By Doug Weintraub, Bounce chief executive officer
On behalf of everyone at Bounce Innovation Hub, I want to wish you a very happy new year!
Here at Bounce, we’re also celebrating our one-year anniversary and it has been one heck of an exciting ride! We like to say that Bounce is a startup helping startups, which makes our jobs here very interesting, to say the least. We’re navigating our own growth as an organization, while focusing on stabilizing and expanding our entrepreneurial-focused programs and services and undergoing major changes to turn this 150-year-old tire factory building into northeast Ohio’s first open innovation hub. There’s a lot going on and a lot more coming!
As 2019 gets underway, I thought I would take a moment to look back at the year gone by and share a glimpse of what lies ahead for Bounce.
Before I do, I want to once again thank Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and the City of Akron for your vision and continued support in allowing us to bring Bounce to life. Also, to the Bounce board of directors, led by Burton D. Morgan Foundation President Deborah Hoover, thank you for your dedication and hard work in getting Bounce up and running and helping to keep us on track.
We are proud to say that Bounce currently houses more than 50 organizations, accounting for approximately 250 people working and creating. This includes incubator and accelerator companies and alumni; business and entrepreneurial support organizations and several arts-focused organizations. We’re also building out three new labs to account for spin outs from The University of Akron.
Two additions to Bounce and our incubator program were software companies CompanionLabs and Bezlio, which, together, accounted for more than 30 new jobs here at Bounce (20 of those new to Akron).
Internally, we’ve built out the Bounce leadership team, expanded our staff to 12 and hired five startup advisors, including three new entrepreneurs in residence, to assist our incubator companies. In September, we launched a new website and successfully grew our media and social media presence, resulting in increased awareness and understanding of Bounce throughout northeast Ohio and beyond.
Serving the Entrepreneurial Community
Bounce and its partners are currently actively assisting more than 50 Akron-area companies in their startup journeys.
Our signature program, the incubator, serves 38 companies. These companies have access to affordable office, lab or manufacturing space, as well as structured entrepreneurial support, mentoring and resources.
In the fall, we added two new accelerator programs – product development for early-stage software startups and sales and marketing for later-stage companies. The first product development cohort begins January 14, bringing our total accelerator client roster to 11.
Also, in 2018, Bounce entered into agreements with BioEnterprise and MAGNET to open shared offices here at Bounce to further assist Akron-area entrepreneurs and startups in biomedical/biotech and manufacturing, respectively.
As a 501c(3), procuring funding is an ongoing responsibility we all share here at Bounce, but it is my primary focus. I am proud to say that, in 2018, we brought on two presenting partners – Medical Mutual and Bridgestone and are getting ready to announce a third very soon. For 2019, we will continue to develop additional presenting partners, as well as other sponsors. Stay tuned for more!
Building the Generator
In May 2018, we kicked off construction of the first-floor Generator. Scheduled to open in May of 2019, the Generator is what makes Bounce a true open innovation hub. Available for public use, the Generator will feature co-working and office space; a makerspace; event and meeting space; an esports lab and a café and coffee house. The floor will be Akron’s “front door” for innovation and entrepreneurship, designed by local artists using locally sourced materials.
We also partnered with FairlawnGig to bring single sign-on, high-speed, fiber-optic service to Bounce and its companies. FairlawnGig is a municipal broadband utility and internet provider that is delivering a 10-gigabit connection throughout our 300,000 sq. ft. building.
Establishing the Fusion Fund
In December, Bounce, Acquire Investments and JumpStart Inc. announced the launch of the Fusion Fund – a $20-million, for-profit venture capital fund aimed at growing companies in and around Ohio, with a focus on fostering opportunity for the Akron region. It is the biggest, single fund to come out of Akron and has garnered attention from investors and companies around the country.
To help launch and manage the fund, Bounce was awarded a significant grant that provides $300,000 over three years ($100,000 per year) from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).
As I look forward to my one-year anniversary as CEO in March, I am amazed at what we have accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. But we have a long way to go. Thank you for sharing this journey with us. I hope you are pleased with our progress and look forward to what we have in store.