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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.
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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.
 

"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.
 

2015 Green Home Tour kicks off this Saturday


With migraine-inducing heating bills becoming the norm this season, it's nice to know that green technology is out there — and on the rise.
 
Though the movement is a slow one, more and more buildings across the tristate area are attempting LEED certification, a green building designation that requires an examination into the design, construction, maintenance and neighborhood development (among other factors) of a certain property or building. A primary focus in LEED certification is energy efficiency, though the prestigious label goes much farther than that.
 
Fortunately, many LEED-certified building, residential and not, are popping up in neighborhoods across town. Thanks to the U.S. Green Building Council and its local Green Living Member Circle, Cincinnati residents have the opportunity to tour some of these properties during the year-long "This is a Green Home" tour, which kicks off this Saturday, Feb. 21.
 
The first stop along the tour is in the Mt. Airy/Northside area, a green home known as the Wright House. With a Gold LEED Certification under its belt, the house also received the City of Cincinnati's CRA Tax Abatement, which is offered as an incentive to pursue such certification. The abatement will save the owners over $40,000 in a five-year period.
 
This particular home received bonus points for limiting the use of turf in the yard, sustainable design of the building itself, regionally-sourced building materials, durability, low VOC coatings and sealants, low water usage, tight insulation, thick air filters and a geothermal heat pump that sends waste heat back into the water heater, among other features.
 
Edward Wright of Wright Design and Pete Subach of Graybach are responsible for the contemporary design and sustainable features of the residence. The tour accommodates 20 people and is already sold out.
 
Additional tours will feature a number of houses like the Wright House. A tour of the Nutter House, featuring the city's only known rainwater flush toilet system, will take place on March 21. There will be a tour of the Imago for the Earth community in Price Hill on April 25, while the Boulter House in Clifton, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, opens its doors in May.
 
For a complete list of stops on the tour, check out the Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy website.
 

Roadtrippers alum launches international bike donation company


Two weeks ago, Cincinnati native and Roadtrippers veteran Chelsea Koglmeier decided to pursue her dream.
 
Part of the original team of six who turned Roadtrippers from a startup to a success story, she decided to leave her position at the growing Cincinnati company in order to pursue an idea she had while studying in Uganda in college.
 
While in Africa, Koglmeier noticed a staggering problem with transportation. The lack of viable transport between areas could mean the difference between employed and not employed, fed or unfed.

Koglmeier also noticed how empowering something as simple as a bicycle could be for people in these developing countries.
 
"I began to see the power of bicycles to unlock opportunities," she says.
 
Then, after being accepted into the Clinton Global Initiative Conference while at Duke University, Koglmeier had the opportunity to hear a speech by the founder of Tom's shoes, Blake Mycoskie.
 
"I heard him speak and immediately thought, 'What a wonderful place the world would be if every company had a double bottom line,'" Koglmeier says.
 
The double bottom line Koglmeier speaks of involves a company's commitment to both for-profit and non-profit missions. Tom's has done it with their "buy a pair, give a pair" shoes model; Warby Parker has done it with eyewear.
 
Koglmeier left her Roadtrippers position and is now working full-time to accomplish the same thing that Tom's and Warby Parker did, only with bicycles. Her company is Bikes O.R.O.: Bikes of Reckless Optimism.
 
"Because of the rise of the socially conscious consumer," she says, "why not create a sustainable link of capital between one side of the spectrum (the for-profit) and the other (non-profit)?"
 
Koglmeier is currently in the process of establishing a L3C business — a unique fusion of an LLC and a 501c3 non-profit. Ohio doesn't recognize the model yet, but states like Vermont have long embraced the unique business category. Though she may file in another state, Koglmeier does intend to be in Cincinnati for a while to establish the business.
 
So far, she has a simple website that outlines the company's bottom line and informs interested parties as to how they can get involved. By mid-summer, she plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to start acquiring bikes.
 
Bikes O.R.O. will start with three commuter bicycles of high quality and affordability made by a skilled Australian bike maker with whom Koglmeier has worked before. Intrigued customers buy a bike through Bikes O.R.O., and the profits from that purchase are immediately donated to a non-profit organization in Africa (Koglmeier is already working with several of them). That organization would then present a recycled, fully-functioning bike to a person in need.
 
Koglmeier recognizes the hurdles involved — bike production has a much higher overhead than shoes or sunglasses — but she's more than prepared for the risk and the challenge. Plus she was invited to the Y Combinator Female Founders Conference in San Francisco on Feb. 21 — an entire event dedicated to encouraging women in tech.
 
"If people want to send extra resources to me because I'm a girl, I'm super down," she says.
 
For now, Koglmeier is working full-time on getting the business off the ground. Though she's not selling bikes yet, the process is moving quickly and we should be hearing more from Bikes O.R.O. in the coming months.
 

Introducing UCrush, the "missed connections" of mobile apps


In a frantic rush to fund a snuggle buddy for Valentine's Day? You might be in luck via a new Cincinnati-based app.
 
The recent release of UCrush, a new dating app created by Xavier University alum and HCDC resident Anthony Breen, means that college students can now find that guy or girl they couldn't stop staring at in Astronomy class.
 
UCrush is a geolocation-based app whose database is limited to those who attend the same school or are currently located in the same geographic area. The app is designed for those who see an intriguing person and immediately want to know how to get in touch with him or her. It's kind of like Craiglist's Missed Connections but better — not to mention safer.
 
All information is kept confidential until a connection is made. Even then, the users can communicate through the app — sending messages, pictures — and no identifying information needs to be shared.
 
The app finds people using an identification system that asks the "crusher" to list gender, hair color and clothing style as well as a description of the encounter. The app identifies the location of the user immediately, which helps identify where the sighting may have taken place.
 
UCrush CEO Anthony Breen is a Boston native and a 2014 Xavier grad. Breen came to Cincinnati for college in the hopes of gaining corporate experience before jumping into the startup world. Fortunately for him, he caught the entrepreneurship bug a little early.

The company was born during a brainstorming session with his buddies from back home, Kyle Garvan and Danny O'Connell. Last winter break, Garvan and O'Connell pitched him the idea of a dating website that allows the user to connect with crushes. They looked to Breen to take it one step further.
 
The three were looking for an alternative to the bar hookup scene on college campuses, wanting to create a platform that helps crushes break the ice.
 
"UCrush is here to say that we are giving you the opportunity to be heard, noticed and found," Breen says. "We want to try and take the awkwardness out of that first hello."
 
Unlike Tinder, UCrush requires an actual connection of some sort. Instead of randomly swiping through photos, users will undoubtedly share something in common with the person crushing on them, whether it's the same school, the same workout class or the same sporting event.
 
The app also allows users to rate the "genuineness" level of other users. That rating appears on each user's profile along with photos of the user's "life crushes," which could be anything from a Starbucks latte to a view of Great American Ball Park.
 
"This is not an app for one-night stands," Breen says. "This is for people who are moving toward a date."
 
Though Breen recognizes the potential for abuse, so far the app has been successful. Since its launch in mid-January, UCrush boasts a 90 percent success rate with a 2 percent abuse rate among its 15,000 users. Right now, the app is in active use at Ohio State, University of Cincinnati and Xavier. The UCrush team has plans to expand to over 150 campuses nationwide in the next three months.
 
UCrush is currently headquartered at HCDC's incubator in Norwood. 
 

Science rules: High school paves the way for tech-oriented careers


The recent technology boom has brought a newfound appreciation for science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) courses in high school classes, including at Cincinnati's Mount Notre Dame.
 
Several young women at the all-girls Reading school have already made a name for themselves with their recent Best in State recognition in a national mobile app competition.
 
The app, called Do It, was designed to prevent procrastination by blocking certain social media applications from the user and incentivizing focus on a particular task. Though the six girls responsible for the app concept didn't make it past the regional round of the competition, the experience — combined with MND's curriculum — has some of these girls looking toward careers in the tech sector.
 
And let's face it: The technology sector could use a few more girls.
 
Mount Notre Dame offers a relatively flexible curriculum after freshman year with a plethora of STEM-related options, including engineering. With a focus on hands-on science courses, students interested in the STEM fields also find themselves in a lab at least once per week.
 
Christine Clark is a senior at MND and member of the award-winning team. She feels that the wide variety of courses and freedom to choose allowed her to determine which path she wants to follow next year.
 
"Before I took engineering I thought I wanted to go into the biomedical field," Clark says. "I'm glad I was able to take that because now I know that it isn't for me."

Clark will be studying biology at Miami University next year.
 
Not all of the girls on the Do It team are pursuing STEM-related fields after graduation. Maggie Dolan hopes to go into electronic media and broadcasting and says the STEM courses were the perfect way to test her academic limits.
 
"(Science and math courses) challenge the kind of people who want to be challenged but aren't sure if they're up to par," Dolan says. "When I started at MND, I finally felt challenged."
 
Though the app competition is over, every girl on the team expressed a desire to learn more about mobile app development. With a strong foundational background in STEM courses from their time at MND, chances are good that the tech world will be seeing more from them.
 

Startup jobs in Cincinnati and where to find them


Finding jobs in the startup world can be tricky. The postings are rarely found on traditional job search websites, and many companies hire from within.

The good news for job hunters is that the startup world in Cincinnati is hiring ... and hiring often. Some of the available openings are posted online and some require a little more digging. Here's a list of startup hiring resources, from helpful job boards to career fairs to investment portfolio pages at some of the areas key startup investor groups.

UpTech
If you're looking for a startup job in Northern Kentucky, look no further than the Feb. 9 UpLink career event at UpTech's offices, 112 West Pike St., Covington. In addition to numerous internships, UpTech's startups will be looking to hire candidates for over 30 openings, from sales to design to project management to web development.

The Brandery
The all-star accelerator organization keeps a running list of job openings for their graduate companies on their website. The accelerator's companies are hiring everything from social media managers to designers to front end developers. Part- and full-time positions are available immediately.

Cintrifuse
Runs a constantly updated job board that posts openings from startups across the tristate area.
 
CincyTech
This huge financial supporter of area startups in the area hosts a portfolio page offering a long list of companies that are likely looking for talent.
 
Queen City Angels
The investor group has an impressive roster of companies that have already proved themselves worthy of investor support. QCA's portfolio page, featuring over 40 companies, is another great job resource.
 
The Hamilton Mill
Though the startups at The Mill aren't currently hiring, the incubator will be welcoming Municipal Brew Works in the coming months, a brewery that deserves a second look for career opportunities. 

HCDC, Inc.
Formerly called the Hamilton County Development Co., this Norwood-based group has a large number of companies in their accelerator. Though not all of them are hiring, this list of the companies currently housed there can provide a good lead on who to contact.
 

The Brandery announces $50,000 grants for sixth class of startups


The Brandery's four-month accelerator program for tech startups is raising the bar by providing its newest class members with an additional $30,000 in initial investment.
 
Since 2010, The Brandery, which is partially funded by the Ohio Third Frontier, has provided each of their 10-12 class members with a $20,000 grant in exchange for a 6 percent stake in their company. Their success stories include companies like Roadtrippers, ChoreMonster and Frameri — ones that have already established a national presence since their time at the accelerator. Their continued progress aside, The Brandery is always looking for new ways to attract national noisemakers in the startup scene.
 
"Every year we assess the needs of our startups, the depth of our cohort, the funding environment and how we can continue to compete globally for the best startups," Brandery General Manager Mike Bott says. "This year in particular we felt very strongly that increasing our investment in each startup will allow us to continue to attract the best founders globally and, more importantly, give our startups the best opportunity to succeed."
 
With its sixth startup class on the horizon, the accelerator believes that an increase in initial investment will make sure that the companies are financially sustainable beyond the four-month mark.
 
"Increasing funding from $20k to $50k will afford our startups a runway through the holidays into the spring, giving them an opportunity for more validating data and stronger positioning with potential investors," Bott says.
 
The Brandery is able to provide a higher grant due to an increase in funding from the Ohio Third Frontier. The state's support of technology-based companies has played a tremendous part in turning cities like Cincinnati into startup hubs.
 
Private partners, both locally and nationally based, also continue their support of The Brandery and its companies.
 
The accelerator is now accepting applications for its sixth class of startups, which will enter The Brandery this spring.
 

Speech pathologist brings child language development to your doorstep with Hi-Coo


Libby Willig-Kroner is no stranger to the trials and triumphs of parenthood. The Cincinnati native is a working mother of two young boys with a Masters degree in speech pathology and a position at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Even before becoming a parent, Kroner found herself confronting questions from young moms and dads about speech and language development on a semi-regular basis.
 
"Most parents don't learn about their child's speech development until the child starts exhibiting delays," Kroner says. "I wanted to find a way to make parents feel more confident and on track."
 
Kroner's innovative solution to the confusing world of child language development is called Hi-Coo, a subscription toy kit that includes language development tools, tips and activities to help infants and toddlers reach their language milestones. Kroner has been developing her business plan since enrolling in the CO.STARTERS startup class at ArtWorks this past fall.
 
With most of the pieces now in place, Kroner hopes to launch the company by the end of March. Once available, Hi-Coo kits will be sold as yearly subscriptions with four shipments per year customized for children ages 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and 9-12 months. The company's initial launch will cover the first year of development, with plans to expand based on subsequent success.
 
Each kit will include 3-5 books or toys hand chosen by Kroner herself to optimize speech and language development. Most of the toys will be handmade by small-batch crafters or local manufacturers, including children's bookseller Blue Manatee Press and Kroner's own mother. Their kits will also include "coo-cards" with instructions and activities to accompany the toys and promote beneficial, productive use.
 
"I like toys that are kinesthetic and encourage exploratory play and social interactions," Kroner says.
 
Many parents struggle to understand the impact of speech development in the first year of growth, when their child is still non-verbal. Kroner is more than familiar with such concerns, as her youngest son is in his first year of development.
 
"Recent research strongly suggests that language interactions during the first year, both quantity and quantity, really matter," she says. "(The kits) hope to promote interaction but also exploration of textures and sounds while encouraging imaginative play."
 
Although she's yet to finalize Hi-Coo pricing, Kroner anticipates that a yearly subscription with Hi-Coo will cost parents between $150 and $175. The kits can be purchased by subscription or even as gifts for friends with young children.
 
"My hope is that gift-givers can give the gift of language or that new parents can subscribe and unlock the conversation with their little one while feeling confident they are doing their best to nurture their child's development," Kroner says.
 

New Findlay Market public art project seeking artist proposals


Findlay Market is next in line for a major public art installation.

The site is the western plaza and esplanade of Findlay Market, next to Elm Street and steps away from the site of a future streetcar stop.

An artist for the permanent work is expected to be selected this summer, with installation in Spring 2016.

"Hopefully it will become something that people everywhere will recognize as Cincinnati’s icon, something we’re all proud to share with the world," says Tim Maloney, president of The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation.

In late 2013, Maloney announced the Haile Foundation would spend $600,000 for three public art projects over three years. He was inspired  by public art he had seen in other places — Denver’s "I See What You Mean" by Lawrence Argent, a large blue bear peeking into that city’s Convention Center, and Chicago’s Millennium Park "Cloud Gate" by Anish Kapoor, also known as "the Bean" — and believed Cincinnati needed public art that would be a strong symbol for the city.

The first of the three Cincinnati projects, Tony Luensman’s neon "CAMPGROUND," was installed on the western wall of the Cincinnati Art Museum last fall. It was supported by both the Haile Foundation and Macy’s.

ArtWorks Cincinnati, which is administering the Haile Public Art Fund, has put out a call for artists’ concepts for the $150,000 project, with proposals due Feb. 15. Two to three artists or teams of artists will be selected as finalists and paid $500 to develop design proposals. 

Criteria for the Findlay Market project: It should complement the market and its iconic status in Cincinnati, it should delight and leave a lasting impression, it should have "visual gravity" and it should be made of durable materials. The chosen project will have a budget of $140,000 for full design, fabrication and installation, plus $10,000 in a maintenance fund.

See the project's "call for artists" website for more details.
 

City's new CPO to bring Baltimore's city innovation lab model to Cincinnati


Cincinnati's new Chief Performance Officer has had the public service “bug” since he was a kid.

Chad Kenney grew up in Pennsylvania, where his dad worked for both the local township and county. When Kenney left home to study math at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, he found that he shared his father’s passion for public service. He started tutoring local kids for the SATs and became enamored with a local school there.
 
“I was interested in Baltimore as a city with a lot of issues,” Kenney says. “I realized that education was at the center of it.”
 
Johns Hopkins had a partnership with Kenney’s school, called the Academy for College and Career Exploration, so he found himself there quite often. After he graduated, he knew he wanted to work there full time. He taught math at the school for two years through a local Teach for America program.
 
“It was incredibly challenging,” Kenney says. “I knew I couldn’t work there for a third year, but I still wanted to be involved in service of some sort.”
 
Fortunately, the Baltimore CitiStat office was hiring. Tasked with making the city faster, cheaper and better in general, Kenney found himself overseeing city functions like transportation, housing and the police force.
 
“I loved that job,” Kenney says. “To be able to learn about a variety of city operations and add my mathematical and analytical capabilities … it was a great experience.”
 
When Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black was hired in 2014 from Baltimore, where he served as Finance Director, he decided that he wanted Kenney to be a part of his plan for our city. So Black created Cincinnati’s new Office of Performance and Data Analytics and brought Kenney to town.

“(Black) has a comprehensive vision for how (performance management) should look,” Kenney says.
 
Unlike Baltimore, which already had differing, hard-to-integrate systems in place, Black and Kenney came to Cincinnati and were able to start from scratch. The Office of Performance and Data Analytics’ primary role will be to provide city residents and businesses with better customer service, faster services, cheaper services and efficient and effective city services.
 
On Kenney’s plate over the next few months is designing and building the city’s new CitiStat Innovation Lab. The lab, modeled after the one Kenney worked with in Baltimore, will provide analysts, researchers and city problem-solvers with dedicated space to confront real city problems — from trash collecting to efficient permitting services.
 
“We’re going to take different processes and get everyone in a room together and deconstruct the problem, then put it back together and streamline it,” Kenney says of the lab.
 
The space should be fully functioning by spring. For now, Kenney is spending his time creating a professional foundation with the other 18 departments and familiarizing himself with the 122 city programs already in place.

Outside of work, he and his girlfriend are enjoying their East Walnut Hills home and getting to know the city one recommendation at a time.
 
Findlay Market has become a part of our weekly routine,” he says. 
 

New accelerator Ocean sets the record straight on religious affiliations


Since Cincinnati accelerator Ocean announced its flagship class of startup companies in December, the phrase "faith-based" has been bounced around quite a bit. Though the accelerator's website uses the term and local media have deemed them a "faith-based venture," co-founder Tim Brunk says that the term may be getting more attention than it should.
 
"This is a high-tech accelerator," Brunk says. "This is not a mission. We are here to bring jobs. We're here to help the kind of people who are going to build hospitals and create jobs."
 
If anything, Ocean seems to be more of a faith-integrated startup accelerator. Though the founders — Brunk, Tim Metzner and Chad Reynolds — are all Crossroads church members, Ocean isn't a church program. The accelerator has partnered with Crossroads due to the overwhelming support the three got from the 25,000-plus congregation members and the organization itself. Ocean also uses space on the Crossroads campus in Oakley to conduct its operations.

Though the founders may feel a theological tie to Crossroads' mission, such a tie or connection isn't required when recruiting startups and definitely not when recruiting investors.
 
In fact, Ocean's new class actually includes two self-proclaimed agnostics.
 
"All we ask is that they are willing to explore," Brunk says. "Religious involvement is not a requirement."
 
The accelerator's main goal is to create startup founders with character — ones that investors can truly trust with their money. Generosity, honor, intelligence and integrity are all qualities Ocean hopes to foster alongside their business-related curriculum.
 
"Faith is a foundation, not a guarantee," Brunk says. "We foster a belief in respect, of not taking advantage of or exploiting others."
 
When asked if the companies that come out of Ocean would perhaps be at a disadvantage without the dog-eat-dog mentality that can lead to Fortune-500 status, Brunk shakes his head.
 
"There's a perception that good people are naïve, and a lot of times, unfortunately, that assumption is true," Brunk says. "But I see (our program) as putting our companies at a significant advantage, not a disadvantage."
 
To the Ocean team, success is measured by more than money. If its startup founders can find a way to build balanced, successful personal lives alongside their steadily-growing businesses, the accelerator will have done its job.
 
The thing that makes Ocean unique from other accelerators — and the part that earned the term "faith-based" — can be found in its supplemental curriculum. The session speakers include CEOs who have gone through tumultuous marriages due to their never-ending hours at work discussing faith, family and community with startup founders. Some members of the Ocean class go to church, others do not. As for the Ocean founders, all they want to do is open doors.
 
In the meantime, Brunk is tasked with finding the types of investors who are looking for a well-rounded, likable, trustworthy individual or team. He spends his time connecting with investors and making sure that the companies who have signed on are receiving the highest quality business education possible.
 
Though Brunk did quote the Gospel once during our interview, it's apparent that the label following Ocean may not be entirely accurate. Right now, the accelerator is in its second week of what is best described as "business boot camp," getting their companies ready for any investor that could walk through the door.

Just like any accelerator, they're most interested in making sure their companies are poised for success. The accelerator plans to have weekly practice runs with potential investors to make sure their companies stay on their toes. If they emerge as better people, that bodes well for the future.
 
"This is still an experiment," Brunk says. "We still don't know if it is going to work. But if we can succeed in creating a dialogue, well, that's all we can ask for."
 

Thinking outside the sandbox: Startup Cintric's journey through The Brandery


Cintric, the Cincinnati-based startup that's created a platform for mobile integration of location services, is a prime example of how much can change when a company joins an accelerator.
 
When Cintric founders Rhett Rainen, Connor Bowlan, Joel Green and Erwan Lent first entered The Brandery last summer, they had two different companies with slightly overlapping goals. Rainen and Bowlan were working on a fashion and beauty advice platform called Lookit that eventually transformed into a location-based notification app; Green and Lent hoped to create an app for location-based chatrooms called Shoutout. When the four creative brains met at The Brandery, it became clear that something bigger was possible.
 
"I think the value of The Brandery for us was less about driving our vision forward and more about providing a sandbox to experiment and clarify what that vision was," Bowlan says. "There’s a pretty unique opportunity to explore when you’re given a small chunk of funding and are surrounded by some of the most creative and intelligent people you’ll ever meet."
 
Rainen and Bowlan were impressed with Green and Lent's remarkable enginnering capabilities and began collaborating on a few side projects. Before long, their friendships evolved into a well-oiled idea machine, and out of that Cintric was born.
 
Cintric's initial goal is to solve the problem many smartphone/mobile device users have when using location services: a draining battery. By using an innovative drag-and-drop interface, Cintric's platform allows developers to build location components into their apps with minimal effort.
 
Cintric is also focused on making it easier for companies with applications to track who and where their users might be by building the apps in a much more efficient way.
 
As for the team itself, Cintric is made up of a French whiz-kid (Lent), an iOS engineer with incredible dental hygiene (Green), a bearded behemoth with mad financial projection skills (Rainen) and Bowlan, who is "terrible at describing himself."
 
"I tend to think of our team as a bunch of mavericks," Bowlan says. "I think a lot of folks were unsure of us at the beginning of The Brandery program due to our age (the oldest is 25) and willingness to take big swings and throw things out if they weren’t working."
 
The company is in the process of closing out its seed round of funding. Over the next few months, the Cintric name is likely to make its way to the forefront in Cincinnati's startup scene.
 
"We’ve got some pretty ambitious and unorthodox projects launching in the next few months that should do a good job of showcasing how we’re not afraid to think outside the box," Bowlan says.
 

Cincinnati Children's to host its first-ever Innovation Showcase Jan. 6


On Tuesday, Jan. 6, Cincinnati Children's Hospital and the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association kick off the new year with a glimpse into the hospital's numerous contributions to the buzzing innovation scene in Cincinnati.
 
The Cincinnati Children's Innovation Showcase is an all-day event set to take place on the medical center's main campus in Avondale.
 
The event hopes to bring together the hospital's innovators, including researchers and clinicians, with people in the startup and venture capital community. The showcase will announce three separate funding opportunities for inventors and innovators who are looking for a way to get their ideas off the ground.
 
"This is our first year doing anything like this," says Children's Hospital's Michael Pistone. "In terms of innovation and commercialization, we're continuing to strategically partner with (the medical) industry and the venture community to form smart collaborations that allow our promising discoveries to advance toward a commercial endpoint."
 
Cincinnati Children's already boasts three successful startups: Assurex, Airway Therapeutics and Enable Injections. The CEOs from these companies will be speaking at noon during the Innovation Showcase, discussing the relationship between startup CEOs and the inventor. A number of other interactive sessions held throughout the day will feature hospital staff along with a number of leaders in scientific impact from across the country.
 
As for the upcoming year, Children's is currently focused on gene therapy as a treatment for sickle cell disease. Cincinnati Children's Punam Malik developed this specific type of gene therapy in 2014, and it will be entering its clinical trial in the coming months. Genomics, which focuses on gene variations, the human genetic code, our surrounding environment and the variety of diseases we contract, is also a significant focus area with room for innovation.
 
"We see Children's as both a research engine as well as an innovation hub," Pistone says. "We're seeing more and more health IT, which presents new opportunities for the region."
 
Cincinnati Children's, Pistone says, is an ideal partner for IT companies, as the hospital can offer the innovation scene a variety of collaboration opportunities.
 
The showcase's emphasis on bringing "the bench to the bedside" is made possible by the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association, which is promoting the event. GCVA is an active participant in the startup community, regularly hosting networking events and meetups for players in the Cincinnati startup scene.
 
"The mission of GCVA is to connect funders and founders," says Vance VanDrake, president of the association. "We are excited to promote Cincy Children's first Innovation Showcase as it fits perfectly with our mission."
 
The event will take place 8 a.m.-7 p.m. in the medical center's "S" building. Both breakfast and lunch will be served, and registration is required for many of the day's sessions. Prospective attendees can sign up for specific sessions here.
 
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