Ohio Venture - OVA Review Newsletter
News from the Ohio Venture Association meeting on April 6, 2017


Venture Capital Summit XII
Beyond Northeast Ohio: Expanding Your Horizon

Thinking bigger was the theme of OVA's Venture Summit XII in April. "How can we think bigger than just being a Cleveland company or a Cincinnati company or an Akron company?" asked facilitator Mike Belsito at the outset. Entrepreneurs from throughout Ohio reinforced the theme.

Robert Hatta, who spent several years with Apple, and is now a partner in Columbus-based Drive Capital, noted that "As much as we lament fear of failure in the Midwest, I don't think that's our main problem. I think it's not thinking big enough."

But that doesn't mean forgetting your roots, said Chris Ostoich, co-founder of Cincinnati-based Lisnr, a company that got started through a start-up competition but which now boasts such strategic investors as Intel. "We've been violently loyal to the community that helped us get started, but now we have global ambitions." Its headquarters has remained in the Queen City, but it has also added staff on both the east and west coast.

"For the first several years, we were just intent on being a regional company," explained Brian Graves, co-founder of Everything But the House, an online auction platform primarily aimed at Baby Boomers downsizing their living accommodations. The company proved its model in its home region of Cincinnati, growing to $4 million in revenues, before scaling up to a larger geography. Now, it has 1,000 employees, and operates in multiple states.

The CFO of CoverMyMeds, which recently became Ohio's first $1-billion exit (selling to McKesson Corp.), said of the Midwest, "We've got the talent, we just need to adjust our attitudes." Ted Frank went on to say that emerging companies in the Midwest can compete for capital with major coastal investors, as long as they have the proper confidence. "If you act like you deserve their capital, they'll treat you that way," he concluded.

And to achieve real scale, Ohio companies do have to look elsewhere for funding. "We actually have a reasonably healthy early-stage VC environment in Ohio," Frank said. But it's still hard to raise enough money here to really move the needle, causing many fledgling companies to "die a slow death."

A few more highlights:

  • "Build a better board than you deserve," a friend once suggested to Chris Ostoich.
  • "They're not different. They don't wear super capes out there. In fact, they're probably from here (the Midwest). But they have better networks there." Tim Schigel of Refinery Ventures, on Silicon Valley VCs.
  • "Your first customer is never your best customer," because you learn, iterate and get better over time, said Pam Springer, CEO of Oris Intel.
  • "It's equal parts luck and skill to get to this outcome." – Ted Frank, on CoverMyMed's $1-billion-plus exit.

Additional coverage:

Webcast from the Meeting:

Click on the image below to view the video.

Video Webcast from Recent Meeting

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/events/video-archives/.

Upcoming Meeting Dates:

  • May 12, 2017
    OVA Luncheon - Leveraging Public/Private Funds
  • June 9, 2017
    Venture of the Year Award

See complete details and registration for upcoming events.

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