By Jerred Ziegler
As chief procurement officer at Cincinnati Bell, it was Rod Robinson’s job to ensure the company’s supply chain included a certain percentage of minority-owned companies. Finding a diverse supply chain can be difficult and is something corporations struggle with around the country. To make the supplier diversity process easier, Robinson created ConnXus in 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
ConnXus acts as a one-stop-shop for those who manage supply diversity initiatives. It is a cloud-based supply relationship management platform that enables major corporations, health systems and government agencies to monitor all aspects of their supplier diversity compliance programs using one simple program. ConnXus clients including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Kaiser Permanente, have access to a diverse database of 1.6 million suppliers, consisting mainly of small businesses throughout the world. These suppliers specialize in everything from construction to finance to IT.
“We have created a marketplace for small businesses where they can do targeted outreach to specific large companies,” said Robinson. “This helps the small companies just as much as the big corporations and it’s what sets us apart from our competitors.
Robinson self-funded ConnXus for a year and a half before applying for an Imagining Grant from CincyTech, the regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier in southwest Ohio. This grant enabled him to transition the idea for ConnXus into an actual business. Robinson has continued working closely with CincyTech, developing milestones for ConnXus’ ongoing growth with his mentors in the program. To date Robinson has raised $3.9 million in capital, including a $500,000 Innovation Ohio Loan from Ohio Third Frontier. The company is currently raising its second round of funding in order to scale the business, and is tapping into the expertise available among entrepreneurs in the Cincinnati area.
“A lot of the resources at CincyTech come directly from other entrepreneurs,” said Robinson. “They understand the pain of growing a business, hiring the right people and sourcing capital. With Ohio having so much success in the entrepreneurial space, these folks are staying here and allowing newer startups to lean on them for support.”
ConnXus is on pace to exceed $1 million in revenue in 2015. They currently have 13 employees, a number that Robinson hopes to double by mid-2016.
“Ohio and the midwest mentality have been key to my company’s success,” said Robinson. “The people here are very genuine and there’s a lot of energy in the startup community. Ohio’s also home to a lot of Fortune 500 companies, many of which support capital services for entrepreneurs. This leads to a lot of great opportunities for startups to connect with large corporations early in the process.”