As anyone who has talked to me in the past year knows, I am loving our work in Cincinnati. Both the city and the state of Ohio are doing a great job fostering tech innovation, and the results are all around us — economic growth and a great quality of life for those who live here.
Recently I spoke with Nancy Koors, a leader in the startup community in Cincinnati. She has a unique perspective because she has been involved in the local startup community since the year 2000. We spoke about the growth Cincinnati and Ohio has seen lately. She says several factors have been at work for years in Cincinnati and are now starting to show real results. Back in 2000, a startup incubator called Main Street Ventures (MSV) started it all. MSV provided free co-working space and mentorship to local startups, and inspired the launch local seed funding organizations like CincyTech and Queen City Angels, she says.
The startup community thrived in early 2000, but grew stagnant after the dot-com crash. However, organizations such as CincyTech and Queen City Angels continued to exist and work to develop areas of focus. Since 2006, CincyTech has since funded more than 50 early-stage companies with the support of the state’s Third Frontier Program. “The traction at CincyTech & Queen City Angels paved the way for several accelerators to launch, with the first being the brandery. Their success inspired more angel investors to get involved,” she says.
With the launch of Cintrifuse, established local corporations have gotten more involved in and supportive of local startups, Koors says. “They are more willing to pilot products and services, helping local startups to be early customers and get real market feedback, allowing the startups to gain traction.”
Help from the state
And it’s not just Cincinnati — the state of Ohio has also been supportive of the efforts here in town and across the state by providing funding to local accelerators and matches to early-stage investments by some of the seed and angel funding groups. “This really helps more companies get started and make it to a critical milestone where they can raise money to be viable,” Koors says. The state also offers loans, such as from the Commercial Acceleration Loan Fund (CALF) for those startups beginning to grow and add jobs. It’s a great program that allows startups such as ours to have options beyond traditional venture capital, she says.
The community’s growth mirrors our own: Talmetrix earlier this year received a $1.2 million CALF loan to help scale our business. We’ve also gotten support from Tech Ohio. Both the city and state have played a big role in helping us grow here. I’ve lived in a lot of places, and it’s evident to me that the state of Ohio and city of Cincinnati are focused on economic development.
It’s taken a lot of work to get the tech community where it is today, but there is more work to be done. Koors says “Success breeds success — successful entrepreneurs tend to start additional businesses or invest in other entrepreneurs in time and money, once they exit a business they have founded. Having that cycle build momentum will ensure that this energy becomes an organic fabric to Cincinnati and the state of Ohio,” Koors says.
We see that in our own work. I believe the growth in Cincinnati is sustainable — if it grows too slowly, it loses momentum; if it booms, it can collapse under its own weight. Cincinnati is learning what its true value proposition is and how to play to its strengths — an educated workforce, high quality of life, and opportunities in arts, culture and recreation.
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