Q&A with Doug Weintraub, chief executive officer of Bounce Innovation Hub
Bounce welcomed Doug Weintraub as its first CEO on March 5. A lifelong resident of Akron and a founding member and former chairman of Jumpstart Inc., he brings a love of Northeast Ohio and 30 years of entrepreneurial and business experience to this newly created position. We sat down with Doug this week to find out more about what motivated him to become CEO and his vision for the Bounce Innovation Hub as Akron’s gateway for entrepreneurship.
What prompted you to throw your name in the ring for Bounce CEO? What attracted you to the position?
To start, it seemed like an exciting and unique opportunity to help develop a modern facility for Akron’s entrepreneurs – a place they can call home. The building itself needs some TLC, but there is history here; it provides a great foundation. Now it requires an entrepreneur’s eye to help it grow into the resource this area needs. Given my skill set, I knew I could make a difference.
I also wanted the chance to work closely with entrepreneurs in Akron and help them grow their businesses.
What do you bring to Bounce?
I am an entrepreneur. So, when you’ve built a company from the ground up, you’ve seen all facets of a business – good and bad. I know what our companies are experiencing and I hope to be a good sounding board for our entrepreneurs. My job is not to sit in an office all day, it’s to get out and work with people here in the building and in the community.
You took a full walk through of the building on your first day, briefly meeting with and talking to each company. What did you think?
I was impressed by the creativity and uniqueness of the companies throughout the building. There is a wide range– everything from established, legacy companies with a creative or tech slant to early-stage companies working on cutting-edge technology solutions. I was also struck by how different they are. For example, one is focused on cryptocurrencies, while another is working to improve the cancer drug screening process to help cure cancer. Yet another is helping consolidate retail purchasing power for universities. However, whatever their goal, and regardless of what stage they are in, each one is challenged with making their entrepreneurial ideas come to life and building their companies, which is where we come in. It’s a great base to build on.
What do you think Bounce needs right off the bat?
Aside from facility improvements, I would like to see more interaction among Bounce’s current companies and the community. Right now, only about 50 percent of the companies here keep their doors open during the day. I would love to take the doors off and see open doors throughout. This may not be realistic, but the point is, I want people talking to each other and interacting regularly and not just once a month at a networking event. It happens in some areas of the building, but I’d like it to be everywhere, all the time.
I also think it’s vitally important that we start to bring in more established companies and partner them with younger companies so they can support each other and work together. That’s the uniqueness of this facility, whether it’s marketing, networking or finding ways to work together. We’re all in this together.
How does Bounce fit into making Akron a thriving city again?
This is an exciting time in Akron’s history. Not very often do you have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of such an important movement. As a lifelong Akron resident and graduate of Akron Public Schools, I am proud of the role I may be able to play in our city’s renaissance. Bounce can be a vital part of it. We can assist the city, help current and future Akron companies and, most importantly, create jobs.
Regionally, we have partners all over Northeast Ohio and it is our intention to be a connector among all who provide services and resources for entrepreneurs. But the focus is currently on Akron and Summit County. We have to build a stronghold here and the time is right.
Who is Bounce for? Who would you like to see using Bounce?
Obviously, entrepreneurs in this area should consider Bounce. Not just because of the facility, but also the unique nature of the tenants and the programs we’ll be offering. We will be the center for entrepreneurial activities in Akron and surrounding counties. If you have an idea you can grow into a company, this is the place to do it.
But Bounce is also for corporations and universities with a need for our services and programs. We want anyone with a mind for innovation to feel welcome here at Bounce. And the soon-to-be- renovated first floor open hub will be the gateway. We will also be a central location for entrepreneurial services in the area. Our goal isn’t to replace these services, but to coordinate, and bring them to the forefront. We don’t want people to think we think they haven’t been doing a good job. We want to showcase them in the best way possible.
Do you have anything to add?
It is my goal to make sure local entrepreneurs have the opportunities they need to succeed. The building is just the start. Bounce will be a catalyst for increased entrepreneurship and innovation in Akron and beyond. It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in Akron and Northeast Ohio.