Ohio Venture - OVA Review Newsletter
News from the Ohio Venture Association meeting on October 10, 2014


Life in an Incubator


  • Rich Rodman, CEO, Crowdentials (Flashstarts)
  • Chris Wentz, CEO, Everykey LLC (Blackstone Launchpad)
  • Jeremy Handel, CEO, Handelabra Games (Shaker Launchhouse)
  • Jason Nemeth, CEO, InStoreFinance.com (Bizdom)

Initial funding is nice, but connections are even better. Physical proximity to a community of fellow start-up entrepreneurs is crucial, as is building a regional culture that's accepting of entrepreneurship as a viable career path.

Those were just some of the central themes arising from a spirited four-way panel discussion on regional incubators at the October OVA luncheon.

"Are there too many accelerators?" video gaming entrepreneur Jeremy Handel asked, echoing a question sometimes heard in regional economic development circles. "When the entire graduating class of Case (Western Reserve University) graduates and we have to ask them to move to California because we don't have enough room for them here, maybe. But until that day, I don't think we have too many accelerators."

Jason Nemeth had no experience in pitching investors before he joined Bizdom Cleveland's initial class, but incubator staff members and mentors coached him on that subject. Equally valuable, he said, was the physical proximity to fledgling startups dealing with many of the same issues. "Having those people around you, talking through the same problems, was a huge thing."

Crowdential's Rich Rodman says he studied all of the accelerators in Cleveland, searching for the best fit for his company, which develops regulatory compliance software for companies raising money. "Who runs it, what's the process to get in? And we ended up choosing Flashstarts, because (co-founders) Jen & Charles have done this before." He noted the incubator continued to support his company even after it graduated from the formal program. "We're in great offices a few doors down from them, with a month-by-month leasing plan that you don't find in the city for startups," he said.

While three of the incubators have similar operating models, Everykey's Chris Wentz explained that his mentors are a different animal. "Blackstone Launchpad is sort of a different take on an accelerator or incubator. Rather than giving you money and taking equity in your company, it's a program that helps student entrepreneurs on a college campus. They've gotten us in contact with the right people that we need to meet here in the Cleveland area to get funding." His company, he went on to say, was begun as a class assignment at CWRU. The professor was so enthusiastic about the idea that he offered to invest, and also introduced Wentz to the BLP team.

In the end, it's all about the learning curve. Rich Rodman gave the highest possible praise to his incubation partner. "I learned more in three months at Flashstarts than I did in four years of business school."

More information:

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Upcoming Meeting Dates:

  • November 14, 2014
    Angel Investor Panel
  • February 6, 2015
    OVA Luncheon

See complete details and registration for these events.

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