ohio third frontier expands entrepreneurship boot camp to accelerators statewide
Deep underground, accelerators such as the one at CERN (Europe) and at Fermilab, Illinois, send particles at massive speeds in collision courses with one another to reveal, scientists hope, the secrets of the physical universe.
Ohio students and business people are taking a leaf from this process. They use accelerators to focus on talent, initial financial support, and ongoing investment – what they consider to be the secrets of building new businesses to bring economic growth to the state.
Both companies and university programs have been experimenting to see what helps create a business, secure funding for that business, and help it take root in Ohio. They also want to know how fast it can be done. Thus the name accelerator for an entity that helps create new businesses.
The State of Ohio supports this vision of economic growth through Ohio Third Frontier
. The ONE Fund
(Ohio’s New Entrepreneurs), a Third Frontier initiative, recently awarded $760,000 in a package of grants to four Ohio accelerators. The companies will select a number of two-to-five-person teams, each supported by $20,000 for business and living expenses. Backed up by the accelerators’ access to mentors, experts – people who have been through the startup process – and investors, they'll undergo an intensive twelve-week “boot camp.”
Lisa Delp, Executive Director of the Ohio Third Frontier, gives her take on the value of this program – how it serves the business community of the state and through it, the public. “It helps to stimulate activity in a younger audience. We started with [students] because at that age they have a lot of enthusiasm, involvement in IT, good ideas to build the next generation of serial entrepreneurs. It’s the creating of new companies and new technologies, in part stimulating the younger section of our population.”
The outcome of the process, according to Todd Goldstein, co-founder of Shaker Launchhouse
in Shaker Heights, one of this year’s funded accelerators, “includes the creation of a brand, business data, and a go-to market strategy – in a nutshell – the things investors want!”
Launchhouse focuses on business and healthcare software, and web-based technologies. And though no one on staff at Launchhouse is named Marx, the company has posted a Manifesto on its website, listing its Principles for a Revolution. Not unsurprisingly, the focus of such revolution is not the proletariat but entrepreneurs.
Shaker Launchhouse joins three other accelerators – Innov8 for Health
and The Brandery
in Cincinnati, and the Ohio State University in Columbus, through its 10xelerator
(10x) program. Innov8 for Health will support ten 8 teams with $160,000, while the other three will support 10 teams with $200,000 each. At the conclusion of their training will come the test. The teams present their startup ideas to investors, who determine whether the startup ideas have staying power.
Dave Knox is Co-founder of The Brandery, a unique accelerator that seeks to build upon Cincinnati's global reputation as a hub of brand and consumer marketing talent. “Our focus is on consumer based startups where design and marketing can be a point of differentiation.” Hence the company name.
As an accelerator, The Brandery graduated 14 companies in 2010 and 2011. Knox explains, “The companies that enter The Brandery are already businesses. Our focus is accelerating their efforts. As of this morning (early March) we have already received applications from 15 different countries [for the 2012 team competition].”
Knox believes that Cincinnati is the place to be in Ohio, because of “the positioning of Cincinnati as a top 5 Consumer Marketing region.” Ten Fortune 500 Headquarters make their home in this southernmost Ohio city.
According to Sunnie Southern, co-founder of Innov8 for Health, a community wide effort to improve health, attract and retain top talent, and create jobs, Cincinnati is also ”a national focal point for health IT. We have one of the most developed Health Information Exchanges in the country.”
The ten teams that work with Innov8 will be mentored by other successful companies. “The practical advice and boot-strapping mentality they bring will help build strong, nimble and resourceful companies that can solve problems for customers and provide great returns for investors. Bottom line – we help companies refine their ideas, get them ready, get them launched, and get them funded.”
What about the hedgerow of insurance and pharmaceutical barriers to new products? Southern says, “We have identified several experts in the field to serve as a resource for our teams to ensure that we’re able to support the successful commercialization of [new] products.”
For OSU’s 10x program, run by Dr. S. Michael Camp, this year’s awards mark the second go-round of state money granted to his program. Camp is the executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship
at the Fisher College of Business at OSU. The 2011 grant was a pilot program for ONE, and Camp says, “Out of the 10 teams we accepted, 9 graduated and 6 raised some form of funding. Five of the teams have done quite well. Several are putting down roots in Ohio.” (The awards stipulate that startups must make Ohio their initial home, though they may relocate later on.)
Continues Camp, “Flarecode
[which creates personal websites to bring multiple streams of digital content together in a single place] is still thriving in Athens.” He also mentions Ohio companies Acceptd
(simplifies the application process for university arts programs, eFuneral
(provides specific information to families to help them streamline their search for funeral services, LyoGo
(delivers an innovative delivery system for biologics) and Kout
(provides an e-commerce platform for micro merchants who do not need a bricks and mortar site). “All five of those teams have raised four million since the first class completed.”
LyoGo has recently taken up lodgings in Columbus. The company’s founder, Peter Greco, credits the 10x program with making LyoGo’s startup possible as well as securing $1 million in additional investment money. The company has innovated the way in which freeze-dried drugs for cancer, MS, arthritis, fertility treatments, etc., are stored, reconstituted and delivered to the patient (basically through injection). The new process makes it possible for more patients to give their own injections, cutting down on doctor visits and thus healthcare costs.
Camp says, “I believe we are only just beginning to turn the entrepreneurial flywheel that will transform and drive Ohio’s economy in this century. I believe we are exploiting the value in new and innovative technologies."
He adds, "I love what I do and believe in the young entrepreneurs with whom I have the privilege to work. I love the enthusiasm, creativity and initiative my students bring to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs learn by doing. That is the heart and soul of 10x. My philosophy is that if our programs fail, I want to fail doing something, not simply talking about what needs to be done.”
With a philosophy like this, failure doesn’t appear to be an option.
Photos by Ben French
1: Dr. S. Michael Camp, Executive Director of OSU's Center for Entrepreneurship.
2. Lester Chee of Zoop Shop, 10-Xelerator Team Member.
3. Lisa Delp, Executive Director of the Ohio Third Frontier
6. Dave Knox of The Brandery7. Sunnie Southern, co-founder of Innov8 for Health