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GCF grant helps Hamilton Mill hire industrialist-in-residence and expand student support


Just a short drive north of Cincinnati, Hamilton Mill offers a distinctive experience within the Startup Cincinnati ecosystem.
 
“We focus on technology that helps Southwest Ohio manufacturers have small and lean shops,” says Director of Operations Antony Seppi.
 
Hamilton Mill also emphasizes clean and green technologies through a special collaboration with the City of Hamilton. The city utilities department currently produces nearly 90 percent of its energy from renewable resources and shares that expertise with participants in Hamilton Mill’s programs.
 
Unlike the familiar short-term accelerator program, Hamilton Mill is an incubator that accepts applications on a rolling basis and tailors the length of the program to the participant, whether that’s nine months or three years.
 
“Some companies need a prolonged maturation process,” Seppi says. “We have startups at many stages in their development.”
 
Startups participating in the Hamilton Mill program receive marketing resources and assistance, technology resources, networking opportunities, and mentors to help the startups hit their milestones. Hamilton Mill is also building an innovation fund that will be available to qualified startups graduating from their program.
 
“We have a unique niche in the greater Cincinnati startup ecosystem,” Seppi says. “We are really trying to engage with the Cincinnati community, and we work closely with Cintrifuse and CincyTech.”
 
A recent grant of $50,000 from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) will help Hamilton Mill expand two of its signature programs.
 
Hamilton Mill is hiring an industrialist-in-residence to begin in a few weeks. It will be a rotating position featuring an expert in advance manufacturing who will consult regularly with the startups at Hamilton Mill.
 
“It offers added value to our participants, provides alternative perspectives, and helps formalize our program in advanced manufacturing technologies,” Seppi says.
 
The GCF grant will also support the development of a student entrepreneurship program, NextGen.
 
Hamilton Mill has been working with a couple of student startups, including one that has partnered with UC Health West Chester on a software project. However, there has is interest and opportunity to expand and further develop that program.
 
“NextGen lays a groundwork for high school and college students throughout Butler County to build and develop ideas,” Seppi says. “This is an expansive program that will include coding, app development, and technology.”
 
NextGen will incorporate students who have been participating in Butler Tech’s organization Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE). Hamilton Mill expects to work closely with Butler Tech and SAGE to develop the NextGen program and hopes the program will be up and running before the end of this academic year.
 
For bricks and mortar businesses looking to start or get assistance in Hamilton, the Hamilton Mill is also home to the Small Business Development Center supported by the State of Ohio. They have two consultants who offer workshops, information and training and have recently brought a grocery store and bakery to Hamilton.
 
In the spring Hamilton Mill will get new bragging rights as the only Southwest Ohio startup program with an on-site brewery. Municipal Brew Works is building out a brewery and tap room in the former fire department space in the Hamilton Mill complex.
 

Redesigned city website focuses on community feedback, ease of use


The City of Cincinnati unveiled its newly updated cincinnati-oh.gov website last week, with new graphic design, enhanced social media capabilities and mobile adaptability for better experience on phones and tablets.
 
“We wanted to do this because technology is changing extremely rapidly and we need to make sure we’re keeping pace,” says Rocky Merz, the city’s director of communications. “The other driving force was ‘How can we as a city do a better job of engaging the people who live here?’”
 
The website overhaul comes a few months after the city released its second app, Fix It Cincy, and the city used lessons from the app creation in the website redesign.
 
“What we had learned throughout the app development really helped inform the website,” Merz says. “We used analytics to really focus on looking at it from a user’s perspective.”
 
One of the big focuses of the redesign was how the website was already being used. The use of analytics for continual improvement was a key takeaway from the app development, so the design team looked in depth at the existing site’s analytics to see which pages were being used and which weren’t, then used that information to determine quick links highlighted on the site’s home page for efficiency.
 
A continual improvement cycle will be fed by responses the city gets to the new site, both on the newly integrated social media channels and features like the survey tool, which features a different question about city government each week.
 
Aesthetics were also important in the redesign. Merz points out that, as the screens on electronic devices have improved, website visuals have become more and more important. Font and color schemes on the site have been tweaked and modernized, but most notably the site now features a rotating gallery of high-definition Cincinnati images. The site pulls from a library of 3,000 photos that’s constantly updated.
 
In addition to ongoing technology improvements, the website also fits into the city’s efforts to make it simpler and easier for residents to get things done. Cincinnati’s two apps (Fix It Cincy for city services and Cincy EZ Park for on-street parking), the redesigned website and the newly opened and streamlined Permit Center are attempts to make it easier to partner with city government.
 
“We want to be transparent,” Merz says. “The more we engage and receive feedback from residents and visitors, the better city we are.”
 

New Cincinnati Children's research wing is big news for medical innovation


It’s been a big year for growth and innovation at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The highest-profile news was the June opening of the new Clinical Sciences Pavilion at the hospital’s main Avondale campus, a $205-million 15-story tower that became home base for its clinical trials.
 
“This new facility will significantly expand our initiatives in basic, translational, clinical, quality improvement and population-health based research,” says Margaret Hostetter, MD, chair of pediatrics and director of the Research Foundation at Cincinnati Children’s. “We’re now better positioned for future growth in exploring critical areas such as new diagnostics, targeted therapies and the root causes of infant mortality and pediatric disease.”
 
One of the main challenges of pediatric medicine is that so many childhood diseases are rarer than adult diseases and therefore less is known about how best to treat and cure them. So the work being done at Cincinnati Children’s accompanying research tower, opened in 2007, is incredibly important to improving patient care and outcomes.
 
Still, the new discoveries and innovations must be tested and translated into treatments in order to work for patients. That’s the work being done at the Clinical Sciences Pavilion.
 
Situated symbolically and functionally between the research building and the main hospital, the pavilion is designed to allow researchers and clinicians to collaborate on developing innovations into treatments through serving patients in clinical trials.
 
This process of translating innovations from the lab bench to the bedside isn’t new to the medical center, which is one of the top three pediatric research institutions in the country. About 40-60 percent of what Cincinnati Children’s does is centered around research and the development of new treatments, which fits well in the larger Cincinnati innovation ecosystem.
 
Some of the research done at Cincinnati Children’s has been successfully translated into tools for care and then brought to the market. Some of those tools have even launched startups of their own.
 
One of the best known is Assurex Health in Mason, which uses pharmacogenomics to help patients determine the best drug treatments based on genetic factors. The company’s GeneSight test technology was developed based on research conducted at Children’s and the Mayo Clinic.
 
Of course, in addition to companies that have started thanks to Cincinnati Children’s research, the medical center itself is attracting talent from all over the world.

The Clinical Sciences Pavilion alone houses more than 1,500 physicians, scientists and support staff. Its opening bolsters Cincinnati’s medical technology innovation sector and provides researchers with a unique opportunity to work in an open, collaborative environment that integrates the steps between lab research and patient care.
 

84.51 saw benefits of first Startup in Residence program flowing both ways

 
The Cincinnati startup ecosystem rapidly expanded throughout 2015, offering opportunities for companies at all stages of development. Downtown data analytics firm 84.51° launched a Startup in Residence program in June, providing co-working space and mentorship opportunities to four graduates of regional accelerator programs.
 
“As a more established company, we understand that there is an important role in supporting the future leaders in our space,” says Tony Blankemeyer, Startup Liaison at 84.51°. “We also view this as a learning opportunity for ourselves. By engaging with these companies we see how they approach similar problems and how these small companies are working in a very nimble manner, then we can take those learnings back to some of the work we do.
 
“Ultimately, by being deliberate about investing resources in emerging technology companies like the ones in our Startup in Residence program, we believe it can be a win for our customers but also for our business and the community at large.”
 
The first three participating startups — Casamatic, Hello Parent and Strap — moved into the 84.51° space in June and were joined by HireWheel in September. At first glance, the connection between those four companies — which address home buying, parent communications, wearables and home contractors, respectively — and 84.51° might not seem clear, but there are common threads.
 
“When you look at the companies and the true essence of their missions, they’re very similar to some of the foundational components at 84.51°,” Blankemeyer says. “They have the customer at the center of their design or solution. They’re studying human behavior and trying to understand peoples’ influences. And in almost all the cases with the four companies we have here, there is a data science and data informed approach to that solution.”
 
Participants in the Startup in Residence program not only work in the new state of the art 84.51° headquarters but also receive mentorship from subject-matter experts on staff.
 
“When we look at, for example Casamatic, they’re doing machine learning and data research for the home buying experience, so they might be able to tap someone on our technology team or our data science team just to give advice or guidance on how they might approach a problem,” Blankemeyer says. “Different perspectives typically help advance projects.”
 
84.51° also is creating new avenues for testing and prototyping new products.
 
“I believe one of the most difficult things for a startup is knocking on the doors of larger companies and trying to get that foothold to show what you can do and prove that your solution can be a value,” Blankemeyer says. “So we’re trying to knock down barriers with our program by connecting the right people at the startups to the people within our organization that actually activate and run those pilot programs.”
 
84.51° plans to start a more formalized mentorship program in 2016 to connect its staff with startups in other regional accelerator programs. The company will also launch an online application process for their Startup in Residence program. Interested companies can submit a letter of intent and complete an interview process.
 
“We will see where they are on their journey and if it matches up with the interest areas and foundational pieces that we’re seeking,” Blankemeyer says.
 
Unlike many of the accelerator programs with fixed start and end dates, Startup in Residency participants will be accepted on a rolling admission process.
 
“The first year was definitely a learning year,” Blankemeyer says. “But we’ve seen some excellent benefits of having the startups here. I would definitely anticipate some additional companies in 2016.”
 

Water tech forum explores region's innovation and economic opportunities


On Thursday, Nov. 12, the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati will host a forum on water technology in Cincinnati and how to harness the opportunities it provides. Titled “Liquid Gold: the Cincinnati ‘Water’ Technology Story,” the event brings together science, nonprofits, research and industries to discuss the water technology resources already existing in Cincinnati and how those resources can be leveraged for innovation, environmental impact and economic development.
 
“Cincinnati does have this rich history of water technology,” says panel moderator Melinda Kruyer, director of Confluence, a nonprofit that coordinates water technology innovation and tries to facilitate new research, accessibility and commercialization of new water technologies and ways to meet water and environmental crises with innovation.
 
Cincinnati is already a leader in water technology and innovation and has been for a long time, she says, from the city water works founding nearly 200 years ago to establishment of one of the first federally-funded freshwater research labs here in 1913 to creation of an Environmental Protection Agency lab in the city in 1972.
 
In fact, the region is so rich in water technology research and innovation that a few years ago it was identified as the EPA’s first Water Technology Innovation Cluster and named Confluence.
 
“For Confluence, it’s really about connection,” Kruyer says. “We take down the barriers to that commercialization to help (innovators) get from the lab to commercialization.”
 
The cluster tries to bring together researchers, industry, government and other stakeholders to address water technology issues. Since they’ve been doing this for several years now, when new issues like this summer’s aqua-toxin algae bloom on the Ohio River occur, they already have teams and networks in place to come up with solutions.
 
“We’re not going to solve these problems,” Kruyer says. “We’re going to have to innovate our way out of them. … When you see these brilliant technologies people are coming up with, it’s wonderful.”
 
Kruyer will be joined by panelists who work directly with that kind of innovation, including Theresa Harten, director of the water technology cluster project at the EPA; Oliver Lawal of AquiSense Technologies, which innovates water treatment and disinfection technologies; and Bill Scheyer, president of Skyward (formerly Vision 2015) in Northern Kentucky.
 
The event is sponsored by the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati, which engages the city in a wide range of issues.
 
“This event speaks to their broad-based knowledge and awareness of big issues,” says Kruyer, adding that she sees the collaboration as a perfect fit and encourages public participation in the forum.
 
“What I hope attendees learn is that we have this rich asset,” she says, “and we’re probably better known around the globe than right here.”
 
Kruyer points out that the very reason the city exists is its proximity to water — its location on the Ohio River. For her, Confluence and the upcoming forum are important because “water is something that touches us all.”
 
“Liquid Gold: The Cincinnati ‘Water’ Technology Story” begins at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at First Unitarian Church, 536 Linton St. (at Reading Road), Avondale.
 

UC steps up role in encouraging startups on and off campus


The University of Cincinnati is co-hosting “University Start-Ups: Getting Beyond Challenges, Making It Happen” Nov. 9-10 in Louisville, a conference serving as a “mini boot-camp” on the various stages of creating a startup, from evaluating the idea to working with professional partners.
 
The event is organized by OVALS, formerly the Ohio Valley Association of Life Sciences, although its scope now extends beyond life sciences; the group of universities regularly holds conferences on startups and commercialization topics. UC was a founding member of OVALS 14 years ago.
 
“Our focus has always been commercialization, bringing scientific discoveries to the market,” explains Dorothy Air, UC’s Associate Vice President for Entrepreneurial Affairs and Technology Commercialization. “We’ve always focused on startups. Just this year we’re focusing it in a slightly different way with the mini boot-camp. I like the fact that we are very focused on practical things: Here are the critical aspects of starting a business, here’s how you work with partners, here’s what you need to be thinking about.”
 
Air says the model of this year’s conference makes it particularly appealing for not just universities looking to support commercialization of technology but anyone interested in starting a tech company or getting his or her idea off the ground.
 
“We’re trying to attract the ecosystem of everyone who is participating,” she says. “It will be useful for any startup.”
 
The conference will feature sessions on deciding whether a certain technology is right for a startup, how to make a company a reality, how to move forward and partner with industry, and how to look for and secure funding sources. It will also include a showcase of early-stage technologies coming out of participating universities and a keynote speaker, Nan Mallory MD, who successfully launched a startup companyt based on technology from university research.
 
For Air, the conference fits well into UC’s new model for supporting innovation. A few years ago, the university didn’t do much beyond helping inventors secure patents and intellectual property rights for their innovations. Recently, though, UC has “flipped the model,” Air says, focusing on a comprehensive approach to supporting startups and the full commercialization of new technologies to come out of university research.
 
The Louisville conference is part of that comprehensive model, as is the research accelerator UC is building at its former Campus Services building on Reading Road. UC is also hosting entrepreneurs in residence to help serve as a resource for faculty and students.
 
The university has even changed the way it tracks progress and success of commercialization, going from tracking the number of patents awarded to looking at the stages along the pathway of a startup from idea to available product. UC leaders are focusing heavily on supporting the difficult early stages of development and on partnering with the public and industry to inform university-supported processes.
 
“The OVALS conference fits into our overall strategy because we want to develop external visibility,” Air says. “We’re really kind of early on in this, and I think we’re starting to see more traction.”
 
The “University Start-Ups” conference will take place Nov. 9-10 at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel, 500 S. Fourth St. in downtown Louisville. Besides UC and CincyTech USA, host institutions include Indiana University, Ohio State University, Ohio University, Purdue University, University of Dayton, University of Kentucky and University of Louisville. Get more information and register here.
 

Transit's role in regional econcomic development to be discussed at Nov. 10 event

 
A new study using data from the Regional Indicators Report to examine how Tristate transit systems compare to 11 peer cities will be released Nov. 10 at “The Connected Region: Transit’s Role in Economic Development” at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.
 
The study goes beyond traditional mass transportation modes like bus, rail, walking and biking to include innovative multi-modal systems such as Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and bike share programs — whatever makes it easier for people to get around without using a single occupancy vehicle. More than 21,000 people in Greater Cincinnati use transit to commute to work on a daily basis.
 
The study and the event are hosted by the Cincinnati Chamber, Agenda 360, Skyward in Northern Kentucky and the Urban Land Institute's Cincinnati chapter.
 
The Regional Indicators Report began in 2010 as a partnership between Skyward (then Vision 2015) and Agenda 360 in order to gather unbiased data on 15 key indicators that would allow for direct comparison of Greater Cincinnati with 11 peer markets: Austin, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Indianapolis, Louisville, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Raleigh and St. Louis. Those cities were selected based on their similarities in geography, population size or demographics to the 15-county Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area (three in Southeast Indiana, five in Southwest Ohio and seven in Northern Kentucky).
 
“We've done a couple of deep dives like this,” says Erika Fiola, Manager of Strategic Initiatives for Agenda 360 at the Cincinnati Chamber. “Diverse by Design looks at female-owned business, minority educational attainment and regional ethnic diversity. 2020 Jobs Outlook considered what fields will have job growth and where the jobs will be in five years. This is our first deep dive on transit data.”
 
Fiola will present an overview of the transit indicators report findings Nov. 10. A panel discussion reacting to the report will follow, featuring such regional representatives as Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune; Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore; Darin C. Hall, Vice President of Real Estate Development at the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority; and Dan Tobergte, President & CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED.
 
In addition to their county governance roles, Portune and Moore also serve on transit-specific committees — Portune heads the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District and Moore is chair of the Transit Subcommittee for the Transportation Steering Committee at the National Association of Counties as well as chair of the Local Streets and Roads Committee for Kentuckians for Better Transportation.
 
“There is a lack of knowledge that across the country there are no transit systems that make money, that they’re all subsidized in some form, some more than others,” Fiola says. “But without robust regional transit systems people can’t get to jobs. There is a huge economic impact associated with our local transit systems, and we want to help people understand that.
 
“We want to have as great of a transit system here as we possibly can. Releasing this report is one step along the way. We need to continue this conversation about regional transit to make sure we are continually getting better.”
 
After the panel discussion, Dearborn (Ind.) County Commissioner Kevin Lynch will introduce the keynote speaker, Gabe Klein, former Regional Vice President of Zipcar and head of the transportation departments in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Klein is currently with Fontinalis Partners, focusing on transportation technology startups.
 
Klein’s keynote address will share ideas from his new book, Start-Up City, about bridging the public-private divide to provide better transit solutions.
 
“Gabe Klein is going to be an incredibly interesting and motivating speaker for us,” Fiola says. “He's done some great things in Chicago and D.C., including cutting through some of the red tape associated with transit projects and making things happen. Also, his work with transportation technology startups should be really relevant to the great startup and entrepreneurial community here.”
 
The Nov. 10 event is scheduled for 7:30-9:30 a.m. at the Chamber's office at 3 E. Fourth St., downtown; pre-registration is required, and tickets are $35, or $25 for Chamber and Urban Land Institute members. Breakfast will be provided, and all attendees will receive copies of the Regional Indicators Report on transit and Klein’s book, Start-Up City.
 

New Biomedical Informatics Certificate Program at UC announces first bonafide graduate


The future of medicine lies at the intersection of data analysis and medical science.

That's the general consensus at the University of Cincinnati, at least. Biomedical informatics, an interdisciplinary field that enables better understanding of health and biomedical information, has found a home at UC.
 
The new UC program, which combines expertise from the College of Medicine and the College of Engineering and Applied Science, announced its first graduate in May, Dr. Benjamin Landis. An MD, Landis completed his Certificate in Biomedical Informatics while finishing up a three-year pediatric cardiology fellowship at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
 
Landis' clinical work involved a great deal of research, so the opportunity for expansion of knowledge in informatics arrived at the perfect time.
 
"The practice of medicine is becoming a data analysis problem," Landis says. "Understanding what tools and techniques are available is essential."
 
His primary focus is in pediatric cardiology, specifically thoracic aortic aneurysms. When this type of aneurism occurs in children and young adults, there is normally a genetic reason for it. Landis' work uses genome sequencing data to analyze the impact of genetic modifiers on those who are afflicted with the disease.
 
"There is a real push for understanding the genetics of disease and incorporating genetics conditions in new ways," he says.
 
Most medical students and residents won't fully understand the technology behind genetic sequencing by the time they graduate. The informatics portion of Landis' education gives him a unique opportunity to fully understand and interpret the data he compiles.
 
Though UC's program is brand new, the informatics faculty is well-versed in the field. Landis' exposure to experts in this subspecialty was considerable, and the connections he made helped to jumpstart his career in the field.
 
Landis is now a part of the cardiology faculty at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. A secondary appointment at Riley's Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics will allow him to continue his research on thoracic aortic aneurysm and congenital heart malfunction.
 
"The ability to have an affiliation with a bioinformatics group is invaluable," Landis says. "It's the ticket to understanding biology and medicine going forward."
 
As for the future of UC's program, though the first year offered just a certificate, this semester promises the addition of a Biomedical Informatics PhD Program. In the coming years, students may also obtain a Master's degree in the subject.
 

Strap welcomes Mondelez International to Cincinnati to begin working with two of its brands


In cities like Cincinnati where marketing is king, “you are what you buy” is a familiar phrase. But the minds behind Strap, the Brandery-born human data intelligence startup, believe that “you are what you buy” and “you are what you tweet” are hardly relevant in today’s marketplace.
 
“We say you are what you do,” says Patrick Henshaw, COO at Strap, “whether it’s an activity, the food you eat, body metrics, sleep metrics. With that data, we can paint a more precise picture (for our clients).”
 
Strap’s approach to human data recently earned it a visit from Mondelez International, the global snack food leader. In June, Strap applied to be a part of Mondelez’s Shopper Futures Program, an initiative that brings together entrepreneurs and leading retailers to improve the customer experience. Last week, Strap announced that it’s been accepted into the program.
 
Strap will be using its human data intelligence platform to pitch a branding/marketing strategy for Trident, one of Mondelez's major brands.
 
Mondelez officials will visit Cincinnati this week as a part of an immersion tour. The Strap team will then have 90 days to come up with a pilot campaign for Trident. Convenience store Kum & Go will be Strap's acting retail partner for the project.
 
Strap’s technology integrates with smart phones and wearables to passively collect data ranging from a person’s physical activity to their sleeping habits. Strap can then offer data science to the brand to help them support their mission.
 
“And the data is not tainted by your social habits,” Henshaw says.
 
Strap has been an active part of the #StartupCincy movement for a couple of years now. Since graduating from The Brandery, the startup has moved into 84.51° in downtown Cincinnati as one of their Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, joining fellow Cincy startups Hello Parent, Casamatic and HireWheel. Strap also has a presence in San Francisco to better service existing clients.
 
“We’re wherever our customer is,” Henshaw says.
 
Though Strap is growing rapidly and this work with Trident will only propel them further, the company is still rooted in Cincinnati.
 
“You don’t have to head out to San Francisco to find innovation,” Henshaw says. “We love being a part of the movement that is proving that there is innovation outside of Silicon Valley.”
 
In Cincinnati, Henshaw and his Strap colleagues also act as mentors for The Brandery, UpTech and Ocean. Henshaw sees these mentorship programs as a great way to help budding companies avoid the pitfalls of the startup journey.

“A 30-minute conversation could have saved me two months when we started,” Henshaw says.
 

New round of People's Liberty grants available as first year starts to wind down


The next few months will be busy at People’s Liberty, with new grantees announced, current grantees premiering project results and two grant application deadlines.
 
Last week, the organization announced the three winners of their Globe Grants for 2016, an opportunity that gives projects $15,000 and three months to create some kind of innovative installation or programming in the People’s Liberty Globe Gallery space on Elm Street across from Findlay Market. The 2016 group of grantees features a photography exhibit of African-American men as Kings, a “toy library” for both children and adults and a chain-reaction space-filling machine art installation reminiscent of Rube Goldberg. Winners Nina Wells, Julia Fischer and Michael DeMaria should provide some captivating experiences in the space in its second year of installations.
 
The first year has one exhibit left: Deep Space, a nontraditional installation by Amy Lynch, Joel Masters and J.D. Loughead that provides an environment for creativity rather than presenting its finished products. It aims to be an “indeterminate space, a nebulous nurturing envelopment where creativity can thrive unencumbered.”
 
Deep Space will open with an event during Over-the-Rhine’s Final Friday on Oct. 30, finishing out the first full cycle of one of the three main People’s Liberty grants. The first two Globe Gallery projects were Jason Snell’s Good Eggs (March-June) and C. Jacqueline Wood’s Mini Microcinema (July-Sept. 3).
 
People’s Liberty launched a little over a year ago to provide opportunities for “new philanthropy” in Cincinnati. Founded by Eric Avner and Amy Goodwin via the U.S. Bank/Haile Foundation and Johnson Foundation, the philanthropic lab invests in individuals and human talent rather than the traditional model of foundations making grants to nonprofit organizations.

“I think this model gives us the opportunity to advance someone’s career,” says Aurore Fournier, a program director at People’s Liberty. “Sometimes we can even help them figure out what they want to do next.”
 
She expects People’s Liberty to continue expanding its marketing to reach an even wider pool of potential grantees.
 
“We want to strive toward even more great applicants,” Fournier says. “We want people to come from all over the I-275 beltway area.”
 
Fournier encourages everyone with an idea to apply for two upcoming grant opportunities. The first, due Wednesday, Sept. 9, is the Project Grant, which gives each winner $10,000 to complete a short-term project in Cincinnati.

The previous round of projects ranged from a cultural dance event to real-time arrival signs at Metro stops. Several of that group of grantees have their own milestones coming up this fall.

Alyssa McClanahan and John Blatchford just published the first issue of their Kunst: Built Art magazine with a series of events in Over-the-Rhine. Mark Mussman’s first class of Creative App Project students will premiere their finished Android apps at the Globe Building on Sept. 14. Giacomo Ciminello’s Spaced Invaders had a successful first test in Walnut Hills recently.
 
The Project Grantees aren’t the only ones making progress.

The first two recipients of the full-year $100,000 Haile Fellowship are also coming to the culminating stages of their projects. Brad Schnittger will soon launch the MusicLi platform to help connect local artists to music licensing opportunities, while Brad Cooper’s Start Small tiny homes project is due to break ground in October.
 
The application for next year’s Haile Fellowship will be open until Oct. 1, with a variety of opportunities for applicants to consult with People’s Liberty staff about their ideas.
 
Fournier sees the Haile Fellowship and Project Grants as a way for individuals not only to realize their ideas but to learn and grow in the process.
 
“This is not just a learning experience for us,” she says, “but also a learning opportunity for the people we fund.”
 
People’s Liberty staff members are proud of the work they’ve done and the people and projects in which they’ve invested so far. The five-year project will continue until 2020, when the team and funders will take some time to reflect on their work, its impact and what might be next.
 
“We’re extremely happy with the results,” Fournier says. “The opportunities are endless, and I think only time will tell with People’s Liberty.”
 

Unleash your inner child at 2015 Mini Maker Faire


Next weekend, the Cincinnati Museum Center wants to remind everyone what it's like to be a kid again. A 21st Century kid, that is.

That means live demonstrations from YouTube celebrities, high tech robots, 3D-printed phenomena and interactive activities like laser painting. They'll on be on display at the third annual Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire Aug. 29-30.
 
Inspired the national Maker Faire movement born out of San Mateo, Calif., and sponsored by Make magazine, Cincinnati's event is hosted by one of dozens of chapters across the country. Referred to as The Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth, its goal is and always has been to showcase invention, creativity and resourcefulness while entertaining to the fullest.
 
Cincinnati's Mini Maker Faire is one of 120 independently-organized events modeled on the larger-scale Maker Faires. This year, Cincinnati brings together over 30 makers and inventors to showcase their gadgets and discoveries.
 
While the event is about as kid-friendly as it can get, the team behind the Mini Maker Faire hopes to draw in adult crowds as well. The Museum Center will be presenting a wealth of information on the history of innovation in Cincinnati along with promises of drag-racing power tools, 3D-printed prosthetic hands and a racecar custom made by University of Cincinnati students — just about every age group will find something worth exploring.
 
For the little ones, the Duke Energy Children's Museum will offer projects like painting with lasers, playing with puppets and building cities out of paper.
 
The event will also include a celebrity appearance. Eepybird, the famous duo responsible for the Coke-and-Mentos YouTube video that sparked appearances on Letterman, Ellen and Blue Man Group performances, will conduct one of their Coke-and-Mentos experiments to kick off the Mini Maker Faire.
 
The Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire will also host area artisans and crafters to sell their handmade items in the Rotunda throughout the weekend.
 
The event is scheduled for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free to Cincinnati Museum Center members and holders of their All Museums Pass ($14.50 for adults, $10.50 for children). Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum.
 

DAAP class presents new visions for OTR Brewery District


On July 30 students from UC’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP) presented ideas for Cincinnati’s Brewery District — the area of Over-the-Rhine north of Liberty Street — and Brewing Heritage Trail.
 
The students had been working on their designs in teams of four or five as part of the class titled Design Systems: Re-Envisioning Cincinnati’s Brewery District. Each year the studio class works with a real client to create real solutions, and this year’s client came into the picture through university connections. Steve Hampton, executive director of the Brewery District, is an architect and DAAP graduate.
 
The students’ projects are helping the Brewery District develop its Brewing Heritage Trail, which is envisioned as a world-class walking tour and district celebrating Cincinnati’s brewing history that would bring heritage tourism into the area.
 
“Being able to access all this young talent is fantastic,” Hampton says. “I love that with this kind of studio you’re going to get a variety of options.”
 
Hampton is looking forward to putting some of the ideas into practice in the Brewery District. The students are also excited about the prospect, as the district has become a passion for many of them through the course of the project.
 
“They felt the passion for the neighborhood,” says professor David Eyman. “It took one walk through the area for them to fall in love with it. So what they did was 200 percent of what you usually see from a class.”
 
“We put our hearts and souls into this,” student Caycee Boyce says, “and a lot of time!”
 
Her classmate Jenny Beruscha adds, “It’s interesting how a bunch of students with the same education could come up with such different designs.”
 
Their July 30 presentations showed the variety of ideas they worked on as well as some similarities.
 
Many students emphasized the need for public gathering spaces, drawing on the brewing heritage connection and the inspiration of biergartens as places to bring people together. Better lighting and seating was a common theme to improve safety and comfort in the neighborhood. Several groups also emphasized public art installations, consistent signage and gateways at main intersections to define the district’s boundaries and overall feel.
 
Many of the young designers gave nods to brewing history and OTR’s heritage while integrating modern twists. The browns and ambers of beer even worked their way into the aesthetics of designs as main colors, along with materials like wood and steel inspired by the brewing process and the brick texture already ubiquitous in the neighborhood’s architecture.
 
At the same time, the groups worked to make sure their designs were fresh and modern.
 
Two groups actually rejected the connection of beer itself, favoring the idea of “brewing” as a metaphor for creating or making and focusing on the district as a daytime space for residents to complement OTR’s thriving nightlife scene south of Liberty Street. One group even expanded its scope from the Brewery District to the entire branding of Over-the-Rhine.
 
The presentations were hosted at Roadtrippers in the Brewery District, an app and website that aims to help travelers drive to the most interesting places on their journeys. This was another UC connection, as Roadtrippers has DAAP graduates on staff.
 
The students were critiqued by a panel of judges ranging from DAAP faculty and successful professional designers to Brewery District representatives and a practicing OTR brewmaster.
 
The students’ range of possibilities and quality of work impressed even their professors.
 
“Who better to design the future than the future themselves?” professor Kelly Kolar, who runs Kolar Design, asked after the presentations.
 
With all of these new ideas, the Brewery District’s future looks full of possibility.
 

TEDx and NewCo host outstanding conferences dedicated to Cincinnati's innovation activity


Cincinnati innovators took the spotlight at two major events earlier this month, starting with TEDxCincinnati, which packed downtown’s Cincinnati Masonic Center July 9 with 1,000 attendees.
 
“We definitely had a mix of participants, from first timers to repeat attendees,” TEDxCincinnati Director/Organizer Jami Edelheit says. “We sold out in three weeks even with a larger venue, and our waiting list was close to 200 people. We already have some exciting things in the works for the next main stage event.”
 
The five-hour event, emceed by Local 12’s Bob Herzog and Atlanta-based actress Allison Wonders, featured 23 presentations, including TED talks and performances. A mix of local and national speakers covered subjects ranging from hope and perseverance to new technologies and human trafficking.
 
TEDx talks were presented in two two-hour blocks, separated by a dinner break and the opportunity to explore Innovation Alley, where participants could get a Thai Yoga Massage, touch a snake from the Cincinnati Zoo, get a taste of the Maker Space at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, write a love note to Cincinnati, experience virtual reality with the University of Cincinnati and take part in activities presented by event sponsor United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
 
Among the highlights of the evening:
• Social justice advocate Jordan Edelheit’s live webcast with Dan from the Marion Correctional Facility to talk about poetry and TEDx events at the prison;
• A cheetah visit from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden;
• Four Chords & a Guy, who performed decades of popular songs in a few minutes accompanied by simple music and a great sense of humor; and
• Aidan Thomas Hornaday, a 14-year-old philanthropist who speaks eloquently about the need to give and plays a mean blues harmonica.
 
Edelheit is thrilled with the response to TEDxCincinnati.
 
“It was awesome having Alex Faaborg come from Google Virtual Reality,” she says. “We had a line out the door for registration, and the first 100 people received a Google CardBoard Virtual Reality Glasses. Ed Smart and his Operation Underground Railroad met with Cincinnati Players before the event to discuss modern-day slavery. They’re now talking about collaborating on a program later this year.
 
“We loved including the some of the children from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and The Aubrey Rose Foundation in the finale with Eliot Sloan from Blessed Union Souls singing his hit song, ‘I Believe.’ As a result of that performance, Toby Christenson, Chris Lambert and Chris Lah are collaborating with Eliot to do a fundraising CD for Cincinnati Children’s Charitable Care Fund. They plan on involving community kids and Children’s Hospital patients. How exciting for this to be one of the many positive outcomes from TEDxCincinnati.”
 
Videos of all the TEDxCincinnati talks and performances will be available online in August.
 
On July 23, NewCo Cincinnati offered the field-trip version of a TED-type program, with 85 companies across the region hosting nearly 900 participants. From Northern Kentucky to Blue Ash, NewCo hosts brought attendees into their offices, breweries and factories for a unique and personal experience with Cincinnati innovators.
 
NewCo hosts were primarily startups but also included agencies, nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions and a couple of large corporations. Attendees could build their own schedule by geography, field of interest or subject.
 
A VIP reception to kick off NewCo Cincinnati was held July 22 with over 200 attendees.
 
The next day’s main NewCo event was divided into six one-hour sessions, with 30 minutes of travel time allotted between each session. Attendees trying to get from West Chester to OTR may have scrambled, but many sessions were located in the urban core and plenty of NewCo participants took advantage of Red Bike to move from session to session.
 
NewCo sessions varied greatly in content and style.
 
At the OTR Chamber of Commerce session, held in the Crown Building adjacent to Findlay Market, short presentations from the Chamber, Findlay Market and Red Door Project were followed by audience questions and discussion.
 
SpiceFire took participants on a tour of its stunning offices in SangerHalle on Race Street, gave a brief presentation, then broke up the group for a hands-on activity that provided a taste of its client experience.
 
Rockfish gave a short presentation, then let attendees try out Google Glass and Oculus Rift or just enjoy the view of downtown from their Mt. Adams perch.
 
A panel discussion by Cerkl, Activate Cincinnati, Starfire, Girl Develop It and Bad Girl Ventures looked at the local startup ecosystem from a female perspective.
 
At the end of the day, NewCo hosted a wrapup party at the Christian Moerlein Taproom for all attendees and hosts to do some networking while sharing their experiences of the day.
 
Both TEDxCincinnati and NewCo Cincinnati did an outstanding job of highlighting innovative activities taking over the region, not just in the startup community but in nonprofits and the arts as well. Yet, as the organizers of both events have said repeatedly, the 2015 hosts and presenters were by no means an exhaustive representation of Greater Cincinnati’s exciting entrepreneurial growth.
 
The depth and breadth of creativity in the region will ensure that the 2016 versions are just as compelling to attend. As word gets out about these events, expect those tickets to sell out even faster next year.
 

Creative App Project to build community by teaching Android app development

                                     
As a self-described amateur app developer, Mark Mussman wants to make the tools for creating Android apps accessible to as many people as possible. His dream is becoming a reality through the Creative App Project (CAP), which will teach a dozen non-techies how to design, build and market Android apps this summer thanks to a People's Liberty Project Grant.
 
“The thing is that it's not that difficult (to make an app),” Mussman says, “but it's easier when you have someone there helping you along the way.”

He would know. Although he isn’t a professional app developer, Mussman created his own Android app, Cincinnati Hill Challenge, to supplement his experience of using the Map My Fitness apps. Once he created his first app, he started to realize its potential impact by collaborating with users to host events and challenges around Cincinnati. He began to meet new friends at the events.
 
“I thought it was pretty neat,” he says. “We started to build community around this app.”
 
It’s the potential to build community through building apps that Mussman felt made the project a perfect fit with People’s Liberty. The philanthropy organization’s resources, connections and approachability have been instrumental in getting his project off the ground. He especially appreciated getting to meet other grantees.
 
“Part of what was great about it was connecting with the people on other people's projects,” he says. “It was a really collaborative spirit.”
 
The spirit of collaboration will carry over into the first CAP class. As the participants meet on Monday evenings for 12 weeks over the summer, they’ll first create an app together as a group, then proceed to realize their individual app ideas. Along the way they’ll also learn how to manage the apps, use analytics and market their creations, eventually helping develop resources to make future app development accessible to the general public.
 
Mussman wanted to recruit a diverse group of participants to create these apps and to impact a wide swath of Cincinnati’s population.
 
“Really I wanted it to be people who are involved in their community or looking to get more involved in their community and the Cincinnati community,” he says.
 
Recruiting women has been difficult, he says, but in many other respects the class will be very diverse. He’s happy with the racial balance and the variety of neighborhoods represented. There’s also a great diversity of age, with participants going into their senior year of high school as well as those much older and deeply ingrained in their communities. Even the ideas for apps vary greatly, including architecture, nutrition and much more.
 
Accessibility is also why CAP will focus on Android apps. While Apple IOS developers must pay roughly $100 on a yearly basis, an Android app requires only a one-time fee of $25. Android apps also take much less technical equipment to develop — Mussman says they can be created from any computer, tablet or Android mobile device.
 
“This isn't something you necessarily have to have programming skills to do, just basic Word skills,” he says. “If you can use Microsoft Word and the internet, you’ll be good to go.”
 
Mussman isn’t intimidated by the idea of starting with technology basics. He’s been working in adult education for seven years and has seen tech skills become increasingly important in that field — for example, the GED recently became an entirely computer-based test. But a potential skills gap presented extra hurdles for some of Mussman’s students who had been out of school for decades.
 
“I was doing a lot of really heavy technology education, you know, with people who didn’t even know what a mouse was,” Mussman recalls. “You had to start at the beginning.”
 
With this experience, he’s confident the CAP program can start at the beginning to give participants the tools to create apps and bring people together around them.
 
“I hope that we’re able to not only teach people how to make an Android app but also create opportunities for different community events and for people to gather together to strengthen their communities in some way that benefits them and also benefits the Greater Cincinnati area,” Mussman says.
 
The first public CAP event will be a launch and showcase of all the apps in September. Until then, you can follow the project on Facebook and the Creative App Project website.
 

TEDxCincinnati sells out July 9 event, looking to expand in 2016


Even before the speakers for the sixth annual TEDxCincinnati were announced, the July 9 event, themed “Accelerate,” has sold out. (UPDATE: speakers/performers are now listed here.)
 
“One of the things that’s interesting about TEDxCincinnati is that it’s not one speaker that makes a great event, it’s this combination of all different types of speakers and performers,” says TEDxCincinnati Director/Organizer Jami Edelheit. “It’s not like a demo day. It isn’t a company getting up and promoting what they’re doing. It’s not like a typical conference where there is a keynote speaker, then everybody else.
 
“It’s an event where every single story has some sort of impact or message. And it is the combination of speakers that makes it so fun and compelling.”
 
TEDxCincinnati speakers, still unannounced, will come from an array of disciplines, including technology, education, health, arts and social justice. This interdisciplinary approach encourages people to explore subjects and ideas that may be unfamiliar.
 
“TEDxCincinnati is about storytelling, sharing ideas, innovation, looking at things from a different perspective and opening your mind,” Edelheit says. “I am always amazed at the end of our shows when we ask people, ‘What was your favorite?’ If I ask 10 different people, I get 10 different answers because people are touched by different things. If you come to this and you aren’t touched by something, I would be shocked.”
 
This is the third consecutive sell-out year for TEDxCincinnati in increasingly larger venues. The July 9 event is being hosted at the Cincinnati Masonic Center downtown, next to the Taft Theater, with a capacity of 1,000 attendees. Given the interest, organizers might add seats to the hall and advise those without tickets to join the waiting list.
 
The conference is an off-shoot of the popular TED Conferences, though individual TEDx events are self-organized. Both Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati host student-run chapters.
 
Choosing the speakers and performers is an ongoing part of Edelheit’s work. TEDxCincinnati accepts speaker applications and nominations through its website and hold auditions at a special happy hour.
 
“Last year the (happy hour) event completely filled up,” she says. “We pick some applicants to audition in front of a panel of judges and an audience with a prepared 2.5-minute presentation. It’s not an open mike, it’s like a mini show.”
 
In addition to local applicants and auditions, TEDxCincinnati also brings in outside presenters and performers.
 
“I work with a lot of people in Silicon Valley and around the country,” Edelheit says. “I’m always looking for people we can bring in to share their stories with Cincinnati. We also have advisers in different sectors throughout the community who will refer people. That combination gives us a pretty great pool of presenters and performers.”
 
A new addition this year is TEDxCincinnati Youth, a group of 100 high school students from the region who will help with the program. A few will even present.
 
“We realized that many teachers are using TED Talks in the classroom,” Edelheit says. “The idea is to build a community of thinkers and doers among high school students and expose our youth to TEDxCincinnati, giving them the opportunity to talk with young professionals and other people. For them to see what the future holds — after all, it’s their future.”
 
As part of its 100th anniversary, United Way of Greater Cincinnati is the presenting sponsor of the 2015 TEDxCincinnati.
 
“They were in the audience last year and thought the different ideas and perspectives were amazing and that it would be really fun to expose their audience to TEDx,” Edelheit says.
 
For those lucky July 9 ticket holders, Edelheit recommends arriving by 3 p.m. for check-in. The event will start promptly at 4 p.m. To prevent disruption of the presentations, latecomers will have to wait to be seated.
 
The program starts with 90 minutes of speakers and performances, followed by a break for participants to explore Innovation Alley, where they can purchase food and drinks, network and explore.
 
“The idea is for people to have a bit of interaction,” Edelheit says. “Last year there was virtual reality, Google Glass, some robotics, things like that.”
 
This year’s Innovation Alley will include a Foundation Way to showcase the work of local organizations.
 
“The reality is that the people off the stage are just as important as the people on the stage,” Edelheit says. “There’s a wide range of participants in the audience, from students to CEOs. Innovation Alley is a time when you can just turn and start up a conversation with someone you would never have met before and time to reflect on some of the things you heard on the first half.”
 
The second half of the program will start promptly at 7:15 p.m. and wraps up at 9:30.
 
The entire July 9 event will be recorded and uploaded to the TEDx website in August. Edelheit encourages people to watch and share the videos, as each view raises the profile of Cincinnati speakers and performers and could draw the attention of the larger TED organization.
 
As the event continues to grow — from 300 to 1,000 attendees in three years — Edelheit is already considering options for the future.
 
“We need a full day like other cities have,” she says. “The question is, is Cincinnati ready if we did a full-day event?”
 
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