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Ohio University’s Innovation Engine Accelerator graduates six startups

Six startups founded by students and recent graduates of Ohio University and West Virginia University have emerged from Ohio University’s Innovation Engine digital media accelerator, which is a summer entrepreneurship program aimed at keeping business and technology talent within the state.
 
The fledgling companies received up to $20,000 in seed funding and underwent a 12-week boot camp featuring mentorship opportunities with established executives and venture capitalists. Lynn Gellermann, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, taught in the program, offering his expertise in digital media IT.
 
“These six teams were selected out of 17 applications,” says Gellermann. “They were screened, interviewed and selected based on their team, their idea and application.”
 
Viable ideas with viable markets won out.
 
“We look at the prospect of [the company] being able to put together an idea or beta product in a short time that they can demo.”
 
The program is made possible through public-private partnerships that offer expert insight and financial backing. These include the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the Scripps College of Communication, the Voinovich School and TechGROWTH Ohio. “We also have private support from WesBanco,” notes Gellermann.
 
Participants, says Gellermann, felt as if they received a “mini-MBA” in the 2013 program, noting a majority came from engineering or communications backgrounds. And whether they continue with their startup or not, Gellermann says the accelerator “impacted the way they think.”
 
“We hope that some of them will start up, make it to the marketplace, raise capital, employ some people, and become viable startup companies in the region,” says Gellermann, adding the program is also about building a culture of entrepreneurship in southeast Ohio.
 
The 2013 companies include MyCampus, which created a mobile app that allows college students to quickly sell and purchase items. Razor Dynamics offers a product that improves mobile phone location services. AccessAble developed a website to provide travel information and booking services for people with limited mobility. Atlas Language Innovations created an educational online video game that can teach users Arabic and other languages. Foleeo developed an online portfolio tool for job seekers in the business, engineering and technical fields. Lastly, Anyvent offers software for inexperienced event planners.
 
“Students will go back home and talk to their friends,” says Gellermann. “It’s really helping to promote a culture of innovation at OU.”
 

Source: Lynn Gellermann
Writer: Joe Baur

Ohio universities clock in on prestigious college rankings list

In the 2013 edition of its annual National Universities Rankings, Washington Monthly awarded the number four spot to Case Western Reserve University. In fact, with an overall school of 93, Case shares the number three spot with Texas A&M. The Ohio State University earned a respectable ranking of number 28 with an overall score of 70.

The ratings are unique in that they rank schools not on various academic statistics but rather on their contribution to the public good. Specifically, they look at three broad categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).

Cleveland developer lures entrepreneurs into historic 5th Street Arcades

The historic Colonial and Euclid Arcades in downtown Cleveland suffered from 40 percent vacancy last year, yet this year they added a slew of new shops and have gone from half-empty to nearly completely full.

Renamed the 5th Street Arcades, the once-moribund properties have been turned around by Dick Pace of Cumberland Development, who has breathed new life into the spaces by luring entrepreneurial tenants with fresh concepts and excitement about downtown.

"Step by step, we're getting there," says Pace, who has focused on locally themed retail that serves downtown residents and office workers. "Each month, there's something new going on. Our tenants cross-market and help each other."

Last year, a retail grant competition netted Soulcraft Furniture Gallery, which opened earlier this year, and Pour Cleveland, which will open by November 1st.

Several of the businesses in the 5th Street Arcades will soon add outdoor seating, including Pour, Sushi 86 and a yet unnamed food tenant that Pace is working with.

Additional businesses that will open this fall include Herron Starr Apparel (a shoe store), The Tea Lab (a tea shop run by Bob Holcepl of City Roast), The Olive and the Grape, and a take-out vendor called C'mon Let's Eat (CLE).

Finally, Sushi 86 is expanding to create space for banquets and cooking classes, and Alphonso's, a men's and women's accessories shop, will open later this year.

"Tenants are drawn here because this is becoming known as a retail area, an area for shopping," Pace says. "That says a lot about downtown and what's happening."


Source: Dick Pace
Writer: Lee Chilcote

Startup offers consumers chance to Kapture every moment, garners Mashable attention

If you’ve ever had a brilliant idea, serendipitous conversation or inspirational moment, only to be thwarted by the inability to write down what was said, your worries may be coming to an end.
 
Kapture, a new wearable audio recording wristband, allows you to save and share what was just said. Buffering 24/7, the wristband saves only the last 60 seconds of audio with a tap of your hand.
 
“With Kapture, those you-just-had-to-be-there moments are actually available to share with others,” says Mike Sarrow, co-founder of Kapture. “Rich conversation can now take a higher spot within our overall communication mix.”
 
Since the wristband’s recorder is constantly running, users don’t have to worry about disrupting a moment by getting out a smart phone. The device records over itself after each 60-second interval, allowing the user to save only the moments they wish to remember.
 
“If you never tap the product (there are no buttons or screens - only a tap interface), nothing is ever saved,” Sarrow explains. “We want nothing to do with big data or continuous recording. We are about the good stuff.”
 
Founded here in Cincinnati in 2011 by Mike Sarrow and Matthew Dooley, Kapture launched a Kickstarter campaign last week in an effort to gain support from consumers and create a groundswell around the new technology. The campaign runs through October 2, 2013, and seeks to raise $150,000 to help launch the product worldwide. Following the Kickstarter campaign, the device will go into production with a planned launch to the public in March 2014.
 
“Most startups will tell you fund-raising never ends. And because we bit off a tremendously complex project, we're in the same boat," Sarrow says.
 
Sarrow and Dooley attribute much of their ability to secure funding and grow their business thus far to being a part of the emerging entrepreneurial scene in Cincinnati and tapping into all of its resources.
 
“It might be the best part of starting a company in Cincinnati,” Sarrow says. “It is a very closeknit group willing to help at every turn. Cincytech was our first investor and is leading our seed stage funding round. The Brandery has continued to give us ad hoc guidance along the way, and we are now a project working out of Cintrifuse. We love the support Cincinnati has offered, and we love the partnerships we have in place.”
 
As Kapture has continued to grow, more and more people are taking notice. In less than a week, the Kickstarter campaign has reached more than one third of the target goal and the company has found itself on the front page of the highly touted tech website Mashable. To find out more about Kapture, visit the Kapture Facebook page.

Michael Sarason
 

New commercial real estate firm fills gap in targeting minority-owned businesses

As an African-American, J. R. Foster, a 15-year commercial real estate veteran, found the lack of diversity in his industry particularly striking. After all, in a constantly changing global marketplace, many industry sectors consider corporate diversity to be a business advantage.

"Corporations are spending a great deal of money with minority- and women-owned businesses, but there is virtually zero spent in the corporate real estate space. There are very few minorities who go out and form their own companies after growing their knowledge base," says Foster, who's spent much of his career at Jones Lang LaSalle (formally The Staubach Company), Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan.

That's why Foster went out on his own and co-founded Robert Louis Group earlier this year. The firm is one of the only Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certified commercial real estate firms in the country.

Foster's background includes corporate real estate leasing assignments, sales, acquisition, financing and M&A transactions. The company has a working partnership with Colliers International to provide its clients services globally.

Foster and his co-founder David Hornberger are working with independent real estate contractors and are in the process of growing their leadership team.

Just as corporations depend on diversity in hires and suppliers to grow their businesses, Foster believes diversity in commercial real estate can help companies reach an increasingly diverse consumers base.

The firm offers brokerage, marketing, financing, property management and other services.

"We're not only focused on real estate, but the way our clients do businesses. We take into account the design of space, strategic locations and business objectives," Foster says.

By Feoshia H. Davis

First Student and Cincinnati Public Schools team up to provide new technology for students, parents

First Student, a Cincinnati-based corporation focused on transportation services for school districts, is partnering with Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) to roll out the ZPass for the 2013–2014 school year. ZPass is a new technology that allows schools, parents and caregivers the ability to “take the guesswork out of the bus stop, and give parents comfort in knowing their child got on or off the bus as scheduled," according to First Student.
 
With ZPass, each student is issued a unique ID card, which is scanned when they enter and exit the school bus. Each time this happens, the time, date and location is logged and transmitted to a secure database. School administrators, as well as parents, can access the same system to see when and where a child has entered and exited the bus. Parents can also register to have the information sent instantly by text messages or push notifications.
 
“Cincinnati is one of the first locations to have this technology,” says First Student spokesperson Jen Biddinger. “After a successful pilot program last school year, we are in the process of rolling it out on a wider scale.”
 
“By the beginning of October we will have grown it to 12 schools,” adds John Davis, Director of Transportation for CPS, “and our outlook is that we will initiate other schools and go district-wide by January of 2014.
 
“We were looking for something that could better track student ridership and provide information for parents,” continues Davis. “The ZPass allows a parent to estimate when a bus will arrive at a particular bus stop even in adverse weather conditions.”
 
“As a district, we understand that technology is changing our lives rapidly, and we want to harness the power of that technology across the board, be it in operations, such as in this case, or in the classroom,” explains Janet Walsh, Director of Public Affairs for CPS.
 
“We’re moving forward rapidly with using various kinds of blended learning models, which use technology in different, more sophisticated ways,” Walsh notes. “It’s an exciting time, and we are embracing it as a district.”

Michael Sarason

Cincinnati-based MoveMX to innovate mobile gaming

Cincinnati is home to MoveMX, a video game development team that is creating motion-responsive games for mobile devices.

While current generation console gaming platforms already have the ability to recognize body movement in relation to their game’s generated characters and environments, MoveMX is determined to bring that same vitality and energy to tablets and cell phones. By utilizing the devices’ built-in cameras, the games can be controlled through body movement.

MoveMx was created to provide a more immersive mobile gameplay experience,” says Zak Nordyke, founder of MoveMX. “We wanted to give mobile gamers the opportunity to use their bodies as the gamepad. We didn't like the idea of young gamers craning their necks and tapping buttons as the only way to enjoy content.”

Nordyke’s team is currently developing its first title, “The Chronicles of Glover.” It will be an action platform game centered around a young man named Glover who discovers mysterious body armor that grants him heightened abilities. The game is currently in demo stages and is slated to be available to play late August.

Dedicated to stimulating gamers beyond the simple pressing of buttons, MoveMX is lending a hand to the mobile industry by innovating its current technology.

We wanted to bring the motion gaming experience to mobile,” says Nordyke. "It allows users to play movement tracking games everywhere.”

Healthier and more physically engaging than traditional gamepad-controlled video games of yesteryear, motion-tracking with video games is a step (or swing of the hip) in the right direction for the often sedentary video game industry. 


By Sean Peters

Ohio companies garner coveted listings on the 2013 Inc. 5,000

Among other Ohio companies, two Buckeye State startups have garnered coveted national recognition.

CoverMyMeds, a Twinsburg firm that makes it easier for patients to get their prescribed medications, and Plug Smart, a Columbus energy solution company, both placed in the top 300 of Inc. Magazine's 5,000 fastest-growing companies in the United States.
 
Inc. Magazine's rankings take into consideration factors such as annual growth, revenue increases and staff expansions over a three-year period. Coming in at 96, CoverMyMeds grew 3,567 percent over the designated time frame using the magazine's criteria, garnering $5.3 million in revenue as of 2012.
 
The company, which previously received funding from Cleveland entrepreneur accelerator JumpStart, is an online service for physicians and pharmacists that provides prior authorization services and other insurance coverage for a variety of drug plans.
 
Web- and phone-based tools developed by CoverMyMeds automate the submission of authorization requests, a process that when done manually can be both expensive and frustrating, says principal/CEO Alan Scantland. The company does not charge pharmacies or doctors for using the service, instead putting the onus on  drug manufacturers that need to expedite the sluggish authorization process if they want to increase sales.
 
Being ranked by Inc. in the top 100 - and eighth overall in the healthcare sector - "brings us immediate attention, and gives us a third-party voice of credibility while adding to our brand and positioning," says Scantland. "The distinction is also great for employees, who are getting some well-deserved recognition for their efforts."
 
Lightning-fast growth has also opened the door for additional business ventures, notes the company head. "It's wonderful," he says. "We’re very excited about making such an impact in healthcare."
 
Plug Smart made the list during its first year of eligibility thanks to over 1,500 percent in growth and $6.4 million in revenue from 2009 to 2012. The energy services company helps commercial, industrial, nonprofit and utility companies implement a broad range of energy solutions, from HVAC to lighting systems. Among its goals, the TechColumbus-incubated firm seeks to aid clients in building energy efficiency projects and leveraging renewable power resources.
 
Getting your company's name out there when competing with industry stalwarts like Siemens, Honeywell and Trane is no mean feat, says Plug Smart president David Zehala. In addition to its overall ranking, the company finished number 17 on the list of Top 100 energy companies, and number eight in the list's top 100 Ohio companies.
 
"This establishes Plug Smart as a major force within the energy services sector," Zehala says. "Our teams represent the best and brightest energy engineering minds in the industry, and our success is a testament to their ability to help our clients find creative ways to implement energy projects."

CincyTech portfolio company BioRx, which enjoyed 181 percent growth over the past three years, was also listed as one of Ohio's top 100.

More than 180 Ohio companies were included on the 2013 Inc. 5000 list, including Vertex Body Science and US Logistics, which clocked in at numbers 19 and 34, respectively.

By Douglas J. Guth

Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Conference returns To Dayton

The third annual Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Conference (UAS) is set to return to the Dayton region next year, from August 26th to the 28th, with events playing out in the Dayton Convention Center and Sinclair Community College. The Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) and the Wright Brothers Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International will host the three-day conference.
 
The 2014 conference will continue the tradition of connecting industry experts with key government officials to discuss the rapidly evolving unmanned aircraft industry. An aircraft without a human pilot is colloquially known as a drone.
 
“We provide the venue to examine issues surrounding development and provide opportunities for further collaboration between all attendees,” explains Maurice McDonald, DDC’s Executive Vice President of Aerospace & Defense. The DDC has hosted the event since 2012 in partnership with various regional organizations and academia.
 
Why Dayton? McDonald says it’s simple. “Aviation as we know it really began in the Dayton region,” he says, noting Charles Kettering’s development of the first unmanned aerial vehicle, the Kettering Bug, in 1918 alongside the area’s favorite aviation heroes, the Wright Brothers. The latter, of course, is now the namesake of the local United States Air Force Base, “which is responsible for the research, development, testing, and acquisition of UAS technologies and the acquisition of new systems for the Air Force.”
 
The event will feature network opportunities and presentations given by senior leaders in the UAS community. “In addition, conference participants will have access to numerous UAS companies attending the conference and those exhibiting their company’s capabilities,” McDonald explains. “The conference also provides the opportunity to choose various break-out sessions where panels of experts discuss various capabilities, issues, technologies, and applications of UAS.”
 
For those looking for continuing education credit, training sessions will be conducted on the last day of the event.

“This conference gives attendees the opportunity to have valuable discussions around an industry that is still being developed,” says McDonald. “The Dayton region and Ohio will be able to showcase its strong assets, such as our world class research and development centers, our manufacturing capability, our significant aerospace supply chain and our public and private university structure.”
 
Source: Maurice McDonald
Writer: Joe Baur

Cincinnati church engages entrepreneurs with Unpolished

Crossroads Church, one of Cincinnati’s biggest and most robust churches in terms of its services and programming, has rolled out a new, grassroots initiative for its members called Unpolished. Unpolished is a group that came together within the Crossroads community to “encourage, educate and engage aspiring entrepreneurs.”
 
“At Crossroads, we are very excited about this,” says head pastor Brian Tome. “A small handful of our community members suspected that there were others thinking like them, so they held an initial event on one day’s notice and 400 people showed up.”
 
“We held our initial event back in June,” adds Tim Brunk, co-founder of Cladwell.com, one of Cincinnati’s newest startups. “We were looking for a way to simultaneously encourage the entrepreneurs within Crossroads and begin building a community around them," says Brunk, who is one Unpolished's founding members.
 
The initial event, in addition to attracting 400 people, produced some noteworthy results. “We had five short presentations from community members, telling their entrepreneurial stories,” Brunk explains. “The distinction from a ‘pitch’ was that we wanted the real story--what was hard, who did they lean on, what did they learn, what role did faith and community play, etc.”
 
“We saw some excellent fruit,” Brunk continues, “including a handful of businesses and partnerships that formed from people networking at the event.”
 
As the group is still developing, so are its future plans. Survey data taken from the first event led the members of Unpolished to begin holding office hours at Crossroads, which allow for one-on-one sessions between a subject expert and an entrepreneur seeking guidance. Additionally, development has begun on an app that will allow all community members to post needs and find help or resources within the Unpolished community.
 
“We are also looking into doing some specific workshops around startup related topics,” Brunk notes. “We have several other ideas as well, but there's plenty of planning yet to do.”

The church also began a four-week series last weeked called "Go Forth," which focuses on how to be an entreprenuer in all aspects of life, including business, family, personal and spiritual endeavors.

“While Crossroads respects the old,” Tome says, “we also see that the new is how things go forward.


By Michael Sarason

Innovative TREWGrip simplifies mobile typing

TREWGrip Mobile QWERTY is an innovative device designed to simplify the labor of typing on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.

Invented by Mark Parker, president of TREWGrip LLC  (a subsidiary of Outlier Technologies), this unit works in conjunction with any devices that accommodate bluetooth syncing. The phone or tablet is physically attached (not permanently) to the Mobile QWERTY via the micro-suction dock, where a wireless bluetooth connection enables the device to interface.


“I’ve been doing software development for mobile workers for years,” Parker says. “We hope people realize that the “hunt and peck typing” technique doesn’t work. I think we’ve reached the point where people realize this technology is limiting. It isn’t a software problem … it’s a hardware problem.”

A rear-typing keyboard allows the user to easily hold the Mobile QWERTY with both hands while typing at similar rates to traditional keyboards. Some practice is necessary to truly get the hang of it, which is why TREWGrip offers training exercises and games. Having developed the device from scratch, Parker worked to ensure it could be easily held by hands of all sizes by equipping the device with multiple sizes of removable hand grips on the side.

TREWGrip, a Cincinnati-based company, recently launched a kickstarter campaign to help fund the product’s initial run. 

By Sean M. Peters

UC launches its first Massive Open Online Course with free credit option

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are gaining traction at major universities across the country. These free, online courses open higher education to the masses. Students are limited only by their desire to learn.

MOOCs gained major attention in the United States after prestigious universities like Stanford and MIT began offering them. The courses are open to any student, regardless of educational background, and can last from four to 17 weeks. Course structure varies by institution, and each potentially can have thousands of students. MOOCs generally are about the process of learning, and students aren't awarded college credit for completing them.

But this fall, the University of Cincinnati of Cincinnati will push the boundaries of MOOCs by offering a program for which participants can earn free college credit if they complete it.

UC professors Drew Boyd and Jim Tappel will teach Innovation and Design Thinking. The course will teach students the tools that organizations use to innovate everything from new products to new employee training methods. Students who complete the MOOC and enroll in a UC Business or Engineering degree program can apply the credits. It will be a two credit hour course.

"This is one of the first, if not the first, option available to turn a MOOC into course credit," explains Tappel, an Engineering and Applied Science professor. Tappel and Boyd, a marketing and innovation professor, will begin their seven-week course in October. During those seven weeks, students will apply innovation tools, using them to create new product or service ideas.

Innovation can be taught, Tappel says. This course can help individuals or groups learn, step by step, the innovation process.

"All companies today realize that innovation is important (for growth)," says Tappel, "and it's different than creativity. Innovation takes creative thoughts and turns them into a practical, pragmatic result."


By Feoshia H. Davis

Enterprise Community to offer $35k in innovation grants in Cleveland

Enterprise Community Partners is hosting its second annual Leadership in Community Innovation Awards, providing the winner with a $25,000 unrestricted grant for non-profit organizations that are creating community development solutions in Cleveland.
 
Last year’s winner was the Ohio City Market District, which attracted 30 new businesses to the neighborhood through its grant program, creating 300 jobs.
 
This year, in addition to the Community Innovation Award, Enterprise is introducing the Nurture an Idea Award, which recognizes a group with an innovative idea. The winner will receive $10,000 and a team of advisors that will help bring the idea to fruition.
 
“The Nurture an Idea Award is about the future,” says Kathy Matthews, an Enterprise program director. “It’s an award for an idea that hasn’t been implemented yet and needs the wind at its back to move it forward.”
 
In addition to the $10,000 awarded to the winner, a few finalists will be selected to participate in a Crowdrise fundraising campaign. Ohio Savings Bank will award $10,000 to the organization that raises the most money.
 
The application deadline is September 6.

 
Sources: Kathy Matthews
Writer: Karin Connelly

Interactive comic proves effective tool for kids with autism

What has been a lifelong love of comics and video games for Tamar Medina has turned into an interesting business. Medina and his co-founders developed J-Lynn Entertainment in 2011. The Cleveland-based company makes video game comics -- interactive comics in which the reader controls the outcome.
 
In July, Medina began test marketing the video game comics at conventions. “The feedback we got at the comic conventions was great,” says Medina.
 
But at the conventions, Medina also got an unexpected reaction. Parents and teachers approached him to say his video game comics would be a helpful tool for children with autism. After some research into autism, Medina and his team discovered their games were perfect for cognitive training, collecting performance data, and research in autism spectrum disorders.
 
“Kids with autism have trouble reading and comprehending certain words,” Medina explains. “But reading a comic and seeing what’s going on with pictures, the kids really adhere to technology.” Because the comics are interactive, they also help autistic children develop their social and decision-making skills.
 
Medina went to top experts for help in developing a line of games specific to kids with autism. “At the end of the game, we put statistics on the social choices they made,” says Medina of one feature he’s incorporated. “We wanted to have it be fun and be interactive.”
 
J-Lynn Entertainment is still developing its regular line of video game comics and is talking to investors. The company has five employees. Medina says they are hoping to bring on a full-time programmer, and envisions J-Lynn will employ 25 to 50 people within the next five years.
 
“The passion is awesome and we think our product will be great, not only in improving the autism condition, but also identifying it,” says Medina. “I believe we have the ability and skills for growth. J-Lynn is currently polishing its prototype and hopes to release it this fall for android.

 
Source: Tamar Medina
Writer: Karin Connelly

Bad Girl Ventures is named Outstanding Non-Profit, is Ohio's first Kiva Zip trustee

The SCORE Foundation recently honored Bad Girl Ventures as an Outstanding Non-Profit Organization for its work with entrepreneurs in starting their businesses. BGV works with SCORE mentors in its business education classes.
 
“BGV has been using SCORE mentors and services since 2010,” says Reka Barabas, director of BGV Cleveland. “We tap into their expertise and we match up our finalists with SCORE mentors.”
 
Additionally, BGV is now a Kiva Zip trustee, meaning it can recommend businesses for zero-interest loans for up to $10,000 through that organization. “Bad Girl Ventures is the first Kiva Zip trustee in Ohio,” says Barabas. “We have a two-pronged approach to helping female-owned businesses. We provide education, and if they have a strong business plan and are ready to go, they have access to capital. Having these partnerships really helps our mission.”
 
Two BGV Cleveland graduates already have been identified as candidates for the Kiva Zip loan. Anne Hartnett received a $5,000 BGV loan in 2012 for Harness Cycle, which is opening this fall in Ohio City. Paula Hershman, owner of Storehouse Tea Company, is one of the first Cleveland graduates of the BGV program and will use the Kiva Zip loan to expand her business. One more graduate will be endorsed this year.
 
BGV business education courses also offer the opportunity to receive a $25,000 low-interest loan. The application deadline for the fall session is September 1.
 

Source: Reka Barabas
Writer: Karin Connelly
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