These days, it seems like every city and township in North America has its own startup accelerator and is on its way to creating a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. While these apparent symptoms of an “accelerator bubble” are sure to make a few eyes roll, these ecosystems can become important engines of job creation if cities and firms lay the foundations with the right goals in mind. And they might even revitalize stagnating civic economies. That’s just what Brandery and Cintrifuse have in mind for Cincinnati.
Brandery announced the unveiling of its third batch of 11 startups that will pitch their companies in front of 400+ investors and entrepreneurs at Demo Day at Great American Ballpark (the home of the Cincinnati Reds). And the second is the announcement of Brandery’s participating in the co-creation, support and investment in a non-profit organization called Cintrifuse.
In the event you’re not familiar, Brandery is a seed-stage startup accelerator based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Founded in 2010, the accelerator (which is part of the TechStars network) runs a four-month-long program and selects between eight and twelve startups per batch. Each startup receives an initial $20K seed investment, along with mentoring, design, operations and development assistance during the program, which culminates in the traditional “Demo Day” pitch-a-thon in front of a horde of VCs and investors.
But, when there are so many accelerators, why would you choose to (re)locate to Cincinnati over Cleveland — or maybe even, gasp — Silicon Valley? Well, for starters, while Brandery doesn’t discriminate too aggressively based on company focus (enterprise, mobile, social, etc.), it does focus predominantly on consumer services and products, as well as media and entertainment startups.
In terms of its own value-add, Brandery focuses on educating its startups on the importance of consumer marketing and branding, which also happens to be part of the pitch for Cincinnati itself. Economically, Cincy has long had close ties with consumer marketing and advertising services, playing home to the headquarters of 10 Fortune 500 companies, like Procter & Gamble, Kroger and Macy’s, as well as marketing and advertising companies like LPK, dunnhumby, and Nielsen.
To date, Brandery has launched 15 startups, which have collectively raised $11.1 million in total funding. Some of its graduates have already made headlines, including social gift-giving startup Giftiki, which was acquired by LaunchRock in August, roadtrip-planning service RoadTrippers (which just raised a seed round) and the now well-funded TechCrunch Disrupt finalist, Bitcasa.
Cintrifuse is being spearheaded by a group of leaders from Cincinnati with the goal of turning the city into a magnet for startups. It plans to do so by developing a network of incubators and raising capital and participation from local businesses to provide support to those companies. The organization will offers startups access to mentoring, product testing and potential exit opportunities and has Procter & Gamble and Cincinnati Medical Center (among others) already signed on.
One of the organization’s biggest contributions will be its newly created fund of funds that will provide startups with early-stage capital, backed by local and national companies and VCs. To wit, the organization has already raised $50 million of its planned $100 million target.
On top of that, Dave Knox, one of the program’s co-founders, tells us that the organization will be going after public-private partnerships and will work to promote regional business assets to make it easier for the organization (and its startups) to attract government contracts and research grants. In other words, help to further strengthen its network.
It’s potentially a great program for Cincinnati’s local startup economy, and the model Brandery and Cintrifuse are pursuing is reminiscent of similar initiatives under way in Detroit, St. Louis and a handful of other cities that are all looking to attract top entrepreneurial talent. The more incentives they can offer, the easier it will be to attract (and more importantly, retain) great talent. Which, by the way, is no easy feat, as many cities can attest.
But without further ado, here’s a glimpse at the 11 startups launching out of Brandery this morning:
Crowdhall (Salt Lake City, UT) is a free social platform that empowers a crowd to organize its thoughts, articulate its questions, and voice its perspective in a democratic way.
Social Threader (San Francisco, CA) helps brand mangers create synergy from their social content, regain control of their social pages and consolidate their fan base into a one- pager with a 360 degree view of their brand.
Off Track Planet (Brooklyn, NY) is a travel guide brand re-inventing the way people use the social and mobile web to travel the world.
Modulus (Cincinnati, OH) provides companies a place to host, scale, and gain insight into their web-based applications.
REPP (Cincinnati, OH) is a transferable badge system that shows potential dates, employers, friends, and clients the kind of person you are. REPP allows you to run a background check on yourself, ensure the information is correct, and share it with those involved in your daily digital life.
SocStock (New York, NY) is a platform that allows small businesses to get community-funded, zero interest cash to fuel their growth.
FlightCar (Princeton, NJ) is the Airbnb of car rentals at airports. It is a marketplace that allows owners flying out of an airport to rent out their cars to arriving travelers.
Woowho (Seattle, WA) fixes the slow and painful online dating process by taking you quickly from online introductions to low-pressure, real-life meetings.
Andtix (Cleveland, OH) is a mobile app that allows users to create and manage social gatherings in a personal and clever way.
Impulcity (Louisville, KY) is a personalized, location-based, event discovery platform that helps you identify cool events and interact with amazing new people.
Ontract (Chicago, IL) is real-time analytics for eduation. The system replaces the once-per-semester “progress note” with a real-time feedback loop between parents, teachers and students.