Almost 300 entrepreneurs, inventors and their supporters attended this year's TechPint Startup Awards, displaying an energy TechPint founder Paul McAvinchey says is significant for a community that must continue to build on its successes.
The awards event, held April 19 at the Beachland Ballroom, recognized Northeast Ohio companies in the categories of Most Innovative Startup, Most Beautiful Startup (best design), Best Emerging Startup and Best Growth Startup. This year's winners were Design Flux Technologies (Most Innovative), Harness Cycle (Most Beautiful), Complion (Best Growth) and Tech Elevator (Best Emerging).
The awards are community-driven, meaning peers voted on the nominees. This year's grand prize, awarded to the startup with the most overall votes in their category, was given to Complion, a Cleveland-based provider of clinical research software.
"We're giving kudos to people doing great work but not getting pats on the back," says McAvinchey. "It tells outsiders there's some really cool stuff happening here, and tells insiders to appreciate the hard work (these businesses) are doing."
Last week's event also featured a pair of speakers: Muhga Eltigani, founder and CEO of NaturAll Club, a made-to-order organic hair care line headquartered downtown; and entrepreneur Sam Gerace, founding CEO of a handful of successful area startups.
McAvinchey, a Cleveland transplant born in Ireland, stared TechPint in 2013 as a way for entrepreneurs to talk business in an informal setting. Since then, a total of 11 TechPint gatherings have been held at local drinking establishments. These events range from pop-up happenings to larger summits that offer a full day of networking, speakers and responsibly imbibed refreshments.
"From the start we knew this model could be successful," says McAvinchey. "It's for those who are serious about startups and want to meet like-minded people."
Among all the kibitzing and fun is an educational component, notes the TechPint founder.
"There's not an appreciation of how difficult it is to build a new company," McAvinchey says. "It's easy to start a company, and easier it for it to end."
Would-be innovators must build a team around an issue, rather than running with a flashy idea they believe will help them build a startup, says McAvinchey. In other words, creating a photo-sharing app is not likely to gain as much venture capital traction as would building software solutions for healthcare or manufacturing.
"There are so many opportunities out there in less sexy industries," says McAvinchey. "That's when it becomes about rallying around teams instead of ideas."
McAvinchey isn't trying to be a downer. In fact, by bringing together company founders, investors and technology pacesetters, TechPint events can illuminate the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship, he says.
"We can take a look at the way we're doing things, and question how we might do those things better," McAvinchey says. "Innovation can come out of those questions."