Startup accelerator's new director is experienced in all levels of entrepreneurship

Blue North, a Northern Kentucky entrepreneurship accelerator, has hired a new executive director.

Dave Knox is an experienced entrepreneur, and a cofounder of the Cincinnati startup accelerator The Brandery.  He’ll lead the organization that was started in 2019 to help build a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region, to help startups and small businesses find the connections, mentors and funding they need to succeed.

“We found a leader who experienced every seat around the entrepreneur table,” says Kris Knochelmann, Kenton County’s judge-executive. “He’s been an investor, mentor, adviser, board member, corporate executive, and entrepreneur.”

Dave KnoxIn 2010, Knox opened the Cincinnati office of digital agency Rockfish, growing it to more than 80 employees before it was sold to advertising giant WPP.

In addition to co-founding The Brandery, he invested in tech startups, venture capital funds, and restaurant and entertainment venues across the country.   

He ran Vine Street Ventures, a small, seed capital fund, and bought a small brand called Nature’s Willow, which he grew four times in two years and recently sold after achieving national distribution.

He is also a Procter & Gamble alum, having worked in brand management at the consumer products giant.

Knox is also the author of “Predicting the Turn: The High Stakes Game of Business Between Startups and Blue Chips.”

"Blue North is meant to be a front door for entrepreneurs," Knox says. "It's helping entrepreneurs get to the right place to find the people who can help them."

The organization has recently been in transition after the departure in 2021 of Brit Fitzpatrick, its founding executive director.   

Earlier this year, the organization hired TechGrit to study the state of Northern Kentucky’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The consulting firm says it specializes in designing innovation hubs to expand tech jobs and spur investments.

Blue North has also hired Jessica Wert as its program director. Wert has founded her own company, Anew Clothing, and also founded the Women in Entrepreneurship Club at Northern Kentucky University.

The accelerator was started in 2019 after it received a RISE grant (Regional Innovation for Startups and Entrepreneurs) from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s Office of Entrepreneurship.

Blue North’s work is not limited to the three main counties of Boone, Kenton and Campbell. It works with businesses in eight counties, including Owen, Carroll, Grant, Pendleton and Gallatin. It is partnering with the Owen County Chamber of Commerce to bring a national program called CO.Starters to that county.