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RapChat allows users to share their raps with friends

While on spring break in 2013 from his junior year at Ohio University, Seth Miller and three of his friends were killing time in the car on their way to Florida. “My buddy and I were freestyling on the way down to spring break,” he recalls. “It was pretty terrible, but they were hilarious. I knew people would enjoy doing it.”
 
Miller, now 22, then spent the next two years developing his app concept – pick from a curated rap beat, freestyle over it and send it to friends in a one-minute message. The Lakewood resident presented RapChat at Startup Weekend Athens and won $1,000. Miller officially launched RapChat for iPhones in June 2014.
 
The app targets 16-24 year olds and spans gender and racial lines. RapChat is available for iPhone free download in the iTunes App Store.
 
“In December we ramped up and started going like crazy, like a rocket ship,” says Miller. Today, RapChat has already seen 410,000 downloads and 4 million raps sent in 2015. There’s no shortage of beats to choose from either. “We haven’t had to do much recently,” Miller brags. “Producers submit beats and we pick out the best ones. We curate new beats once a week.”
 
The app features beats from more than 20 artists such as Cal Scruby and Matt Houston. The company has plans to add bigger producers as time goes soon and has plans to release a beat by ASAP Ty Beats, a member of the ASAP Mob and producer of ASAP Rocky’s hits “Purple Swag” and “Peso.”
 
When the app hit 300,000 downloads last year, Miller decided to quit his job and focus on RapChat full time. The company now has 10 team members – all located throughout the Midwest. One of the other three original founders, Brandon Logan, is still with RapChat.

Right now, the company is not focusing on revenue. Miller takes freelance jobs to pay the bills. But he says they already have some "major brands" interested in partnering with RapChat when the time is right.

Who's Hiring in Cle: Prototype1, DragonID, MakerGear and more

Welcome to the latest installment of Fresh Water’s “who’s hiring” series, where we feature growing companies with open positions, what they’re looking for and how to apply.
 
Prototype1
Imagine designing and building a house, where you can see a 3D model of the layout and design before the foundation is even laid. That is exactly what Prototype1 is doing in the software development world.  ONOSYS founder Oleg Friedman and Dave Hurt have formed Prototype1 to help both start-up companies and established businesses identify and develop their software needs without first building the entire product – called high-fidelity prototyping.
 
“It’s a way for people to see the front-end user experience without having to build the back end,” explains Protoype1 CEO Hurt. “The client enthusiasm is fantastic. We can see everything before it’s built. We are able to get clients on board before it’s even built.”
 
Hurt and Friedman were offering the prototyping services at ONOSYS before splintering off to start Prototype1 last August. First, Hurt and Friedman spent the summer “testing the waters” for their idea. “Prototyping is a really good tool, but it’s not be used a lot in the industry,” says Hurt of their idea to start the company. “We talked to all these people around Cleveland for feedback about it and we went to San Francisco and met with custom development shops. People in Cleveland were more supportive, even if they would be competitors in the future.”
 
Prototype1 has been working with CWRU department of epidemiology and biostatistics professor Darcy Freedman in developing an app for farmers markets to track the use of food stamps. “She had an idea for what she wanted and she knew she wanted an app,” says Hurt. The app will launch on June 1 at 400 markets around the country.
 
Prototype1 is also working with Groupmatics, an online group ticket sales manager, to help them develop a group ticketing platform for professional sports teams. “We’re small, but mighty,” Hurt says. “We want to continue to grow.”
 
Prototype1 currently has five employees and is now looking for a product designer and UX researcher to layout products and do discovery work. For more information or to apply, contact Hurt.
                                                                                                                       
DragonID
DragonID , an award-winning healthcare innovation and design firm in Cleveland Heights, needs a chief electrical engineer with experience in RF data transmission. The idea candidate should have knowledge in
design engineering for the development of transmitters, receivers, and antennas; familiarity with UwB basic concepts, hardware/software integration, test process, and procedures; and an understanding of data transmission, hardware/software design, and testing. Send CV to Eugene Malinskiy to apply.
 
MakerGear
MakerGear, a leading manufacturer of desktop 3D printers, is looking for an experienced electrical engineer with excellent programming skills. Candidate will work in a collaborative environment with mechanical and materials engineers on product improvements and new product design development. MakerGear also needs a production technician to perform mechanical assembly of 3D printers using standard tools. To apply for either position, send resumes to the hiring manager.
 
LogicJunction
LogicJunction is a rapidly growing technology company seeking a highly motivated web developer, who is excited about new ventures and the opportunity to be a part of an innovative team. Responsibilities include for developing interactive web and mobile wayfinding and training applications and user toolsets. Apply through JumpStart’s careers page.
 
Casentric
Casentric, a claims software developer, needs an inside software salesperson. The right candidate will have two to three years of telesales experience with a high volume of transactions; love cold calling and prospecting - smiling and dialing; be a self-starter who thrives on learning new things and producing results; and manage multiple tasks. Apply through JumpStart’s careers page.
 
Terves
Terves, a materials science company producing engineered composites used in the oil and gas well completions and defense industries, needs a safety engineer to eliminate or control hazardous conditions resulting from human error, equipment and machine operations that may lead to human injury or property damage. This role must apply advanced mathematical techniques; professional engineering principles, methods and techniques; safety-related elements of the physical sciences, ergonomics, psychology and physiology; and safety principles, standards, practices and analytical techniques. To apply, send resume to Sharon Redman-Blom.
 
ONOSYS
ONOSYS, an online ordering platform for the restaurant industry, needs a web design intern to work directly with the marketing head and design team to spark new life into the ONOSYS corporate website. Apply here.

Ignited Invitations takes Y.O.U.'s E City Young Entrepreneur of the Year honor

High school students from six area high schools presented their business plans last Thursday, May 14th to an audience and a panel of judges for a chance to win prize money and scholarships during the Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.) E City (Entrepreneurship, Connecting, Inspiring and Teaching Youth) Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Ryan Hyde, 18, a senior at Thomas W. Harvey High School in Painesville, won first place for his Ignited Invitations concept. Hyde created an environmentally-safe alternative to a fire pit using Bunsen burner fuel gel and a brass casing, after his mother commented that she wished she could put their fire pit on the wooden deck.
 
Hyde was among 500 students who took Y.O.U.’s E City course, which teaches teenagers the process of starting a business. The students then created business plans for their companies and presented them. Sixteen students representing the top three companies from each of the schools competed in Thursday’s competition.
 
“We’re proud of all these kids,” says Y.O.U. president Carol Rivchun. “They are mastering the skills of entrepreneurship and money management.  These are teenagers, 16 and 17 years old, and most of them have already started businesses.”
 
Hyde will now go on to compete in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in New York in October. Additionally, he received $1,000 from Y.O.U. to start his business and fund his trip to New York, and a $1,000 scholarship from E&Y, which hosted the event. Paul Moss, founder and CEO of Moss Corporation and keynote speaker at the event, will take Hyde to a Cavs playoffs game in court-side seats. Hyde will also be recognized at the upcoming Entrepreneur of the Year Gala.
 
Hyde says he became interested in business after joining Future Business Leaders of America, where he got involved with program supporter Avery Dennison. “I’ve liked money since I was young,” he says. “I just got hooked on business and decided to take the entrepreneurship course.”
 
Joey Orosz, also a senior at Harvey High School, took second place with Embracelets, a company that aims to make paracord bracelets that promote awareness of a cause or can be sold to help raise money for a cause. He received $500 for his business and a trip to New York for the national competition.
 
Carina Watson, a senior at Horizon Science Academy, won third place for Sweeties’ Treaty Pops, which makes cake pops. She won $250 for her business. Moss gave Orosz and Watson and their parents tickets to a game, as well.

ProtoTech event focuses on product startups and investors

When the Incubator at MAGNET launched ProtoTech last year, the event was a pitch competition for product-based start-ups competing for $25,000 in prize money. This year, organizers have shifted focus a bit with ProtoTech: INVEST – a networking and pitch event that is all about investment in growing companies.
 
“Last year it was a pitch event for really early stage companies,” says Dave Crain, the Incubator at MAGNET executive director. “This year we’re more about connections and networking than it is of a contest. It’s for presenters who are looking for $500,000 to $2 million in investments.”
 
There will be pitches, but in a less formal setting without voting or prize money at ProtoTech: INVEST. Fifteen to 20 technology based start-ups with a focus on products will showcase their companies to investors at the event. “It’s an opportunity to get the right people in the room to make connections, network and find funding,” says Crain, adding that ProtoTech: INVEST is the next step in pitch competitions.
 
“It’s just a part of the evolution, part of maturity,” Crain says. “There will always be pitch competitions, there always should be pitch competitions. We’re just building a pipeline. This is the next level of maturity as these companies grow up.”
 
Crain says the shift came in response to feedback from both sides involved in start-up fundraising. “What I’m really hearing from both the start-ups and investors is while Ohio has made a lot of progress, no one is doing this locally – this is something successful ventures cities are doing.”
 
Some of the companies already registered are Cleveland WhiskeyVadxxBiolectrics and Everykey.
 
ProtoTech: INVEST will be held at the Metropolitan at the 9 on Thursday, June 4. Registration and pitches will be from 2pm to 5pm; dinner and networking at 5pm. Presenters can register here; investors can register here.

Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce takes grand prize in COSE pitch competition

Five start-up company owners pitched their businesses to a panel of judges in COSE’s fourth annual Business Pitch Competition last Friday, May 8 for a chance to win $40,000 in prize money to propel their companies forward.  

The process started with 108 applicants, which was narrowed down to 13 semi-finalists before the five finalists were chosen. The company founders presented their companies to a panel of four judges.
 
Ethan Holmes, founder of Holmes Mouthwatering Applesauce, won the grand prize of $20,000.  Chris Wentz of Everykey, which makes wristbands that replaces keys and passwords, came in second place with $10,000; Jessica Davis of Rebuilders Xchange won $5,000; and Doug Katz’s Fire Spice Company and Mauri Artz of The Public Tutoring Initiative each received $2,500.
 
“We had a really good set of finalists,” says Steve Millard, president and executive director of COSE. “Each of the companies that pitched are really in the early stages. We took a look at Ethan and we saw we could really make an impact on some of the goals he wants to accomplish.”
 
Holmes, who first attended the competition in 2011 with LaunchHouse founder and mentor Dar Caldwell, was thrilled that he won. “It was the first business event I had ever been too and I all I had was a business card, but I watched those other businesses on that stage and it made me hungrier,” recalls Holmes. “So I applied every year hoping to be chosen, but it wasn’t until this year that I was given the chance. I beat over 100 businesses and it is truly a surreal feeling to go from just an observer to actually playing on the field.”

Holmes plans to use the prize money to buy inventory and machinery he needs to ramp up production and fulfill recent orders from major grocers. “He has managed to convince the key grocers of Cleveland like Heinen's, Marc's, Zagara's and even Giant Eagle to give his company and his products a chance,” says John Spirk of Nottingham Spirk and one of the judges. “That is a remarkable achievement.”
 
Spirk says Holmes’ drive is what swayed the judges to choose him. “The thing that impressed the judges, aside from Ethan's overall presentation, was that even at his young age as an entrepreneur he "knows what he doesn't know," Spirk says. “He has surrounded himself with seasoned advisors who are guiding him. Many young entrepreneurs are driven by their vision and tend not to seek out the advice of others. Ethan recognized that and it will serve him well as he builds his company.”
 
Rion Safier, a judge from Rion Safier Accounting, says selecting a winner was tough. “The difference between the five of them was small,” he says. “Any one of them could have won.”
 
But a few things set Holmes apart from the rest. “He had a pretty well-rounded thought process on his business model,” Safier says. “We thought Ethan had the greatest opportunity to take it to the next level.”
 
Jennifer Downey of Ambiance and a judge, agrees with Safier. “Ethan gave a great presentation,” she says. “He was well prepared with what his company was all about, and how it’s grown from humble beginnings…. Through the presentation, we were able to look into the future of HMA and Ethan’s plans for growth.  We awarded the top prize to Ethan because we felt that the money would make a huge difference for his plans, and it would give him the opportunity to think bigger.”  
 
The fourth judge was Radhika Reddy of Ariel Ventures

Red Head Cookies founder puts a little spice in her business

Thirty years ago, Carol Emeruwa began searching for an alternative to the standard chocolate chip cookie to put in a care packages to her daughter at college. “I was looking around for something, but she didn’t like chocolate chip cookies,” Emeruwa recalls. So she started fooling around with different recipes and developed a ginger cookie made with natural ingredients and three kinds of ginger.  “She moved to New York after college and I still sent those cookies.”

Then Emeruwa was downsized from her accounting job two years ago. New job prospects looked bleak. “My daughter said, ‘do something you enjoy doing,’” Emeruwa says. So she decided to devote her time to baking and crated Red Head Artisanal Ginger Cookies in December of 2014.  She sells gift boxes and subscriptions through the Red Head website and AHAlife. Prices start at $24 for a dozen cookies. Emeruwa now has a two-pack of cookies that she plans to distribute to area stores.
 
The business has taken off. Emeruwa now offers five different flavors of ginger cookies that she bakes in the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen. “It’s really exciting down there,” she says. “It’s a great place to learn and taste other people’s products. There’s a great atmosphere down there.”
 
Emeruwa says she thinks she’s found her true calling. “I want to spend all my time building the business,” she says. “This is something I really enjoy doing. Now we’re working on new flavors, more savory items, and I’m tinkering with bacon.”  Emeruwa recently recruited 15 customers to taste her new flavors, and she still sends the new flavors to her daughter.

Pier W celebrates 50 years of superior seafood

Since 1965 Pier W in Lakewood has been a seafood destination for special occasions. On May 11 the restaurant will mark its 50th anniversary and it seems there is no shortage of memories shared at the iconic dinner spot on Lake Erie.

“We’re 50 years and still going strong,” says general manager Mark Kawada. “We’re having some of the best years of the restaurant’s history and it’s great to be a part of it, and great to hear the stories.” Only a handful of area restaurants have the bragging rights to 50 years in business, he says.
 
Kawada recalls a man who recently came in for brunch and brought in a Polaroid photo of himself and his prom date from 30 years ago. “That happens all the time here,” he says.
 
Although the world has changed in 50 years, Pier W has kept up with the times while maintaining its commitment to fresh seafood in a beautiful setting. “Back then we didn’t have social media or a ton of websites that review you,” he says. “And people have a fascination with food now. When times were tough and most people pulled back, we didn’t pull back. We have to stay true to who we are and what we make.”
 
What they make is fish that is handled only seven times or less before cooking – the average restaurant serves seafood that has been handled an average of 100 times before it is served – by sourcing its fish from places like Copper River Salmon in Alaska or tuna overnighted three times a week from Hawaii.
 
“We get fish in almost every day and when we say we get all of our fish in whole, we get it quicker and we get it fresher,” Kawada explains. “We have whole cooler with running water and we cut all of our own fish. It does make a difference.”
 
Executive chef Regan Reik is an expert in sustainable seafood, building relationships directly with the fishermen who fish responsibly. The same practices hold true for Pier W’s meat and chicken.
 
The commitment to quality is what has kept Pier W going for five decades. “How we evolved, even in slow times, is we’ll spend the time and money to do it right, because it’s the best,” Kawada says. The restaurant closed for a year about 10 years ago for a $4 million remodel.
 
Yes, a lot of practices have remained the same. “We have the same bouillabaisse recipe we made 50 years ago,” Kawada says. “A lot of things are old school, the same way we did it 50 years ago.”
 
A new generation of regulars come to Pier W every day, as well as folks who have been coming for the past 50 years.  

CIA design students take on mapping project for the homeless community

Three industrial design students at the Cleveland Institute of Art have spent the past two semesters exploring Cleveland’s homeless community and its facilities. As a result of their research, they designed and developed pocket-sized resource maps to the 5,700 homeless individuals and families in Cleveland.
 
The year-long class was titled projectFIND: People + Shelter + Food + Mapping. The three students – David Acosta, Alex Constantin and Sami Piercy – presented their map to a focus group yesterday, along with CIA faculty member and designer with Bialosky and Partners Architects  Sai Sinbondit.
 
ProjectFIND will eventually distribute individual maps for each homeless shelter in Cleveland. Each map includes the address and photos of the shelter, maps detailing the location of the shelter, bus and walking routes and services offered at the shelter.
 
“We all immersed ourselves within this world and along the way we met lot of wonderful, interesting people,” Sinbondit told the attendees, who represented CIA, community organizations and various agencies serving the homeless population. “Along the way it changed all of us.”
 
The purpose of projectFIND was to engage with the community and understand the issues with homelessness. Piercy said the experience has prompted her to consider a career path around the project. “I‘ve always been interested in social impact design,” she said. “The project made me want to work more with it and I want to do something like that when I graduate.”
 
The hope is that the work done by projectFIND this year will lead to continued partnerships and a more extensive mapping program. Sinbondit says the project is only 90 percent complete, but will continue to move forward. The next step is to take in today’s feedback, then go back to the homeless community for additional feedback. Then several hundred maps will be printed and distributed through the shelters, libraries, churches and community centers.  
 
ProjectFIND will continue next year.  “Mapping will always continue along with the relationship with the homeless individuals and shelter providers,” says Sinbondit. “Next year's projectFIND will focus on three organizations that deal with various versions of displacements, homeless individuals, Cleveland new refugee populations and cancer patients.”
 
Sinbondit says the maps and the homeless landscape will be re-visited every other year for feedback and updates.
 
ProjectFIND was a course as part of CIA’s Community Works: Artist as Social Agent, classes designed by faculty to engage students in addressing social and environmental problems The Murphy Family Foundation helped pay the printing costs of the resource maps. 

A background in physics and a love for music leads to new guitar pick

Back in 1982, Jerry Mearini was all set to study guitar at Berklee College of Music when he abruptly changed his mind. “The day before I was supposed to go, I realized that I couldn’t play guitar for the rest of my life,” he recalls. Instead Mearini earned a degree in physics from Ohio State and a masters and PhD in experimental physics from CWRU.
 
Mearini’s decision to study physics paid off well. In 1998 he founded Genvac Aerospace, a company in Highland Heights that produces materials and components for the aerospace industry using diamond-like carbon.  
 
But music was still in Mearini’s blood. He has played guitar in a local classic rock and heavy metal band for 40 years. Two years ago, he began merging his love of rock and roll, physics and diamond-like carbon films into one to create Rock Hard diamond guitar picks.
 
The stainless steel picks are coated with a thin layer of carbon. They provide a smooth but hard metal surface, but without friction, that won’t wear. “The last few years I’ve been looking at opportunities to put some of this diamond-like carbon in picks,” Mearini explains. “It just does not scratch. The coating resulted in a fantastic new guitar pick.”
 
Now Mearini has made a few hundred picks, launched a Indiegogo campaign, and is about to open an Amazon store. The picks range from $20 with an Indiegogo contribution to $30 on Amazon. And he says all manufacturing can be done in Cleveland. “All of the facilities necessary to make this product are probably best found in Cleveland,” he says.
 
Mearini says musicians have praised the picks for their properties. “So far, every guitarist I’ve given them to has liked them,” he boasts. “I have to admit, this is a lot of fun.”

TechPint's growing popularity brings two big events to Cle this year

Just two years ago, Paul McAvinchey, a Cleveland transplant hailing from Ireland, started TechPint as a way for startups to gather over a beer or two in an informal setting. Since then, TechPint events have occurred every few months in both Cleveland and Akron, and McAvinchey has gone big.
 
On Friday, May 15, TechPint will host its second annual Startup Summit – last year known as the Industry Digital Summit – at the Improv in the Flats for a full day of networking, speakers and, of course, beer. “Last year the purpose of the conference was focused on startups,” explains McAvinchey. “This year we’re doubling down on being an event for founders of companies and inventors.
 
A national panel of speakers are scheduled, including Tanisha Robinson, founder and CEO of Print Syndicate, and Ted Serbinski, managing director of TechStars Mobility. Featured speaker is Paul Singh, founder of Disruption Corporation. Singh will speak on “The Business of (Tech) Startups: on the intersection of venture capital, tech-enabled companies and the American city.”
 
New this year is the TechPint Startup Awards, featuring awards in four categories:  Most Innovative Startup; Most Beautiful Startup (best design); Best Emerging Startup; and Best Growth Startup. Nominations were made through TechPint’s Facebook page in April. One of the category winners will be awarded the TechPint Startup of the Year award.
 
Last year, more than 350 people came to the summit from all over the Midwest. McAvinchey expects more than 400 this year, with the first two rounds of tickets already sold out. Additional tickets are still available at $125.
 
Meanwhile, McAvinchey is planning Industry: The Conference for People who Build, Launch and Scale World Class Products September 11-12. The conference this year focuses on product development, a popular topic at last year’s conference.
 
“We wanted to build a conference for ourselves because there’s no real event out there like this for product people or people who don’t know they’re product people yet,” says McAvinchey. “It will be big enough to be great, small enough to get to know people there and opportunities for collaboration.”
 
Industry draws more than 500 innovation and industry leaders from around the country. Registration is already open. The event begins with a pub crawl of Cleveland’s most popular brewer and bars.

Encore Artists project helps seniors explore the arts

Seniors in Cleveland will soon have a new outlet for creative expression, thanks to a new program through the Benjamin Rose Institute of Aging. The Encore Artists program pairs older adults with professional artists, art therapists and music therapists age 50 and older at various sites around Cleveland.
 
“I’ve been trying to find a way to bridge the art world with the aging world,” explains Linda Noelker, senior vice president at Benjamin Rose and Encore Artists project director. “Research shows that older adults, when they actively engage with the arts, it improves their health and quality of life.” In particular, she cites seniors with ailments like Parkinson’s disease who participate in dance have improved gaits, better balance and fewer falls.
 
Noelker approached the Cleveland Foundation about funding such a program. “I talked to the Cleveland Foundation and said why don’t we try to recruit artists and give them training in the arts with older adults,” recalls Noelker.
 
The Cleveland Foundation agreed and is funding Encore Artists program, along with the Ohio Arts Council, as part of its Encore Cleveland program.
 
Noelker is currently recruiting art teachers, art therapists and music therapists to volunteer for the project. Selected artists will go through a two-day training in May and then be listed on a registry that details their experience and program interests. Artists must commit to providing 48 hours of programming in the next six months. Artists and can sign up through Benjamin Rose.
 
Noelker is also looking for community sites within Cleveland to host the project’s events. Ideal host sites are nursing homes, libraries, or recreation centers. Potential hosts sites can register here. For more information, contact Noelker.

JumpStart launches Growth Opps to help scale-ups grow their businesses

After 10 years of helping start-up organizations get their footholds and develop their companies, JumpStart’s leaders saw a new need in Cleveland’s economic climate: to help the region’s scale-ups, or growing small businesses, that fall in the gap between securing loans from banks and qualifying for start-up funds and expertise from business accelerators.

So JumpStart announced last Thursday, April 23, the launch of Growth Opportunity Partners to help those scale-ups grow their business and hire employees. Growth Opps, as it is familiarly known, will work with banks and other resources to serve as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). It will focus on thriving companies of all kinds, not just tech companies, in low to moderate income (LMI) neighborhoods. It will provide loans between $250,000 and $1 million, with the average loan being $250,000. Growth Opps companies will also have access to JumpStart’s services.
 
"I’m proud to say Northeast Ohio’s start-up tech ecosystem is in a much better place than it was when we started,” said JumpStart CEO Ray Leach at the announcement. “When we started in 2004 the whole region was distressed. Today, many established businesses in Northeast Ohio have great opportunities to create jobs if they have the assistance. It is so important to create opportunities to drive job creation and join neighborhoods that have been disconnected to the Northeast Ohio economy.”
 
Leach introduced Michael Jeans as president of Growth Opps. Jeans has more than 20 years of banking experience. “We want to focus on minority business owners located in low to moderate income neighborhoods, and create meaningful wage jobs,” Jeans said. “Meaningful wage jobs pay above a living wage and have a career path within an organization. JumpStart is our parent company, but we have the same purpose, the same goals and objectives.”
 
Jeans also stressed that Growth Opps will work with banks and other regional organizations to assist scale-ups in their growth. “The goal is to create three meaningful wage jobs for every loan we make,” he said. “We’d like to see that number grow as we grown. We’re funding growing companies.”
 
Jeans then announced Growth Opps’ first client, Leon Anderson, president of Beachwood-based Sports and Spine Physical Therapy. Sports and Spine was actually referred by veteran healthcare banker and senior vice president of Citizens Bank Rufus Heard. Anderson has grown his company to four locations in Northeast Ohio and North Carolina. Anderson says he was attracted to Growth Opps offerings of cash flow management, strategic planning and funding structured solutions.
 
Also at the event was Sports and Spine COO Andre Russell, who started with the company at age 13 cleaning out the storage closets. He will earn his MBA in healthcare from Ohio University this week.
 
Growth Opps board chair Ndeda Letson and Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish also spoke at the event. “I am a strong believer in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Budish. “Northeast Ohio has been a hub of innovation for decades. We have people doing great things.”
 
 

University Hospitals, Geis could create hundreds of jobs in the Health-Tech Corridor

University Hospitals announced earlier this month that it plans to build a community care center, called the UH Rainbow Center for Women’s and Children’s Health, on East 57th Street and Euclid Avenue on a part of 12 acres in MidTown’s Health-Tech Corridor.

Along with the facility, Geis Companies’ Hemingway Development will develop the rest of the land for a second Midtown Tech Park with mixed-use medical companies, retail, restaurants and other commercial space. Bike trails will also be created, and a new bus stop in front of the UH facility are planned, according to Fred Geis.

“We’re engaging the community with public spaces, restaurants with healthy eating and possibly a small market,” Geis says. “This will connect E. 59th Street, connect the Hough neighborhood and League Park. With the bike trails, people can easily walk to the facility.”

HTC director Jeff Epstein says the two projects mean jobs and more development in MidTown. "The additional traffic that comes as a result of development adds to the critical mass to add restaurants," he says. "The intersection of a healthcare provider and technology in the corridor provides opportunities for residents. And University Hospitals' major commitment is using strength to bring additional jobs."

Cleveland City Council, which owns the land, approved the purchase last week. Geis says they are scheduled to go before council again on May 4th for approval of the plans. The deal preserves $13 million in Housing and Urban Development loans and grants originally set for renovating the Warner and Swasey building on Carnegie Avenue and East 55th Street.

The UH facility will provide maternity, post-natal and medical care, and will employ as many as 100 people by June of 2016. UH also plans to house healthy living programming at the facility and provide more than 200 parking spaces. Hospital officials predict the 30,000-40,000 square foot facility will see 47,000 visits a year.

As a whole, Geis conservatively predicts the project will create at least 400 jobs. “Based on experience from down the street at the Midtown Tech Park, it should create 600-800 jobs,” he says. “The Midtown Tech Park provides 600 jobs currently. And employment statistics show female and minorities are in half of those jobs.”

Geis says he wants to attract companies from outside the region to the new park. “Our sincerest goal is to entice people from outside the region,” he says. “This is a brand new area, brand new to the region.”

UH officials are pleased with the services the hospital system will offer in MidTown. “As we plan for future growth, it is clear a new and more convenient location for women’s and children’s services is a priority,” says Steve Standley, UH chief administrative officer. “The MidTown Corridor site is ideal for the patients we serve and aligns with University Hospitals’ economic impact goals to help generate the local economy by attracting more businesses to this urban area.”

Hemingway’s Maura Maresh says the center is exactly what the neighborhood needs. “It’s the opportunity they needed to build this facility instead of building in the usual places,” she says. “It shows the power of what you can do with one project.”

Geis points out that residents in most suburban areas have easy access to community medical centers. Other medical centers, including the Cleveland Foot and Ankle Clinic and two divisions of the Veterans Administration, have already successfully established themselves in MidTown.

“They realized years ago it’s difficult to make it down to University Circle,” Geis says. “This is long overdue that someone comes out here to serve these communities. University Hospitals is the first of the institutions to invest in this type of infiltration of a neighborhood.”

Groundbreaking is scheduled for May 2016.

LaunchHouse shifts focus to educating student entrepreneurs

When Todd Goldstein and Dar Caldwell first created LaunchHouse in 2008, the organization was the first accelerator in the region to support early-stage startup companies. Since then, LaunchHouse has supported 62 companies and secured $23 million in follow-on funding. “We’re still going to work with our portfolio companies and help those companies be successful,” says Goldstein.

But earlier this month, LaunchHouse announced it was moving away from its adult accelerator model and instead will focus on fostering student entrepreneurs. The move comes with the success of the LaunchHouse Institute, a program started two years ago by LaunchHouse the and Shaker Heights Development Corporation as a way to educate, mentor and invest in student entrepreneurs.

“We’re going back to the roots of LaunchHouse, which are education, investing and bringing the entire community together, and create successful, vibrant entrepreneurs,” says Goldstein. “We’re reinforcing our position as a place in the community for entrepreneurial organizations to start and grow businesses. We’re really recognizing that education is the first step in growing any business.”

With the establishment of the LaunchHouse Institute came LEAP, one of the country’s first high school accelerators. Students go through a summer program to take business ideas to fruition. “I think what’s exciting about entrepreneurship is the opportunity to be creative while doing something to make money,” says Katie Connelly, LaunchHouse’s director of entrepreneurial programming. “You’re never too young to think about entrepreneurship and starting a business.”

The decision to focus on students came in part after noticing a skills gap in adult entrepreneurs. Goldstein saw the need to teach basic skills, like speaking to people and writing a professional emails, to young entrepreneurs in middle school, high school and college.

This summer LaunchHouse will also offer a Hack-a-Thing, one-day and five-day programs for middle and high school students centered on developing a physical product, says Connelly.

Additionally, through funding from the Arminius Foundation LaunchHouse will place two shipping containers in its garage for office space. The containers can house between two and 10 employees. “There’s no space for entrepreneurs who are growing and need space,” explains Goldstein. “This is an agile space to work out of. LaunchHouse is really a place for all entrepreneurs.”

Healthcare big data pioneer Explorys acquired by IBM

Since 2009, Explorys has leveraged big data in the healthcare field to form one of the largest healthcare databases in the world, helping medical professionals provide better patient care and diagnoses. Formed out of the Cleveland Clinic in October 2009 by Charlie Lougheed and Stephen McHale, Explorys has become one of the world’s largest data platforms.

Last Monday, McHale announced to 38,000 attendees of the HIMSS conference in Chicago that Explorys has been acquired by IBM. The news was announced by Lougheed in Cleveland. The company will be a part of IBM’s Watson Health Unit.
 
The deal was a natural fit, says Lougheed. “It was one of those things,” he says. “Explorys and IBM are both leaders in the space. We’ve bumped into each other and we’ve even collaborated from time to time with our joint customers. We really see each other as pioneers in the industry”
 
Lougheed said there were three components to the decision to join IBM: Industry growth, customers, and Explorys’ employees. “We really believe in this mission and we want to see the mission continue and accelerate,” he explains. “We asked, is it good for our customers, does it make sense? Because they subscribe to our systems for a reason, so it had to matter to them.”
 
Most importantly, Lougheed said they considered their employees. “We asked, is this good for our employees, because they deserve something great as well,” he explains. “This a great thing for our employees to grow their careers.”
 
Explorys will remain in Cleveland, and all employees will retain their jobs. “There are some of the best and the brightest data software engineers in the world here,” Lougheed says. “Cleveland is a great place to keep Explorys moving. We’re going to continue to expand as expected.”
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