“The inhabitants of Cincinnati are proud of their city as one of the most interesting in America: and with good reason.” – Charles Dickens
- Virtual resources for building our startup community
- Meet Wendal, the investment bot
- VR getting more hands on
- West coast venture capital invests in Cincy startup
- Local experts working on COVID-19 vaccine
- How well do you know your city?
May 19, 2020
Dear Charter Subscriber,
You’re looking at the premiere issue of Cincinnati's newest digital newsletter. Cincinnati Future is focused entirely on the people, institutions, and companies that are driving innovation in our region.
The next mega wave of innovation is upon us. Recent events have shown us that the entrepreneurial spirit in America is being unleashed as never before. This innovation will drive our economy and change our lives for years to come. We want to tell you the stories about the amazing things happening right here in our back yard, as we navigate through this exciting time together.
Innovation is the act of introducing something new, but it’s about more than just technology; it’s about solving problems with new ideas that create benefit; driving economic growth and helping us deal with the challenges we face as a society. And as we know all too well, the challenges we have faced in the last few months have been formidable.
From breakthrough devices, services, applications, medical therapies, smart materials, transportation, artificial intelligence, cultural gains, civic movement, and automation of all kinds, Cincinnati has a great story and we're here to tell it.
We hope you will find Cincinnati Future useful and inspiring. We are excited to be part of this journey with you.
Building a community of entrepreneurs
Photo courtesy of Cintrifuse.
Cincinnati is one of the fastest-growing startup cities in the country, and Cintrifuse is on a mission to create the #1 startup hub in the Midwest. Through initiatives like StartupCincy, it's building connections and a community of startups and entrepreneurs to fuel a new economy. Cintrifuse is providing a robust ecosystem where innovators turn ideas into reality.
Off the momentum of StartupCincy Week in the fall of 2019, Cintrifuse launched more consistent, weekly programming under the brand Cintrifuse Startup Series, giving member startups access to valuable information on a more regular basis. The series is broadly divided into three categories: accelerator/Investors, technology professionals, and universities/civic. But the topics can be as diverse as managing work/life balance.
Originally held onsite with speakers at Union Hall, it transitioned to virtual presentations, going completely online with the outbreak of COVID-19. Each event is now free and open to the public. The number of presentations has quadrupled since last year.
"We’ve all had to get a little creative given present circumstances, but that’s what entrepreneurs do, right? Startup life can get lonely and when you take away the traditional forms of convening? So we moved our Startup Series online and been really impressed with the uptick in attendance, engagement and even expanding the reach beyond just the usual suspects. Big wins," said Eric Weissman, VP of External Relations.
Depending on the speaker, the presentations are generally scheduled four to six weeks in advance. Content is largely driven by attendee surveys and comments, plus solicitations from national speakers. The series will remain virtual until the state of Ohio gradually reopens for business.
“If something positive can be spun from COVID-19, it is that enrollment for the Startup Series has actually increased since it went virtual,” according to Kathryn Prigge, Cintrifuse’s marketing and communications manager. A large part of this is due to its convenience, the effectiveness of the hosting platform, the ability of attendees to network in real-time, and now their cost to attendees: free.
And the Startup Series attracts C-suite speakers and mentors. One example is the upcoming CEO Roundtable, scheduled for May 21st. It includes leaders from three of Cincinnati’s most promising startups—Losant, VNDLY, and 80 Acre Farms.
It is intended to be a spirited discussion on navigating the COVID-19 crisis in a rapidly changing business environment.
Now more than ever, startups are strapped for resources. Providing free access to a focused Slack community and to the Startup Series, Cintrifuse and StartupCincy are providing needed resources to keep Cincinnati’s innovation and startup scene alive and thriving.
Take a meeting with Wendal
If you’re looking for venture capital funding, you may want to have meeting with Wendal. Wendal never sleeps, is immune to all human viruses and talks to startups all over the US, Canada, and Europe. Wendal is also an AI bot.
Created by Connetic Ventures, an early-stage VC fund based in Cincinnati, Wendal uses data and technology to remove bias and increase efficiency in the investment process.
Wendal’s application process takes 10-15 minutes to complete and it works to keep any potential bias being introduced. According to Connectic Ventures, this results in their funding women and minority founders at a rate 8x higher than the Venture Capital average.
“Wendal creates his owns algorithms and is artificially intelligent, getting smarter over time as outcomes in our database are realized. Wendal does much more than analyze financials, Wendal analyzes the founder and team dynamics,” according to Connetic.
The company raised a small seed round of $600k for Wendal earlier this year.
“We’re launching some great updates now that we have a full-team,” said Chris Hjelm, Partner at Connetic Ventures.
Contact CI will use grant money to further its work on Maestro
image courtesy of Contact CI.
Epic Games has offered support to Cincinnati-based Contact CI in the form of an Epic MegaGrant. The Epic MegaGrants program is designed to service and assist game developers, enterprise professionals, entertainment creators, and tool developers doing outstanding work with Unreal Engine or enhancing open-source capabilities for the 3D graphics community.
Contact CI will use the money to expand its work on Maestro, a haptic device that lets users actually feel the sensation of touching things while using augmented reality.
“We were both drawn to VR and quickly became aware that the computing platform was painfully constrained by being only on audio and visual simulation. We knew we could extend the hands functionality to enable VR/AR/Robotic applications that truly help,” said Craig Douglass, Contact CI's CEO and Co-Founder.
VNDLY receives $8.5 million investment
Further proof that venture capital is looking at the Midwest: Vendor management startup VNDLY has received $8.5 million in series B-1 funding from Seattle-based firm Madrona Venture Group. This brings the company’s external funding total to $57.5 million. The venture firm has backed other industry-defining tech companies, like Amazon, Smartsheet, and Snowflake.
Founded in 2017, VNDLY is a technology provider in the vendor management systems (VMS) category.
The company will use the most recent investment to continue its innovation, global expansion, and product development that includes building out new software modules.
"We know this will be a major driver for us as we move to the next level in our industry, continuing our mission to successfully challenge the status quo offered by legacy VMS firms," said Shashank Saxena, VNDLY's CEO.
$7M investment in Covington redevelopment
Two Cincinnati-area businesses—ReGadget and Blair Technology Group—plan to invest $7 million to convert former Value City and Burlington stores into professional office space for their fast-growing tech companies, as well as other tenants. Work on the new space, located in the Latonia neighborhood of Covington, KY, will begin right away.
ReGadget provides computer equipment to school systems and students. It will move its operations and 24 current employees to the new space, with plans to add 10 more immediately and 40 to 50 additional workers in the next few years.
Blair Technology is a refurbisher of Microsoft products. The company says it will expand operations in the new space and expects to hire 30 to 40 more employees.
Covington mayor Joe Meyer said the project will help fuel the transformation from retail to high-tech business operations. “This will deliver a jolt of energy to one of Covington's largest neighborhoods, creating jobs, excitement and day-time traffic."
Vaccine testing at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of four US sites that will begin testing a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The vaccine, which was developed by Germany’s BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc., will initially be administered to 90 healthy participants between the ages of 18 and 55. Enrollment in the program is currently underway and testing is expected to begin in the next two weeks.
Once the first round of testing has proven safe and optimum dosage levels are determined, a second group of participants—aged 65 to 85—will receive the vaccine. In all, the program plans to enroll up to 360 people.
The vaccine, which doctors say can’t possibly give participants the disease, contains genetic material called messenger RNA. The body responds to it by creating part of the virus (a “spike protein”), which triggers production of antibodies that will protect against exposure to COVID-19.
Pfizer and BioNTech are ramping up to produce millions of doses of the vaccine in 2020 and hundreds of millions in 2021, provided testing is successful.
UC team is researching a drug for COVID-19 pneumonia
Pneumonia is a common and sometimes deadly complication of COVID-19, and it’s become the focus of several US research teams—including scientists at the University of Cincinnati. The researchers are studying a new antiviral therapy that could potentially help combat COVID-19 related pneumonia.
The UC research is sponsored by Ansun BioPharma, and the hope is that a successful trial could lead to a way to mitigate the impact of the pneumonia complication.
Brett Kissela, senior associate dean of clinical research at the UC College of Medicine described the therapy. "It's something that's given with a breathing treatment and it helps to prevent the virus from entering the cells of the lung. So, it's meant to lessen the overall virus in the body, to lessen the infection, and we think it will help treat pneumonia."
Have you checked your "Cincy-Q" recently?
An authentic local won't have a problem with these three questions. Can you answer them?
- Cincinnati-born sculptor Caroline Shawk Brooks was partial to a particular sculpting medium. What was it?
- How many times have the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series?
- Can you name five movies that have been filmed in Cincinnati?
Click here for the answers!
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