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CarolynPioneMicheliPeople have asked me recent what is behind all the new entrepreneurial energy in Southwest Ohio.

Maybe you have noticed how startup companies are regularly featured in the media and how seminars and workshops are proliferating on topics such as how to launch a technology company, how to fund a technology company, how to work with a technology company.

Local universities are expanding entrepreneurship and startup accelerator programs, and new organizations such as Cintrifuse, the Brandery and Innov8 for Health have risen up to complement existing groups.

In just two years, the numbers have jumped dramatically: In 2009, 14 Cincinnati-based startups received $27 million in venture capital. In 2011, 36 companies received $70.2 million, according to Ohio State’s Fisher College, which is still gathering 2012 data.

A reporter from Louisville asked me last fall whether this activity was driven by the revitalization of downtown and Over-the-Rhine, drawing new people into the region. Others have credited a down economy with seeding ‘disillusionment’ toward corporate America.


SW Ohio Venture Capital Activity Up 34 Percent

Posted: November 14, 2012 by Carolyn Pione-Micheli in Money, Startup, Technology

Report shows reason for optimism about startup scene

Rodney Williams left Procter & Gamble in September when it looked like his startup technology company was really going to start up.

He didn’t tell his mother right away though. “I knew she’d be upset that I was giving up a great job at a big company to do something so risky.”

Williams had been working on his company, lisnr, since early this year. But it was only after he received an equity investment from CincyTech in August that he felt comfortable leaving his P&G job and leaping into entrepreneurship.

His company is creating a mobile technology that allows musicians and music labels to create exclusive content in order to turn listening into an interactive experience.

He and his two co-workers became the first tenants of the incubator at Cintrifuse, a nonprofit organization that is working to turn the region into a magnet for start-ups.

Williams’ story illustrates one way the region’s startup ecosystem can work: A corporate pillar company such as Procter attracts or retains talented people here, a local investor provides funding for an idea to grow, and a hub of educational and physical resources supports this growth.


The Messages Our Cell Phones Are Sending Us

Posted: March 5, 2012 by Carolyn Pione-Micheli in Innovation, Startup, Technology
Tags: ,

Consider your cell phone.

It’s probably sitting within earshot right now, if not within arm’s reach. Perhaps you are even reading this story on it.

What does your phone say about you? Is it an iPhone? Surveys say iPhone buyers are more image conscious and make more money. Android? Maybe you’re a bit contrarian. Blackberry? You are resistant to change. Or you type a lot on your phone.

Still dialing on a phone that only sends calls and texts? You’re not alone – six in 10 U.S. adults don’t have smartphones. But their use is growing exponentially, and soon you may find one indispensable too.

We have intimate relationships with our cell phones. They stay close to our bodies in a purse or a pocket. They hold the keys to keeping up with our friends — through Facebook and our contacts lists. They store our special photos and our favorite songs. They help us find the nearest Starbucks or Chik-Fil-A. Losing our phones can be disorienting, if not a disaster.

A recent study by CNET found that two in three adults suffer anxiety about being outside the reach of their cell phones.

If there is a 5-year-old in your life, you know this relationship with our smartphones is not just intimate but intuitive. He or she has probably commandeered it and taught you a few tricks. Steve Jobs, in the new biography by Walter Isaacson, says he designed Apple’s screens so we could navigate them instinctively with our touch. This physical connection reinforces our close relationship.

The great 20th century media analyst Marshall McLuhan defined media as a technical extension of our bodies – an idea that was not lost on Steve Jobs and Apple as they put the “personal” in “personal electronics” by mass marketing the touch screen. Perhaps McLuhan’s most well-known idea was that the medium is the message: The type of medium we use to consume our “message” affects how we interpret it. The medium doesn’t get much closer than our tiny personal digital assistants.

This intimate relationship with our smartphones is becoming central to the strategies of those trying to sell us things. They understand our emotional connection. They know it goes with us everywhere, and they can track our locations with it. What better place to send us marketing messages?

You may have noticed by now that the sophistication of their sales effort goes way beyond tiny text-banner ads. The iPhone and Android app markets hold dozens of shopping tools, from Groupon to shopkick, Amazon Mobile and many retailer-specific apps. Location-based apps find you and craft their messages to your location.

Of the four in 10 U.S. adults who do have a smartphone now, according to Forrester Research, 29 percent use the phone for shopping.

Cincinnati, as a national hub of consumer marketing, is seeing tremendous mobile activity at its local ad agencies, most of which are largely focused these days on helping companies reach their customers on their desktops and through their smart phones.

At CincyTech, which invests in technology-based start-up companies in Cincinnati, at least 14 of our companies have some kind of mobile technology that helps advertisers reach people. Some of them, such as Samplesaint and Zipscene, have designed tools that help retailers track buying behavior among their customers. Others help people buy products or find attractions and services.

This is a rich area for future entrepreneurship as well, and we’d love to see new partnerships with local agencies and pillar companies such as Procter, Macy’s and Kroger to develop the next big ideas in mobile marketing.

It was with this context in mind – and Cincinnati’s great marketing talent at hand – that the idea came about for a conference focused totally on mobile technology. The Greater Cincinnati Venture Association and its partners have worked with MobileX in Lexington to organize a six-track conference that ranges from entrepreneurs and investors to technical, workshops, social media and marketing and corporate enterprise.

More than 200 people had registered to attend as of early last week. If you have a need to understand our relationships with our cell phones – or just an interest in it – we hope you will join us.

Carolyn Pione Micheli is communications director for CincyTech.