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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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NKY Chamber pairs American business mentors, African leaders in Innovation Summit

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce will be part of a nationwide Innovation Summit and Mentoring Partnership that pairs African leaders with American business mentors.

An Innovation Summit started June 14 in Washington, D.C. and featured sessions with business leaders and entrepreneurs. The program is part of the Obama Administration's President's Young African Leaders Initiative, which identifies and fosters relationships with young African leaders. It's aim is to "promote business innovation, investment and social responsibility activities in Africa."

Starting this week, the African youth with fan out across the country learning about American culture and the workplace. In addition to Northern Kentucky, they'll travel to Seattle, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Miami, Huntsville, Denver and Chicago.

The Chamber, in conjunction with the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, will sponsor 21-year-old Mwaka Mukwasa, spokeswoman for the Young African Leaders Initiative or YALI. Her organization's mission is to "engage, support and empower Zambian youth and young leaders to enhance civic engagement through promotion of education, good governance, principled leadership and business skills."

Starting June 25, Mwaka Mukwasa will be spending a few days with the Chamber and a couple of days with Junior Achievement of Cincinnati, which develops youth workplace, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills.

"She'll be here learning about engaging young women and girls," says Amanda Dixon, manger of workforce talent solutions at the Chamber. "She wants to better connect them with career information and sources of education. She'll be looking at what we do at the Chamber, the resources we provide, and will have a set of best practices to take back home,"

By Feoshia Henderson
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UC collaboration leads to biodiesel research

Fueled by a US EPA grant, University of Cincinnati faculty and students are leading an effort to transform cooking grease into biodiesel on a regional scale.

This project is a collaboration among UC, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) and Bluegrass Biodiesel of Falmouth, Ky. The partners will test three methods to extract oil from the grease, including one the University is planning to patent.

Longer term plans are that this oil could be used in a biodiesel mixture to power diesel equipment and vehicles.

Grease hauling is an industry vital to restaurants, which pay haulers to dispose of used cooking grease. But the grease has to disposed of, usually in landfills.

"MSD receives grease from haulers," says project leader Mingming Lu, UC associate professor of Environmental Engineering. "The grease -- a mix of solid and liquid -- are from restaurant grease traps. MSD also has grease from the waste water it receives. The two kinds of grease are mixed, skimmed and condensed. This is called trap grease. It's stored in a pond and then sent to a landfill."

The EPA awarded the biodiesel effort an $87,000 grant during the the 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in May. The project was chosen from among 300 presented by college and university innovators across the country.

Up to seven UC students will be involved in the effort, Lu says. It's set to start in September and should last two years. It will include pilot demonstrations and a 100-gallon pilot treatment facility in collaboration with MSD.

"This is technology verification. We will try several technologies and see which one is the most effective for MSD," Lu says.

By Feoshia Henderson
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Cincinnati's CrowdSpark makes online contest creation easy, affordable

Online contests allow businesses and brands to find new customers, increase awareness and engage with followers through social media.

"This is a really a fast-growing space used to create media exposure to engagement," says Cincinnati entrepreneur Elizabeth Edwards, founder of the Cincinnati Innovates business competition.

But paying someone to create a custom contest can get pricey, and there's not much guarantee you'll get the results you want. So Edwards launched a new web product, CrowdSpark, designed to make contest creation more effective and accessible for businesses on tight budgets.

"A custom-designed platform and a management platform could cost $15,000 to create," she says. "Instead of paying a web developer to create a contest, for as little as $250 you could create your own."

Developers can also use CrowdSpark so that they can spend less time on code, and more time on creating a great contest, Edwards adds.

"We make it easy and economical to create and run those contests," she says.

Edwards is using CrowdSpark, now in Beta, to run the ongoing Cincinnati Innovates Contest, which wraps up July 15.

"I've learned a lot in the last four years of running Cincinnati Innovates, which has become of the most successful regional online contests in the world," she says. "But one of the things I learned not to do is spend a lot of money to get the results you want."

CrowdSpark offers social media plug-ins, analytics, contest entry forms, custom legal rules, tech support and options to create a custom domain and accept paid entries. There will also be a best practices guide focusing on creating and managing contests.

It costs between $250 and $2,000 to start using CrowdSpark, depending on the options it includes. Hosting fees range from $100 to $200 each month the contest runs.

By Feoshia Henderson
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CincyTech plans inaugural Great Lakes Venture Fair

CincyTech is working with its counterparts TechColumbus and JumpStart in Cleveland, as well the Ohio Venture Association and the Ohio Capital Fund, to organize the inaugural Great Lakes Venture Fair, Oct. 17-18, in downtown Cleveland.
 
The Great Lakes Venture Fair is a day-and-a-half event that will gather investors and high-potential, venture-backable companies from across Ohio and the Midwest. It builds on the success of the Ohio Capital Fund’s Early Stage Summit convention, which was held in Columbus for seven years.
 
Early-bird conference registration, at a rate of $150, is available until July 1.
 
The GLVF also will follow the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds’ national conference “Advancing Innovation: Seeding Tomorrow’s Opportunities,” being held at the same location, Oct. 15-17.
 
Programming for the GLVF will begin on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 1 p.m. with a discussion on corporate venture partners, followed by a joint reception with the NASVF addressing the state of the Ohio Capital Fund.
 
Thursday will include pitches from the region’s best startup information technology and bioscience companies, presentations on regional investment activity and conversations about building future growth in startups and investing in the Midwest.
 
Additionally, if your company is interested in presenting at the venture fair, applications for company presentations will open in mid-June at www.greatlakesventurefair.org.
 
Sponsors for the first Great Lakes Venture Fair include the Ohio Capital Fund, Early Stage Partners, CincyTech, Edison Ventures, Draper Triangle and Thompson Hine. For sponsorship opportunities, interested companies can contact admin@greatlakesventurefair.org or visit the website to download the Sponsor Prospectus.
 
The conference is providing access to hotel rooms at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at a discounted rate on a first come, first served basis.

By CincyTech

One More Pallet helps small shippers get deals

A new Cincinnati company is a banking on a simple idea whose success will all be in the details. One More Pallet aims to link small shippers with truck drivers who have a little space to spare as they're delivering large loads.

It will work like a bit like Priceline.com where small shippers, who need to move just one or two pallets, can enter their shipping information, along with how much they're willing to pay. Through One More Pallet's custom software system, shippers will be matched with carriers willing to accept the shipment. It's a win for the carriers, who can earn a little extra money, and for the the shippers, who can save as much as 50 percent off normal shipping costs.

"We're recruiting trucking firms and customers who are flexible in their delivery schedules," says company president and local entreprenuer Bill Cunningham. He and Sandy Ambrose, of Without A Doubt Warehouse in Fairfield, are the company co-founders. "If you can be flexible, you save a lot of money.

"Sandy came up with the idea. We were talking, and she said, 'I've got some excess capacity on my trucks and one or two more pallets on them would me make more profitable."

Since the conversation that sparked the idea, Cunningham and Ambrose have been working on the business idea, including the software system that links shippers and carriers. The software is currently in the pilot stage, with plans for a regional launch this summer. Those interested can get an invitation to the system through the One More Pallet website.

"We're going through the customer development process to make sure that our customers get a great experience every time," Cunningham says.

The company is getting a lot of interest. It was one of eight chosen for UpTech, a new business informatics incubator launched by several Northern Kentucky institutions, including Northern Kentucky University, Tri-Ed, ezone and Vision 2015. It's an intense, six-month accelerator program that includes $100,000 in funding. Companies selected to participate will also be working with students and faculty at NKU's College of Informatics.

It also was selected by the Kauffman Foundation as a finalist in the Startup Open in 2011 from more than 3,000 entries worldwide.

By Feoshia Henderson
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Define My Style recruiting 500 fashionistas

Define My Style, a Cincinnati startup and an online community of next-generation designers and fashionistas, is seeking 500 Design Assistants from across the country to discover and share their sense of style and design, create and publish fashion-oriented content, interact with other members of the community and bring their designs to life.

The program is looking for young women ages 14-22 who are passionate about style, want to become a part of fashion and have a drive to help others. ??Young women can participate from home and the program is accepting nominees on a rolling basis.

?Design Assistants should be highly motivated and eager to share their opinion. They will:

•    Lead and influence more than 50,000 DefineMyStyle.com members;
•    Connect with fashion-industry professionals, including stylists, designers, models and bloggers;
•    Be granted first access to trends, tools and brand partnerships;
•    Develop a personal brand;
•    Write blog posts, snap design-inspiring photos, submit videos and contribute to social media;
•    Build their resume for college.

In return, Design Assistants can earn points, badges (credits), swag and free bags from DefineMyStyle.com.??"I'm so excited to be one of the first Design Assistants,” says Kate Richey, a Cincinnati high school sophomore and a DMS Design Assistant. “We're getting to learn about fashion and design, and then we are given projects around what we've just learned. It allows us each to be creative and have fun. It's great to know that what we say and do makes an impact on the entire community.” ??

Define My Style Design assistants each will receive an elevated page on the DMS website where their accomplishments and profile will be housed.

The idea for Define My Style came to founder and CEO Kristine Sturgeon in 2007, when her oldest daughter was getting ready to head back to school. Unable to decide on a school bag that gave her the functions she needed and was a design she loved, Sturgeon’s daughter was at a standstill. She knew exactly what she wanted out of a product – as most consumers do – but brands sold commercially weren’t interested in listening to her desires. Sturgeon saw a business opportunity.

The website has now grown into a robust community of more than 50,000 members that allows teens to bring their ideas to life as they determine the role they want to engage in social commerce: including buyer, designer, marketer, critic and influencer of products. ??“The Design Assistant program offers a unique ability to play a role in fashion and influence the DMS community,” says Sturgeon. “At Define My Style, our goal is to provide right tools and connections to this creative next generation of leaders and influencers in the world of fashion. We are excited about all we have in store in the coming months.”

??If you know a teen you think would be perfect for the program, you can nominate them for the program.

Or, young women who want to directly apply to be a Design Assistant can submit their applications through the Define My Style Web site.  

By Sarah Blazak for CincyTech
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