Written by Kevin Volz.
For entrepreneurs looking to start a new business, reinvent an existing business, develop the next big idea or find a new job, JumpStart’s Startup Scaleup 2015 was an opportunity to break down the barriers and showcase the many resources in northeast Ohio. The event offered pitch competitions for both new ideas and established startup companies, sessions on marketing, funding and employee recruitment, and speed dating sessions to find mentors.
“We were able to sit down with marketing professionals to pick their brain about what we can do to publicize our company,” said R.J. Wilkinson of Stofiel Aerospace, a company that specializes in small rocket launch systems. “They helped us identify a lot of things we need to work on, free of charge. That is a huge benefit for startup companies who don’t have a lot of money to spend.”
In a single day, 28 different sessions were spread across 13 venues in Cleveland’s Gordon Square neighborhood. This year’s event marked the first time the Startup Scaleup was organized more like a street fair than a corporate annual meeting, something that helped encourage a higher turnout and more meaningful connections.
“JumpStart has hosted this event for the past 10 years,” said JumpStart CEO Ray Leach. “Startup Scaleup 2015 was really the largest representation of the event to date. We wanted to have it in large venues that were easily accessible to our northeast Ohio startup community.”
Representatives from JumpStart and its 15 partner organizations, all funded by Ohio Third Frontier, were at the event. The thousands of entrepreneurs who attended were able to approach these different organizations in low-pressure settings to ask for advice, and make important introductions that could lead to funding and mentoring opportunities in the future.
“Startup Scaleup 2015 is really a manifestation of the work JumpStart and our partners do on a daily basis,” said Leach.
The centerpiece of Startup Scaleup 2015 was two pitch competitions. The “Sidewalk to Stage” Pitch Competition focused specifically on new ideas and concepts for companies. Individuals went in front of a judging panel to give five minute pitches in the hopes that their business idea would win $5,000. Rem Harris is a partner at JumpStart and was one of the judges in the “Sidewalk to Stage” competition.
“We judged pitches based on how the entrepreneur had validated their idea, how well they identified things like who would pay for their product, how their company will make money and their overall business model,” said Harris.
The second pitch competition featured 12 promising high-tech startups who were pitching in the hopes of winning $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000. Many of these companies already had teams of employees, prototypes and prior funding. Patrick Leimkuehler of Apollo Medical Devices, an accurate one-drop blood test company, was awarded first place and the $20,000 prize at the end of the event.
“We are thrilled to have won first place in the NEO Up-And-Comers Pitch Competition,” said Leimkuehler. “This money will allow us to redesign our prototype and make it something that all nurses will want to use.”
Throughout every pitch competition, educational session and networking event was a passion for Cleveland, northeast Ohio and the entrepreneurial community in the region.
“An event like this is valuable regardless of whether you leave with additional funding or not,” said Kritika Cerreta, co-founder of KnotProfit, a company that allows couples to donate a portion of their wedding funds to a charity of their choice. “The northeast Ohio entrepreneurial community is so tight-knit. We all support each other and pump each other up.”
“I thought the event was a fantastic way to get the entrepreneurial community tied in with local talent,” said Kevin White of Akron Ascent Innovations, a company that creates reusable dry adhesives. “It helped show startups how to leverage everything that northeast Ohio offers the entrepreneurial community. I’m originally from Texas and the amount of support here is unbelievable compared to other places. There are so many resources that can be used to develop and grow new businesses.”