 
Co-founder Abby Sutton says the new brand is the result of two concurrent trends: customer feedback asking for lower-priced clothing and Noble’s factory asking for more work.

“Noble Denim has worked with the same partner factory in Tennessee for the last two years, and our relationship with them is very important to us,” she says. “We are always focused on giving our factory as much work as possible, but we’ve been hesitant to expand Noble’s production too much because we wanted to keep our focus on limited-edition items.

“We stepped back and saw a gap. There are people telling us they are ready to buy U.S.-made clothing at a more accessible price and factories desperate for the opportunity to grow. That’s why we created Victor.”
 
Noble Denim and Victor Athletics will operate in tandem but with different products, styles and distribution plans.

Victor Athletics will be sold online and release new styles on the seasonal fashion industry schedule. Online distribution eliminates mark-ups and keeps consumer costs lower, Sutton explains. Noble Denim will continue its small-batch production and retail distribution, which she says will be expanding into new markets.
 
Victor Athletics is wrapping up an ambitious $100,000 Kickstarter campaign, the company’s first, and Sutton says they pursued it to allow early Noble Denim backers to have a sense of ownership in the company.

“We see the sad state of American clothing today as an issue that belongs to all of us, and we want Victor to be a brand where the customer is deeply engaged in helping us making the change,” she says. “It’s a vulnerable thing to be on Kickstarter, and it’s uncomfortable to be able to measure our success in a very public way. But we want our backers to feel that we are relying on them to make this happen, because we are.

“At the end of the day, no matter how amazing our products are, the statistics won’t shift until people see this story as important and as a story that belongs to them, too. It’s the people’s commitment to our factories that will give them work. Kickstarter creates an all-or-nothing environment where that kind of ownership becomes possible.”
 
With just a few days left to reach their goal, Sutton says the company’s most effective pitch is to point out that 80 percent of the clothes Americans wore in 1980 were made in the U.S. but that number is down to 2 percent today — causing small-town American factories to close as a result and harming thousands of workers and families.

“By choosing to employ rural American factories again, Victor prioritizes how the clothes are sewn,” she says. “In fact, we’re going even farther by giving 5 percent of our after-tax profit back to the factory to continue to invest in their workers and combat the impact of outsourcing.
 
“If you wear clothes and you live in America, our story is for you. Our values are important to us, but we also don’t think people should buy Made in America on sentiment alone. At the end of the day, we’re making really awesome clothes.”

The Victor Athletics Kickstarter campaign ends on April 15.
 

STEM Bicycle Club rolls hands-on learning into eight schools


Students at eight area schools will learn hands-on STEM skills while reverse-engineering a bike during a 10-week bicycle building workshop this spring.
 
The Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club is a demonstration project of the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative (GCSC). Kathie Maynard, GCSC convener as well as director of community partnership at UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services, describes the collaborative as a “STEM education accelerator. It is really about innovating the types of education that we should be having: connected to the real world and to careers. We really want the programs we develop to have a partnership between the K-12 schools, business and industry and community partners.”
 
GCSC launched the Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club in 2014 as a partnership among Woodward Career Technical High School, General Electric and Time Warner Cable. Students worked with mentors in a weekly after-school workshop learning science and math skills, developing their mechanical abilities and writing about their experiences.
 
Results for the 2014 program were so positive that GCSC is expanding the STEM Bicycle Club to seven other schools in six local school districts: Aiken High School (Cincinnati Public), Amelia Middle School (West Clermont Local School District), Campbell County Middle School, Clermont Northeastern Middle School, Holmes Middle School (Covington Independent School District), Ockerman Middle School (Boone County Schools) and R. A. Jones Middle School (Boone County Schools). Woodward (Cincinnati Public) will continue its participation.
 
Maynard says the selection of participating schools reflects GCSC’s efforts “to be inclusive and representative of the region. We most certainly have a heavy emphasis on high-needs schools and at-risk students, but at the same time we really think STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math) is a larger problem than any single school or any single district.”
 
The expanded program also illustrates GCSC’s community-based approach. Walmart is providing funding and materials for the 2015 Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club and connecting seven of their stores with schools in the community. Maynard says that the hope is to “create the deep partnerships so that one day every kid every year has multiple and extended exposure with these types of authentic STEM experiences (science, technology, engineering and math).”
 
Time Warner and GE have each expressed a commitment to continue their involvement with Woodward and begin new relationships with two other schools, “a sign of success that we are creating lasting partnerships and places where business and industry can really hook into a school and provide help,” according to Maynard.
 
The 10-week program concludes with a May 30 celebration at UC for all eight schools along with business and community partners. Maynard anticipates several big announcements will be made at the event, including that all eight schools will participate in the 2016 program. GCSC hopes to expand the 2016 program exponentially — to 40 area schools — if funding and partners can be secured.
 
GCSC will also be announcing the details two other demonstration projects — one operating on the same model as the Bicycle Club but focused on 3D printing, the other a STEAM collaboration.
 
“Even though we don't always say STEAM (adding arts) we most certainly think that the arts are critical for the development of the whole child … bringing what the arts have to offer in the making, in the dialogue and in the design thinking,” Maynard says. “Those creativity anchors are critical to becoming a STEM innovator.”
 
Demonstration programs are one aspect of GCSC’s work.
 
“Our larger role is to get partners together and look for alignment,” Maynard says. “Convening a group and really starting to have those hard conversations around some of the larger problems, like lack of girls in STEM education, then dream about what the solutions are and create projects that address those answers.”
 
For the 113 kids participating in the STEM Bicycle Club this spring, their dreams of getting their own bike are about to come true — with some assembly required.
 
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