Why a Pittsburgh Venture Capital Firm Chose to Invest in Ohio

Draper Triangle Ventures seeks investment opportunities in the Buckeye state

From unicorns to budding startups, Ohio has been catching the eye of investors nationwide who see the state as a hotspot for entrepreneurs. One such firm, Draper Triangle Ventures knows a thing or two…or three about investing. When the three entrepreneurs-turned-venture-capitalists set down roots in Pittsburgh, they were simply focused on providing capital for small businesses. In retrospect, that first impulse to help companies thrive locally is what caused them to spread their wings and make their way to Ohio and eventually Michigan. The reason? The Midwest acted as the ideal environment for the fund to invest in.

“When we started in Pittsburgh, we saw that we were losing talent to other regions,” said Mike Stubler, managing director. “The issue there was that we have great universities with access to talent like Carnegie Mellon University, but there wasn’t much venture capital. Companies would come out of Carnegie Mellon, get funded by Boston VC firms and then move to Boston. We formed our first fund to try to get some venture capital in Pittsburgh and keep some of these companies there. While we were investing in our first fund, we started seeing some interesting deals in Ohio.”

Stubler and his team noticed favorable conditions in the Buckeye state including a surplus of talent, the low cost of living, the low cost of starting and running a business, and less hyper-competition for employees. The formula and the fact that Ohio sat in the heart of the Midwest immediately caught the eye of Draper Triangle.

“We found success investing in Ohio,” said Stubler. “Our noteworthy past investments like TOA Technologies and OnShift in Cleveland, Cardio Insight which came out of Case Western Reserve University, and current investments like Aware and Mezu have really driven our success and pride for investing in the region.”

For Draper Triangle, investing in some of Ohio’s most well-known startups didn’t happen just by chance. With strategic vision and an understanding of the region’s potential to drive their investments, the venture capitalist team focused on expanding funding for underserved startups with big ideas.

“We approach the Midwest as any Silicon Valley or East Coast investor would,” said Stubler. “First and foremost, we’re looking to invest in great teams and great ideas. We want to make investments in companies that have the opportunity to really disrupt big markets and grow into something valuable. Ten to 15 years ago, the Midwest wasn’t known for its experienced entrepreneurial pool like it is now. Now, we’re reinvesting in teams and CEOs that we backed in the beginning.”

For Ohio, the interest from VCs outside of the immediate vicinity has its perks: more jobs and more startups pursuing their dreams locally.

“Obviously as a venture capital firm, our primary focus is to make good investments and make money for our investors,” said Stubler, “But one of the great by-products of venture capital is that you’re helping to create companies and jobs. It’s rewarding to see economic expansion and development in the startup community in Ohio. There’s been a tremendous enthusiasm around these various areas, whether it be Cleveland or Columbus, and it’s encouraging to see these regions turn from isolated islands into robust startup networks as it gets easier to start businesses in the Midwest.”

For Draper Triangle, the expansion into Ohio was a no-brainer. Being close by, Stubler and his team have found it easier to seek out and jump on new opportunities.

“We’ve had great success with our investments outside of Pittsburgh, and I think that strategy will continue,” said Stubler. “There are great companies and teams looking for venture funding and sometimes it’s easier for them to attract a first round of capital when it’s nearby. This lets them get some traction before attracting growth capital from other places. We love being the ones to facilitate that first step — to be there in the beginning.”

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