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Pre-Seed Funds : Innovation + Job News

9 Pre-Seed Funds Articles | Page:

Pitch & Pour event highlights Toledo as an entrepreneurial city

uHeart StartUps, a University of Toledo digital media conference, will host a “Pitch & Pour” after party on May 10 at the Nitschke Technology Commercialization Complex  for aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges. The winning idea will receive up to $5,000, but attendees stand to benefit regardless by connecting with local business leaders in attendance.
Scott McIntyre, Manager of Business Incubation at the University of Toledo, sees the event as an opportunity to energize the entrepreneurial spirit of Toledo, and convince area innovators to realize their dreams right in the Glass City, spurring job growth for the hard-hit region. To do this, McIntyre isn’t just counting on Toledoans.
“We’ve solicited participants from Indiana and Michigan,” McIntyre says, affectionately calling it the tri-state area. “We’re trying to spread the word that the University of Toledo is a place for digital media innovation.”
McIntyre is familiar with the opportunities presented in Toledo, because he’s lived through the journey of starting a new enterprise in town.
After living in California for 18 years, McIntyre returned to Toledo to help out his mother, who ended up starting a regional lifestyle and culture magazine, InToledo, with her husband, Dennis Hicks, Minority Health Coordinator at Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. “In the process of getting the magazine published, I learned a lot about the city,” he recalls. “Toledo has a lot of advantages for small businesses and large businesses,” namely low cost of living and logistical location to the “knowledge bases” of Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland. For these reasons and more, McIntyre believes entrepreneurs will leave Pitch & Pour with a new picture of Toledo.
“We really have the ingredients to inspire entrepreneurs,” he says. “We’re working to get people to stay here and create jobs.”
Interested attendees can RSVP to the event on Facebook. More information at uheartdigitalmedia.com/pitchandpour.
Source: Scott McIntyre
Writer: Joe Baur

ed tech idea challenge grant program launches to support entrepreneurs

Turning Technologies and the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI) have launched the Ed Tech Idea Challenge Grant Program to support entrepreneurs with a passion for transforming education through innovation.
“The Ed Tech Idea Challenge Grant is a collaborative effort,” explains John Wilson, Director of Turning Foundation, an organization that aims to discover where the next great educational technology will come from and how the idea can become a marketable reality. Winning applicants of this annual competitive grant will receive up to $20,000 and access to YBI’s intellectual capital in support of starting up a business and developing an idea. The deadline to apply is Friday, December 14th at 4:30pm.

YBI has two of the nation's leading companies in the ed tech field -- Turning Technologies and Lightning Grader. Using compeition to spur innovation is the obvious next step, which Wilson and his staff believe could be the catalyst for invention.
“One of the exciting aspects of this kind of competition is that the truly innovative concepts are not something we are necessarily thinking about at this moment,” he says. “While I’m sure we will see iterations around possible mobile apps and digital content platforms for education, we also anticipate some ideas that are just not on the radar screen right now.”
The collaborative program will thrust aspiring entrepreneurs into the unpredictable waters of starting an enterprise from scratch, giving immediate real-life experience to tomorrow’s innovators.
“The entrepreneur will experience the ups and downs of developing a concept into a marketable product,” explains Wilson. “They will be surrounded by individuals at YBI at different phases of the same experience, and the collective wisdom, experience and support network will be valuable.”     
Source: John Wilson
Writer: Joe Baur

new innov8 for health accelerator taking health IT startup applications

A new health IT startup accelerator is taking applications for a 12-week business development program that includes $20,000 in startup funds.

The Innov8 For Health Startup accelerator is an outgrowth of Cincinnati's Innov8 For Health initiative aimed at creating jobs, attracting and retaining talent and improving health outcomes through innovation.

"This goes back to the Innov8 for health theme. We want to identify people who have ideas and support and incentivize them down the path of innovation," says initiative founder Sunnie Southern, also founder of ViableSynergy.

The accelerator will take applications until April 30. It's open to any early-stage startups grounded in health IT. Companies outside of Cincinnati must move to the city during the program. It starts June 11 with eight companies.

"The focus is on providing better health care at a lower cost. The range of solutions can be everything from making it easier to select high-quality healthcare providers to making doctor and patient interaction more efficient," Southern says.

Each company selected will receive $20,000; in return, the accelerator will own six percent of the company. Startups will also work with mentors and tackle business development aspects including sales and marketing, branding, technology and operations and navigating government regulations.

Innov8 For Health partners include GE Aviation, C-Cap, Queen City Angels and the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.

The Greater Cincinnati area is particularly suited for healthcare IT innovation, because many health providers here are further along in adopting paperless records and sharing secure, electronic patient information, Southern says.

"We have one of the most mature health information exchanges in the country, Health Bridge. It's really a cornerstone of what makes Cincinnati different; we have this deep expertise in sharing and exchanging data," she says.

By Feoshia Henderson
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forecasting software developer wins preseed funding from techcolumbus

Richard Wagner must have seen great potential for growth when he launched his startup, Prevedere Inc., in 2010. The name he chose translates from the Italian as “to foresee,” appropriate for a fledgling company that specializes in helping medium to large-scale businesses predict their economic climate.

Today, Prevedere’s patent-pending business forecasting software allows companies to analyze external economic data and market factors which could impact their operations. The application allows corporate strategists to compare industry-specific data, geographic factors and global trends with internal data, allowing for more informed decisions.

In March, TechColumbus announced plans to invest $300,000 from its pre-seed fund in Prevedere. The organization's pre-seed, convertible debt-investments are made in the most promising incubation stage companies in the Central Ohio region. Those that are successful have the potential for future investment.

“Prevedere is an excellent addition to our investment portfolio,” says Tim Haynes, Interim President and CEO of TechColumbus. “Business intelligence and forecasting harness the power of today’s computing, and Prevedere provides software to easily and quickly make sense of time-sensitive and intensive data that influences critical decisions that impact success and bottom line results.”

“TechColumbus was the first resource I reached out to,” says Wagner. “The Pre-Seed funds are a great starting point to fund startup activity such as starting to hire our employees and marketing our products and services.”

In addition to the support of TechColumbus, Wagner says that he has benefited from working in proximity to the Central Ohio tech development community. He also cites the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center and the Technology Commercialization Office at the Ohio State University as resources. Finally, he credits Columbus angel investor Mike Figliuolo from thoughtLEADERS for introducing him to the OSU's monthly morning pitch event, Wake Up Start Up.

Wagner says that Prevedere will apply TechColumbus’s $300,000 investment to marketing initiatives and to refining the implementation of the software application to meet the needs of larger businesses.

Source: Richard Wagner, Tim Haynes
Writer: Kitty McConnell

BringShare aims to make marketing smarter for small businesses

Founders Justin Spring and Danielle Walton had small businesses in mind when they developed BringShare. The Columbus-based start-up is an Internet-based tool geared toward meeting the online marketing needs of entrepreneurs, small businesses and marketers.

BringShare provides clients with an integrated platform from which they are able to see all of their online marketing data in a single dashboard. The overall goal of the service is to help users make informed marketing decisions that are more efficient and cost effective.

"BringShare does what other data aggregating services don't," says Spring. "It compiles all online marketing initiatives and presents the data in a way that is consistent and makes it simple to identify which efforts provide the best return on investment, which approaches need to be modified, and those initiatives that aren't paying off."

The site was built to be user-friendly. BringShare users can easily generate reports and evaluate which of their marketing efforts are generating growth, and which aren't.

"The amount of time marketers and small businesses spend gathering data from different channels, developing marketing reports and analyzing the results can add up to 20 to 40 hours of time each month. BringShare simplifies that process to a matter of minutes," Spring says. He estimates that BringShare's average monthly cost is less than one hour of a marketing professional's time.   

BringShare currently has five full-time employees. Each of these positions were created within the last year, and the company anticipates future hiring.
TechColumbus, which provides OhioThird Frontier support to emerging businesses, provided BringShare with a $50,000 TechGenesis development grant.  Additionally, TechColumbus provided BringShare with $250,000 in pre-seed funding and $150,000 from its Co-Investment Fund. Investors include the Ohio TechAngels.

Source: Justin Spring, BringShare
Writer: Kitty McConnell

Ohio TechAngels grows to largest angel group in U.S.

Ohio TechAngels may not have been Ohio's first angel fund, but since its founding in 2004 it has grown to become the largest --  not just in Ohio, but in the entire United States.

Earlier this month, Entrepreneur pegged the Columbus-based investment group as the largest in the country with 282 members, ahead of Los Angeles's Tech Coast Angels, with 263 members.

Cleveland-based North Coast Angel Fund also made the top 10 list, coming in fifth with 180 members. Ohio was the only state with two angel groups in Entrepreneur's top 10.

John Huston, who formed Ohio TechAngels in 2004, says there never was a plan to grow the group to any particular size.

"I moved back to Ohio from Boston, where I was a banker, and after a year I was bored," he remembers. "What I missed was working with CEOs."

But when he looked for an angel fund in which to become involved, he could find none in central Ohio, he says. So, to learn how to start his own, he enrolled in a boot camp run by Ohio's first angel fund -- Cincinnati-based Queen City Angels.

Since then, Ohio TechAngels has offered three funds and made 53 investments in 33 Ohio-based, tech-related companies, Huston says.

He says Ohio's angel environment has four things going for it. First is the Ohio Technology Investment Tax Credit, which gives angel investors a 25 percent tax credit for investing in Ohio-based tech startups. Second is the Ohio Third Frontier's Innovation Ohio Loan Fund, which lends money to early stage companies.

"If you're an investor, that's non-dilutive capital, which increases return for shareholders," Huston says. "It provides access to debt before any commercial bank will lend to them. Half of the companies we've invested in have been able to borrow under that program."

A third strength of Ohio's angel environment is what Huston calls "a great infrastructure of incubators" that are equipped to assist early stage companies in ways that help them succeed. And fourth are the pre-seed grants provided by the Third Frontier, he says, noting that a substantial part of Ohio TechAngel's three funds -- some $6 million -- has consisted of state grants that include money from the Third Frontier. 

In the end, Huston says, it's not about how many members Ohio TechAngels has, but how many companies they help.

"The myth is that angels are a bunch of geezers with a lot of money who are trying to make a lot more money," he says. "What we're really trying to do is make meaning -- by building entrepreneurial wealth."

Source: John Huston, Ohio TechAngels
Writer: Gene Monteith

LaunchHouse accelerator raises $250,000 in pre-seed funds, prepares move to new digs

A Shaker Heights accelerator has raised $250,000 in pre-seed funds that it will make available this year to 15 startups focused on software and "disruptive technologies."

Shaker LaunchHouse, formed as Goldstein Caldwell & Associates in 2008 to help technology entrepreneurs at the earliest stages move quickly from concept to first client, has made funds available to 12 companies to date, says Todd Goldstein, managing partner. Previous investments were raised by Goldstein and his partners; the most current funds were invested by a variety of private angels, he says.

The accelerator, which takes an equity stake in companies it assists, provides mentors, collaborative office space, educational programs and connections with investors during a process designed to validate an idea in 90 days and land a first client within 180. Investments typically range between $5,000 and $20,000 and average about $10,000, Goldstein says.

"We really formed because my partner (Dar Caldwell) and I, in our 20s, were starting our own business and felt there really were not good resources for entrepreneurs at the earliest stage to help them go from idea to validation, and to provide a community around them," Goldstein says.

While there is no requirement that portfolio companies remain in state, the long-term goal is to strengthen the entrepreneurial environment in Ohio, Goldstein says.

On April 7, LaunchHouse announced an investment in BestHomeHealthCare.com, a provider of web-based services to the extended care and home care industries. Previous portfolio companies include Sunflower Solutions, a Cleveland -based company that now provides low-tech solar power solutions in five developing countries.

Goldstein says his firm changed its name in late 2010 when it formed a partnership with Shaker Heights. Next month LaunchHouse will move into a building renovated by the city. Under a five-year lease agreement, the accelerator will have use of the 23,000-square foot facility rent- and tax-free for the first four years. In return, the city's community investment corporation will take equity in LaunchHouse.

Non-portfolio companies can pay a membership fee to take advantage of LaunchHouse office space, events and educational programs.

Source: Todd Goldstein, Shaker LaunchHouse
Writer: Gene Monteith

Lorain Innovation Fund continues to fill niche in northeast Ohio

ABS Materials, StreamLink Software, and Thermedx may appear to have little in common. One is an advanced materials company. Another provides software to nonprofits. And the other is a biomedical firm.

Yet all three share one trait: They received early stage funds from the Lorain County Community College Innovation Fund.

Founded by the Lorain County Community College (LCCC) Foundation in 2007, the fund today serves a 21-county area in northeast Ohio and has provided $4.3 million to 60 companies in high-tech growth industries.

The fund is supported by the Ohio Third Frontier and partners that include Cleveland State University, the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE), JumpStart, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM), Stark State College, The University of Akron, The University of Akron Research Foundation, Youngstown State University and the Youngstown Business Incubator.

Tracy Green, director of the LCCC Foundation, which administers the fund, says since 2007, companies assisted by the fund have attracted more than $41 million in follow-on investments and sales and helped to create 100 new jobs.

"The Innovation Fund really serves as the front door of funding for entrepreneurs," Green says. "We see a lot that are just surfacing out of the lab or out of an 'Ah-ha' type of idea. We're the first stop after credit cards, family, friends and second mortgages."

The Innovation Fund makes two types of awards: up to $25,000 to help validate a startup's technology; and up to $100,000 to validate a new company's business model.

One of the hallmarks of the fund is a requirement that recipients help educate a college student about entrepreneurship and running a business.

"Every award we make to a company, they have to agree to provide an educational opportunity or internship to a student," Green says. "So that student is able to walk shoulder to shoulder with an entrepreneur so they understand what it means and what it takes to be involved in a startup."

The Innovation Fund's successful model was recognized in February when the college and its foundation were named as one of 10 community colleges to be part of the American Association of Community College's Virtual Incubator Network. Lorain's role is to help replicate the Innovation Fund among community colleges nationwide as part of President Obama's Startup America Initiative.

Source: Tracy Green, Lorain County Community College Foundation
Writer: Gene Monteith

Creative start-ups get traction, add jobs, thanks to Cleveland Foundation's Civic Innovation Lab

Chefs adore locally grown produce. Farmers enjoy selling it to them. The problem, though, has always been connecting the far-flung parties in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

That's where Fresh Fork Market comes in. Founded by Case Western Reserve University grad Trevor Clatterbuck, the innovative start-up offers a supply chain solution that moves the product from grower to chef.

The concept billed as a "virtual farmers market" has caught the attention of the Cleveland Foundation's Civic Innovation Lab, which doles out $30,000 grants to start-ups it believes can provide a boost to the local economy. During its six-year existence, the Lab has contributed roughly $1.5 million to help nurture over 50 great ideas -- ideas that might not attract the interest of more traditional funders.

It appears to be working. A recent study conducted by Cleveland State University's Center for Economic Development found that the Civic Innovation Lab generated $9.4 million and added 128 jobs to the local economy. In addition to Fresh Fork, the Lab has extended a financial leg up to an indoor mountain bike park, a teen-centric magazine, and CityWheels, the first car-sharing service in Ohio.

The modest grants are often the difference between survival and success. Often more helpful than the cash is the mentorship and training these young companies receive from more seasoned professionals.

"The money from the Civic Innovation Lab really gave Fresh Fork traction," explains Clatterbuck. "We used it to build an innovative web platform for local farmers and customers to interact. It turns out that what was designed to be a tool for us is actually a desirable product to sell as well. The business has now evolved to involve licensing the technology to other parties across the country."

Sources: Trevor Clatterbuck, Fresh Fork; Civic Innovation Lab
Writer: Douglas Trattner

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