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YBI portfolio company snags international client

OAREX Capital Markets has closed on their first transaction by providing capital to Toronto-based Nintendo Enthusiast, a video game review website that has an informal relationship with Nintendo.
A Youngstown Business Incubator portfolio company, OAREX provides capital to digital entrepreneurs with future value. It’s billed as a risk-free alternative to incurring debt or selling equity.
“In exchange for the cash we gave him, he will pay us the money he receives from advertisers for the next three months,” OAREX Founder Hanna Kassis explains. “After that, he remains 100 percent owner of his company and debt free.”
Kassis says the deal came after pouring over market research that included reaching out to various blogs and websites.
“I emailed about 450 blogs and was getting mixed feedback,” Kassis recalls before Nintendo Enthusiast asked for a quote. “We Skyped three times, and I got to understand his needs, got access to his website data and quoted him. We negotiated a bit and struck a deal.”
In addition to providing capital, OAREX will be offering search engine optimization (SEO) consultation to the Canadian company. Kassis anticipates their SEO work will bring in even more advertising revenue to Nintendo Enthusiast.
Though OAREX is excited for their first client, Kassis is busy developing additional relationships.
“We are in talks with a few other potential clients,” he says, noting an increased demand for futures capital. “I’ve been emailing 50 to 80 websites a day.”
Source: Hanna Kassis
Writer: Joe Baur

Biz competition launches in southern Ohio

If you live in southern Ohio and have a bright business idea, The Ohio State University South Centers can serve as the launch pad to send your brainchild hurtling into the economic stratosphere.
The 2013 Biz Launch Business Plan Competition is designed to provide a space for hopeful entrepreneurs to grow and expand their ventures, says Meagan Barnes, program leader with the Ohio State extension in Piketon, Ohio.
The competition is open to existing businesses and individuals looking to start a company within a ten-county region of southern Ohio, including Adams, Brown, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross, Scioto, and Vinton Counties. Fresh ideas are welcome, but those building a new product line or seeking to expand an early stage company are also eligible to apply.
The contest is a celebration of regional entrepreneurship, says Barnes.
"It's an opportunity to spur some folks who, without the competition, may not have thought about putting their ideas out there," she says. "This is an area of Ohio that doesn't have an urban setting in terms of developing entrepreneurs. Individuals can put their ideas in front of a panel and then access funds to get those ideas going."
Applicants must submit business plans and financial projections by Oct. 15, with judging and an awards luncheon taking place later in the month. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three plans.
Barnes expects upwards of 25 participants for the 2013 competition. A five-person panel comprised of economic development experts and established entrepreneurs will choose ideas based on projected customer base, economic feasibility and other factors. Development counselors will be available to meet with individuals or businesses for one-on-one planning assistance.
Since its inception in 2009, the business plan contest has launched a variety of ventures, including a coffee company and doctor's office. New technologies have also emerged, such as a motion sensor from the YEI Corporation (formerly Yost Engineering), which has applications in defense, medicine and entertainment, says Barnes.
"We accept ideas from a wide variety of different sectors," she says.
A winning plan taking root in a struggling southern Ohio county is the competition's most immediate benefit, Barnes notes. There's a wider impact from a production and commercialization standpoint as well.
"If it's an existing business launching a new product, they will get that product manufactured within the region," Barnes says. "We want to spur economic activity in our counties."

Source: Meagan Barnes
Writer: Douglas J. Guth

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

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

Study: northeast Ohio's tech startups generated $270m in economic impact in 2012

An annual study conducted by Cleveland State University’s Center for Economic Development at the Levin College of Urban Affairs shows that startup companies in Northeast Ohio contribute significantly to the economy. The study surveyed tech-based companies that received assistance, either financially or in services, through JumpStart or the North Coast Angel Fund.
The 127 companies who participated in the study generated $211 million in economic benefits in Northeast Ohio in 2012, $270 million statewide. These companies helped create and retain 1,100 in-state direct jobs, with a total Ohio employment impact of 2,140. The companies and their suppliers also increased total Ohio household earnings by $125 million and contributed nearly $12 million in state and local tax impact.
As the early-stage companies grow, their impact increases, according to the study. Among those surveyed, 44 companies participated over three years -- from 2010 to 2012, showing 53 percent job growth and a 36 percent increase in economic impact over those three years.
“These numbers quantify the impact small companies made,” says Cathy Belk, JumpStart COO. “Small companies make a big difference.  It’s exciting to see the impact the companies we see every day are having. We see how hard these companies are working.”
With all of the organizations in Cleveland that support startups, in addition to support from Ohio Third Frontier, which provides funding to organizations like JumpStart, the region is ideal for new businesses.

“We continue to believe that Northeast Ohio is the best place in the country to have a small business or a new business,” says Belk. “We have such a robust ecosystem for startups and small business.”

Source: Cathy Belk
Writer: Karin Connelly

Turning Technologies acquires largest competitor, eInstruction

Youngstown-based Turning Technologies, a software development company, has acquired their largest competitor, eInstruction, a leader in global education technology.
The acquisition is the largest of Turning's to date and positions the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI) portfolio company to further their international dominance in Europe, South America and Asia.
Jim Cossler, CEO at YBI, believes this latest acquisition is a good example of the incubator's potential. “It answers a lot of questions that people had about our model,” he says. “We announced to the world in 2001 that we were going to launch a world-class market in downtown Youngstown. There weren’t many people in our community or northeast Ohio who believed us, but we’ve done that.”
Since its inception, YBI has seen numerous acquisitions take place and eInstruction will hardly be the last. Cossler hints, “We think there will be more in the relatively near future.”
Cossler continues, noting the eInstruction acquisition will bring growth to the region. “There will definitely be new job creation in Youngstown as a result,” he says. One area ripe for growth is warehouse space, which Cossler describes as currently inadequate to accommodate the merger. “They’re in the process now of looking for new warehouse facilities in the greater Youngstown area.”
Source: Jim Cossler
Writer: Joe Baur

HCDC launches Business Retention Council with $30k Duke Energy grant

The Hamilton County Development Company is tapping local authorities to identify and aid businesses that are ripe for growth or in danger of leaving the area.

With a $30,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, HCDC launched a Business Retention Council. The Council allows HCDC to take a more proactive approach to business growth and retention, says HCDC President David Main.

The Council is comprised of economic development and other officials from most of Hamilton County's cities and suburbs. It held its first meeting last month.

"We are putting together a list of businesses we feel have the potential for expansion or may be at risk of leaving," Main says. "We want these business to stay in their communities. We hate reading in the papers that businesses left or went out of business when we could have done something about it."

HCDC is a 30-year-old nonprofit business development agency. The Norwood-based organization runs a business incubator, and is a small business lender.

HCDC has reached out to businesses in the past, but the Duke grant will allow for a more formal business retention program. Retention efforts are crucial to the local economy, Main says.

"Business expansion and retention tends to be overlooked, but it counts for 80 percent of job creation in any community," he says. "It's important to retain, and if possible, expand existing businesses."

Besides connecting with businesses, the Council wants to create an "early warning" system to alert members of any Hamilton County business that is facing potential challenges. The Council wants to find a way to find businesses before they leave or shut down.

Resources the Council could offer businesses include lending opportunities, business counseling, and marketing and sales support. The Council also wants to facilitate open communication with local government agencies.

"We can't always make a difference, but we want to at least have the chance to do something if a business is considering leaving or in danger of closing," Main says.

By Feoshia H. Davis

Columbus-based 10Xelerator accepting applications for their 2013 program

Columbus-based 10Xelerator is now accepting applications through July 14 for their 2013 program.
Started in 2011 by The Ohio State University Fisher College in collaboration with the Founders Factory, 10X is a mentor-driven accelerator focused on converting promising entrepreneurial ideas into viable businesses and, ultimately, sustainable companies.

We’ve held three programs so far graduating 27 companies, which have gone on to acquire customers and raise follow-on capital,” says Brooke Paul, an “innovation catalyst” with 10X who is currently the founder and CEO of Taivara. “In total, past 10X graduates have acquired real customers and revenue as well as raised over $9,000,000 in additional capital from follow-on investors.”
Applicants interested in joining the 2013 class must submit an online application that includes a video pitch. “We are looking for high-caliber entrepreneurs and teams who have disruptive solutions that impact one of four core business sectors,” Paul explains. These sectors include big data and analytics, educational technology, cyber security and logistics technology. Applications are evaluated based on the founding team, maturity of the idea, potential market size and financial viability.
Selected startups will have the opportunity to join the ranks of other successful ventures such as Acceptd, eFuneral and Tackk. Benefits include $20,000 and 10 weeks of intensive work with mentors and advisors.
“We’ve assembled a network of mentors and advisors with real-world experience building business in our core business sectors,” says Paul. “By leveraging our mentor network, we can select the best applicants and accelerate the validation of disruptive solutions and acquire customers quickly.”
Channeling the experience of their mentors into four specific categories with startups interested in the same field will lead to a higher probability of success, Paul believes. Not to mention help solve real problems.
“We believe that acceleration activities should be directed at validating solutions with real-customers and a focus on moving quickly to market and revenue growth.”
Source: Brooke Paul
Writer: Joe Baur

This North Coast incubator welcomes entrepreneurs of the foodie sort

The Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen and the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) will be hosting a business incubator for food and beverage entrepreneurs this summer. The nine-week program will focus on the specifics of opening a food-related business -- from food safety and nutrition to marketing and product development.

“We’ll really touch on everything to get a business off the ground,” says Emily Sullivan, ECDI Cleveland operations coordinator. “We’re creating a food incubator program. This is a hands-on look at getting a food business started.” Participants also will develop business plans and have opportunities to meet with ECDI managers about securing a loan.
This will be a hands-on program, says Carolyn Priemer, general manager of the Culinary Launch. “It’s not going to be a classroom setting,” she explains. “We’re going to be out in the community and in restaurants.”
Incubator participants do not need to be Culinary Launch tenants to enroll in the program. However, there is a $200 fee once applicants are accepted. Scholarships will be available. Ten companies will be accepted. Applications will be taken through mid-June, with the program beginning in July.
Open for six weeks now, the Culinary Launch has six tenants, ranging from an ice cream maker to caterers to a custard frosting maker. The Launch is a partnership between ECDI, Carolyn and Gordon Priemer of J&M Real Estate, and Tim and Bill Skaryd of Hospitality Marketing and Sales.

Sources: Emily Sullivan and Carolyn Priemer
Writer: Karin Connelly

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

Campus Shift launches nationwide online textbook marketplace

Campus Shift recently announced the launch of their online textbook marketplace, allowing students across the country to sell and buy used textbooks locally.
Derek Haake, founder of Youngstown-based Campus Shift, says the idea was borne out of his frustration with the amount of money he was spending on textbooks during his undergrad.
“What we’re trying to do is give students a fair price on their books,” he says, noting Campus Shift does not purchase the books themselves, like a University bookstore might. “The marketplace allows student to connect with each other,” and determine a public location to make the exchange, eliminating shipping costs and time.
Haake acknowledges problems with purchasing books off eBay or Amazon, saying the student does not ultimately know what the textbook is really worth. Campus Shift works around that problem. “Our software finds what the book is really worth, so students aren’t in the dark,” he says. And it’s all done without revealing personal information. “Everything is confidential.”
Since launching in December, Campus Shift has seen hundreds of students signing up and listing textbooks on the marketplace. “All in all, we have a little over 175 campuses nationwide,” including California, Texas and Ohio. “Our biggest user base is in Ohio.”
It’s been a long, worthwhile journey for Haake, who started the Campus Shift project in 2006. He notes they’ve been working with the Youngstown Business Incubator “for about the past year,” assisting with presentations for initial seed money.
Excited for what’s next, Haake is asking readers to stay tuned for more in the near future. “We have a couple more software enhancements coming out in the next two to three weeks.”
Source: Derek Haake
Writer: Joe Baur

mobile app upgrades cavs fans from cheap seats to good seats for a fee

Donna Lee, CEO of MascotSecret, has always eyed with envy the vacant good seats at sporting events. She thought there had to be some way to get those unused good seats into the hands of those sitting in the cheap seats. So Lee and co-founder Jennifer Jeng set out to find a way.

“This is the problem we had growing up -- we always wanted better seats,” says Lee. “You go to the game, you see all the empty seats, and we thought there has to be a better solution.”
This past summer, Lee and Jeng moved to Cleveland from San Francisco to develop MascotSecret through Bizdom, a non-profit startup accelerator founded by Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. “It allows you to upgrade your seats during game time through your mobile phone,” explains Lee. “All you need to do is open the app, put in how many tickets you want to upgrade, and then move to your new seats.”
Lee says the price to upgrade might be cheaper or more expensiver than face value depending on availability, the game, and other factors.
So far, MascotSecret has been testing the app at Cavs games. As a Bizdom company, they have gotten the support from Gilbert and Veritix. “We’ve had a really great response so far," says Lee. "Customers who have heard about it want to try it.”
MascotSecret recently received a $25,000 grant from the Lorain County Community College Foundation Innovation Fund, which they will use to further develop the app. The company is beginning talks with the Indians to use the app. The goal is to sell the app to markets across the country.

“Of course we want to expand as quickly as possible,” says Lee. As they expand, the company will be looking for technical and marketing talent.

Source: Donna Lee
Writer: Karin Connelly

tech belt energy innovation center announces $3.1 million warren headquarters

The Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center (TBEIC) has announced a $3.1 million plan to renovate the Kresge Building in Downtown Warren for their headquarters. The building will serve as a mixed-use facility for early stage companies in the field of energy technologies.
Launched in 2009, TBEIC has secured funding from the United States Department of Energy, the State of Ohio Board of Regents, and local corporate and private groups in the City of Warren and surrounding Trumbull County. Their mission to attract and cultivate talent nationwide is finally coming to fruition.
“[TBEIC] is working to increase high-impact technology businesses and career opportunities in the Mahoning Valley by establishing a shared resource center and technology business incubator focused in the energy and natural resource industries,” explains Dave Nestic, Chief Executive of Regional Operations, adding the group’s hope to be a national draw. “The shared resource center will be available to entrepreneurs and existing industry participants from all over the country seeking access to TBEIC’s specialized equipment and infrastructure.” The idea stems from the belief that increased interaction among entrepreneurs increases the likelihood of success.
Nestic says the decision to locate in Downtown Warren was a strategic move to allow their startups to be surrounded by the amenities of a city – restaurants, parks and summer events. “This makes for a good, creative working environment for engineers and technologists,” he says, adding, “Warren is located in a region central to five Northeast Ohio research universities and two Pittsburgh universities, all within about an hour drive or less.”

When complete, the 39,000 square foot building will house a business incubator/accelerator and a technology center focused on grid-connected technologies.

Nestic sums it ups, saying, “TBEIC will be a powerful business attraction tool for the Mahoning Valley for startups and industry participants playing in the energy and natural resources space.”

Source: Dave Nestic
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
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