Ohio Venture - OVA Review Newsletter
News from the Ohio Venture Association meeting on November 11, 2016


Startup: Heartbreak and Bliss


  • Michael Dealoia, Tech Czar


  • Mike Eppich, co-founder, Phenom
  • Aaron Slodov, founder, Remesh
  • Brian Stein, founder, Wheedle
  • Rob Walker, CTO, inTouch

There's plenty of good local tech talent, but startups should remember that the market for that talent is also global. Midwestern investors tend to push startups away from primarily serving consumers, and those investors could benefit from a greater risk tolerance, relative to those on the coasts.

Those were among the key takeaways from a November OVA panel discussion at the Union Club. Four young startup founders traded insights on their ventures, all of which were launched in the last three years.

"I think it's a great environment for startups in Ohio. We've got some great support systems, we've got a lot of public-private partnerships and a lot of great resources available to us as entrepreneurs, as well as the great Midwest mentality of helping each other out," said Brian Stein, founder of Wheedle, a marketing, ticketing and booking solution for the hospitality industry. "People are very happy to give you a leg up, give you a chance and the opportunity to succeed. But it is still a sink or swim environment where you have to succeed on your own merits."

Aaron Slodov, founder of Remesh, a startup in the machine learning and artificial intelligence space, agreed about the friendliness. "We do like helping each other here, but we're much more interested in making sure that our investments here are not as risky... It's all about changing the mentality that taking those risks is acceptable here. And if we don't, people will only put their money on companies that are already succeeding, companies that are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. And at that point, it's not a startup at all. That's a business. So if we want to grow more businesses here, we have to be riskier in our investments."

Added Rob Walker, chief technology officer of inTouch, which leverages Bluetooth beacon technology for smarter cities, "Midwesterners want to see your books, they want to see your goals, how you're going to become profitable, whereas on the west coast they'll invest in an idea or a dream alone. That's just one thing to be aware of when looking for Midwest investors."

The quartet agreed that the best way to change that mentality will be to create several more successful ventures. "We need to see more of the Explorys stories," said Mike Eppich, who left a job at the Cleveland Indians to co-found Phenom, a marketplace for young athletes. His reference was to a local big data start-up, spun off from the Cleveland Clinic, which sold last year to IBM. "That will only bring more investment money into the community. And I think we will. We have, since Explorys."

A few additional highlights from the panel discussion:

  • "We changed our focus to business last summer, and went through accelerator programs, first with Flashstarts, and then with Tech Stars in New York City. So we've just kind of been on a quest since then, and narrowing our focus on a product," said Remesh's Aaron Slodov, who earned a physics degree at the University of Akron before working for Google.
  • "It's very telling that we all started as business to consumer models, but two have shifted to business to business. That's the environment here, and that's the direction that investors push us," said Wheedle's Brian Stein. He also noted the company used Polish-based programmers to develop the product. "We would not have been able to pivot on our product, given the runway that we had, if we had to pay local Cleveland talent. So it's a benefit to have a geographically dispersed team. It's small thinking to think you have to have all your talent here."
  • "As an entrepreneur, you're always constantly focused on your product, your app or your business. But it's wise to ignore it sometimes. You need to walk away and get a clear head. Because you can easily overthink it, so it's smart to take a break and go do something completely unrelated, because I've often found that the answer will come to me when I'm no longer working on the problem." – Rob Walker of inTouch.

More information:

Webcast from the Meeting:

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Video Webcast from Recent Meeting

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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/events/video-archives/.

Upcoming Meeting Dates:

  • February 10, 2017
    OVA Luncheon - The Art of the Pivot Panel Discussion
  • April 7, 2017
    OVA Luncheon - Design Disruption: CLE

See complete details and registration for upcoming events.

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