On Monday, April 7, 2014, at the newly expanded, world-renowned Cleveland Museum of Art, the first Northeast Ohio Entrepreneur Expo took place. This was an all afternoon event with elements of a trade show, networking, speed dating, a short talk, and a panel of VCs.
The event was organized by Jumpstart, a Cleveland based non-profit, which for 11 years has been the leading spear carrier in a homegrown effort to develop and build a more entrepreneurial attitude and community in Northeast Ohio (NEO). Jumpstart is the brainchild of Ray Leach, who has worked tirelessly to procure tax-supported funding and related support from the State of Ohio and the Greater Cleveland community to advance entrepreneurism in NEO. Mr. Leach may be the leading evangelist of entrepreneurism in NEO and perhaps all of Ohio.
In addition to holding community events, Jumpstart has ongoing programs of training and mentoring for all of the NEO community. Jumpstart also provides financial resources to a subset of its clients and has a portfolio of very early stage investments of approximately $15 million.
The Expo took place in the large, new atrium of the Museum. Around the perimeter of the main floor and threaded through the floor were tables, one for each of approximately 250 early stage companies or service providers:
Attendees were free to roam and interact with the entrepreneurs and service providers and enjoy demos or see products or prototypes.
On the atrium’s second floor balcony, approximately 100 tables were set up for speed dating between entrepreneurs and service providers such as funders, attorneys, accountants, etc. The entrepreneurs selected their preferred dates, and organizers created a schedule for all participants that included up to nine speed dates of 8 minutes each.
After the dating portion of the afternoon, Mr. Leach gave a short talk on NEO entrepreurism and Jumpstart, and a VC panel concluded the formal portion of the afternoon. Time was left for another hour plus on the floor for visiting with exhibitors and networking with refreshments.
All in all, a great event, especially noteworth for a first-time event. Very well done!
I visited with (or speed dated) many of the startups and their entrepreneurs. Notable startups included:
Backpack is a peer-to-peer platform that gives people access to overseas markets by connecting buyers and travelers.
Bold Guidance is a mobile app that helps guide students through college application process, while letting counselors and parents view their progress.
Cleveland Whiskey has developed technology to accelerate the production of whiskey and is producing and selling product.
Crowdentials makes regulatory compliance software that helps private companies and investors alike navigate the regulations of the JOBS Act.
GiveNext is an online and mobile dashboard where donors transact and manage their charitable giving in partnership with the causes about which they care.
HolePatch offers an alternative to temporary pothole patching which consists of a durable bag containing a customized non-Newtonian fluid.
MiracleFone is developing a product that enables users to receive a phone call to “interrupt” a talkative coworker or awkward social situation.
Prezto is a remote gifting company that allows you to instantly and spontaneously send a gift to a friend.
Right Time is building a mathematical system that measures criminal offender rehabilitation efforts in real-time.
StreamLink Software provides web-based grant and board management software.
By the way, the Cleveland Museum of Art is located in University Circle adjacent to Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Severance Hall, and other civic treasures.
The day after the Expo, Tuesday, I drove to Pittsburgh to discuss a business opportunity with a specialized wealth manager started and managed by a Princeton classmate.
On Wednesday, I met with Charles Stack of Flashstarts and discussed a range of subjects including the small fund Flashstarts is raising. Later I attended a portion of a program organized by BioEnterprise that had a 1 hour VC panel which then yielded the floor to the featured entrepreneur, Mr. Stack.
On Wednesday I was very fortunate to meet with another Princeton classmate, J. Kearny Shanahan, who is a business lawyer in Cleveland and Washington. (Coincidentally, Kearny is counsel to Expo participant, Bold Guidance, having provided services pro-bono during that firm’s idea/incubation stage.) I alway enjoy and am most appreciative of Kearny’s time and wise comments – in that regard, Kearny gets full credit for suggesting the new & improved tagline on this blog’s header…Thank you, Kearny!