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Local pet toy company launches new product via Kickstarter


Zigoo, a Cincinnati-based dog toy company, has launched its first Kickstarter campaign to fund its new Nutty Jar.
 
Like other Zigoo products, the Nutty Jar offers a safe way to give a dog the treats they love — in this case, peanut butter. The Nutty Jar is made of chew-proof, non-toxic and dishwasher-safe materials and lets pet owners spread peanut butter inside the jar for their dogs to enjoy. And unlike many treat dispensers, it's easy to clean.
 
This Kickstarter campaign, running through April 11, has been a welcome challenge for Zigoo founder Zach Day.

“I've always wanted to try Kickstarter, and things fell into place for this toy,” he says. “Finding funds to bring products to life can be difficult for any business, but that's a big motivation to try Kickstarter. ... The experience is something that's hard to prepare for if you have never been through it before. There is a lot to pre-work in trying to nail your pitch, from laying out the backer rewards to developing a compelling video. Then there is flipping on the switch and hoping others will love your idea as much as you do. It's a roller coaster ride.”

Zigoo partnered with Cincinnati-based Rebel Pilgrim Productions to help with their campaign.
 
If the campaign is successful, Kickstarter backers can expect to receive their Nutty Jar in August, with retail availability to follow.
 
Day is a Cincinnati native who pitched for three Major League Baseball teams between 2002 and 2006. He's enthusiastic about Cincinnati's innovative spirit.

“Cincinnati has proved to be a great location to start my company, and its entrepreneurial reputation is growing,” Day says. “I hope to become more involved in the entrepreneur movement in Cincinnati moving forward.”

In addition to the Nutty Jar, Zigoo also produces the Crinkit, a chewable sleeve to turn water bottles into safe dog toys; the Veggout, a chew-based distribution device for carrots or other treats; and the Boing, an easily cleanable tug and throw toy. Zigoo's first toy, the Crinkit, won an Innovation Award from Cincinnati Innovates in 2012.
 
Zigoo pet toys are distributed through independent pet stores nationwide and retail for $9.99-$19.99.
 

Learn how to build a business from some of the region's top entrepreneurs


The UC Center for Entrepreneurship and Commercialization hosts a free event on Thursday, April 2 that draws together some of the region’s top experts on starting a business.

“Igniting Future Entrepreneurs,” sponsored by Northwestern Mutual, will feature panelists ranging from financial advisors to startup junkies. The 4:30-6 p.m. event is open to the public and will involve a structured panel discussion, a Q&A session and an opportunity to network with the speakers.

Included on the impressive list of speakers are Matthew Dooley, founder of Kapture; Tim Brunk, serial startup founder and co-founder of the Ocean accelerator; John Habbert, co-founder of the Queen City Angels investor group; and Thomas Dalziel, executive director of UC’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Commercialization. Representatives from Northwestern Mutual’s Cincinnati office, including Managing Director Jackie Purcell and Managing Partner Shawn Kelley, will also play an active role in driving the conversation.

Northwestern Mutual is based out of Milwaukee and boasts an impressive network of financial advisors and agents nationwide. Though the path of a Northwestern Mutual agent is more guided and structured than that of a startup founder, there are elements to the job that involve maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit. Kelly and Purcell hope to bring sound advice and perspective to event attendees.

“The purpose of this event to educate students who have an interest in becoming entrepreneurs and open their eyes to different ways they can become their own business owner,” says Courtney Shoemaker, director of recruitment for Northwestern Mutual's West Chester office. “Future entrepreneurs should attend because they will be able to hear successful entrepreneurs stories on their journey to success.”

Each panelist will be asked about their failures and successes along the way, and a full hour will be dedicated to a Q&A session driven by attendees’ curiosities. 

Though the April 2 event is targeted toward students, anyone with interest in entrepreneurism is encouraged to attend. Registration is not required; those who wish to attend should arrive at the Tangeman University Center on UC’s campus prior to the 4 p.m. start time. A signup sheet will be available at the door of Room 427 upon entry.
 

Cincinnati startup Lisnr comes full circle at SXSW


AUSTIN, TEX. — It all started on a bus. 

In 2012, before the name “Lisnr” had reached many ears at all, several Cincinnati entrepreneurs joined the crowd on the StartupBus, a kind of accelerator-on-wheels that brings entrepreneurs together for a three-day bus trip where they can develop a business strategy and plan a pitch. The journey allows the riders to connect with important industry figures as well as get a feel for how their concept may be received on a grander scale and ends at South By Southwest in Austin, the annual music, film and interactive media superfestival.

At the close of the 2012 bus trip and subsequent SXSW experience, Lisnr’s journey had begun.

Lisnr is the Cincinnati company known for their Smart Tone ultrasonic technology that transfers data through audio. With a constantly growing client base that includes big names like RocNation, Sony Music, John Frieda and Atlantic Records, Lisnr is on the move.

This year, having quickly surpassed their financial expectations in recent months, the founders decided to bring their talents back to Austin, where it all started.

Lisnr CEO Rodney Williams and his team returned to Austin this week to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities and connections the festival has to offer a growing tech company. SXSW has exploded in recent years, providing attendees with more than just up-and-coming music acts and tech conferences — it's now become a breeding ground for brilliant ideas that hope to soon emerge as established companies. 

With an successful business under their belts, the Lisnr team hosted their very own event right smack in the middle of the city-wide festival on Monday, March 16 (which I attended).

“Three years ago, we were just a team with an idea on a bus,” Williams said. “Now we’re hosting a meet-and-greet at the W. It’s crazy.”

More than 100 people showed up for the event, including members of the investor group Mercury Fund, which has offices in both Austin and Cincinnati and has already invested in the Lisnr concept. Also in attendance were representatives from possible future clients like L’Oreal and CBS Interactive. When I spoke with Williams, he was trying to keep all of the business cards he’d collected from falling out of his pocket.

The Lisnr team has barely had time to breathe since their arrival back in Austin. Following Monday’s meet-and-greet, the team had dinner reservations with a New York company intrigued by their concept, followed by invitations to numerous shows and events until their departure on Thursday. It’s enough to make anyone need a serious nap, but there will be none of those for Williams and his team.

“We’ve worked really hard,” Williams said. “It’s so much fun, and I don’t want to miss any of it.”

Needless to say, Lisnr is doing well for itself. And though they've established a bustling office in New York City, their Cincinnati office on Broadway is still their home turf.
 

enosiX partners with UK-based software services organization to increase worldwide customer base


This week, Cincinnati-based enosiX, the company that's simplified mobile app creation for .NET developers, has added a United Kingdom company to their worldwide network.
 
Green Lemon Company, a software services organization that's been offering SAP solutions to developers for many years, will be adding the enosiX Framework to their preexisting .NET app development resources. The UK company works primarily with businesses hoping to upgrade their data governance strategy.
 
By teaming up with enosiX, Green Lemon avoids spending a fortune on back-end integration when creating mobile apps for their clients. The enosiX Framework has solved the problem mobile app developers have when attempting to connect apps to a company's SAP data system. Green Lemon can therefore eliminate the need to hire SAP specialists or SAP developers.
 
"To remain competitive, enterprises are actively seeking mobile solutions that will improve customer relations as well as empower and mobilize the workforce," says enosiX co-founder and President Philippe Jardin. "With traditional methods and tools, this is costly and time consuming."
 
Green Lemon will contribute front-end developer talent to the equation to seamlessly integrate those mobile apps with each Green Lemon enterprise's SAP system. enosiX's role will be to cut development costs with their unique integration tools and built-in application templates.
 
This UK partnership is a big step forward in enosiX's active effort to create a worldwide network of partners hoping to take advantage of their fast ERP integration technology. Though enosiX mainly targets the SAP community, they also plan to market their Framework to Oracle, Microsoft and other ERP systems and front-end development platforms.
 

UC biologists granted almost $2.5 million for genetic research


The University of Cincinnati's Department of Biological Sciences will receive a significant boost from the National Institutes of Health this month via the Institute's Research Projects Grant (R01), which provides support for health-related research and development.
 
UC will receive $1.92 million over five years for their research into facial abnormalities — ranging from cleft palate to heifacial microsomia — using genome-wide mapping. With the ability to zero in on the precise region of the genome, researchers will be able to identify the mutations within them that may be causing the facial asymmetries.
 
In additional to the R01 grant, UC biology researcher Joshua Gross will receive nearly $520,000 over three years from the National Science Foundation to uncover an explanation of pigmentation loss in cave animals. This research, he hopes, could lead to an explanation for such loss in humans as well.
 
Both projects will use a Mexican cave-dwelling fish as their primary study subject. Unlike their surface-dwelling relative, these cave-dwellers have craniofacial distortions similar to those we see in humans.
 
"One of our most surprising discoveries is that there’s actually a genetic basis for that asymmetry," Gross says, referring to the facial asymmetries seen in the cavefish. "Some changes in the genome have resulted in one side of the face developing differently from the other side of the face. Because this process occurs so often, cavefish are a powerful natural model system for learning about this fundamental biological phenomenon of craniofacial symmetry.”
 
Other members of the team include doctoral candidate Bethany Stahl as well as doctoral students Brian Carlson and Amanda Powers. Both projects should be underway by the end of March.
 

Shark Tank success story Neal Hoffman speaks at HCDC March 13


Neal Hoffman is pretty famous.
 
The former Hasbro executive and Procter & Gamble veteran was offered a $1 million investment on the television show Shark Tank in December. The ABC show allows startups and entrepreneurs to present their business plan in front of high-profile investors.

"Thank goodness for the editors who made me look intelligent," Hoffman says of his experience on the show. "I was in there for an hour. They definitely could have made me look dumb."

Hoffman appeared on the show after developing an idea conceived during holiday discussions with his son. Two years before, Hoffman's son pleaded for an Elf on the Shelf, the popular holiday toy/accessory that establishes residence during the Christmas season to bring treats and surprises to the children living there. Since the Hoffman family is Jewish, Hoffman joked that his son could have a Mensch on a Bench instead of an Elf on the Shelf.
 
By the 2013 Hannukah season, Hoffman and his "Mensch on a Bench" had a successful sales record under his belt. By Hannukah 2014, he'd reached revenues of $1 million.
 
The Hoffmans returned to Cincinnati when Hoffman's wife received a promotion at P&G. They now live in Madeira, and the Mensch on a Bench enterprise is still kicking.
 
This Friday, March 13 at 7:30-9 a.m., Hoffman will speak at HCDC in Norwood in the hopes of engaging aspiring entrepreneurs in a discussion on turning a casual idea into a successful business plan. He sees the eKickStart event (register here) as a way to connect with other entrepreneurs in the area.

"When I got started, I didn't realize there was a whole network in Cincinnati," Hoffman says. "It was a very lonely process. Through Cintrifuse, which connected me with HCDC, I realized that there are so many people here in the same boat."

Hoffman says he could talk forever about his story. When he arrived back in Cincinnati four years ago after working for Hasbro, he was looking for a way to explore his passion, the toy industry. Without spending more than $1,000 to get started, Hoffman's joke with his son is now a Hanukkah season essential nationwide.

While speaking at HCDC Friday, Hoffman hopes to emphasize that not all businesses require a huge investment.

"Starting a company doesn't mean going broke," he says. "With crowdfunding, you can test an idea before you bring it to market."

Hoffman is particularly excited about the Q&A section of the HCDC event, saying he's anxious to hear about what other people in his field are doing or hope to do. As for Mensch on a Bench, the business is still doing well, and Hoffman hasn't even had to reach for his Shark Tank millionaire rolodex yet.

"Whatever Mensch on a Bench brings in the future, this has become my resume for the rest of my life," he says.
 

The Brandery's HackOTR debut deemed a success


Seven teams of hackers, designers and marketing specialists joined forces Friday, March 6 for The Brandery’s first-ever HackOTR, and for 24 hours straight they hacked and programmed to come up with a pitchable idea. With help along the way from local startup founders who'd already established themselves, hackers presented their ideas at the end of the hack-a-thon Saturday evening to an enthusiastic and engaged audience.
 
“We were absolutely thrilled with the diversity of people who showed up,” says Emily Cooper, marketing and operations manager for The Brandery. “We had everyone from a high schooler to someone with 30-plus years of experience working together. Everyone chipped in to try to make their teams the best — the work ethic was unbelievable.”
 
Winners were announced Saturday evening, with the “Overall Best Hack” award, sponsored by Cincinnati Bell and Cintrifuse, going to Habitable, a website and app that uses cultural inputs like dress codes to help millennials find a job that fits their lifestyle. As a reward, Habitable received three months of office space at Cintrifuse along with free Dell laptops.
 
“Habitable had a consistent level of quality across the board,” says Connor Bowlan, CEO of Cintric. “Ideation was good, their pitch was good and execution was good. They had a great UX."
 
Other winners included Sideline, whose wearable app for referees and sports fans attracted the attention of The Brandery’s own Strap as the “Best Wearables App.” Team members were awarded with Pebble smart watches.

Another Brandery graduate, Frameri, gave impromptu prizes to two other teams, Informed and Staq — Informed aggregates media recommendations, and Staq helps the user manage credit card payments on one platform. The two teams won glasses and sunglasses for all members.
 
Petbrosia, another well-established Cincinnati startup, selected Pet Plates as its favorite “side hack.” That team put together a dog food recipe compilation site, much like Allrecipes.com for pet owners.
 
Other startup founders simply enjoyed the judging process.
 
“I had a great time judging HackOTR,” Bowlan says. “There was a very impressive level of quality among all the hacks.”
 
The Brandery has already scheduled their next HackOTR for Aug. 7-8. Stay tuned for details.
 

Follow up: ADDYs celebrate Cincinnati advertising icons and newcomers


Local and national advertisers convened at Memorial Hall Feb. 27 to celebrate Cincinnati's 2014-15 American Advertising Awards (ADDYs), with some familiar brands (and familiar advertising firms) among the winners as well as recognition of lesser-known artists and innovators for their work in the field. Organizers had made several upgrades and changes heading into this year's program, and the overall results were favorable.
 
National digital marketing firm Possible took home the Best in Show award with their Downy + Febreze commercial in which actors revel in the extra hour afforded by Daylight Savings Time snuggled in their great-smelling sheets. Possible has won multiple ADDYs in the past, and this year they also took home the competition's first People's Choice Award — attendees voted on their smartphones for another Downy television ad.
 
One of the event's Cinderella stories involved Sunrise Advertising, which took home a whopping seven awards for their "origami" campaign for AAA and another for their Cincinnati USA ad. Sunrise Advertising, whose Creative Director Todd Jessee is a former ADDY chair, hadn't entered the competition before.
 
"I think (Todd) talked the boss into letting him enter this year," says Judy Thompson, Executive Director of AAF Cincinnati (a.k.a. the boss).
 
Another first-time entrant was Forza Marketing and Public Relations, which scored the gold for non-traditional advertising with a port-a-potty ad for The Urology Group.
 
Another favorite of the judges was Northlich, the downtown strategic communications firm that was recognized numerous times for campaigns surrounding Givethemten.org (part of the Joanie Bernard Foundation), a no-kill cat movement that encourages more no-kill shelters and mandated spaying and neutering of pets. Northlich picked up recognition for several elements of the public service campaign, including best sound element (a jingle, essentially) and best collateral (a pack of two orange gumballs that remind you to spay and neuter your pet).
 
"The Northlich Creative Director, Jason Schmall, was taking a lot of bows on ADDY show night," Thompson says.
 
Finally, the show featured an impressive number of entries from students this year. This is the first time the ADDYs have received entries from Northern Kentucky University students, and one of them, Kyle Eli Ebersole, won Best in Show for his poster campaign.
 
You can view all of the winners in the 2015 ADDY showbook. Winners now proceed to regional and national competitions.
 

UpTech's March 12 Demo Day at NKU presents seven new startups


UpTech presents its third class of startups at the accelerator's Demo Day on Thursday, March 12. Though the event will feature happy hour and live presentations at Northern Kentucky University, startup enthusiasts need not leave the comfort of their own home/coffee shop/office to watch the events unfold.
 
UpTech will also be live streaming the event on their website to the benefit of those who cannot attend.
 
That said, the presentations at NKU's Digitorium should not be missed. The facility features a floor-to-ceiling media wall that will bring each startup's ideas to life.
 
UpTech is in its third year of operation since launching in 2012. Its home in the heart of Covington has provided over 60 jobs and, as an accelerator, invested $1.3 million in startups. Past UpTech graduates have received a combined $2.1 million in investments and won numerous contests and grants since leaving the program.
 
UpTech will graduate seven companies from their Covington accelerator this year. The startups have been housed at UpTech since September, collaborating with mentors and tweaking their ideas to make them more attractive to investors. There is no "prize" awarded at the end of this event — it's simply an opportunity for each startup to strut their stuff in front of an interested and engaged audience.

UpTech's 2015 portfolio includes:
 
Dr. Scribbles: uses interactive games and activities to make medical intake forms more fun.
 
Hapzing: activity-driven publishing platform that tracks the user's favorite events.
 
linkedü: social content-sharing platform for K-12 educators.
 
Nekst: real estate web app designed to simplify the user's closing process.
 
Hello Parent: social planning app for parents.
 
Travel Notes: seamless solution for credit card issues that arise when the user is a frequent traveler.
 
Wayger: social gambling app for sports enthusiasts who want to bet on games against their friends.
 
UpTech's Demo Day begins at 5 p.m. at NKU's Griffin Hall. Pre-registration is recommended for both the NKU event and the live-stream viewing option.
 

InnovateHER Cincinnati to recognize leaders in female empowerment March 9


Anyone who watched the Oscars last week undoubtedly remembers Patricia Arquette’s call to action in the name of female equality. Programs and competitions across the country have been held year after year to help bridge the gender gap that currently exists in the workplace.
 
Next week, Cincinnati is playing its part.
 
InnovateHER is a competition conjured up by the Small Business Association's Office of Women's Business Ownership to call attention to business owners who, through their products or services, show a commitment to female empowerment. On March 9 at The Brandery, a panel of judges will select up to 10 startups to represent Cincinnati at the national level. The Brandery and UpTech are hosting the event.
 
“The Challenge is looking for entrepreneurs to create a product or service that has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, has the potential for commercialization and fills a need in the market place,” says UpTech’s Amanda Greenwell.
 
InnovateHER is accepting applications from startups through March 5. Startups will be asked to pitch their idea, much like they would on an accelerator’s Demo Day, and in doing so attract the attention of judges from The Brandery, UpTech, HCDC, Bad Girl Ventures and Viable Synergy.
 
The 10 lucky startups to reach the national competition will have the opportunity to pitch their idea in Washington, D.C. on May 8. The prize money totals $30,000.
 
To Greenwell, the success of InnovateHER rests on female business owners’ willingness to share their innovative ideas with the rest of us.
 
“These programs are only successful if founders take the chance to put themselves out there and apply to participate in these competitions,” Greenwell says. “If you know someone who has a great idea that can impact and empower the lives of women and families, tell them about our competition.  Lift them up, encourage them and urge them to apply for the opportunity to get valuable exposure and feedback on their idea.”
 
The winners of this year’s InnovateHER competition will be announced during the March 9 ceremony at The Brandery from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but registration is requested. Those who wish to pitch for the event should fill out the application online.
 

Sweaty business: Eccrine Systems announces $1.5 million in seed funding


For nearly two years now, Eccrine Systems LLC has been in the business of perfecting and commercializing a technology, trademarked "Sweatronics," that uses human sweat as a data-generating tool. Its efforts got a boost last week with the announcement of $1.5 million in seed funding.
 
With technology developed and licensed at the University of Cincinnati, Eccrine Systems uses disposable electronic patches to collect biomarker data. Co-founder of the company and lead researcher on the topic, Jason Heikenfeld sees sweat as "best non-invasive fluid source for secure, real-time monitoring of human physiological function or dysfunction."
 
Contrary to what some may imagine, the "Sweatronics" platform doesn't involve a wearable. Eccrine Systems is less concerned with making this a consumer product and more concerned with the data-gathering potential this technology has in store.
 
"Our efforts are aimed at specialized and regulated medical and business markets that expect proof of data accuracy and chronological assurance," says Robert Beech, Eccrine's co-founder. “There are very large opportunities in areas such as medication adherence, clinical trials management, industrial safety, medical diagnostics, treatment effectiveness, nutrition support and elite performance optimization."
 
The $1.5 million in funding comes from a variety of investors, though the majority of the funding traces back to CincyTech and their partners. The seed-stage investor sees incredible potential for Eccrine's technology.
 
“The implications for real-time trending and interpretation of sweat biomarkers, derived from very tiny amounts of sweat captured under a small electronic patch, are profound,” says CincyTech's Mike Venerable.
 
In turn, the Eccrine team hopes to benefit from CincyTech's market savvy to further promote their product.
 
As for the future of the company, the options are many.
 
"We foresee many high value applications for our Sweatronics platform across medicine, industry and sport," says Heikenfeld.
 

AAF Cincinnati revamps this week's ADDY awards event


Cincinnati advertising and marketing enthusiasts gather every year to celebrate the most talented members of the industry. This year, the team of volunteers behind the event are catering specifically to the feedback from past years’ attendees, which means better presentations, better entertainment and — wait for it — an open bar Feb. 27 at Memorial Hall.

The American Advertising Awards (“ADDYs”) are sponsored by the American Advertising Federation and involve a three-tiered competition that begins at the local level. Winners of the city competitions move on to regionals and then nationals.

The Cincinnati ADDYs have recruited judges from all over the country, including past ADDY award recipients, advertising executives and even a morning radio personality.

Tara Pettit, volunteer chair of this year’s ceremony, says that this year’s local entries — submitted by everyone from big local agency experts to DAAP students — have serious potential for national recognition. As an AAF volunteer, Petit’s role is to make this event a true celebration of Cincinnati’s particular flavor of media.

“There are a ton of Fortune 500 companies in Cincinnati,” event Vice-Chair Jaclyn Smith says. “The city attracts a lot of talent, and we want (the big companies) to know that we’re utilizing that talent.”

Celebration of advertising specialists is hardly new in Cincinnati. The Advertising Club of Cincinnati emerged in 1904 and evolved into AAF-Cincinnati in the 1980s. Judy Thompson as been executive director of AAF-Cincinnati — and therefore responsible for all ADDY volunteers — since 1982.

This year, the Cincinnati ADDYs are making a point to show all of their local submissions, not just this year’s winners.

“(The artists) were proud enough to submit it, so we’re going to put it on display,” Petit says.

Other adjustments include the ability to see the submissions in their proper medium. For example, instead of displaying audio visual work on a 2D-printed panel, 50-inch monitors will be installed throughout the venue.

Finally, the entertainment. Petit and Smith have managed to secure Second City veteran comedian TJ Shanoff as their MC. Local jazz ensemble Burning Caravan will be providing live music as well. The $75 ticket ($65 for AAF members, $45 for students) also covers unique appetizers from Cuisine East West catering as well as a full open bar.

Winners at all levels of the ADDYs competition are chosen using a points-based system. There are 200 categories of work — ranging from print magazine ads to graphic design to package design — and each piece is judged on its own merit, not in comparison with other submissions. Not every category is represented, and not all of them claim a winner. 

Competition aside, Friday's awards ceremony will help give advertising professionals a reason to stay in the Cincinnati market. Through community events, plenty of help with job placement and formal recognition on a national scale, Thompson and her team of volunteers hope to maintain Cincinnati’s place as an advertising hot spot.

“Our job is to keep the talent here,” Smith says.

The event takes place 6-10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, at Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine. Attendees are encouraged to come as they are; there's no specific dress code. Register here.
 

Cintrifuse deepens partnership with Techstars Ventures to boost startup mentor and support options


Techstars Ventures, the Boulder, Colo.-based accelerator known for investments in companies like Uber and GroupMe, has teamed up with Cintrifuse to add to their network of successful, fast-growing companies across the country.

Cintrifuse is making its sixth major venture investment in Techstars Ventures due to the accelerator’s reputation as a company builder, not to mention their $150 million Seed and Series A fund. Techstars was attracted to the Cintrifuse mission due to the success of the Cincinnati ecosystem in recent years.

“Cincinnati has large, high-caliber corporations and a thriving startup community,” says David Cohen, Techstars co-founder and managing partner of Techstars Ventures, “so partnering with Cintrifuse will just continue to bolster the region’s flourishing startup ecosystem.”

Techstars Ventures is known for co-investing in companies that have graduated from the Techstars accelerator or are otherwise connected with the Techstars alumni network. Major Techstars players like Cohen are constantly looking to expand that reach, and the Cincinnati ecosystem proved just the market they were looking for.

“Bringing the attention of this Boulder-based startup stalwart to Cincinnati is a testament to the impact of our strategy,” says Eric Weissmann, director of marketing for Cintrifuse.
.
The investment in Techstars Ventures comes from Cintrifuse’s Fund of Funds, a for-profit fund that invests solely in other venture funds. With this fund, Cintrifuse hopes to increase venture capital activity in the region.

“Building a startup ecosystem around a fund of funds that’s supported by major corporations is very unique and already garnering national attention for the access it’s providing to both startups and corporates alike,” Weissmann says.

The investment means that Cincinnati startup companies, particular those connected with Cintrifuse, will see their network of mentors and investors expand tremendously. With the implementation of Techstars Ventures’ regional engagement plan, Cincinnati startups will see the benefits of the partnership quite quickly.
 

wineCRAFT and Riverghost forge partnership based on mutual respect


Two power players in the region’s libation world have decided to join forces.

Kentucky beer and wine distributor Riverghost Distributing  and wineCRAFT, an Ohio wholesaler and importer of fine wine from around the world, reached an agreement last week to bring wineCRAFT’s expansive selection across the river.
 
Riverghost, responsible for Rhinegeist’s craft beer distribution, is more than familiar with wineCRAFT’s reputation and connections to wineries and producers around the world, making them an ideal addition to Riverghost’s team. The distributing reach of Riverghost means wineCRAFT’s wines will soon be found in Kentucky restaurants and stores.
 
In the past, wineCRAFT has used brokers to distribute their products across Kentucky, which has somewhat limited their reach.
 
“This effort marks a more fully realized presence of our portfolio in Kentucky supported by a sales team excited about our products and educated on their provenance,” says Sebastien Hue, marketing and purchasing lead for wineCRAFT. “With regard to product, it’s a slam dunk. wineCRAFT and Riverghost are passionate about high quality libations and the value they offer.”
 
Hue credits the partnership’s predicted success to the Riverghost team.
 
“We have worked closely in the past with Zack Moscow, Riverghost’s Director of Sales,” Hue says. “He is a bright forward-thinker with an insatiable appetite for growth. And of course there are Bob Bonder and Bryant Goulding (of Rhinegeist), impressive gentlemen who have proven themselves to be fresh pillars of Cincinnati’s business community.”
 
Though pending legislation in Kentucky has thrown a wrench into the future of the Rhinegeist/Riverghost distributing model, the wineCRAFT partnership is an independent strategic operation the state hasn't directly challenged. The looming legislation aside, the market for fine wines is growing in Kentucky and the timing could not be better.
 
“The partnership makes sense because we share a similar value proposition to the market, one that is easily communicated: affordable, high value products with lots of wow,” Hue says. “To us it’s not ‘why now,’ it’s a celebration of a partnership realized that will move both of these dynamic brands forward in the market.”
 

"Making Space for Makers" brings urban development specialist to Cincinnati this week


The “Maker Movement” has found its way back to the Midwest, and an expert in the field comes to Cincinnati this week to make sure we're ready for it.

Ilana Preuss, former VP and chief of staff for Smart Growth America, is coming to town Feb. 25 to offer her input on small scale manufacturing in Cincinnati and how it has the potential to strengthen our neighborhoods and enhance our overall economy.

While Preuss is in town, she'll give a presentation on the importance of space, planning and policy within the Maker Movement at the 21C Museum Hotel at 6 p.m. Wednesday. At 9 a.m. the following day, Preuss will lead a workshop at the UC Community Design Center that hopes to foster discussion on the steps necessary to expand the manufacturing sector of Cincinnati’s business community.

The Haile Foundation and Cincinnati Made, a local nonprofit dedicated to such a vision, bring Preuss to town as a consultant from Recast City. She concocted the idea for Recast City after working extensively with small scale producers in a community development context.

“(My work) led me to look at development projects where small scale manufacturers are being put in a position to bring life back to old buildings and bring life to a neighborhood,” Preuss says.

In cities like Brooklyn and San Francisco, she says, big companies and nonprofits are backing manufacturing innovation in a way that allows small-scale producers, and the communities surrounding them, to truly succeed. For instance, in Brooklyn a six-building space has developed into a manufacturer haven. As a result, the community surrounding the businesses has been revitalized. Perhaps above all else, the space is providing jobs for surrounding community members, 40 percent of whom don't have a college or advanced degree.

Preuss sees the Midwest as prime territory for those kinds of results.

“The Midwest has a history of manufacturing,” she says. “The people who are drawn back are risk takers, they want to make a difference in the space.”

With the cost of living being so low here, particularly in comparison to cities on the coasts, Preuss believes that small businesses can see a kind of success that may be harder to grasp in a larger market. The best thing we can do for our region is create a manufacturing-friendly environment.

In a lot of ways, the region is already doing that. Cincinnati Made and local manufacturing accelerator First Batch are already promoting small batch makers. Indianapolis has seen significant investment in their budding textiles industry. And in Louisville, GE-backed First Build is creating an innovation space for appliances and electronics. 

With Preuss’ help and continued financial support from private investors and nonprofit interests, Cincinnati has a lot of potential that expands beyond business development.

“The places with the most success have nonprofit and private sector leadership leading the way,” she says. “The piece I find most the most exciting is where economic development intersects with real estate development and reinvestment.”

When Preuss’ work is done on Thursday, she plans to take a tour of Over-the-Rhine, our city’s prime example of where economic development and real estate reinvestment meet. With adequate planning, Cincinnati will hopefully see a similar revitalization surrounding small-scale manufacturing. 

You can find more details on the event's Facebook page.
 
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