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Lorain Innovation Fund continues to fill niche in northeast Ohio

ABS Materials, StreamLink Software, and Thermedx may appear to have little in common. One is an advanced materials company. Another provides software to nonprofits. And the other is a biomedical firm.

Yet all three share one trait: They received early stage funds from the Lorain County Community College Innovation Fund.

Founded by the Lorain County Community College (LCCC) Foundation in 2007, the fund today serves a 21-county area in northeast Ohio and has provided $4.3 million to 60 companies in high-tech growth industries.

The fund is supported by the Ohio Third Frontier and partners that include Cleveland State University, the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE), JumpStart, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM), Stark State College, The University of Akron, The University of Akron Research Foundation, Youngstown State University and the Youngstown Business Incubator.

Tracy Green, director of the LCCC Foundation, which administers the fund, says since 2007, companies assisted by the fund have attracted more than $41 million in follow-on investments and sales and helped to create 100 new jobs.

"The Innovation Fund really serves as the front door of funding for entrepreneurs," Green says. "We see a lot that are just surfacing out of the lab or out of an 'Ah-ha' type of idea. We're the first stop after credit cards, family, friends and second mortgages."

The Innovation Fund makes two types of awards: up to $25,000 to help validate a startup's technology; and up to $100,000 to validate a new company's business model.

One of the hallmarks of the fund is a requirement that recipients help educate a college student about entrepreneurship and running a business.

"Every award we make to a company, they have to agree to provide an educational opportunity or internship to a student," Green says. "So that student is able to walk shoulder to shoulder with an entrepreneur so they understand what it means and what it takes to be involved in a startup."

The Innovation Fund's successful model was recognized in February when the college and its foundation were named as one of 10 community colleges to be part of the American Association of Community College's Virtual Incubator Network. Lorain's role is to help replicate the Innovation Fund among community colleges nationwide as part of President Obama's Startup America Initiative.

Source: Tracy Green, Lorain County Community College Foundation
Writer: Gene Monteith
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