Three Things I’ve Learned from Working in Akron’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

By EbaNee Bond, program coordinator for Bounce

As the program coordinator for Bounce Innovation Hub, I have met countless entrepreneurs, inventors, makers and innovators. Working with these individuals and planning programs has allowed me to gain a lot of insight into the entrepreneurship world – and I am pretty excited about what I have seen and learned.

That said, many of the folks I’ve met always knew they wanted to be a part of an entrepreneurial ecosystem – they knew they wanted to begin a startup or develop a product or service that would solve a problem.

For me, it was a little bit different. In fact, my journey to Bounce happened almost by accident.

As an undergrad at The University of Akron, I knew I wanted to work in an innovative and exciting environment, but couldn’t quite find my niche. Then I discovered The University of Akron Center for Experiential Learning (EX[L] Center), which had an incredible impact on helping me determine the direction for my future.

It led me to the Akron Global Business Accelerator, where I interned. When the Accelerator transformed into Bounce, I was asked to help Akron’s innovators and entrepreneurs by serving as the program coordinator – I’d found my place!

I have been in this position for several months now. My daily responsibilities and my educational opportunities have allowed me to learn a lot about entrepreneurship as a whole and the services and resources available to people within the industry.

Here are some of the things I have discovered:

1. The Northeast Ohio entrepreneurial and educational ecosystems will help you solidify your ideas. 

I cannot speak about other entrepreneurial communities, but I can confidently say that Northeast Ohio has a robust and extensive support network. We are surrounded by for-profit and non-profit economic development organizations, corporations, funders and investors, many of which want to see the region grow and succeed. And they will provide the resources and guidance that entrepreneurs and companies need to make this a reality.

We also have a resourceful collegiate community for young and inspiring entrepreneurs and innovators. In fact, Deborah Hoover, Bounce board chair and the CEO and president of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, said that you will not find a collaborative network of colleges like that of Northeast Ohio in the country.

As someone who was led to the entrepreneurship sector because of her alma mater, I agree with this statement. And I am also sure that the several current Bounce companies that have benefitted from the support of local universities will agree, as well.

Overall, aspiring entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio have the resources they need to make their mark.

2. Startups and small businesses have a tremendous impact locally, regionally and even nationally.

During my time working at Bounce, I have seen the effect some of our companies have had on the world around them. 21MedTech (which develops technology to fight opioid addiction), NicheVision (which creates DNA analysis software for law enforcement) and OY-L (which uses natural ingredients to make effective skin care products) are just a few examples of startups that are changing lives and industries.

These companies are making a difference – and they are not alone. In fact, small businesses and startups in general make a positive impression on the local and national economy and job market.

According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses have generated over 66 percent of new jobs since 1995. And, for every $100 spent at a locally owned independent store, $68 is returned to the local economy through payroll and taxes.

These statistics show that small businesses and startups play a huge role in the country. And, after working with and presenting to employees of startups and small businesses, I can say that they have just as big of an impact right here in Akron, Ohio.

3. Local programs provide learning and networking opportunities for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

As you are reading this blog post, you might be wondering how you can get more involved in the Northeast Ohio collegiate and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

You are not alone. Once I realized I wanted to work with entrepreneurs and innovators, I thought the same thing.

Now as the program coordinator, I realized that, throughout Northeast Ohio, there are plenty of networking and learning opportunities for students, young professionals and aspiring self-starters. And these are not simply boring mixers. They are interactive workshops, group discussions, pitch competitions, seminars, conferences and classes, just to name a few.

I have seen young entrepreneurs grow professionally because of resources provided by local organizations, including at the University of Akron Research Foundation and the Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund. And, here at Bounce and within the walls of our software accelerator, The Bit Factory, we are going to continue to help others through social events, “Shark Tank”-style competitions (including The Bit Factory’s FUEL, which is taking place November 15) and more.

It took me a long, long, LONG time to get where I am today as a professional. After everything that I have learned about Northeast Ohio, startups and programs, I am incredibly thankful and proud to be the program coordinator at Bounce. I genuinely hope that, in my role, I do my part to help the next great innovator or entrepreneur… And who knows? It could be you.