Since its inception seven years ago, MSPIRE has stood as the only pitch challenge for Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing-focused entrepreneurs.While the overall mission hasn’t changed, it has expanded to include a larger swath of would-be dream makers.
Via a partnership with ProMedica Innovations—a Toledo early-stage venture capital firm—individuals or companies across all of northern Ohio can now pitch their products to a panel of judges.
Finalists from Northeast Ohio will pitch in person at a July 26 event, while Northwest Ohio finalists will present two days later on July 28.
Andrea Navratil, director of new ventures with competition host MAGNET,“ProMedica does work in the medical space, but has resources to help manufacturing entrepreneurs, too,” says Andrea Navratil, director of new ventures with competition host MAGNET, the Cleveland-headquartered Manufacturing Growth Advocacy Network. “Manufacturing is a big part of getting medical devices into the hands of doctors and patients. We felt like this would be a good way to help more entrepreneurs in the space.”
This year, MSPIRE is tabbing innovations in hard tech and advanced materials, as well as candidates with a physical product or technology. Hard technology is an umbrella term for tools, factory machinery, and production equipment, though any tangible component assembled into a system can also fall under this definition.
Past iterations of the event provided grants and other crucial resources for manufacturing startups. Prizes are geared to a finalist’s particular needs, based on where they are in their product development journey. This year, awards specific to each region will be announced alongside the winners.
“We’re excited to collaborate with MAGNET and be part of accelerating the development of products with the potential to turn into thriving businesses here in Northwest Ohio,” Evan Bernath, investment analyst at ProMedica Innovations, said in a press release. “Manufacturing is important to healthcare and economic growth is critical to the vibrancy and well-being of the communities we serve.”
MAGNET engineers have connected with past winners to create physical prototypes and scale products for national distribution. Corrolytics CEO and co-founder Anwar Sadek— whose startup secured an award for a microbial corrosion testing kit aimed at the oil and gas industry—says the recognition serves as validation for his product.
Corrolytics CEO and co-founder Anwar Sadek“We also found out that MAGNET is a hub for manufacturing in Northeast Ohio,” says Sadek. “We’ll need those relationships in the future when we go into mass production of our technology.”
Sadek and his team compiled a three-year timeline to get the test kit ready for field testing and an eventual foray into the mass market. Corrolytics’ technology identifies in real-time damaging microbes growing within oil and gas assets, ideally allowing officials to mitigate the problem through pipeline-cleansing biocides.
“It’s a consumable kit that works just like taking blood sugar in a person,” Sadek explains. “We have to see the value proposition for companies that will be using our kit. We’ll determine that from customer discovery.”
Along with funding, MAGNET assists entrepreneurs in key growth areas such as sales, marketing, engineering, and operational development. Winners will gain exposure to investors in the Advanced Manufacturing Fund, a newly formed venture group that invests in high-potential startups. The Fund includes MAGNET, JumpStart, and the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
Companies will also receive guidance from Brandon Cornuke, MAGNET vice president of strategy and innovation and author of “The Value Proposition Matrix,” which shares Cornuke’ s approach to building and launching products most desired by consumers.
MAGNET’s Navratil says this year’s in-person contest puts innovators in touch with an invaluable engagement ecosystem.
“The competition helps the MAGNET team get the message out about what our resources are and how they can help,” says Navratil. “Looking at past [participants] shows the ways MAGNET is able to get companies into their next phase.”