Ohio Venture - OVA Review Newsletter
News from the Ohio Venture Association meeting on March 7, 2014

Keynote Address:

Venture Capital Summit IX:
Beyond Silicon Valley: The Cleveland Way

The start-up and venture-backed entrepreneurial ecosystem of Northeast Ohio has come a long way in the past decade, with the evolution of Ohio's much-admired Third Frontier program priming the pump and a growing number of support organizations guiding emerging ventures through the process. But the region still needs more grassroots efforts organically led by entrepreneurs themselves, and the overall attitude and innovation culture could use some improvement.

Those were among the chief themes emerging from OVA's ninth-annual Venture Capital Summit, held at Corporate College East on March 7th.

OVA's Jim Weisman framed the discussion upfront. "For nine years, the Ohio Venture Association has been bringing you the venture summit. And over those nine years, we have looked at the state of the venture industry locally, we've looked at incubators and accelerators, we've looked at our entrepreneurial ecosystem, we've looked at the future of capital, and we've looked at other things…after nine years, we decided it was time to take a step back and take a good hard look at our entrepreneurial selves. How are we really doing? Are we fulfilling the promise we talk about on an annual basis? We want to look at the good, the bad and the ugly."

Naturally, there are plenty of positive developments to celebrate. Northeast Ohio is now among fewer than 20 regions in country which attract more than $100 million in venture funding each year. Start-up incubators and accelerators are only the latest additions to a thriving start-up culture, which also includes a healthy entrepreneurial mentoring system, both formal and informal.

But the warts also came in for some extended examination.

OVA board member Morris Wheeler, a self-described micro VC, noted "we owe a debt, as entrepreneurs and a community, to Jumpstart and the Ohio Third Frontier Fund and to all of those people who pioneered and got us to where we are. By the same token, it's time for them to realize that their job as a leader is done, and it's time for the entrepreneurs to become the leaders of our community."

Robert Hatta, a Cleveland native who returned to the region after stints at Apple and Netflix, referred to a keynote presentation about Kansas City's emerging startup village: "I'm struck by how it was led organically, by entrepreneurs. That's something we still struggle with" in this region.

One Community's Lev Gonick put it more bluntly. "The biggest challenge we face, it's been my observation since I came here from Silicon Valley 15 years ago almost, is attitude. We have a persistent and deep Eeyore complex (a reference to a cartoon character who's steeped in self-pity). Because when you think about what we have, we've got all the ingredients…but we choose not to celebrate it. Woe is us."

In the end, he concluded "the issue is attitude and moxie. Turn up the moxie."

A few other notable observations from the summit:

OVA president Chris Sklarin: "The Midwest is the best place in the country to go find investments. It's why Edison is here, it's why they opened up an office three years ago. There are tremendous opportunities, there are good entrepreneurs. The culture is full of people who know how to talk to customers, understand their pain points, and build something that will fix those."

The Riverside Company's Bill Seelbach: "At this point in time, literally today, we are in relatively decent shape in terms of early stage money, seed capital. That's not to say it's easy, but it's relatively available, at least compared to ten years ago in this community, the earliest stage funding after family and friends."

Jumpstart's John Blair: "The ideas here are as good as they are anywhere I've ever seen. The talent here is really good, but needs more density, though it's pretty darn close. What's missing is the capital. But I've also noticed a couple other things as well. The truth is we are more conservative here. We're less willing to go out on the risk curve as other do, and I think that's holding us back a little."

Webcast from the Meeting:

Click on the image below to view the Part 1 presentation as video.

Video Webcast from Recent Meeting

Here is Part 2.

Webcasts produced by Tom Kondilas.

OVA's Video Archive is Online:

OVA is pleased to offer an archive of program videos to its website. You'll find the full video record of most OVA formal programs since 2008 at www.ohioventure.org/video-archive.html.

Upcoming Meeting Dates:

  • May 9, 2014
    Mark Chance
    Vice Dean for Research
    CWRU School of Medicine
  • June 13, 2014
    Venture of the Year

See complete details and registration for these events.

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