QCA’s Startup College® Trained 29 Startups at the 19th Annual Boot Camp

More than 100 entrepreneurs, angel investors and business experts gathered At Interact for Health June 4-5 to become the next wave of entrepreneurs and start-up savants at the 19th Annual Entrepreneur Boot Camp. The hands-on workshop started in 2001 has now trained over 643 entrepreneurs and provides an opportunity for anyone thinking about a start-up, small business owners, founders and start-up teams to learn from angel investors and experts about how to navigate the entrepreneurial waters.

 

Among the topics on the agenda are intellectual property, strategic marketing, contracts, social media, pitching angels and financials. The presentations included educational sessions, panel discussions and one-on-three (or 4!) meetings with local angels and other mentors from our local community.

 

Included on the agenda is Thomas Humphrey, partner at Wood Herron & Evans, who has now presented at every single Entrepreneur Boot Camp, his 19th session!

 

“The Boot Camp is an amazing opportunity to connect those with a start-up vision with the knowledge, resources and motivation they need to jumpstart or continue to build their dream,” said Humphrey. “I have had the great opportunity to participate in the Boot Camp since its inception, and every year I walk away inspired by individual entrepreneurs and the start-up community that is thriving in Cincinnati. This an event like no other, and it continues to grow because of the cooperation from those that want to learn how to be successful and those with the desire to share their success.”

 

Additional speakers will include:

  • Tony Shipley, founder and chairman of QCA
  • Marvin Abrinica, founder of Thrivera
  • Michael Hurley, partner at Calfee Halter
  • Mary Newman, partner at Dinsmore & Shohl
  • Scott Mindrum, QCA member, founder and CEO of CRäKN
  • Sally Kay, consultant and 36-year veteran of The Dow Chemical Company and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare

 

The Boot Camp will be held again next year on June 2-3 at Interact for Health. More information about the event can be found here: https://www.qcabootcamp.com/. Tickets are still available at online, you can register here: https://tinyurl.com/yys8avap

 

The event is sponsored by Startup College®, a registered trademark of the QCA, as well as marquee sponsor, HCDC Business Center; and supporting sponsor, KeyBank.

Miami U: Fueling the Entrepreneurial Machine

There’s a great deal of entrepreneurial buzz happening on the campus of Miami University. The Miami Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies is an internationally recognized program providing immersive, real-world experiences. The program has been ranked among the “Top 10 Undergraduate Public Schools for Entrepreneurship Studies” in the nation for 10 years in a row by Entrepreneur Magazine and The Princeton Review®.

The program is led in part by Mark Lacker, John W. Altman Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship at Miami, helps students understand that they don’t have to be middle aged to be entrepreneurs, and there really is no better time than the present.

“The thesis of the program is that you learn how to start a business by doing it. Our program is practice based, not theory,” said Lacker. “Entrepreneurship requires creativity, and social and technical skills, and while many students may have those attributes, they still need a place to practice. That’s where Miami comes in, as well as organizations such as QCA.”

QCA and its members, several of which are alums of the university, are regulars on campus, helping to strengthen the programs commitment to immersive experiences.  

 

“QCA is one of the bellwethers in the region in terms of helping organizations start and scale,” said Lacker. “Partnering with QCA members is natural for us because of our practice-based curriculum that puts students in the field.”

It’s not uncommon for QCA members Scott Miller, Scott Avera, Kevin Martin, among others to be on campus judging business plan competitions, speaking on panels or talking to students about how to be entrepreneurs.

Lacker added, “We are teaching students how to be entrepreneurs, and who better to partner with us on that effort than angel investors who have built successful businesses, are using their own money to invest in other companies, and are ready and willing to share their experiences?”

Lacker values the growing entrepreneurial community in Cincinnati, and the understanding from the players in the ecosystem that everything starts with education, with programs such as Morning Mentoring, the Entrepreneurial Boot Camp and eKickStart.

“I was in HCBC 15 years ago, and one of the greatest things about being in that building was that if I didn’t know something, I could get help from someone in the same hallway. We have a really unique support system in the region, from the relationships between big companies and startups, to the handful of accelerators and the second largest angel network in the country. It’s why our entrepreneur students can be successful in Cincinnati.”

Strategic Partnership to T-Pro Solutions Leading to Acquisition

Earlier this year, T-Pro Solutions, a provider of trade promotion optimization solutions, was acquired by Blacksmith Applications out of Lawrence, Ma. QCA was an early investor in the Columbus, Ohio-based company, participating in two rounds of funding with the first closing in the summer of 2015. What made the investment unique is the collaborative nature of the funding, which included Rev1 Ventures and the Ohio Tech Angel Fund, in addition to QCA.

Terry Ziegler, CEO of T-Pro Solutions, valued the willingness of QCA and the other groups to work together to get the deal done. The Angel groups shared due diligence, but for QCA, which has a membership base full of former consumer packaged good experience, Ziegler sensed the group wanted a partnership with the young company.

“QCA did a significant amount of business due diligence, and they spent time looking under the covers, reviewing our documentation, and our team could tell they wanted to be partners, and not simply passive investors,” said Ziegler.

From the lengthy due diligence review, Ziegler selected two members of QCA to be part of the company’s board, one as a member, the other as an observer.

“Because Alan Roth’s and Terry Wright’s unique skillset and knowledge, one from P&G and 8451, the other with startup experience, they understood what it takes to acquire a customer and provided guidance around our sales process that really benefited us,” added Ziegler. “One of Terry’s areas was go-to-market strategy and he was a great sounding board for how to improve our process and proposals.”

After hitting certain milestones and succeeding in acquiring customers, the company wanted to scale the business. Roth took the lead, bringing in a consultant to assist T-Pro leadership take the next steps, which became a pivotal moment in the company’s history.

“We always asked the board for help, but Alan insisted that we engage him and QCA even more,” said Ziegler. “Alan brought in a consultant at the right time, helping us to define an incredible mission, vision and values, and from that, we continued to grow until our exit earlier this year. This was just one more thing that came from his strategic leadership.”

When asked what he would say to an entrepreneur looking to work with QCA, Ziegler said, “it’s important that you spend time with the people, find out who are the ones that want to get involved. Your early investors will likely spend a lot of time with you, and if you don’t use their skills and experience, it’s a waste. They will go to war with you. In the end, money is a commodity, so it should always be about the people.”

QCA Wants to Jumpstart your Startup at Annual Bootcamp

More than 100 entrepreneurs, angel investors and business experts are gathering in Cincinnati in June to help train the next wave of entrepreneurs and start-up savants at the 19th Annual Entrepreneur Boot Camp. The hands-on workshop started in 2001 has trained over 600 entrepreneurs and provides an opportunity for anyone thinking about a start-up, small business owners, founders and start-up teams to learn from angel investors and experts about how to navigate the entrepreneurial waters.

Among the topics on the agenda are intellectual property, strategic marketing, contracts, social media, pitching angels and financials. The presentations include educational sessions, panel discussions and one-on-one or one-on-three meetings with local angels.

Included on the agenda is Thomas Humphrey, partner at Wood Herron & Evans, who will be presenting for the 19th time at the Boot Camp.

“The Boot Camp is an amazing opportunity to connect those with a start-up vision with the knowledge, resources and motivation they need to jumpstart or continue to build their dream,” said Humphrey. “I have had the great opportunity to participate in the Boot Camp since its inception, and every year I walk away inspired by individual entrepreneurs and the start-up community that is thriving in Cincinnati. This an event like no other, and it continues to grow because of the cooperation from those that want to learn how to be successful and those with the desire to share their success.”

Additional speakers will include:

  • Tony Shipley, founder and chairman of QCA
  • Marvin Abrinica, founder of Thrivera
  • Michael Hurley, partner at Calfee Halter
  • Mary Newman, partner at Dinsmore & Shohl
  • Scott Mindrum, QCA member, founder and CEO of CRäKN
  • Sally Kay, consultant and 36-year veteran of The Dow Chemical Company and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare

The Boot Camp is on June 4-5 at Interact for Health. More information about the event can be found here: https://www.qcabootcamp.com/. Tickets are still available at online, you can register here: https://tinyurl.com/yys8avap

The event is sponsored by Startup College®, a registered trademark of the QCA, as well as marquee sponsor, HCDC Business Center; and supporting sponsor, KeyBank.

Dipping Her Toes into Angel Investing

In 2017, QCA started the Ascent program as a lower-risk way of introducing angel investing to a broader group of prospective investors. Since the beginning, the program has attracted nearly 30 members, 10 of which are women, bringing the total membership of QCA to 91.

Among the first members to join Ascent was Kathleen Jividen, who spent 36 years with P&G as a director working with chemistry-based technology and advanced engineered materials.

“I’ve always been interested in how new technologies and innovations come to the market,” said Jividen. “Before I retired, I had a special assignment that allowed me to consult with technical teams, coaching them on how to translate their technical innovation into a commercial proposition.

After she retired from P&G, she continued to coach and mentor young technologists. And after attending a couple QCA meetings, Jividen joined Ascent, bringing with her a unique skillset that complemented QCA’s members.

“The members of QCA have a strong business background, many owned companies, and many have a strong understanding of the financial aspect of running businesses,” said Jividen. “Not many have the technical background that I have, so I was able to come in and fulfill a unique role.”

She added, “QCA values my experience and knowledge in terms of evaluating potential start-ups with innovative technology. They were excited to discover my background and be a contributor to due diligence processes.”

For people interested in learning about angel investing, Jividen highly recommends the Ascent program, calling it “an easy way to get involved without a lot of commitment time and money.”

Ascent offers a great opportunity for people who are interested in investing to meet great people and learn a lot, even if they don’t want to play a major role. For those that want to spend a lot of time, the opportunities are there, but for those that appreciate the flexibility of participating in occasional meetings while learning about new opportunities to connect with people who are creating amazing things, the program is ideal for that too.

“Ascent was a great way for me to put my toes in the investing waters without the major time and financial commitment,” said Jividen. “The opportunity to help someone who has invented something cool but doesn’t understand how to get involved in the start-up community; or the opportunity to seek out inventions and inventors and get them into the community is interesting to me, and I’m sure to a lot of prospective angel investors. With the program, QCA is extending an invitation to come be a part of it.”

Each Ascent member makes a one-time capital commitment of $25,000, which is invested as an LLC into the QCA First Fund. As a member of Ascent, investors receive custom training and can participate on screening and due diligence teams and serving as mentors to local entrepreneurs.

Cladwell Helping Thousands Get Dressed Every Day

Retailers are still struggling to understand consumers. While they know what the consumer bought last time, they don’t know what they are going to buy next. Cladwell, which was founded in Cincinnati in 2013, is a company built on the human concern of fashion, based on what you wore last, what will you buy next.

“We help people get dressed every day,” said Blake Smith, co-founder of Cladwell.

While Smith doesn’t mean that literally, Cladwell’s free fashion app has helped more than 250,000 people the past 30 days decide what to wear based on the app’s recommendations.

He added, “People are using our app to change what they wear and interact with other people. The depth of influence we are having on what people wear is rapidly increasing.”

In January, Cladwell’s app was showcased alongside two competitor apps on Good Morning America, coming away as the strongest, particularly when it comes to being social with your closet.

“There is a social aspect to our app that allows our users to connect with friends and virtually explore the closets of Cladwell users from around the world,” said Smith. “While we are connecting people through technology, we are first and foremost serving human beings, so the experience with our brand is critical to building and maintaining our viral growth.”

Today Cladwell is growing virally with the number one closet management app in the industry, and expanding its partnerships with retailers, including four in the first quarter of 2019.

Regarding the company’s roots in Cincinnati, Smith commented, “The entire ecosystem is encouraging and supportive for the entrepreneurial community with people truly focused on building valuable companies. It’s a cool time with some high-quality growth and exits coming out of Cincinnati.

Q&A with Michael Hurley from Calfee, Halter & Griswold

Calfee, Halter & Griswold (Calfee) is full-service, corporate law firm with three offices in Ohio and one in Washington D.C. with more than 115 years of experience providing legal counsel. The Cincinnati office opened in 2011 and serves both publicly-held clients and private, family-owned businesses, as well as nonprofits and individuals across the region. Calfee is active in the area’s entrepreneurial community and is a sponsor of QCA. Recently, The Halo Effect caught up with Michael Hurley, partner at Calfee with a focus on helping startups access capital through angel and venture-funding.

T.H.E.: What made Calfee want to partner with QCA?

Hurley: QCA is the other side of the coin for what we do at Calfee. They are a great supplement to the legal advice that we provide to entrepreneurs. We work together symbiotically to prepare these people as best we can to have a successful startup experience. While we overlap minimally, QCA provides insight into other areas like accounting, business evaluation modeling, and what’s important to investors on the economic side to show how the capital they provide is being deployed. It is areas like these that are not in my wheelhouse that QCA brings to the table. In addition to that, QCA is a well-regarded brand, very involved in the community, and they do a lot to push not just their own agenda, but the agenda of the larger startup community. With their track record and history of success, it’s our honor that they want us to be part of growing that ecosystem.

T.H.E.: Why is it important for Calfee to be involved in the Cincinnati startup community?

Hurley: We’ve only been in Cincinnati since 2011. Specific to this office, we like to think we have a lot of similarities with some of our entrepreneurial clients. We are a new entrant into the market, delivering disruptive services in certain ways that are beneficial to making sure the legal community is on top of its own game in supporting the business community. Specific to Calfee’s role and how we intertwine with the entrepreneurial community, the people and businesses that comprise the community are what ensures the vitality of the larger business community. Without them, the more mature business community won’t exist for long. They are the necessary pipeline of new market entrants, new ideas, and people that is the lifeblood of the system. We take a long-term approach in many things, especially with our clients. Looking down the road, my biggest point of pride would be to say that I helped someone start a business in 2019, and they are still a Calfee client generating significant revenue, employing hundreds of people in the Cincinnati community and staying involved in doing great things for the region.

T.H.E. Tell us about your Instructional Toolkit

Hurley: The startup toolkit is a labor of love that has been developed by myself and my colleagues during the last several years. At Calfee, we create the structure that helps entrepreneurs institute the processes that help them achieve business objectives. The toolkit covers potential legal structures of entities, funding rounds, equity and debt investments, etc. It fleshes out discussions on a high-level regarding what entrepreneurs need to do to structure their internal and external legal relationships and helps them understand the correct equity/governance documents. There are 10-15 types of relationships that as an entrepreneur you want to make sure you structure correctly from the outset, and the toolkit makes sure they develop all of them the right way.

T.H.E.: Describe your team at Calfee

Hurley: Our Cincinnati office includes attorneys experienced in labor and employment, privacy and data security, intellectual property, corporate and securities transactions and business disputes. This overlays nicely with the immediate needs of startups. In addition to the people on the ground here, we have approximately 160 attorneys firm-wide that provide all other support that we need that may be outside the sweet spot of our Cincinnati staff. We have an overlay of team members that speaks to the needs of entrepreneurs and startups, and we consciously built our team around the concepts and needs of such clients.

T.H.E.: What would you say makes Calfee stand out from other firms?

Hurley: The willingness to take time to invest in our clients. To understand what they are trying to achieve and then working with them, with a long-term approach, to address those needs. Regarding startups, a lot of it is about triage. We are a cost center to them. We impact their runway to get to market and grow. We are very cognizant that every dollar they spend on legal is a dollar they can’t spend on bringing a product or service to market. We’ll take the time to create a solution that works for them rather than throwing form docs at them for a set fee without any kind of personalization because we are not trying to lose money on the front end or for any other reason that you don’t provide the full level of service at the outset. There is one thing I try to do with every client that has an idea for a startup: I tell them to put the legal questions aside, and before we do anything, talk to me as if I were a potential customer or a potential investor. Tell me what you are trying to achieve, how you are satisfying a market need and what you are going to do to develop and deliver on that proposition. Through that mechanism, I can usually tease out a lot of the questions and answers that I need to personalize the initial corporate governance and other documents that they will need.

T.H.E.:  Why do you think Cincinnati is the place to start a business?

Hurley: I wrote my college thesis on the city. I love my hometown. It’s a fascinating story. We grew up as a ramshackle river town and have always historically punched above our weight in terms of the business community. We still have a lot of solid Fortune 500 companies, and we have great ecosystem in general to foster people who want to be successful. An integral part of that is not just legal and business support but having a place to do things when you are not in the office. The types of amenities this city offers for its size are unparalleled. There are a lot of ways that this city can be attractive to someone who wants to start a business. More important, when you are living on a shoestring budget as a startup, the cost of living in Cincinnati is probably a lot more attractive to someone choosing between groceries and paying a vendor than the Bay Area. Accessibility to great legal services, large companies that can provide guidance and support, professionals that have come out of them – it’s a perfect mixture.

T.H.E.: What can the area do to improve and what are we doing right?

Hurley: What I think we can do to improve is getting our message out to potential transplants to come and start their businesses in our city. We are starting to see the genesis of that and starting to see Cincinnati creeping up on lists of places to live and run a business. I think we need to continue to deliver that message outside of our market. Hopefully that will create a groundswell movement where we have people coming in from outside the market, maybe from more mature startup markets, who can then inject all their knowledge and experience from previous lives.

As far as what is unique or beneficial to the city, especially in the last 10 years, is the spread of cultural acceptance around startups. I see and feel more people willing to forego the job with benefits at a large corporation to strike out on their own and make it. I think that is a direct result of the support provided to date. FC Cincinnati didn’t exist a few years ago. A few local business people decided they had this dream, and they wanted to make it work. FC played their first MLS home game recently. They are the perfectly allegory for what I would like to see in the startup community. We need to do everything that we can to get into the major league for supporting our entrepreneurs.

Day For Crypto

D4C-QCA-Header
Get ready for a first of its kind event in the Cincinnati area

Becon Global (Dublin, Ireland) and Crypto Properties would like to invite you to a unique day of learning. D4C is all you need to get up to speed on one of the most fascinating and transformative revolutions since the Internet—blockchain technology and the rise of digital currency, made popular by, but not limited to, the success of Bitcoin.

This event is focused on teaching people how to invest, buy and sell all varieties of crypto currency as well as dive into how we got here and where we are going. Bitcoin and the other crypto currencies continue to grow, and currently are approaching a total market capitalization of $200 billion. Recently, Bitcoin alone has increased in value more than 700% this year alone. But “currency” is only the tip of the iceberg. This conference will cover so much more.

In addition to addressing topics of interest to crypto investors, we will also discuss the underlying technology of these digital currencies – blockchain, which is poised to disrupt all public and private sectors. Blockchain is changing our digital landscape. It will transform the way in which traditional digital services are delivered globally, across all sectors, industries and services. Blockchain is ushering in a new era of more connected, better integrated and efficient digital services. Blockchain changes the rules.

If you want to know how to get involved – D4C is a great place to start.

Topics covered include:

  • An intro to blockchain and digital currencies: past, present and future

  • Overview of various crypto currencies

  • What are ICOs / TGEs / Token Sales, and how can my business benefit?

  • Setting up an ICO / TGE / Token Sale; Practical lessons learned

  • How U.S.-based investors can participate in ICOs / TGEs and be fully compliant

  • Where is blockchain technology entering mainstream business?

THE AGENDA

8-8:50 a.m.
Registration and Coffee

8:50-9 a.m.
Opening of the Conference
Adam Koehler, Co-Founder at CPROP (USA) & Michael Hiles, Founder of 10XTS

9-9:30 a.m.
Keynote Presentation: Intro to blockchain and digital currencies: past, present and future
Peter Vessenes
Managing Director at New Alchemy, former Chairman Bitcoin Foundation (USA)

9:30-10:30 a.m.
Getting started with Crypto-Currencies. Buying, Selling, Storing
TBA

10:30-11 a.m.
Panel Discussion: An overview of various crypto-currencies
Albert Castellana, Board Member at NEM Foundation (Singapore)
Alexander Perchikov, Product Marketing Director at Bitfury Group (Netherlands)
Matthew Spoke, Board Member at Ethereum Enterprise Alliance (Canada)
Eric Gu, CEO at Metaverse (China)

11 a.m.-12 p.m.
What are ICOs / TGEs / Token Sales and how can my business benefit?
Nick Ayton, Founder at Chainstartr (UK)

12-1 p.m.
Lunch

1-2:30 p.m.
Setting up an ICO / TGE / Token Sale. Practical lessons learned
Sandy Selman, Co-Founder at CPROP (USA), Moderator
Shawn Owen, CEO at SALT Lending (USA)
Kat Kuzmeskas, Co-Founder and CEO at SimplyVital Health (USA)
Leonid Bondarenko, CTO at Exch.One (Switzerland)
Dan Novaes, Co-Founder and CEO at Current (USA)
Chris Emms, Co-Founder at Itiriv (Gibraltar)

2:30-3 p.m.
How US-based investors can participate in ICOs / TGEs and be fully compliant
J. Gray Sasser
Co-Chair Blockchain and Digital Currency Team, Frost Brown Todd LLC (USA)
Gordon Einstein
CEO at AdaptivSky (USA)

3-4 p.m.
Where is blockchain technology entering mainstream business?
Nils Veenstra, Managing Partner at BECON (Ireland)

4-4:15 p.m.
Closing of Conference
Adam Koehler & Michael Hiles
Co-Founder at CPROP (USA)

4:30-6 p.m.
Network Reception

This conference is perfect for investors, entrepreneurs considering ICO fundraising, and financial, legal and IT professionals as well as those simply curious about bitcoin and other digital assets.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided. A networking reception will follow the event. If you have an interest in crypto currency, don’t miss this event. We hope to see you there.

Buy Tickets

Note: $199 ticket price is good until November 20. After December 4 or at the door, the price is $249.


RISK STATEMENT – The trading of bitcoin and alternative crypto currency has potential rewards and risks. Trading may not be suitable for all people. Anyone wishing to invest should seek his or her own independent financial or professional advice.

Vance Van Drake

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Ulmer is one of the Midwest’s leading law firms with attorneys in Ohio’s three major cities, as well as Chicago and Boca Raton, Florida. Ulmer is a long-time supporter of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem with attorneys volunteering time at the University of Cincinnati, Miami University (Ohio), Northern Kentucky University and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. The firm is active participants in time and sponsorship investments at most early stage activities around Cincinnati, and its attorneys are frequent speakers and panelists at local start-up conferences and events. Recently, The Halo Effect (THE) caught up with Vance VanDrake, an intellectual property, patent and venture attorney in the firm’s Cincinnati office. Vance is also the President of the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association, was appointed by the Mayor of Cincinnati to the Small Business Advisory Committee and was recognized as one of Cincinnati’s “Top 40 under 40” by the Cincinnati Business Courier.

THE: Why is it important for Ulmer to be involved in the start-up community?

VanDrake: Ulmer is supportive of the community at large and we recognize how important entrepreneurship is to this area. The start-up ecosystem has become a more vibrant and intricate part of Cincinnati, especially in the last 5-10 years, and as a tech-focused law firm, it’s important for us to see and experience the next big thing before it becomes the next big thing. Within the Cincinnati office, there are 10-12 attorneys who are actively involved in our tech and early-stage practice. We have broad experience across patent, copyright, trademark and open source, as well as immigration and the role it plays with talent and ownership.

THE: What makes Ulmer stand out from other law firms in the area?

VanDrake: Ulmer, especially here in Cincinnati, is uniquely suited to support the needs of emerging tech business. Three-quarters of our attorneys have tech degrees, with a focus on IP and pharma. I have co-founded three companies myself, so we understand that entrepreneurs and start-ups operate a little differently than a Fortune 500 company. Most importantly, we take time to understand the people behind the business.

When it comes to practicing law among start-ups and entrepreneurs, I liken it to fantasy football. If you play fantasy football to win money, you probably shouldn’t play. Lots of attorneys talk about supporting start-up business, but the financial rewards are definitely different than other areas of law. You play in the start-up space for the community and because you like the people involved. There is a lot of trendiness, but most people don’t realize what it takes to fully commit to the space. 

THE: Describe the relationship between Ulmer and QCA and the value that the firm receives in being a QCA partner

VanDrake: We’ve been a long-time supporter and sponsor of QCA, and recognize the good work that they do in the community to help promising tech companies move to the next level. We have been involved in QCA’s Morning Mentoring program, supported companies that they fund in deals, and most recently, helped with QCA’s trademark and Startup College.

QCA plays an invaluable role in our local ecosystem. There are only a couple of options locally for seed-based funding, so without QCA, we would lose companies and entrepreneurs to the coasts. Having such a large group of local investors helps keep our best companies and people here. There are so many promising business ideas that come out of P&G, and high quality entrepreneurs that are affiliated with other Fortune 500 companies. QCA’s presence and activity gives them incentive to build their ideas and companies in Cincinnati.

THE: Considering IP, what are 1-3 things you have learned, from a legal perspective that can help young companies when it comes protecting their IP?

VanDrake: First, every company has IP of some kind, whether it is patents, trademarks or trade secrets. The higher the business IP IQ, the better off the company will be. Second, IP has a reputation for being really expensive, which doesn’t have to be the case. Companies that pursue IP protection can maximize the value at every step. Finally, fear with software/tech companies that think they don’t have any IP or can’t protect it. This is wrong. There is a misconception that to do anything is really expensive. Lots of companies throw up their hands, and don’t do anything, or don’t educate themselves about the options. That approach ends up hurting the valuation of the company.

THE: What are the more common misconceptions about IP and IP attorneys?

VanDrake: Unfortunately, many of the misconceptions are true. There is a perception that IP attorneys have very low business acumen and are more focused on the nuts and bolts of prosecution; not necessarily driving value for the business as a whole.

Start-ups and their founders should ask IP attorneys, “How often do you work with early stage companies?” “How many other startups have you helped and how much success have you had?” The right IP attorney for Fortune 50 company, with an unlimited budget, might not understand the needs of early stage businesses.

THE: What do you enjoy about working with startups and entrepreneurs?

VanDrake: I like to be around people who are smarter than me. Every day, I get to be involved and play a small role in something that has the potential to benefit the city or change the world. I get to work with brilliant, quirky startup founders, which is not for everyone, but it’s why I love to come to work everyday.


THE: Why is Cincinnati the right place to build a business?

VanDrake: It’s our Midwest mentality. Everyone is about the rising tide. Everyone is wiling to have coffee or a meeting for free. For the most part, people are trying to find a way to give first in most situations, which is an incredible asset for entrepreneurs. We also have a wealth of knowledge from universities and big companies. In most cases, if you ask for help, you will get it. This support system makes the city special and helps the ecosystem in an ongoing way. Those that have struggled here have not been willing to ask.


THE: What can Cincinnati do in the short-term/long-term to improve as a place to do business?

VanDrake: The city and region needs to continue to support the best entrepreneurs, and encourage people to go out and do their own thing. Some of the best that have started companies are those that have worked at P&G, Children’s Hospital and GE. We need more of them to take a chance on themselves and their ideas. They need to know that on boarding into the startup community is not jumping off a cliff for their careers.


THE: As you have seen the startup/entrepreneurial community grow, what stands out to you?

VanDrake: The community has truly mirrored Over-the-Rhine. What was once brave and edgy is now for everyone. We have a community that is a place for everyone to get involved. We have a much more established community, and the past 10 years of growth is unrecognizable.


THE: Are there companies or organizations you look to as an example of doing things the right way?

VanDrake: I admire companies and organizations that are looking to collaborate. We are too small of a city, and our resources too limited to compete amongst ourselves to play politics. The companies and organizations that work to include people, and work with one another, are doing it the right way. Reaching out within our region is our best chance for success.

Each city in our region has a core competency that is a magnet for talent in that space. In P&G, we draw certain kind of talent, which wouldn’t be here if not for them. If we make connections, build startups, and leverage the strengths of other Midwest communities, we will all do better.

Geoffrey Marshall


Geoffrey Marshall has spent the last five years as managing director of G.T. Marshall & Associates, a financial consulting firm he started after more than 30 years at P&G. He is also one of the newest members of the Queen City Angels bringing his experience to help solve business challenges with companies of all sizes for entrepreneurs and start-ups in QCA’s portfolio. During his long career at P&G, Marshall served in operational finance, most recently managing a 400-person global supply chain organization that guided the integration of Wella, Clairol, Gillette and Braun into a single business unit. His accomplishments during his time at P&G show an ability to cut costs, increase cash flow and drive productivity. Since he left P&G in 2012, he has been doing the same thing for small and medium-size companies and non-profits. However, start-ups is what always intrigued him.

“This is an entirely different world than I grew up with at P&G. We’re talking a big company with a lot of resources versus a start-up with minimal resources,” said Marshall. “That said, P&G is big, but throughout the company, you have a lot of little projects. I helped jump-start Reflect.com which was the first e-commerce venture that was started from scratch. I had to set up bank accounts and payroll, and then we moved the organization to San Francisco. I am fascinated by start-ups and how they can succeed.”

His experience with BigCos provides him with valuable insight into the QCA team.

“I know what BigCos and VCs are looking for, so what are the things we can do creatively to help entrepreneurs manage capital, access resources, because that’s the key thing they need, and do it in a way they can use other people’s money,” added Marshall.

Marshall sees his role at QCA as someone who can help the entrepreneurs see the big picture and not run past the stop signs so they can find the big payday.

“Entrepreneurs can be overly optimistic and can run past the stop signs,” said Marshall. “My role is to help them understand what has to be true to get past the stop signs effectively. Here are the things you need on the balance sheet, on the income statement, the history you need to demonstrate and milestones you need to hit to get to that payday.”

Since joining QCA, Marshall has been impressed with the background of its members and the level of experience in the meetings.

“Every time I get a chance to get to know the members, I am fascinated with their backgrounds, and I see an opportunity to learn more and pick their brains so I can better understand what to watch for as I participate in more investments,” stated Marshall. “I want to take their experience and use the things they have done on new projects.”

Marshall is also impressed with the level of engagement in every investment.

He added, “There is such a breadth of knowledge around the table and everyone is engaged financially and through sweat equity and thought equity. There is a lot of mindspace invested in every deal and the level of due diligence is even more than I had expected.”

Marshall also shares his enthusiasm for the entrepreneurial spirit that has enveloped Cincinnati.

“The city and the surrounding communities have made huge progress in the past few years,” said Marshall, who was involved on teams that started YourEncore and Cintrifuse.

“We need a lot more Assurex Health success stories and a lot more wins. Winning begets winning begets more funding begets more winning. We certainly have an advantage in our cost of living and as a family focused community, but how do we make this area an even more attractive place to start and build a business?”

Marshall believes it starts with retaining talent, drawing similarities to the challenges of his hometown of Austin, Texas, in the 1970s.  
“ Austin is now a thriving city, and I would like to see similar things happen here.  The city recognized that it was losing people to Houston to work in oil and started to implement strategies to keep people home.”

In addition to talent, as an African-American business leader, Marshall sees organizations such as Mortar playing an important role in expanding growth and building entrepreneurial successes in Cincinnati.

“The question is how do you change the mindset of an entire community,” said Marshall. “The answer is that everyone needs to be involved in raising the boat as the tides rise. Success at business is not a white or black issue, as the same learning can be applied to everyone.”

Marshall sees QCA has a leader to keep Cincinnati moving forward.

He added, “There is so much experience and talent within QCA that I and others can learn from. Every time I meet someone at QCA, I learn something new. The variety of experience is fascinating in a group like this, and it gets me energized to do more.”