JumpStart marketing director champions the 'She' of 'CLE'

JumpStart Inc. partner and marketing director Amy Martin is at the forefront of a venture development organization that in the past decade has injected $35 million into more than 80 tech companies. JumpStart revamped its website last December as part of a new mission statement ensuring entrepreneurs of all racial and social backgrounds have access to capital.
 
This work, along with Martin's "side hustle" as co-founder of lifestyle blog She In The CLE, has kept the Westlake resident busy during what she views as an upturn for Northeast Ohio's economic development future. Martin recently shared her Cleveland-centric excitement with Fresh Water.
 
In what ways has JumpStart expanded its reach into the entrepreneurial community?
 
Investing in high-tech companies with the potential to transform communities and create jobs has always been at the core of what we do. However, over the last two years we've taken a strong leadership role on diversity. Earlier this year, we launched the $10 million Focus Fund, a pre-seeded fund that invests in minority and female tech entrepreneurs.
 
JumpStart has always invested in diversity - about 30 percent of our portfolio is made up of minority- or women-owned companies - but we thought we could do better.
 
What is JumpStart's new marketing strategy all about?
 
We have so much knowledge within Northeast Ohio's entrepreneurial economy, and venture capitalists used to investing on the coasts are seeing Cleveland as a hub for innovation. So we're taking a proactive approach around content marketing, pushing four to five pieces of new content every week.
 
Producing content raises our visibility, with an end goal of getting the national media's attention. We've been in USA Today, Forbes, Fast Company and were mentioned on CNBC. What we're doing is storytelling that's newsworthy, like investing in a Cincinnati company called Lisnr that has funding from Intel Capital.
 
Is JumpStart going to be involved with more out-of-region investments?
 
Traditionally, JumpStart has only invested in Northeast Ohio. We launched The NEXT Fund (a $20 million for-profit venture fund directed at early-stage technology startups throughout the state) and the Focus Fund to invest in high-tech entrepreneurs across the state. We also want to strengthen relationships with groups like CincyTech and Rev1 Ventures, which have very similar missions to ours.
 
We started working with them saying we needed to help each other. Additional capital beyond an initial investment is so positive for a company. If we have strong relationships with organizations in Columbus and Cincinnati, that's going to help startups garner additional investments. What's good for the state is good for all of us. We're not going to be the next Silicon Valley, but we can continue to strengthen the region as place for investors to take note of.
 
Your "She In the Cle" blog recently celebrated its first anniversary. What has creating a resource by and for women meant to you?
 
This started as something of a passion project. My co-founders (Shibani Faehnle and Christina Klenotic) saw that women didn't have the platform they needed to tell their stories and be leaders who can inspire other women. We had to remind people of what immense women leadership we had here. When we started the blog a year ago, we saw how much women had to say. We recently had (Armond Budish's chief of staff) Sharon Sobol Jordan write a post about her daughter that got 60,000 views.
 
I've written posts about being a stepmom, and the emails and calls I've received in response showed me the power of this platform. Looking back on the year, "She In The Cle" is at the top of my list of things I'm most proud of. My career and family are important, but this has been such an emotionally rewarding project.
 
Has the blog's success been a surprise?
 
It's definitely gotten more of a groundswell than we thought it would. I got an email from someone in San Francisco who wanted to move back to the Midwest, and asked if moving to Northeast Ohio would be a step back for her. I told her to come here, because Cleveland is a place for strong women. 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.