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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

Innovation Engine Accelerator welcomes six digital startups to Athens

Six digital media startups have been accepted into the Athens-based Innovation Engine Accelerator for a 12-week intensive summer program designed to advance entrepreneurship in Ohio.
Selected startups are eligible to receive up to $20,000 in funding from the program, in which participants refine their business models and products with the assistance of expert entrepreneurial advice. Participants will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors at the end of the summer.
The six participants include a diverse range of digital media startups profiled below:
AccessAble Travel aspires to develop services and online tools that provide information, user-based reviews and ratings of hotels, airlines, tourist destinations, public attractions and car rental companies for people with physical disabilities.

Foleeo is an online portfolio management service for business professionals, companies and organizations seeking to upload collateral work experience, talents and skills onto a single site.

Razor Dynamics seeks to improve everyday experiences and navigation for mobile devices through an augmented reality interface.

Atlas Language Innovations is developing an educational video game to teach languages, including Arabic.

MyCampus is a social mobile marketplace that gives college students the ability to buy and sell items such as tickets, textbooks and furniture to other students via mobile phones.

Lydria aims to create the next information delivery system for applications ranging from education to business and events.
Jennifer Simon, Director of Ohio University’s Innovation Center where the accelerator is housed, says the program was designed to respond to the surge of digital media entrepreneurs emerging from the university and throughout Ohio.
“The Accelerator’s goal is to rapidly prepare five startup businesses to pursue follow-on funding for their concept by facilitating development of market-tested new digital media products,” says Simon. While five of the six companies will receive up to $20,000 in seed capital, the final sixth company receives services only. If a company is not able to complete the program, the sixth company may receive part of its funding.
In addition to access with entrepreneurial experts, the Innovation Engine offers startups the opportunity to make use of 1,000 square feet of shared creative space, conference rooms, and cutting-edge equipment and software like Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro X, and other business essentials for launching a successful digital media enterprise.
Ultimately, participants will endure a more intensive schedule in this year’s accelerator with Venture Facilitators' Lynn Gellermann and Tom Parkinson providing a nine-step training program that includes everything from the basics of entrepreneurship to building a financial model.
Simon concludes, “This year’s program provides a more structured approach to entrepreneurial training by mixing qualified mentors and venture facilitators with exceptional results.”
Source: Jennifer Simon
Writer: Joe Baur

Empower MediaMarketing creates Disruptive Media Fellowship

Independent media agency Empower MediaMarketing recently created a new Disruptive Media Fellowship at The Brandery, Cincinnati's consumer brand business accelerator.

The $10,000 fellowship will go to a Brandery startup whose idea is most disruptive to the media landscape. The fellowship recipient will be announced later this month, as The Brandery's incoming 2013 class begins, says Empower MediaMarketing's Director of Content Strategy Kevin Dugan.

"It seems that disruptions are taking place almost every day as consumer habits change," Dugan says. "We feel that for companies reacting to that is really more of an opportunity than anything else. If you are helping create the disruptions, it can become a competitive advantage."

Empower MediaMarketing is an independent media agency that plans, buys, creates and proves media impact for its clients. Dugan and CEO Jim Price are also Brandery mentors.

The Brandery launched in 2010 to offer funding, mentoring and partnerships for consumer marketing businesses. Brandery companies receive $20,000 in startup funding, and pitch their companies to potential investors at a Demo Day at the end of the four-month program.

The Brandery is a member of the Global Accelerator Network, and companies from across the country apply to the emerging accelerator. It is annually recognized as one of the elite startup accelerators in the country. More than 60 mentors work with the companies, with leading Cincinnati-based agencies offering participants free marketing and media guidance.

"As a company, we have been mentoring startups since 2010," Dugan says. "We really enjoy the process and wanted to increase our support (of The Brandery). This allows us to increase commitment and help startups."

By Feoshia H. Davis

innovative startups will soon launch from the brandery in cincinnati

Two recent graduates of The Brandery shared how to pitch a startup idea to investors and potential employees at on of the Digital Non Conference’s breakout sessions last week. Hunter Hammonds and Freddie Pikovsky recently pitched their startup ideas at The Brandery’s Demo Day and are now in the process of procuring funds and building teams.

Hammonds is the CEO and co-founder of Impulcity, a city app that makes a night on the town a breeze. Users can buy tickets to shows and view the specials at bars all in one place. Originally from Louisville, Hammonds came to Cincinnati because of The Brandery.

While searching for employees, he realized Cincinnati has a lot of local talent—he hasn’t needed to hire anyone from outside Ohio yet because of the wealth of designers here.

Pikovsky, originally from Brooklyn, is the CEO and founder of Off Track Planet. His startup began as a travel blog three years ago and is now a travel site and mobile app geared toward people in their mid-20s and early 30s. Pikovsky was drawn to The Brandery like Hammonds was, and wanted to be part of the startup ecosystem.

“Right now is an amazing time to be part of The Brandery,” Pikovsky says.

Hammonds and Pikovsky know it’s important to sell their ideas, whether it’s to a potential investor or new hires. In both cases, they have to make sure the startup’s roadmap is clear and focused; otherwise, investors might not be interested and employees won’t know which way is up.

Off Track Planet recently launched its beta version, and in three months, Pikovsky and his team hope to have the full release out. Impulcity will be launching soon and focusing solely on Cincinnati to start with, but Hammonds’ goal is to have it be an app for those living outside of the Tri-State area too.

By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter
Caitlin is an Associate Editor for Barefoot Proximity

madwerkz studio creates visual effects that are 'better than real'

Robots battling natural disasters. Historic downtown Burton and its collection of 19th century buildings transformed into a turn-of-the-century Alaskan mining town. A virtual tradeshow display in 3D.

Creating these and other eye-popping visuals is all in a day’s work for Cleveland-based MadWerkz

Joddy Matthews, Founder and Director of Madwerkz, spent nearly eight years working for Sony, Pixar and Dreamworks in Los Angeles. In 2000, the native Clevelander returned to his roots and started MadWerkz.

The result is a team of award-winning artists and animators creating content, animation, design motion and visual effects for the advertising, film, TV, gaming and music industries. The growing company's stable of clients includes General Motors, Audi, Sherwin Williams and U.S. Vision, among others.

“We’re currently working on two new feature films,” says Matthews, who adds that he is not at liberty to name the titles. “They’re shooting the film in 2D, and we’re converting it to 3D.” MadWerkz is emerging as one of just a handful of companies specializing in 'Stereoscope,' another name for 3D.

“We’re getting opportunities to produce groundbreaking work in a broad range of applications,” he adds. “As a small creative shop with less bureaucracy than larger ones and in-house talent that includes producers, animators, videographers and designers, we have lower overhead, which translates into more project flexibility and lower rates.”

The company recently moved into spacious new quarters in the city’s Slavic Village neighborhood, giving MadWerkz room to grow. MadWerkz also has a presence in Chicago.

“For what we do, we love Cleveland because of the resources here,” Matthews states. “The location is accessible, and there are excellent schools, like the Cleveland Institute of Art, turning out very capable students in the visual arts. In addition, Cleveland State and the University of Akron have world-class professors teaching film and animation.”

Source:  Joddy Matthews
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

Youngstown at the Center of New National Video Education Update

Students in schools across the country start their day with news and videos from Channel One In New York, and now Channel One is turning to Youngstown to help deliver that content in totally new ways.

Perkins Communications, part of the Youngstown Business Incubator, won a contract with Channel One through Ball State University to upgrade their video delivery using the newest technology available in classrooms, including TV monitors, computers and smart boards, says John Perkins, co-owner of the company.

In addition to developing new software to connect technology devices in each classroom, Perkins is working to align video and computer equipment in schools and make it more interactive for students, he says. For instance, as students watch video about a news event, they can learn about websites posting more information about the event at the same time on their smart board, he says.

These upgrades are part of an initiative from Channel One to bring video technology in line with current Internet technology, adds Perkins.

Perkins was founded in 1999 by Joe Perkins, a former engineer with ABC, FOX and PBS. The company focuses on products and services that target advanced first generation computer and networking applications in education markets.

In addition to the contract with Perkins, Channel One also operates a Network Operations Center in Youngstown for all its Internet video downloads that go out to thousands of schools across the nation, he says.

Perkins has roughly doubled its workers from five to 10 to accommodate the contract, and more growth may be in store as the success of this project becomes well known in the marketplace, says Perkins.
By Val Prevish
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