It’s no question that the startup ecosystem in Ohio is unmatched. Whether its resources, mentorship, or venture capital, each region has unique opportunities for entrepreneurs in all industries. Now, three heavy hitters across the state’s startup community, which include Ohio Third Frontier partners Alloy Growth Lab and Queen City Angels, in addition to OhioX, are collaborating to drive innovation and cross-regional economic growth through a new pitch feedback program called OhioXcelerate.
“The idea started from Alloy’s morning mentoring program,” said Jeremy Fritzhand, Co-Founder and Alloy Growth Lab Startup Catalyst. “Every Thursday we host Morning Mentoring, a feedback-formatted meeting where participants give a pitch followed by a Q&A session with a group of mentors. The mentors give feedback on the pitch and fill out a scorecard and feedback form, which we compile and send back to the participant.”
Interested startups applied to the inaugural cohort for the chance to virtually pitch their business and its goals to a mentor panel of venture capitalists, angel investors, exit startup founders, subject matter experts, and more. Three companies across Ohio were selected, Vitruvian, Cocoon Technologies, and Beltways, from Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, respectively. However, OhioXcelerate doesn’t completely mirror the morning mentoring program. Instead of one Q&A session, participants entered separate breakout rooms to receive feedback from mentors with expertise in specialized areas.
“We tried to recruit mentors that had expertise in the areas of the startups we selected, which included mobility, justice tech, 3D printing, building construction, and SaaS,” Fritzhand said. “The first breakout room focused on customer research, pilot opportunities, user experience, and product design. The second focused on marketing, branding, and growth strategies. And the third focused on sales funding and business strategy.”
The participants were selected strategically. Fritzhand said it was important for program organizers to find startups that were in the early stage of their business, a “sweet spot” in which the companies had partners in place and were actively testing ideas and innovations, but were poised for growth and could benefit from the OhioXcelerate program feedback.
“There were different impact points that we were hoping to achieve,” he said. “One is connecting the entrepreneurial support ecosystems across the state and building stronger communications and involvement. The other side of things was encouraging the startup ecosystems at large to drive innovation and economic growth, while also collaborating with established mentors, successful business owners, and leaders to engage with fledgling startups.”
OhioXcelerate’s first installment was held on June 21, 2023, with Beltways winning the competition and taking home the prize package of $2,500 in business-focused legal services, a COhatch membership, a one year membership to OhioX, and a six month membership to Alloy Growth Lab. Preparations are already underway for the next session to come in the Spring of 2024, with plans to bring an in-person element to the competition, and program organizers are gearing up to spread the word about the upcoming event.
“I always like to encourage startups that are early in their journey, don’t hesitate to look for support in your community or region,” Fritzhand said. “There are organizations out there to share resources, make connections, and ensure that Ohio is leading the charge as one of the top startup ecosystems across the United States. And to anyone who hears about the program, whether you’re a startup, mentor, or entrepreneurial support organization, please reach out to us — we’d love for you to get involved.”