Another Major Startup Exit Showcases the Strength of the Ohio Startup Scene
Cleveland’s Able is being acquired, bringing value to its investors, founders and employees
Another well-known Ohio startup has been acquired in a move that adds value to the company’s founders, investors, partners and even employees. Last week, Cleveland onboarding experts Able announced that partner company Bullhorn had purchased the startup in a move that will expand their reach, bolster Bullhorn’s capabilities and provide a major return on investment for Able’s investors.
“It’s a big win on a number of fronts,” CEO Gerald Hetrick said. “I think we did a great job of building a great company, taking the investment of the folks who believed in us and creating real value. In the end, we had a mission and a vision and had to assess whether we were best suited to continue to attack that mission on our own or whether it made sense to go with a company who has such obvious scale and opportunities that would allow us to achieve our mission at a much more rapid velocity. It’s a great outcome for our shareholders, employees and customers.”
Hetrick said he and his team are especially happy to be able to bring value to the investment groups that took a chance on the company, which was largely funded by Midwest and Ohio-based sources. Investment from JumpStart, North Coast Ventures, Rev1 and the Ohio Innovation Fund showcased the backing of Buckeye State organizations (in addition to a variety of other local angel investors), while Michigan’s Plymouth Growth Partners and Illinois-based M25 rounded out even more Midwest investment. That kind of support, he said, makes Able a perfect Ohio success story.
“It’s a great story about the Ohio startup environment,” he said. “We purposefully and intentionally decided to build a business here in Cleveland with the vast majority of our employees here. We got funding from a lot of local and regional sources, many of which were in Cleveland, and we were able to return great value for all of those parties. I think it’s a great story for everyone.”
To Hetrick, the acquisition is emblematic of the growth of the Ohio startup economy, which has seen a variety of major exits lately, including Vndly and Halo Health in Cincinnati. For Hetrick, who will stay on board under Bullhorn ownership, successful exits are a key part of a well functioning startup scene, and a promising sign of Ohio’s growth and future.
“We’re seeing the return you get for some of the great work that’s being put into this state from a lot of different people,” he said. “It becomes a snowball effect — you get a couple of these good exits and entrepreneurs get a taste for the startup lifestyle. It creates value and people are able to invest some of their capital into the next new thing. So I’m hoping we’re seeing what will become a long line of repeat entrepreneurs and people cashing out and going back in.”
Bullhorn sees that as well. The company is retaining nearly the entire Able team in Cleveland, and Leah McKelvey, VP of Enterprise Growth and Corporate Development, said the company is “excited to have the caliber of tech and talent at Able joining our team — a testament to the quality and maturity of the Cleveland tech scene.” The appreciation for the Cleveland team was crucial for Hetrick, who is proud of the way the acquisition benefits all parties.
“For me, the way employees get treated in that process is equally important,” he said. “We were able to pay every employee in this exit. Every employee had a level of ownership and benefitted from the funds and nearly everyone is landing in a great job with Bullhorn. I think that really shows that the VCs and Bullhorn are behind us and that this company really cared about our employees as much as the financial returns.”
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