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Sparking Action at the Cintrifuse Annual Meeting

Cintrifuse’s 2022 Annual Meeting embodied the energy of our thriving startup ecosystem, bringing nearly 300 valued stakeholders together in Union Hall to hear from our region’s most influential leaders on how Greater Cincinnati is poised to become the #1 startup hub in the Midwest and a top innovation center in the country. 

The meeting’s theme, Action Point, highlighted a range of steps we can take to make this vision a reality. From these, three core themes emerged: the need to attract talent to our region, the collective power of a connected community, and the ripple effect that building a strong tech startup ecosystem can have on the entire region. Cincinnati already has many assets at its disposal – nationally-ranked universities, excellent healthcare systems, high concentration of Fortune 500 companies – and we will continue to make progress in key areas of focus like FinTech and sustainability. In this article, you’ll read more on key insights and recommendations fueled by McKinsey, as well as the perspective from our mayor and other top leaders in our city. 

Cincinnati is the future.

Mayor Aftab Pureval made it clear during his kickoff: Cincinnati is the future. With a unique convalescence of global enterprises and top-ranking universities providing key talent alongside innovative tech startups, Cincinnati is on the precipice of a tech renaissance.

While investors have previously focused on the coast, with federal funding being poured into the Midwest and top companies like Amazon establishing hubs here, Cincinnati will be impossible to ignore. As nearly 300 attendees rallied around the concept of spark the future, the time is now for Cincinnati.

Fact or Fiction with Guy Persaud

Guy Persaud grounded his remarks in facts: Cincinnati has the talent, is attracting the right investments, and is cultivating an entrepreneurial-centric ecosystem to dispel the fictional notion that only coasts can be innovation hubs.

With 200+ startups, three unicorns and more than $700M in investments, local corporations should look no further than Cincinnati for their innovation needs. This will ignite a cyclical catalysis, with ongoing partnerships between large corporations and startups that helps attract and retain the right talent.

The Rise of the Rest

Pete Blackshaw’s reflection on all that the region has accomplished in 2022  is a testament to Cincinnati’s potential. From opportunity areas like supply chain, FinTech, and sustainability to emerging spaces such as the metaverse, organizations like Cintrifuse are aligning the right players to create a meaningful impact.

Backed by Steve Case’s perspective in “The Rise of the Rest,” startups play a key role in new, intentional job creation, and nurturing startups is foundational to winning talent and capital. Alongside other ecosystem partners, Cintrifuse will continue to expand its impact on local startups as the organization looks toward 2023.

Sparking Sustainability

Honing in on Cintrifuse’s focus on sustainability, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Material Impact and leader at Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Carmichael Roberts provided insights on climate tech and how Cincinnati can win in this space. New policies like the Inflation Reduction Act are funneling funding to green technology, and VCs like Material Impact have a dedicated focus on investing in startups innovating around sustainability. Cincinnati is well-equipped to capitalize on this movement, with a high concentration of large corporations, academic research and outstanding entrepreneurs within its city radius. Carmichael specifically highlighted Cincinnati’s urgency, and by marrying that urgency with clarity, the Queen City will become a green city. 

10 Years Later: The McKinsey Report

Overall, while our region has gained  momentum, Mahi Rayasam at McKinsey provided areas for the ecosystem to focus on after assessing the progress over the last decade. He echoed the need for supporting local startups, especially by establishing a critical mass of capital and R&D support across each stage of startup growth.

Mahi’s report reiterated the importance of organizations like Cintrifuse and CincyTech that focus on bringing the right capital – whether talent or funding – here. Creating a capital continuum through local and national partnerships is the next step for the region to truly define itself as a top innovation hub.

Below are key themes that the region can focus on to drive regional innovation:  

  • Alignment from disparate stakeholders 
  • Leadership to establish the charter, governance, and path-forward 
  • Support from leading regional and national institutions
  • Better access to local capital from pre-seed to IPO 
  • Higher level of funding to match peer cities

Wicked problems, talent, and breaking silos

A core theme of the “10 Years Later” panel discussion was talent – while Cincinnati has top universities like UC attracting tech talent here, the region can continue to identify ways to partner across the ecosystem to cultivate scalable solutions that not only generate business success, but help to retain and engage this talent. 

Another theme was looking towards the future and solving for the what’s next rather than the right now. By establishing McKinsey’s capital continuum, focusing on core right-to-win areas and strategically leveraging partnerships, the region can move the needle exponentially over the next 10 years.

Winning with focus

To win with focus, panelists relayed the importance of building with others and finding a place to grow and thrive here. From CVG bringing ThorDrive to OTR, to Anu Vora funding other founders, to Greg Crawford’s emphasis on Miami’s entrepreneurial cohort and Candice Brackeen mentoring students at UC, community is critical. 

Heath Butler pointed to the opportunity to capitalize on the concentration of corporations with universal needs, by writing the playbook and then “wash, rinse, repeat.” Prioritizing depth over breadth, and echoing other panelists on rallying the community for meaningful collisions, Heath’s comments re-affirm Cintrifuse’s ability to connect and catalyze across key areas of focus.

Bringing it all together through community

Tim Spence concluded by tying the core themes of community and talent together, with tech as a foundation. With Fifth Third as an example, he relayed the impact that large corporations can have through perpetuating talent and knowledge transfer locally, and how this ultimately begets innovation here.

While funding is critical, investing in other avenues such as mentorship or driving progress in key areas of regional focus – like the FinTech Frontier program – is necessary to harness a connected community for higher success.

Looking forward to the future

The 2022 Cintrifuse Annual Meeting highlighted Greater Cincinnati’s potential to become a magnet for tech innovation, talent and investment in the Midwest, starting with the transformative power of our ecosystem working together toward a shared vision. Now, with the collective insights of our founders, educational institutions, investors and corporations, along with targeted McKinsey recommendations, we are more empowered than ever to transform our region into the #1 fastest growing startup hub in the Midwest and a top innovation center in the country. 

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