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Startups

The Great Midwestern Tech Startup Surge

Source | Entrepreneur 

When one hears the phrase “Startup Hub,” the mind’s eye most likely automatically conjures up images of locations like New York City, San Francisco/Silicon Valley, Boston. However, the Midwest region has been developing some real challenger cities to the “Startup Hub” throne. According to The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship, which is an “umbrella of annual reports that measures U.S. entrepreneurship across national, state and top 40 metro levels,” Columbus, Ohio’s capital, is the fastest-growing city in the country for startup activity. According to CB Insights, Ohio had less than 10 active venture investors in 2009 but saw more than 40 different VCs invest in 2014.

Few know this better than Tom Walker, the president and CEO of Columbus-based venture development organization Rev1 Ventures. Rev1 Ventures describes themselves as “part VC, part accelerator — with the expertise and connections to fuel startup success.” And that expertise involves recognizing potential and talent in places where others aren’t looking.

Related: Why Startups Fail and What Experts Have to Say About It (Infographic)

“When people want to see great art, they go to the Louvre,” Walker said. “That is, until they realize that there are also great paintings in museums right in their own backyards.”

While Columbus is gaining serious steam on the startup front, there are still very real obstacles to overcome. According to Walker, the West Coast, New England, New York City and even parts of Texas, attract more than 90 percent of available early-stage venture capital. While that leaves less than 10 percent of early stage venture capital for the rest of the country, it also leaves the door open for branding and growth.

“Instead of challenges, we see opportunities,” Walker said. “Our strategy is to create our own Midwest brand of ‘startup hub,’ with technology, talent and early stage capital. And all of this is connected in a way that’s uniquely Midwestern — we call it ‘the backyard effect.’”

And the “backyard effect” isn’t something to be ignored. MentorcliQ is an award-winning mentoring software solution that helps organizations launch, support, and grow high-impact employee mentoring programs. It’s a Rev1 portfolio company and one of the company’s co-founders, Andy George, moved from California to Ohio to capitalize on the Columbus startup scene.

Related: Bootstrapping Is Not Just for Startups

“The community here is so close-knit and so supportive and helpful in wanting to see you succeed,” George said of Columbus. “It’s the best of both worlds, a close startup ecosystem and a really supportive corporate environment.”

According to Columbus.gov, Columbus is headquarters to at least 20 Fortune 1000 companies. In addition, blue-chip firms such as Limited Brands, Chase, Kroger and Anheuser-Busch have major facilities in the area.

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