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Brandery's Demo Day hits one out of the park

At the Brandery's third Demo Day Oct. 3, a packed house at Great American Ball Park looked forward to a home run, but not from the field below. 

The stadium's Champions Club had been transformed into a space where founders of 11 startups paced, shook hands and smiled as they prepared to offer their practiced pitches that they knew could net them millions in investment dollars.

This year, there were more than twice as many applicants for the seed-stage startup accelerator in Over-the-Rhine as both of its earlier years, combined, according to Brandery General Manager Mike Bott. 

Only 10 percent of those applicants were local, Bott says. The companies selected for the intensive four-month session in Cincinnati hailed from Seattle and Brooklyn, from Cleveland and San Francisco. One local business, REPP, made the final cut.

As its name implies, The Brandery focuses mostly on consumer products and services. Its strength is in its location and its expertise: the branding giants of Cincinnati help make The Brandery attractive to entrepreneurs from around the world. The latest startup session included plenty of mobile and social applications. 

An example? The first startup to present on Demo Day: CrowdHall.

Crowdhall, a free social platform, collects questions and ideas from a single crowd and helps the members of an audience organize and prioritize them democratically. Matthew Dooley, founder and CEO of Cincinnati's dooley media, made a bold prediction about this startup, which has already created "crowd halls" with NYU prof and Earth Institute leader Jeffrey Sachs, Dhani Jones and PG Sittenfeld. 

Dooley's tweet: "Impressed with @crowdhall pitch at #brandery2012 #demoday. Will be bought out by Twitter within a year. #boldprediction @brandery @jbkropp."

You've read about this Brandery class in Soapbox for months now, from Sostock, which planted roots and intends to remain in Cincinnati, to REPP, the latest big idea from Cincinnatians Michael Bergman, his wife BreeAnna and David Volker, formerly of LPK (where Bergman also formerly worked).

Find a full list of startups here. And more coverage of The Brandery on Nibletz, "the voice of startups everywhere else."

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.

(3E) Summit touts, teaches benefits of green business

"Going Green" isn't just a feel-good initiative for businesses. It can have real economic benefits. Those benefits -- lower utility bills, less waste, among others -- are there to take advantage of regardless of whether the business considers itself green.

That's the message organizers of this year's Energy, Economy and Environment (3E) Summit want businesses to grasp. The 4th annual 3E Summit is Oct. 5, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Xavier University's Cintas Center. Tickets are $50 each, with discounts for Green Umbrella Members and students.

"There's a lot of small and medium businesses out there, the people making widgets, who don't always have time to think about how to green their business," says Cincinnati's Sustainability Coordinator Steve Johns.

The Summit hopes to remedy that, giving these businesses concrete ways to become more energy efficient, as well as insight into how that affects the bottom line.

There will be two panel discussions on Green Business. One is a CEO Roundtable featuring local companies that decided to incorporate green concepts into their businesses. The panel will feature Mac's Pizzaemersion DESIGNCompost Cincy and Burke, Inc.

"Most of these companies aren't producing green products, but thought it was important to take care of energy and waste needs more effectively," Johns says.

A second panel discussion will feature reps from UC Health and Procter & Gamble highlighting their efforts to green their supply chain by seeking out sustainable suppliers.

"You can really have a competitive advantage by having a green business," Johns explains.

The Summit also will feature a "Speed Greening" session, where experts will be on hand to answer specific questions about greening businesses. Those experts can answer questions related to electric and natural gas, waste disposal, transportation and water.

In addition to the City of Cincinnati, the 3E Summit is hosted by Green Umbrella, Xavier University's Brueggeman Center for Dialog, the Greater Cincinnati Green Business Council, and USGBC Cincinnati Chapter.

Register and find more information at the 3E Summit website.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter.

Environmental forum assesses 'state of the city'

Green Cincinnati. It’s ubiquitous these days, with our civic progress appearing both in national headlines and at eye-level, in the bike-shares and local markets that seem to spring up almost daily.

If you’re struggling to keep up with all this change—in a good way, of course!—or if you just have two cents to share, head to Northside Tavern at 6 p.m., Oct. 10 for the free, public “State of the City” environmental forum.

The forum, organized by Cincinnati Green Group, hopes to recreate the success of last year’s event, which saw over a dozen city council candidates fielding questions—on everything from curbside recycling to fracking—from more than 150 attendees.

This year will feature WVXU’s Ann Thomson as facilitator, with speakers Mark Fisher from the Cincinnati Zoo and Neil Seldman from the DC-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Cincinnati council members will be on hand once again for Q&A.

Larry Falkin, director of Cincinnati’s Office of Environmental Quality, will deliver the State of the City address. Falkin plans to highlight recent strides in the areas of energy, green building and waste management, as well as a number of transportation solutions—such as the forthcoming Zip Car auto-share program—making Cincinnati debuts in 2012.

Falkin points to the Green Cincinnati Plan, an 80-point sustainability blueprint officially adopted by the city in 2007.

“We wanted to use less energy, more renewable energy, and we had a series of strategies for how to get there,” he says. “In five years, city government has done energy efficiency retrofits on 70 city buildings and installed solar energy systems on 20 city buildings. We’ve created a nonprofit organization and gotten funding for them to do work in the private sector, and that organization, the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance, has completed energy retrofits on more than 1,000 homes.”

As a city, Falkin says Cincinnati reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 8.2 percent, surpassing the goal outlined in the 2007 plan.

Falkin also plans to discuss Cincinnati’s energy aggregation program, which now provides 100 percent renewable energy for 60,000 residents and small businesses.

Despite recent progress, there is still room for improvement, particularly in recycling and adoption of zero-waste strategies that other cities use.

“There are communities around the nation and around the world that have made zero-waste pledges,” says Melissa English, Development Director for Ohio Citizen Action, an 80,000-member coalition that canvasses the state promoting environmental consciousness. “[These cities] pledge to send as little as possible of their waste streams to landfills or incinerators, and instead recover those materials—which is essentially money, it’s resources that we’re choosing to bury in the ground—and put that back to work in our economies.”

The environmental group leader points to the Rumpke landfill as an example of how much waste the region still discards ineffectively.

“We have the nation’s sixth-largest landfill in our county, in Colerain Township, and it’s not just the city of Cincinnati that’s filling it up,” English says. “Any sort of zero-waste strategy will be much more effective and farther-reaching if it is [adopted as] a regional strategy.”

Find out more:

Post questions in advance of the event.

RSVP for the State of the City environmental forum.

Download the city’s sustainability plan.

By Hannah Purnell

Tongue-in-cheek T-shirts delight Cincy sports fans

After moving to Dayton, Ohio, with his family in 1992, Doug Aldrich experienced the first tug of community – and the Cincinnati sports scene – traveling south for Bengals and Reds games, and soon became a loyal fan.

The problem? A graphic designer by training and a marketer by trade, he grew tired of commercialized fan gear. Instead, he wanted a shirt that would be a nod to local sports, without over-the-top branding. Soon he had drawn up pages of his own designs, and had a couple printed for himself.

“I like the experience of the game and experiencing the community of Cincinnati, but I didn’t want to wear a big brand logo on my chest,” he explains.

When friends saw him wearing the whimsical T’s, they wanted shirts of their own, and after having a handful printed, Aldrich designed a logo and website, and Cincy Clothing was born.

Despite Aldrich’s insistence that his lovingly drawn designs are “pretty simple,” they feature custom, hand-drawn fonts and graphics and tongue-in-cheek text (one reads “Keep Rolen,” another “One Dey”) that makes a statement.

“I wanted to create something that’s on the fringe of the brand, basically,” Aldrich says. “For instance, Mr. Redface is really an homage to the Andre the Giant graffiti -- it’s sort of a take on that. I wanted more of a fan’s perspective in the graphics.”

Aldrich launched Cincy Clothing less than a month ago and has a small, but steadily growing fan base of his own, with four hand-drawn designs available. They’re currently available at Prep Clothing in Dayton and online; Aldrich hopes to win a street vendor’s license soon.
By Robin Donovan

Cincinnati Photo Tours take aspiring artists through OTR

“It’s a two-hour tour, so it’s a long walk,” says Scott McHenry of his company’s photo tours in Over-the-Rhine. “Every time, something different pops up.”

The founder of Cincinnati Photo Tours found himself inside a church he’d been curious about during his last tour; one of the brothers happened to be on the sidewalk as his group approached. Another time, he found a group of kids playing volleyball on Race Street, and photographers snapped shots of the children leaping through the sand.

McHenry says interest in his tours is growing thanks to his Facebook presence, which he uses to drive traffic to the main website of his eponymous photography business. McHenry first grabbed a camera to escape fellow soccer parents at his son’s games (he coached for years), and ended up selling shots of high school athletes to the Community Press.

During the next nine years, he expanded his skills, joining the Professional Photographers of America and widening his scope to include portraiture as well as weddings. He also has a flair for fine art; you may have seen his works on display at downtown’s Coffee Emporium during two recent stints as an artist in residence there. 

These days, McHenry is leading groups of 5 to 12 people through Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati’s burgeoning historic district.
He’s also planning a new tour that will transport his students among the various hilltops in the city. “With all the hills surrounding Cincinnati, there are a lot of great photographic viewpoints.”

McHenry says a photo tour he researched while traveling to New York City sparked the idea of offering a similar tour here: “There’s so much interest in Over-the-Rhine with the revitalization of Washington Park.”

By Robin Donovan

Flywheel's training series focuses on social entrepreneurship

Flywheel, Cincinnati's social enterprise hub, has launched a new series of training sessions designed to develop marketing, planning, research and business skills in the nonprofit sector.

Meetings run this month through November, beginning with a session on Market Research, Wednesday, Sept. 19. The session will help nonprofit's better use market research to test the feasibility of new programs or to improve existing ones. (The session runs from 2 to 4 pm at The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati. You can register at Eventbrite.)

This training series fits with Flywheel's mission to help non-profits in generating money through social enterprise, or products or services that have social value. 

The organization was formed early this year by the Leadership Council for Human Services Executives, the Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati, the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Miami University, and Centric Consulting.

Flywheel has scheduled two other workshops. Click on the links to register for the them.
Social Enterprise 201
October 9, 1 - 4 pm
Business Planning Training
(in partnership with The Health Foundation)
November 2, 9 am - 5 pm
By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter.

New SoMoLaunch competition to award 5K to small business with big idea

SoMoLend, the Cincinnati-based online peer-to-peer lending site, has launched a new small business competition. The winner gets $5,000 to help fund a new idea.

SoMoLaunch is the lender's first business competition. Participants have until Sept. 30 to apply at the SoMoLend website.
The winning company will receive:
  • $5,000 in cash
  • National publicity
  • A mentoring session with SoMoLend founder Candace Klein
“There are so many talented entrepreneurs out there with fantastic business ideas, but gaining financing might be the hardest obstacle they face," says Klein in an announcement. "We want to encourage innovation and recognize small business owners and their hard work. This is our way of lending a hand to the entrepreneurial community.” 

The prize can be used for business expansion, equipment upgrades, promotional materials or other growth needs.
Eligibility is based on a number of factors. Applicant businesses must be incorporated as a corporation or LLC, and submit a loan application.

Other entry requirements include a fully developed business plan, completion of all sections of the SoMoLend application with contributions from all company owners, completed financial statements and financial projections, a viable business model and evidence of research.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter

Lifelong Reds fan creates Lineup app

Like many Gen Y Cincinnatians, Hendrixson remembers when the Reds grabbed a World Series title in 1990. Today, his company’s (Blue Seat Media) signature Cincy Lineup app delivers Reds’ batting and pitching lineups as they’re posted, typically three to four hours before each game.

“It’s interesting to know who’s leading off and who’s sitting that day,” says Hendrixson, who describes the lineup as a trailer for the game.

“The Reds have had some injuries lately -- Scott Rolen has been in and out of the lineup -- so it’s always interesting to me to see if he’s playing that night, who’s catching and who might be playing in his place.”

Beyond fandom, Hendrixson says he’s inspired by companies like Apple and Pixar whose seamless marriage of tech functionality and intuitive design create products that seem “magic.” When he’s not at the ballpark, he works to create apps that leverage these same strengths.

“Developers are a unique breed just like designers are a unique breed,” he says. “I have a place in my heart for this idea of designers and developers working together really efficiently; it's not something many companies do well.”

Hendrixson is also the founder of the tech development company Inkdryer Creative.

By Robin Donovan

SoMoLend, CircleUp investment sites team to extend reach

Two innovative online investment startups, one in Ohio and one in California, are teaming to expand each other's reach.
Cincinnati-founded SoMoLend (short for Social Mobile Lending) and CircleUp, based in San Francisco, are among the newest places where smaller investors and company owners can meet to do business. They both offer alternative financing and investment opportunities outside of traditional banking and investment arenas.

Through SoMoLend, a peer-to-peer lending site, entrepreneurs can borrow up to $35,000 through the secure, patent-pending platform. Borrowers create a profile and loan application through the SoMoLend site. SoMoLend is the brainchild of Cincinnati attorney Candace Klein, also founder of Bad Girl Ventures, a micro-financing organization geared toward women-owned businesses.

CircleUp is a similar platform, but for businesses willing to also offer equity in their companies. Co-founders Ryan Caldbeck and Rory Eakin, who have backgrounds in finance and business consulting, launched CircleUp in April. CircleUp focuses on retail and consumer businesses.

"We work with companies that have tangible products on the shelf, and are looking to scale their businesses," Eakin says.

The companies' founders met through their mutual work in supporting the recently approved federal JOBS Act. Among other things, the law allows non-accredited investors to invest or spend small amounts of money to businesses with some restrictions. The legislation was vital to the growth of sites like SoMoLend and CircleUp.

"CircleUp is one of the first players in this space," Klein says. "We found ourselves in the same places; we were approached by some of the same investors. When 30 people tell you tell you should be talking to someone, you start to listen." 

Initially the partnership will be more informal and consist of both companies referring potential investors and companies to one another, depending on which funding mechanism works best.

"We have complementary services, and want to work with SoMoLend because we were looking to partner with a great company with similar technology and services," Eakin says.

Eventually, the companies plan to serve investors and business owners through a single site, sharing resources on the back end.

"We have a strategic alliance, with an eye toward aligning as many products and services as possible," Klein says.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter.

Cincinnati company developing new ADHD drug

A small pharmaceutical development company is in the process of developing a new ADHD drug, which could net over $1 billion per year, if it makes it to market.
P2D Bioscience was started in 2005 by a former University of Cincinnati psychiatry professor, Dr. Frank Zemlan.

P2D partnered with Advinus, a drug discovery company based in Bangalore, India. The two companies are working on developing a drug, which was once used for cocaine addiction, to treat ADHD, but with fewer side affects and no addiction liability. 
ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children, with symptoms continuing into adulthood in up to 50 percent of cases. Recent estimates show that approximately 4.7 percent of American adults live with ADHD.

In the U.S. alone, the rate has grown from 12 per 1,000 children in the 1970s to 34 per 1,000 in the 1990s.
"This drug has a big advantage over similar drugs," says Zemlan, CEO of P2D. "Without the risk of addiction liability, there is potential for a huge market."
The drug was designed not to be addictive because it had been used for cocaine addicts. The drug has passed the first round of pre-clinical testing, and Zemlan says it will be able to begin testing on humans in eight to 12 months, if all goes as planned. Currently, the drug is undergoing safety tests.
"It's a big boom for Cincinnati to have drug development company based here," Zemlan says. "It gives a lot of opportunity for hiring high-tech and highly skilled employees." 
In its short existence, P2D has had great success and already has patents around the globe. Much of the work is through a partnership with the National Institute of Health, which is where P2D obtains many of its grants for research. 
"This year alone we have received $4.5 million in grants from the NIH," Zemlan says. "We hope to keep growing."
By Evan Wallis

Cintrifuse to offer developing start-ups room, tools, to grow in Cincinnati

When The Brandery launched in 2010, it put Cincinnati on the start-up map in a new way. Now a new initiative aims to put The Brandery, CincyTech and other start-up minded folks under the same roof with the goal of making that dot on the map bigger and more sustainable.

Innovators around the globe already see Cincinnati as a place to bring early-stage ideas and get expert help and access to their very first rounds of funding on their way to bigger, profitable futures.

In an effort to solidfy Cincinnati’s start-up ecosystem, the Cincinnati Business Committee announced a new approach: Cintrifuse, an initiative that will start with $55 million in corporate contributions targeted to support start-ups after their initial funds have been raised and as they refine and test their ideas and businesses. P&G’s global innovation officer, Jeff Weedman, takes his career on a new path as the leader of Cintrifuse.

"I would argue that it’s not a new initiative," says Weedman, a 35-year Procter veteran. He points to reports that Cincinnati is actually overdeveloped with seed-stage funding, thanks in part to years' worth of development and support work for tech start-ups. "This is an opportunity to take a lot of terrific work to the next level."

Many entrepreneurs start businesses here and love it—low cost-of-living expenses, access to top creative and professional experts and access to those very first grants and investments. Not to mention the arts, sports, education and amazing parks. But we digress.

But then reality sinks in. They welcome and need financial support through programs like CincyTech, which matches local private dollars with Ohio Third Frontier funding to make seed-stage investments in start-ups. But finding local sources for additional rounds of funding is a bigger challenge.

“It could become a valley of death for a start-up,” says Carolyn Pione Micheli, communications director for CincyTech, who has watched companies like ShareThis move away and companies like AssureRX, which remains in Cincinnati, find the money they need in Silicon Valley.

It’s only as start-ups enter their second and third money-raising rounds that they typically have products to show and market. If they can’t find support in Cincinnati to get them to that level, then they most often travel to the west coast and Silicon Valley, where consecutive rounds of funding are the norm, not the exception.

"The post-seed, pre-scale money is challenging," Weedman says.

Cintrifuse, which will initially be located on the first floor of the Sycamore Building at Sixth and Sycamore, has myriad spokes extending from its laser-focused hub.

“It’s just kind of sharing energy,” says Pione Micheli, who explains that the eventual home for Cintrifuse, the former Warehouse nightclub building on Vine Street,will eventually house CincyTech, The Brandery and offices for small start-ups as well as classroom space.

By eventually locating in Over the Rhine, near the under-construction Mercer Commons development, the hope is to bring more office workers into the expanding Gateway District of Vine Street. But for now, Weedman already has start-ups that have expressed an interest in sharing space with him on Sycamore.

He says the potential for Cincinnati to shine globally is clear with is existing population of consumer brand experts, creative professionals, wealth of medical research at Children's Hospital and underdeveloped patents at UC. "Why would any startup with a consumer focus anywhere in the world not want to come to Cincinnati?" he asks.

Big names in the CBC—names like Kroger, P&G, UC and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center—have pledged to support the effort financially, but Pione Micheli hopes they step up with partnerships as well as checks.

She sees Cintrifuse as a step toward a true start-up culture shift, one in which mistakes and failures are known as valuable tools for learning and growth, not death knells for start-up founders.

“It is a risk,” Pione Micheli says. “They are not all going to make it. As a region, we don’t have a good tolerance of failure.”

She notes that in Silicon Valley, investors see supporting a founder who has failed as a badge of honor. What entrepreneurs learned from prior bold ideas, the reasoning goes, they will apply in their next.

Maybe what Cincinnati needs is a little more room to fail, which provides, in turn, a lot more room to grow.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.

Bluestone expands, keeping focus on relationships

Adam Browning and Jack Conrad met as toddlers in Northern Kentucky. They went to grade school together, started college together and stayed friends after that.

Then, when Browning transformed his one-man creative shop into an advertising agency, bluestone creative, in 2003, he did it with Conrad, his creative co-founder.

Today, bluestone creative exists as a testament to their ability to build partnerships that last.

“We’re hell-bent on reinventing the client-agent relationship,” says Browning, who graduated from art school and turned his job at Snowshoe Mountain into bluestone’s first client project and hasn’t looked back since. Clients include napCincinnati, roadID and Red River Gorge.

He’s proud that his company has never actively sought new clients, yet has gained enough project work through word-of-mouth to bring in new employees, a responsibility neither takes lightly. While the duo started lean—they were the only employees until 2008—they now have seven employees in their downtown office on Main Street.

Employees wear many hats, in an effort to spur creativity while avoiding silos of skills and layers of job duties. In an atmosphere like that, relationships, like clients, build naturally.

 “Good creative is key,” says Conrad, who lives in Ft. Mitchell and worked in sales at Cincinnati Bell before joining Browning and making a go of it as an independent business co-founder.

Though the duo worked out of Browning’s apartment in Mt. Adams for the first few years, he now enjoys sharing space with his expanding team.

“It’s nice to be in an environment with other creative people,” says Browning, a father of two who lives in Crescent Springs.

In addition to their work at bluestone, Browning and Conrad founded The Queen City Project with Alias Imaging last year. Their collaborative efforts with Alias and SoapboxMedia led to the Cincinnati Growing Cincinnati video that wowed audience members at the CEOs for Cities conference here this spring.

Fueling their creative interests fits naturally with their less-than-orthodox mission statement: “to enjoy the scenery while we work.”

So far, Conrad reports, so good.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter.

ViableSynergy joins Health Data Consortium to harness, unleash massive healthcare data

Cincinnati-based startup ViableSynergy, a health IT commercialization firm, recently joined a new federal initiative aimed at liberating massive amounts of government-stored healthcare data to create new products and services designed to improve healthcare delivery.

The newly-formed Health Data Consortium, spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is an effort to get data housed in various government programs like Medicaid or the Department of Veteran's Affairs into the hands of health innovators. The data, scrubbed of personally identifying information, could be used to create more effective healthcare services and help providers make better care decisions.

"In Medicaid services, you can look at claims data like the distribution of race and the types of claims," explains Sunnie Southern, founder and CEO of ViableSynergy. "You could look at that information across a map and visualize it.

"You could see if more African-Americans have heart attacks in a certain area, or more Caucasians have back surgeries, and make a decision based on that. If there is a high concentration of Asians who have heart attacks in an area, maybe you could put a clinic in that place. You could help reduce health disparities."

As an affiliate of the Health Data Consortium, ViableSynergy will work to communicate the needs of the region to the consortium.

"What does the community need, in the broad sense? What tools and resources do we in the real-world need -- NKU, business incubators or UC -- to liberate these massive data sets that are released? We'll be working as a conduit to answer those questions," Southern says.

Other members of the Consortium include California Health Care Foundation, Consumer Reports, Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Gallup/Healthways.

"(Health and Human Service CTO) Todd Parks, whose brainchild was the open government initiative, really wants to use health data to spur innovation and entrepreneurship," Southern says.

By Feoshia Henderson
Follow Feoshia on Twitter

Bunbury gets Techbury twist this weekend

As world choirs make their exits and the inaugural Bunbury Music Festival launches July 13-15, visitors can supplement their music fix with new technologies and a celebration of entrepreneurial talent – from app developers to DJs – during Techbury, which takes place in a large air-conditioned tent just west of the L&N Bridge.

Like other music festivals that combine music with technology (SXSW, Coachella), Bunbury launches with a tech partnership that features the combined talents of seed-stage funder CincyTechUSA and R&D from digital marketing brand-makers at Possible Worldwide.

The Techbury tent will house interactive games, cool consumer products to demo and stage programming that includes local technology startup pitches, local band interviews and local DJ competitions. And did we mention air conditioning? And beer. Yes, beer.

“Possible Worldwide was very eager to get involved with the festival because our agency is all about celebrating the relationship between creativity and technology,” says Meghann Craig, associate communications manager at Possible. “That's our sweet spot.”

“For CincyTech, participating in the Techbury portion of Bunbury is about showcasing the startup innovation happening in our region with the tens of thousands of people who attend,” says Carolyn Pione Micheli, CincyTech communications director.

With programming both on and off-stage in the tent, Techbury offers a cool place to experience the festival in a more hands-on way. “Techbury allows you to engage with the Festival in a more intimate setting and provides an experience that is unique and different from traditional music festivals,” says Craig.

Techbury highlights include:

• Possible Labs’ “interactions gallery” with Human Pong and other Microsoft Kinect-based games.

• Friday’s Startup Pitch Wars, a battle of 16 local startups that deliver “rocket pitches,” with the winner determined by crowd vote and prizes offered by The Greater Cincinnati Venture Association and Bunbury.

• Saturday’s All Night Party Local Band Showcase, featuring interviews with local bands moderated by Chelsea VandeDrink of WVXU and aired on the station.

• Sunday’s Bunbury Battle of the Cincinnati DJs, which pits four local DJs against each other.

By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter

Instrument Life connects musicians, instrument buyers, sellers

On the eve of the 2012 World Choir Games in Cincinnati, a virtual marketplace for musicians is makings it debut.

Instrument Life, a Cincinnati start-up, links musicians, instrument retailers and vendors, repair shops and schools to pull together the music world's many pieces.

"(In the industry) nobody talks to each other," says Instrument Life founder Chris Sturm. "Manufactures don't talk to retailers, retailers don't talk to repair shops. There are all these different segments that are part of the same industry, but they don't have a vehicle to communicate.

"We tie them together in a Facebook style, and we have business apps to add to free accounts."

Instrument Life, which is part of the new UpTech business accelerator in Northern Kentucky, is set to kickoff its membership drive at the World Choir Games July 4. Sturm moved up the launch date, originally set for the fall, to capture the worldwide audience of music performers who will be in the city for the 10-day competition. A fuller version of the site is set for the fall.

Sturm has a passion for music, having played in a band in local bars around Cincinnati as a teenager. He eventually started a career in software development, and Instrument Life combines his talents.

"I was into the technology side of things, but there was something about music that pulled me back in," he says. "Cincinnati used to be a very hot music scene, and it's kind of cooled off. Our ultimate goal is to remind people that music is cool, and we want to launch and grow in Cincinnati."

Instrument Life musicians make a free profile where they can make lists of their instruments and devices, track instrument history, keep warranty information, upload band performances and post them to Facebook. There will be forums and other ways to meet up virtually to do everything from talking about performances to finding someone to repair an instrument.

Sellers, vendors and repair shops can purchase Instrument Life apps that will help them run and promote their businesses.

The company is working with some of the area's large music shops, including Willis music, to pilot the site, Sturm says. Band directors from several dozen area schools are also set to use the tool.

By Feoshia Henderson
Follow Feoshia on Twitter
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