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Former Kroger developers form Atomic Robot, offer app development for small business

Not unlike the planning of a perfect heist, Atomic Robot was formed when Jeremy Black, Alex Robinson and Patrick Hammond came together with a master plan to take over the world, er … form an app development company.
Atomic Robot is a mobile development company located in Cincinnati focused primarily on developing premium mobile apps for technology startups and small businesses. The founders are all veterans Cincinnati's development community who met while working on the Kroger Company’s mobile team.
“Prior to starting Atomic Robot, I was a founding member of Kroger’s mobile team responsible for mobile application development, architecture and strategy,” Robinson says. “We helped them launch their app close to four years ago, which reached a million consumers within a year without any advertising.”
After seeing success as part of that team, Robinson and his co-founders began seeing more opportunities for consulting work on the side. Soon enough, they decided to make the jump, and in 2011, Atomic Robot was formed. However, the initial focus was more on creating apps for the general marketplace.
“We developed a few apps, but didn’t know how to market them properly,” Robinson says. “Last spring, we decided it was time to move on instead and find other companies opportunities to get into mobile.”
Since then, Atomic Robot has worked for a variety of clients, covering a range of focuses. Sporty’s Learn to Fly, the most popular pilot training course in the app store, is an Atomic Robot creation, as is Postseason Game Ball, an app developed for the 2012 Major League Baseball playoffs. 
“I’ve been a software designer for a very long time, but my work was always very technical and hard to explain,” Black says. “The Kroger app was the first time my wife started using something I made. Now with the expansion of smartphones, so many doors have opened up for everyone, and I can work on something that is more helpful for more people.”
In 2014, Atomic Robot is growing and looking forward to moving into its first office space. To find out more about the company, visit http://www.madebyatomicrobot.com.

By Mike Sarason

Angelhack will provide free local opportunity for developers to build skills

Angelhack, a global series of hackathon events, is coming to the Cincinnati area for the first time next month. The hackathon will take place the weekend of May 3-4 in Covington at local accelerator Uptech.
At the hackathon, developers will come together to create projects from scratch, usually working through the night. At the end of the weekend, projects are presented to a set of judges (Angelhack boasts an impressive list of judges including Dave Knox of Rockfish, Mike Bott of the Brandery and Chris Bergman of Choremonster) and the most unique and interesting project wins, similar to the recent Startup Weekend held at Uptech.  
“Where Angelhack differs from Startup Weekend is that this is really about making a working product,” says Alex Bowman, director of marketing at Choremonster and organizer of the local Angelhack event. “Startup Weekend is more focused on creating viable business ideas. This is more developer-focused.”
Before joining Choremonster, Bowman attended two Angelhack events while working for Amazon and recognized not only the value, but also the fun involved in attending the event.
“I emailed the CEO and convinced her that we needed to bring this event to Cincinnati,” Bowman says. “With the community we’ve created here in the past few years, I knew it was the right time. I want to show that this city can hold a really strong and coordinated event and give our developers here a chance to build new skills and work with new tools.”
To that end, Bowman worked with Angelhack to make the event free for all participants. The winning team will be granted acceptance into the HACKcelerator program, a global pre-accelerator program designed to help top hackathon teams turn their hacks into market-ready products.
“I want our local developer community to check this event out and leave feeling like they’ve improved their craft,” Bowman says.
To register for the free event, visit http://www.angelhack.com/event/angelhack-cincinnati-spring-2014/.

By Mike Sarason

Local Startup Liquid simplifies data collection and analysis

Jacob Shidler was actually trying not to be an entrepreneur. Both his father and grandfather started businesses; Jacob rebelled by studying science, eventually receiving his masters in environmental science at the University of Cincinnati with a focus on rainwater.
Fast forward a few years and he has now started his own company, Liquid, which streamlines the process of data collection and analysis for the 21st century, allowing custom forms to collect data from anywhere in the world and then sync with an online database that can be shared and worked on collaboratively in real time. For Shidler, as with many entrepreneurs, it all started with a problem.
“I was working on a project in the Comoros Islands, which is an island chain between Mozambique and Madagascar,” he says. “There’s no water infrastructure there—they are nearly 100% dependent on rainwater. I was interested to see how the materials of their gutter system would affect the overall quality of the water.”
Shidler was working on the project sans grant money and thus had very limited funds. He had 10 days to collect a large number of sample data, catalogue it and include pictures.
“Many of the sciences are still stuck in a paper system, which I found too time-consuming, wasteful and filled with error,” Shidler says. “I couldn’t afford to use those methods, so I came up with my own.”
Shidler’s method was to mix and match different technologies like digital photography, iPad apps and services such as Dropbox to bring his data into the digital realm.
“We hacked together a system for the whole collection portion of my project, and it worked great,” Shidler says. “My advisors ended up being more excited about my collection methods than my actual research.”
Upon hearing this feedback, Shidler realized he had a serious opportunity on his hands and began working on creating a tool that could do everything he’d patched together for his research, only more easily and efficiently.
In January 2014, Liquid released a free alpha version of the product to a small test group.
“We’re now up to about 180 users, including researchers at UC, NKU and in Ghana, and the feedback we’re getting is great,” Shidler says. “People are finding the tool organically because the need is real. We’re still refining it, but we’re excited about what’s to come.” 

By Mike Sarason

Cladwell makes fashion easy, fast and affordable for men

The Office’s Dwight Schrute may not seem like the best fictitious personality to base a business on, but for Cladwell co-founder Blake Smith, the inspiration was there. Cladwell is an online fashion resource for men that provides customized wardrobe recommendations for everything from casual to business attire, scouring through thousands of name brands and returning the three best options instantly based on user input data.
“For me, the epiphany came when my co-founder, Tim Brunk, and I were working for an entertainment startup and we had a meeting with an LA billionaire,” Smith says. “He had two assistants with him, one dressed in a super sharp, slim-cut suit and the other dressed like Dwight Schrute.”
After the meeting concluded, the sharply dressed man was shaking everyone’s hands while the Dwight lookalike was literally left packing up the cords from the PowerPoint presentation.
“That’s when I started thinking, ‘Which one of those guys am I?’” Smith says. “There’s a conversation going on around us based on what our clothes say even before we speak; I wasn’t sure if my clothes were consistent with who I am.”
Like many men, however, Smith isn’t a big fan of mall shopping, so he called his friend Chris Merchich (now the third co-founder of Cladwell), who was working the floor at Macy’s, to ask for recommendations. Merchich, knowing Smith’s general size and style, sent him a personal email listing a handful of items to buy online. Then Smith had another “aha” moment.
“I wondered, ‘What if everyone had a service like Chris in their lives, something that could take the hassle out of shopping?’” Smith says.
Based on that idea, Smith, Brunk and Merchich quit their jobs in mid-2012, spent nine months capturing fashion rules from sources like GQ, Askmen, Dress for Success and Color Me Beautiful, and converted them to thousands of style algorithms for the tool that would become Cladwell.
“Everyone else in fashion is pushing for perpetual shopping,” Smith says. “With Cladwell, we’re saying instead that there’s a finish line for men that’s probably less than 50 articles of clothing based on individual preferences. With Cladwell, we want to help guys shop faster, cheaper and more efficiently.”

By Mike Sarason

New CampFinder tool helps parents find camps for kids

JB Woodruff and Brennan Sweeney, ex-technology consultants turned entrepreneurs, have launched CampFinder, a new online resource for information on local camps and programs.
CampFinder features a comprehensive list of camp programs and user reviews with focused program searches and social media capabilities. The site lets parents “shop online” for the best program for their child’s specific personality, needs and interests while eliminating the need to visit multiple camp fairs or scour the internet for information.
Woodruff and Sweeney decided to launch the business after working together as mentors at Northern Kentucky Unversity’s INKUBATOR program. Sweeney proposed the idea that became CampFinder as a result of his own struggles finding a place online that not only offered a comprehensive listing, but also one that shared reviews and shed light on the experience his son might have.
“Our region is home to so many great camps, we want to help those camps get noticed, and at the same time we want to make it easier for parents find the perfect camps for their kids,” Sweeney says.
“My passions are helping people, solving problems, challenging myself and learning,” Woodruff says. “There was a natural fit working with the INKUBATOR, and that’s what drew me in to working with CampFinder.”
Previously, both Woodruff and Sweeney had worked as consultants. Both came to discover their love and knack for entrepreneurialism in different ways.
“Brennan began by creating a company where he did property management software,” Woodruff says. “In 2012, I quit my job here and went to Africa and got involved with an accelerator over there called 88MPH. I can honestly say I’m a lot happier now than I ever was in my previous career.”
Currently, there are around 450 camp programs listed on CampFinder.Co, with more camps being added each week. Camps run the gamut from arts, sports, outdoors, science and more, and camp locations span the Tri-State.
“We’re currently exploring different models to find out how we can bring the most value to the camps as well as the parents,” Woodruff says.
To explore programs through CampFinder, visit www.Campfinder.co

Open Data Startup Weekend pulls in new ideas, new entrepreneurs

Innovation, talent and resourcefulness were all on display this weekend in Covington as local accelerator Uptech played host to the Open Data Startup Weekend. This year, Cincinnati Startup Weekend partnered with Code for America, the nonprofit aimed at connecting citizens with better design and tech services, and Open Data Cincy, a regional initiative to use public data to encourage transparency, innovation and civic engagement.
The goal of the event was to foster social entrepreneurship by accessing public data to launch new ventures, analyze patterns and trends, make data-driven decisions, and solve complex problems in our community.
A diverse crowd of participants turned up for Startup Weekend, which asks participants to split into groups and create viable startup ideas over 48 hours. Among their ranks were high school and college students, lawyers, engineers, techies, and designers representing several age groups and varying experience levels, from complete newbies to previous Startup Weekend attendees.
“I enjoy the fact that people come from diverse backgrounds and working together really intensely,” says Racquel Redwood, who was participating in her second Startup Weekend on an idea called Potholer.
“While I work for a large company here, its great that there are opportunities here to explore the entrepreneurial space as well,” says Benjamin Danzinger, R&D engineer at Johnson & Johnson.
After spending the weekend refining their ideas, getting advice from the event organizers (who themselves also represent local startups like Choremonster, Lisnr, BlackbookHR and more), running focus groups and scouring data, each group presented Sunday evening to a duo of judges—Eric Avner of the The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and Elizabeth Naramore of GitHub, which provides powerful collaboration, code review, and code management for open source and private projects.
First place went to UMO, which addresses “the achievement gap” and is a platform for prospecting students to learn about the true cost of a college education at various universities based on scholarships available, average ROI of the degree they’re interested in and actual published attendance costs. For winning, they received six months of desk space at Cintrifuse, a meeting with a local venture capitalist, and a GitHub gold account—all things to help continue their startup. 
Second place was kNOwait, an app that publishes drive times along with wait times at local urgent cares, DMVs, etc. to help users determine the actual fastest option near them. They received desk space at Cintrifuse, legal advice from Taft, and a GitHub bronze account. The next Startup Weekend will take place in November; visit www.cincinnati.startupweekend.org to stay updated.
By Mike Sarason

Kandid.ly helps connect photographers and clients

For some, the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the year for 2013, “selfie,” meant little more than an inane desire for people to capture themselves looking cool. For Sam Ulu, founder of Cincinnati-based startup Kandid.ly, it was a revelation and an opportunity.
Kandid.ly is an online resource for photographers to list their work and book gigs. Similarly, it acts as a resource for customers who want to book photographers for any type of event. The streamlined setup allows for quick analysis by customers to find the right photographer based on rates, locations and recommendations, and also adds a social “gamification” element where photographers can receive badges from checking in at events, similar to Foursquare. Ulu cemented the concept for the company just as the selfie era was beginning.
“People are craving richer experiences, and they want to be able to remember those moments. That’s why the selfie is so popular,” Ulu says. “The selfie is our quest to capture ourselves being in the moment.”
Rather than attempt to capture ourselves, Ulu bet that he could develop a means to have more experienced photographers capture those moments at a price point affordable to anyone. After reading a 2012 Wall Street Journal called “Don’t Forget to Pack a Photographer” that descrived what astronomical rates hotels and vacation services were charging for this, Ulu knew there was a better way.
“Nobody had figured how to best monetize this process,” he says. “So I spent a lot of time talking to consumers, interviewing photographers; in the end I talked to more than 600 photographers from 2012-2013.”
Now, after taking time to build his team up (Kandid.ly is currently run by a team of seven), Ulu has his company poised to get things rolling.
“We’re working on closing a $500,000 investment from Queen City Angels, Cincytech and Accelerant,” Ulu says. “That will enable us to run Kandid.ly in public beta for 12 months, start validating our customer acquisition strategy, revenue model and many other things before we actually scale it.”
Ulu is passionate and excited to build his company here in Cincinnati.
“People have that Midwest pride here and want to help, even if they are not investing in your company; everyone wants to see you succeed,” Ulu says. “Cincinnati is positioned the be the next hub for entrepreneurs. In the near future, a couple companies are going to bust onto the national scene to literally announce that the Midwest has arrived, and we believe that Kandid.ly is going to be one of those companies.”
By Mike Sarason

Cincinnati Center for Adult Music Study opens this week

This week marks the opening of a new music education program in Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Center for Adult Music Study (CincyCAMS). Founded by Rachel Kramer, pianist, teacher and arts administrator, and her business partner Mary Chaiken, CincyCAMS will offer programs on all aspects of music in multiple venues around the greater Cincinnati area. 
Chaiken and Kramer have been friends for some time, having made music together as a part of Muse, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir, until Kramer retired from the choir in 2013. In 2014, they’ve decided to become business partners.
“I had always wanted to start a program like this,” Kramer says. “Mary had just finished her last grant-based job in medical research—she is a molecular biologist—and was looking to do something new. We got to talking and CincyCAMS is the result.”
The programs offered include more traditional lessons, performance groups, lectures covering a wide range of musical topics and more. Programs are intended to be short (nothing more than six weeks) so students will not only cover several topics throughout the course of the year, but will also visit several different venues in various areas of the city.
“We want to be the community meeting place for people to come, make music and realize a dream come true,” Kramer says. “We want to enrich lives and inspire adults to make their own kind of music.”
CincyCAMS is also looking to collaborate with current music teachers and music professionals in the Greater Cincinnati area.
“We will be using our professional colleagues as facilitators,” Kramer says. “We also would like students of our community teachers to come to CincyCAMS for enrichment classes and performance opportunity, and we would like to send cincyCAMS participants who want further study to our area teachers.”
To that end, CincyCAMS has already partnered with the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, as well as with Northern Kentucky University and the Music Teacher’s National Association.  
To learn more about the program, visit www.cincycams.com.

By Mike Sarason

The Carnegie takes inspiration from local farming, adopts Community Supported Art program

The Carnegie, Northern Kentucky’s largest multidisciplinary arts venue located in Covington, has announced the inaugural season of Carnegie Community Supported Art (Carnegie CSA), which will allow arts enthusiasts to buy “farm boxes” filled with works of art created by local artists.
Inspired by Community Supported Agriculture initiatives (CSAs), which allow consumers to buy food directly from local farmers, The Carnegie’s CSA program applies the same “buy local” ethic to art and seeks to enrich the experience for artists and collectors at all levels.
“We hope that this program will bring new collectors in and make it easier for collectors to discover new artists,” says Matt Distel, exhibitions director at the Carnegie. “We included a diverse array of local artists so that no matter what your level of experience buying art is, everyone will wind up with something new.”
Local artists whose work will be featured include Antonio Adams, Keith Benjamin, Carmel Buckley, Barbara Houghton, Casey Riordan Millard, Marcia Shortt, Michael Stillion/Katie Labmeier, Chris Vorhees and Joseph Winterhalter.
Individuals interested in supporting the Carnegie CSA will purchase a “share” for $350 and in return will receive a “farm box” consisting of nine pieces of locally produced artwork. Featured works could include items such as mixed media prints, a run of photographs or small original ceramics.
The actual works created will vary and will be kept secret until July when participants will pick up their “shares” during the Carnegie CSA harvest party. The program is modeled on a similar program created by mnartists.org and Springboard for the Arts in Minneapolis.
“It’s a very innovative way of thinking about how we create a community spirit that is supportive of local artists,” Distel says. “We’re looking to make this an ongoing program so that we can continue to include all kind of artists from the area and cultivate new collectors.”
Member shares for the Carnegie CSA will go on sale Thursday, May 1, 2014, and will be available for purchase by contacting (859) 491-2030. To learn more about the program, visit www.thecarnegie.com.  
 By Mike Sarason

Cincinnati-based Brighton Technologies expands product line and workforce

Cincinnati-based engineering technology company Brighton Technologies Group (BTG) is expanding its product line and workforce in 2014. The company will debut its new Android-based Surface Analyst handheld unit later this year and is currently in the process of developing a robotic version for automated assembly lines.
After debuting it’s hand-held Surface Analyst technology in 2010 (touched on in Soapbox here), the company has expanded its client base to include customers in a variety of industries. The technology assesses a surface's readiness for bonding, coating, or printing; thus far BTG’s clients include Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, GM, Apple, Honda, Johnson & Johnson and more.
“Essentially, our tools are about reducing costs, saving time and building in a higher margin of safety,” says Lucas Dillingham, Marketing Sales Director for BTG. “It’s about quality control and knowing what’s going on with your product during each step of the manufacturing process.”
While the older version of the handheld Surface Analyst was equipped with a computer process running Windows XP, the new Android instrument has 5 times greater battery life, new UX/UI design for smoother operation, and custom built integrated circuit boards to ensure greater reliability in manufacturing applications as well as easier manufacture. All instruments are built and serviced through the BTG’s St. Bernard based facility.
“Cincinnati has a history as a manufacturing town, which is definitely an advantage for us,” says Dillingham. “There’s a really strong core network of people who build things here.”
BTG is looking to add to this network of people in 2014, as its growth has necessitated the need for it to look for additional sales representatives and product managers.
“We’re working on some of our biggest projects this year, including an NSF grant for the development of our robotic technology,” says Dillingham.
In 2013, BTG was awarded a $150,000 grant to develop a prototype of the technology, which would have huge benefits for the automotive industry. Now they are aiming to receive a $750,000 phase 2 grant to turn the prototype into a product. BTG already partnered with GM for some of the prototype work and has several other clients interested in the as of yet unreleased technology.
To learn more, visit http://btgnow.com.

Complete Set offers virtual treasure map for collectors, fans and discoverers

Gary Darna, founder of CompleteSet, an online marketplace for collectibles, may be your new best friend, especially if you’ve always been looking for that Darth Vader cake pan to round out your collection.
CompleteSet is an invite-only community that allows collectors and fans to showcase, discover and exchange curated collectibles from the popular to the obscure. The company was founded in 2012 by Darna and Jaime Rump and has since participated in Northern Kentucky University’s INKUBATOR program and won the Cincinnati Innovates competition in 2012.
What’s more is that Darna wasn’t following a trajectory to become an entrepreneur in the first place; he was supposed to attend West Point. But when circumstances intervened, Darna found himself starting a company at the age of 19.
“I fell into being an entrepreneur kind of by mistake and by necessity when I was medically disqualified from attending West Point,” Darna says. “I lost scholarships and had to find a way to pay for college myself. I figured I’d make websites for people.”
That’s exactly what he did, enrolling in the entrepreneurship program at NKU and paying his way by creating websites for student clubs, small businesses, parents of friends and anyone else that came to him.
“At the time (in the early 2000s), websites weren’t as simple of a commodity as they are now,” Darna says. “It was like magic if you could make a website for people.”
As time went on, Darna learned more about the process of running a business, finding funding and more. He had been kicking around the idea for his collectibles website for several years, having started collecting Star Wars toys of his own in 1995.
“I applied to the INKUBATOR because I knew I needed a team to make my idea for CompleteSet a reality,” Darna says. “They helped me find my co-founder, Jaime, and they helped us challenge and refine our idea, build our team and then execute.”
“I think the best advice I’ve received has just been the importance of talking to your customer,” Darna says. “We attended a lot of fan conventions like Cincy Comicon, Chicago’s C2E2, and talked to people about how they collect, how much they spend a month, all types of market research info. It gave us invaluable insight into how to gear our company.”
After launching in September of 2012, the beta version of CompleteSet was launched in May of 2013. Currently, they are working on an iPhone application and are in the process of applying to different accelerators across the country.

CompleteSet has been nice enough to offer a way for Soapbox readers to join without requesting an invite; simply visit www.completeset.com/join and enter the code soapbox

By Mike Sarason

Xavier University partnership creates Nurse Care Coordinator Program

The Xavier Leadership Center (XLC), the Xavier University School of Nursing and Catholic Health Partners—Ohio’s largest health care organization—have partnered to create the Nurse Care Coordinator Program (NCCP), the first of its kind regionally and one of the first in the country.
The program is responding to a national trend in health care that is shifting toward patient-centered care and addresses the issues of poor communication across the silos of health care delivery that have been increasing since the 1980s.
“A care coordinator is at the core of the communication between the specialists and makes sure the patient’s care is holistically being administered,” says Sue Schmidt, director of Xavier’s School of Nursing. “The typical nurse in a hospital is more task-oriented and does not do risk management as well as work across systems.”
Lynne McCabe, RN, director of Community Care Coordination Programs for Catholic Health Partners, heard about Xavier University from a staff member/care coordinator who had a positive experience while getting her master’s degree in nursing at Xavier. McCabe was already looking to start a training or certificate program for her nursing staff, but found a similar program offered on the East coast to be cost-prohibitive and far away.
Using knowledge and experience acquired through implementing a care coordination program for Catholic Health Partners, McCabe knew that partnering locally would be a better solution. The program began at the beginning of 2014 at the XLC with 15 nurse care coordinators and one dietician.
Mike Leavy, associate director of the XLC, and one of Schmidt’s and McCabe’s co-developers, says, “This is an innovative program for the region, which will enable participants to be leaders and pioneers in serving the needs of all stakeholders in the rapidly changing health care environment. Our goal is to graduate our first cohort in the spring then continue to expand the program in the community and the region.”
By Mike Sarason

Northern Kentucky Tri-ED reports on expanding local economy in 2013, aims for big 2014

Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation (Tri-ED) has released its annual economic impact study of primary growth for 2013, reporting that in 2013, 21 companies announced new locations or expansions in the Boone, Campbell and Kenton County region and that 1,181 new direct jobs are projected as a result of these announcements. The announcement was made at Tri-ED’s annual recognition event, the Northern Kentucky Thoroughbreds, which honored those companies that located, expanded or were launched in the region in 2013.
“E-commerce, logistics and advanced manufacturing were all strong sectors in 2013,” says Dan Tobergte, President and CEO of Tri-ED. “With DHL’s strong presence at CVG and Northern Kentucky’s proximity to over 60 percent of the U.S. population within 600 miles, we expect more new e-commerce companies to locate in Northern Kentucky.”
“The influence of the College of Informatics at Northern Kentucky University is taking hold in our region,” Tobergte says. “With the location of Clear Measures and Xcelerated Learning Dynamics in Covington in 2013, Northern Kentucky is building a high-tech, informatics-based corridor. Both companies, in addition to ZoomEssence and Jacobs Automation, got their start in the Northern Kentucky ezone. We’re proud of these homegrown technology success stories.”
The Northern Kentucky ezone is a division of Tri-ED, which provides a support program for businesses ranging from startup entrepreneurs to established companies commercializing a new product, technology or process.
“In addition to the ezone, we are paying more attention to our existing businesses through the NKY Boost program, a regular visitation and survey program to Northern Kentucky’s 500+ primary industries,” Tobergte says. “And Boost is paying dividends: Four existing company expansion projects were the result of this program in 2013, and we have a better handle on issues affecting the business climate in Northern Kentucky.”
Looking forward to 2014, Tri-ED has made sure to set expectations even higher and looks to have a lot on its plate.
“We will strive to have over 20 new projects announced in 2014 with a total of approximately $200 million in capital investment, more than 2,000 new jobs with at least $8 million raised in capital for startup companies through the NKY ezone,” Tobergte says.
Additionally Tri-ED looks to continue to expand its cooperation and partnership with several organizations across many industries such as the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, Northern Kentucky University, Cintrifuse, Gateway Community  & Technical College and more.
“We want to make sure there’s an educated and technical workforce available to our business community, and we want to keep talented individuals in Northern Kentucky,” Tobergte says. “That only happens when there is a great deal of cooperation and coordination between the business and education communities.” 
Mike Sarason

The Garage Group adds training services, hosts innovation workshop

The Garage Group, the Cincinnati-based consultancy that helps larger, corporate companies engage with and activate their entrepreneurial spirit, has begun offering training services in addition to their focus on market research and insights and ideation workshops. In conjunction with these services, they will host a two-day workshop in Cincinnati on April 24-25 entitled “Enabling Corporate Teams to Innovate Like Startups.”
The company, located in the historic Longworth Hall amidst several other startup, design and production companies, was co-founded nearly three years ago by Jason Hauer and Ann Lauer, two entrepreneurs who left small firms to start their own business together.
“Three years ago, when we started, the concept of making a corporation more like a startup was very hard for people to understand,” Lauer says. “It was not common language, and we wrestled a lot with it. We got into the training business because we had to do some education to get people to understand the concept.”
According to The Garage Group, things have changed since then.
“Cincinnati has become a more innovative entrepreneurial region in that time,” Lauer says. “We’ve benefitted from that and hopefully made a contribution to it as well. We sit in an interesting position where we get to bridge between the startups and larger companies.
In those three years, The Garage Group has trained more than 1,000 people from large service and Fortune 1,000 companies nationwide on topics such as skills and behaviors for entrepreneurs and how to develop and collaboratively co-create ideas with stakeholders.
“When we think about a traditional company being more entrepreneurial, it’s on two levels,” Hauer says. “At one level its really about developing and launching new products, services and business models. At another level it’s about getting people within the base organization to think more entrepreneurially in terms of how they approach their day-to-day job and continually improve the value that they are bringing to their company, brand or service they are working on.”
The Garage Group will hold their two-day workshop in Cincinnati in April and will follow it up with an additional workshop in Chicago in June. To learn more, visit their website.

By Mike Sarason

New tool helps nonprofits analyze program outcomes

Sprout Insight, the market research and insight consultancy, has added a new addition to its suite of research services called ShutterLIGHT. ShutterLIGHT integrates a user-friendly online research platform to help nonprofits collect and analyze data to document program outcomes. Integrating ShutterLIGHT into the outcomes measurement process increases staff efficiency and data accuracy.
“Before starting Sprout Insight just under three years ago, we ran a nonprofit called Harmony Garden for many years,” says Lisa Mills, co-founder of Sprought Insight. “We understand that it can be a struggle and you often are dealing with very limited resources. ShutterLIGHT helps with the daunting task of documenting outcomes through a cloud-based service and simplifies what used to be a very time consuming process.”
Sprout Insight believes that with the correct focus, filter and frame (its three-step process of integrating ShutterLIGHT), nonprofits can leverage the power of this new technology to maximize and target resources toward meeting business objectives and organizational mission.
“Nonprofits need to become more modern and incorporate these systems to understand the community they are working with and addressing,” Mills says. “With our three-step process, we help them identify the right question to answer, fine tune and further customize measurements, and create opportunities for them to receive a return on their investment.”
After pivoting to become Sprout Insight in early 2012, one of the biggest projects Mills and company have landed so far is through a partnership with a group called Student Sports, based in Los Angeles. The company has been looking to learn more about high school boys, one of its most important segments.
“Through this partnership and the technology and research methods we have, we are gaining insights into this segment that help us better understand what their challenges and preferences are,” Mills says. “We have 5,000 teenage boys on a panel, some of which are elite high school athletes. Given the prominence of issues like bullying and concussions in sports right now, we think it is especially important to help the public better understand these students.”
To learn more about Sprout Insight, check out their website here.

By Mike Sarason

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