Written by Kevin Volz.
For many entrepreneurs, it would be a pipe dream – creating a sports technology company with the Cleveland Cavaliers as your testing grounds. For startups in one Cleveland accelerator, it’s a reality. Bizdom founder Dan Gilbert is also the majority owner of the Cavs, giving startups the opportunity to make connections throughout his family of companies. This includes working with one of the biggest sports teams in the country to develop and refine their ideas.
“Previous sports startups in Bizdom have worked with the Cavaliers when developing,” said Chris Dell, founder and CEO of Go Baller, an app that creates targeted social media feeds for sports fans and organizations. “That was a huge selling point for moving my company from New York City to Cleveland.”
Founded in 2012, Bizdom’s goal is to foster the growth of innovative, tech-based startups in Cleveland, Ohio through a combination of funding and mentorship. Instead of focusing on a set number of startups each year, the three month accelerator program focuses on the quality of the idea or company, and its likelihood of success. Each company is given $25,000 for eight percent equity upon entering the accelerator, with an opportunity for companies to apply for $100,000 of additional investment. Bizdom is one of Ohio Third Frontier’s regional partners in northeast Ohio.
“Bizdom has helped provide our team with numerous resources, including investor opportunities, operations and overall strategic guidance,” said Donnie Harkins, founder and CEO of TeamInn, an app that streamlines the hotel booking process for large groups.
As of April 2014, Bizdom accelerated 40 companies, with 16 receiving additional outside funding totaling more than $2.1 million. Graduate companies have created 45 new jobs. Part of the accelerator’s mission is to make Cleveland a hub of innovative technology, which is why they ask any company accepted into the program to be headquartered in the city.
“The support that we have received from both Ohio Third Frontier and the regional entrepreneurial community has been instrumental to the success of our program. Looking to the future, we would like to expand our partnerships as we all benefit from creating a more vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in this region,” said Ethan Cohen, Program Lead and Mentor in Residence at Bizdom.
Each Bizdom startup receives sales, marketing and technology mentorship from companies in a variety of industries including entertainment, gaming and sports. Bizdom also offers its companies workshops on business law, business negotiations and online marketing tactics.
“Bizdom truly accelerated my company. They assigned us mentors relevant to our business who were always there for us whenever we needed them,” said Hanna Kassis, founder and CEO of Oarex, a company that finances businesses by purchasing their future online advertising revenues. “Their guidance has been priceless. Without Bizdom, I would not have been able to drum up the business and attract the talent that I have in the last eight months.”