How to Plug into the Ohio Startup Scene

Innovator’s guide to starting a business in Ohio

Innovator’s guide to starting a business in Ohio

Most people have heard the phrase, “it’s all about who you know,” and to some extent, it’s true. We meet people, create networks and form lasting relationships. Even though the mantra is valid, sometimes it’s difficult to know how to take the first step to plug into a group — especially the close-knit startup community. So, whether you’re new to Ohio or have been here for years, here’s a list that can help you jump into the Ohio startup scene.

Plug into Your Community

Where there’s startup buzz, there are also grassroots and nationally-recognized organizations that will help boost your business. When it comes to plugging into the startup community, here are some groups that can help you access the region’s resources and offerings.

Take StartupCincy, for example. Made up of entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts and investors, the group offers support to all stages of entrepreneurs and encourages inclusion and diversity with programs like NITRO! Bootcamp. Organizations like Start in CLE also offer similar resources while building up community through monthly events like their Founder’s Dinner and Fireside Chats. Additionally, Columbus’ 1 Million Cups is a grassroots organization with national ties that allows entrepreneurs just starting out have a safe place to practice their pitches and receive feedback.

Groups like these will allow you to quickly get the pulse on what is happening in your network and keep you up-to-date on new opportunities throughout Ohio.

Mark Your Calendar

Attending local events is a great way to start forming connections and learning more about your startup scene. Here are a variety of opportunities that will do the trick:

Meetup: Meetup’s whole goal is to connect people with similar interests. Search in your area for events like: Boss Babes of Columbus, Industrial IOT Cincinnati or StartupGrind Dayton. You can choose your interests, find a group and filter by events nearby.

Startup Week(end): Ohio is known as a place with booming talent and innovative startups, so most regions host their own Techstars Startup Week or Weekend. If you’re looking for a combination of pitch competition, mentorship and all-around good networking, your first stop should be one of  these don’t-miss events.

Tap into Funding and Resources

One of the first steps for any entrepreneur is to familiarize yourself with Ohio’s cache of startup funding and resources. Ohio Third Frontier works with a network of partners in each region that focus on helping business owners during all stages of the startup process: ideation, scaling, marketing you name it!

Ohio Third Frontier Partners

Local community partners like Rev1Ventures, TechGROWTH Ohio, NextTech Ohio, JumpStart, CincyTech and TEC Dayton often function as investors, incubators and mentors to help entrepreneurs at all stages of their business ideation and management. They can do everything from help you commercialize your tech to find legal services and advice.

Don’t stop there! Ohio’s network of Regional accelerators, incubators and other partners can also be a tremendous help when trying to scale a business or reach a breakthrough. Look into resources like The Brandery, Cintrifuse, HCDC Business Center, Braintree Business Development Center, MidTown Tech Hive, Bounce Innovation Hub, LaunchPad Incubation, NCT Ventures, Innovate New Albany, OU Innovation Center and more!

Look for Coworking Spaces

If your startup is small and an incubator isn’t the right fit, a coworking space might be just the spot to meet with investors, plan your latest product release and more. Ohio is known for fostering work environments outside of the office. Here are a few local gems:

The Eleanor: This women-owned and women-focused coworking space is all about celebrating the “boss babe” community. Located in the historic Short North Arts District in Columbus, The Eleanor features free Wi-Fi, water, coffee, perfume and matcha. Event spaces and private offices also available for rental.

LaunchHouse: This Cleveland coworking spot is a favorite among local entrepreneurs. With a robust calendar of events and two prime locations, LaunchHouse is a tried-and-true staple of the startup community for those who need an office away from home. Features include flexible working options and a space that is dog-friendly and collaborative.

Union Hall: Union Hall is ubiquitous to the Cincy startup scene. Not only does the space house the offices of CincyTech, Cintrifuse and The Brandery, it’s also located in the vibrant Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. With a variety of payment options and flexible work spaces, a membership at Union Hall is geared toward creative entrepreneurs who are interested in being close to the startup action.

HCDC Business Center: The HCDC Business Center’s new and improved CoWorks Space offers aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage companies a supportive environment. As a bonus, they also offer business coaching to move your venture forward.

Seed Coworking: Seed Coworking is Toledo’s original coworking space. Serving up free Wi-Fi and a professional work environment, the community also promises everything from hackathons to lunch ‘n’ learns. With the goal of connecting area innovators, Seed Coworking is designed to put the “‘unity’ in community.”

Nucleus: At the center of it all in Dayton, Nucleus aims to foster relationships and help scale businesses at their coworking space. This affordable non-profit boasts an inviting atmosphere and the ability to share ideas openly.

Athensworks: If you’re working from a desk or looking for a more collaborative space in Athens, Athensworks might just be the spot for you. With a local, supportive network, the coworking space also offers adaptable environments for a range of tech and creative work.

Create a Social Network

To keep tabs on timely startup buzz, it’s best to build up a social network of investors, organizations and community members. Here are some people and groups to follow:

@HeatherEHarmon: Director of Marketing for Rev1 Ventures.

@1819Innovation: Innovation hub at University of Cincinnati. Home to student and local entrepreneurs.  

@pblackshaw: CEO of Cintrifuse. Former Global Head of Digital Marketing and Social media at Nestlé

@eweissmann: Vice President at Cintrifuse.

@JessKerrOHProgram manager at The Brandery.’

@mvenerable: President of CincyTech.

@BlocklandCLE: builds and promotes real blockchain tech solutions and hosts annual conference.

@ebuchholz: Managing Director of Product Accelerator at Bounce Innovation Hub. Co-Founder of Start in CLE.

@bounce_hub: Empowering Akron’s innovators to collaborate, create & commercialize.

@doctorcohen: CEO of Braintree Business Development Center.

@TechOhioGov: Voice of the Ohio Third Frontier. Latest on Ohio entrepreneurial news and resources.

@upsidefm: podcast run by Ohio State grads that focuses on stories of startup investing outside of Silicon Valley.

@JDVance1: author of Hillbilly Elegies and investor at Rise of the Rest, a nationwide platform celebrating rise of new startup ecosystems.

@OhioInnoFund: Venture capital firm committed to growth of companies throughout the state.

@theHCDC: nonprofit that focuses on helping small businesses.

@HCDCBctr: world-class business incubation program in Cincinnati.

Get the News

Staying connected isn’t just about attending events or hunkering down at the latest hackathon. By signing up to receive updates from your network, you can stay on top of current events and changes in entrepreneurial landscape. Give these newsletters a try:

Cincy Inno: A twice-a-week newsletter brought to you by the American Inno network, this Cincy-focused informative bulletin covers everything from major startup stories to local events and Q&As every entrepreneur should tune-in to. They’ve also got an accessible website that reflects current job listings and a “white pages” of top area startups.

BizJournals: Subscribing to your local BizJournal affiliate is a must. This weekly is business-focused and provides important news from a variety of sectors. Whether breaking down the latest tech or recounting funding rounds, a subscription that gets you digital and/or print access is well worth the investment.

VentureReport: No need for a subscription, VentureOhio’s VentureReport offers a detailed, yearly review of Ohio investment activity. This summary not only highlights startups on the rise, but also details important industry news and reflects on investment trends. This is a good way to track important players and opportunities year-to-year.

With these tips, navigating the Ohio startup scene can become less daunting and offer up the chance for more connections and opportunity. Armed with the right tools, you and your business can join the team of movers and shakers that make Ohio great!

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