2020 Annual Meeting Recap

Yesterday, we hosted our Annual General Meeting. This year, with the event being virtual, we set a new registration record, with more than 430 registrants, including 60 VCs and big delegations from both our BigCo partners and startups. This is powerful validation that we continue to increase Cincinnati’s visibility and reputation as a magnetic hub for startup-led innovation.

As we made it aware, our overall theme was “Pivot Point” but I want to highlight three additional themes that emerged from the conversations with our outstanding panelists.

The largest one, that came through every single discussion, was the magnitude of the opportunity that’s before us as a city and as a region. We remain laser-focused on establishing Greater Cincinnati as the #1 startup hub in the Midwest, but we also have opportunities to become a national epicenter of inclusive entrepreneurialism, supply chain innovation, and bold sustainability breakthroughs.

  • The vision that Candice and Brian Brackeen shared for inclusive entrepreneurialism is remarkably clear — and attainable. The fact that only .2% of venture capital goes to Black women is particularly compelling as it underscores the impact we can make if we cam fully leverage our VC network to support Black women founders and other minority-led ventures. We have the commitment and the relationships to make Cincinnati the most inclusive startup community in the nation — and to do so remarkably fast.
  • A similar epicenter opportunity — to be a global center of supply chain and sustainability innovation — was brought to life by Carmichael Roberts, Tisha Livingston, and Leo DalleMolle. Carmichael said the opportunity before us is “as big as it gets.” Tisha described how Infinite Acres and 80 Acres represent innovation that is already a globally scalable model. As Leo emphasized in his closing comment, we have huge advantages to work within this space- and that our door is wide open for innovative startups who want to utilize all that Cincinnati has to offer .

A second important theme was the power of our ecosystem and the culture of collaboration that doesn’t really exist on the Coasts. Carmichael pointed to the tensions that he’s observed in Silicon Valley and how the “can do” Midwest attitude is a real advantage. LT Governor Jon Husted emphasized the same point, particularly in the catalytic ways that he’s seen government organizations, BigCo’s and startups work together through the pandemic. P&G CMO Mark Pritchard reinforced the degree to which companies like P&G are eager to work with startups — and, in particular, with women- and minority entrepreneurs.

We’re doing what Brad Feld and Valarie Sheppard discussed during their segment — making the most of the interactions ignited by our networks. This is a strength that’s easy to overlook, but it’s one that we can exploit for even greater advantage by being intentional about it — and by telling the rest of the world about it.

The third theme is an emerging strength that must be integrated into our Cincinnati story — and that’s the degree to which we are attracting serial entrepreneurs who build successful startups here and keep coming back because they appreciate all the advantages we have to offer. Austin Allison’s decision to anchor his new venture, Pacaso, here is a huge endorsement — and a massive infusion of capital, technology and talent. We see this in other founders such as Rod Robinson and Bob Gilbreath — and in VCs such as Material Impact and Maveron who not only want to invest in new ventures here, but are also encouraging their portfolio firms to scale and grow from here.  Sarah and the Fund team have done a wonderful job of “closing the sale” across our network in ways that really pay off for Cincinnati, for our startups, and for our BigCo partners.