Thousands of companies, dozens of bustling cities, millions of dollars in investment — the Ohio startup scene is thriving. So how can you be part of it? Fortunately, the Buckeye State’s entrepreneurial community is welcoming, exciting and full of resources to help take your great idea from a cocktail napkin to the state’s next unicorn. All you have to do is know where to look.
At TechOhio, we’re well versed in the many exciting organizations, events and companies. For a daily look at what’s going on in your community and beyond, be sure to keep an eye on our Innovation News page. And for a more in-depth look at companies ranging from first-time startups to billion-dollar unicorns, check out our Featured Stories.
But tapping into the vast Ohio startup scene is about more than just staying on top of the news. Whether you’re new to Ohio or you’ve been here for years, here’s a list of ways to maximize everything the state has to offer.
Access Ohio’s Wealth of Resources
Are you working on an early stage company that could use some business direction? Are you in need of funding to get working on a prototype? Do you just need someone to talk to about the industry? From financial support to mentorship and everything in between, a variety of Ohio organizations are here to help, no matter where you live.
In the Columbus area, multiple organizations can help entrepreneurs and startups at nearly any stage. Rev1 Ventures offers everything from financial help to mentorship and The Ohio State University’s Technology Commercialization program helps ideas become businesses. NCT Ventures provides experienced guidance and investment, while Innovate New Albany runs an incubator and curates a community of entrepreneurs.
Cleveland-area entrepreneurs have several options for finding what they need. JumpStart and the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise provide almost any necessary resources, but there is no shortage of more focused organizations as well. BioEnterprise focuses on bioscience, the Cleveland Clinic Incubator works with those in the medical field and FlashStarts values tech and innovation.
Cincinnati’s FinTech scene is thriving, and the area’s companies have gotten big boosts from the likes of the HCDC, CincyTech, The Brandery and Cintrifuse. Meanwhile, Queen City Angels are helping fund the future.
But you don’t have to be in one of the big three cities to find these kinds of resources. In Athens, Ohio University’s Innovation Center and TechGROWTH Ohio programs work with a variety of startups. Mansfield entrepreneurs have access to the business development center at Braintree while up the road Akron’s Bounce Innovation Hub helps boost startups. The University of Toledo’s LaunchPad Incubation program bolsters northwest Ohio’s startup resources. The Youngstown Business Incubator is helping bring a new generation of industry to Youngstown. And Dayton is in the midst of an entrepreneurial renaissance, with resources like The Entrepreneurs’ Center and Launch Dayton guiding a new generation of startups.
Find Your Perfect Place to Work
Now more than ever, people are realizing that the best way to work is the way that works for you. We know Ohio startups have great in-office culture, but we’ve also learned over the last two years that great work isn’t just done in a traditional office atmosphere.
Fortunately, Ohio’s startup scene allows companies and individuals to work in exactly the way that fits your productivity and community. Here are some local gems showcasing the new way we do business:
COhatch: One of the most rapidly growing workplaces in Ohio, COhatch is revolutionizing the way we think about co-working spaces. With locations in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Springfield and even outside Ohio, COhatch works to create a community feel and embrace the unique nature of each location. They’re expanding fast, and there’s a reason.
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 are 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 and The Brandery, it’s also located in the vibrant Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. With a variety of payment options and flexible workspaces, 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 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.
The Hub: One of the first tenants of the exciting Dayton Arcade project, The Hub aims to foster relationships and help scale businesses at their coworking space. Formerly known as Nucleus, 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 southeast Ohio, 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.
Meet Your Community
Most days of the week, you can find some way to meet up with or interact with fellow Ohio entrepreneurs. Whether it’s a virtual happy hour or a pitch contest, you’ll have no shortage of chances to introduce yourself and your product or startup to the broader community.
In the Cincinnati area, keep an eye on StartupCincy and the Cintrifuse events calendar for events and other resources. The Dayton area has a particularly active events scene, and you can find most of it at Launch Dayton. Rev1’s calendar keeps those in Columbus up to date with events from their organization and others in the area, while JumpStart keeps track of what’s happening in and around Cleveland.
And while the day-to-day grind is where the real work is done, we get to celebrate these great ideas at annual events like startup weeks or weekends. While some are on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, these events are sure to bring together entrepreneurs when they happen.
As we get back to seeing each other in person, be sure to keep an eye on Columbus Startup Week, TechStars Startup Week in Cleveland, Cleveland’s Startup Scaleup, Dayton Startup Week, StartupCincy Week and Startup Weekend Athens for the next big showcase in your area.
And for getting to know some of the great innovators and experienced entrepreneurs across the state, be sure to keep an eye out for our regular Movers & Shakers series, which features an in-depth look at the people who make the Ohio startup scene great.
If you have an event coming up, be sure to reach out to TechOhio. We’d love to share it with our network!
Be Part of the Conversation
Twitter is a great place to keep tabs on timely startup buzz, and it’s best to build up a social network of investors, organizations and community members. Here are some people and groups to keep an eye on:
@Rev1Ventures: Investor startup studio that combines capital and strategic services to help startups scale and corporates innovate
@pblackshaw: CEO of Cintrifuse. Former Global Head of Digital Marketing and Social media at Nestlé
@Cincy_Tech: a public-private seed-stage investor whose mission is to be a trusted partner in helping to transform ideas into high potential life science and digital companies in Southwest Ohio.
@bounce_hub: Empowering Akron’s innovators to collaborate, create & commercialize.
@upsidefm: Podcast run by Ohio State grads that focuses on stories of startup investing outside of Silicon Valley.
@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.
@CandiceBrackeen: Cincinnati-based entrepreneur, advocate and mentor.
@Pbailss: Reporter covering the Midwest startup scene.
Who are your favorite entrepreneurs, mentors and startup advocates to follow? Let us know @TechOhioGov and help us update our list!