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national conference will highlight investment opportunities in ohio

Great innovation takes talent, time and money. Yet in recent years, technology has simultaneously driven down the costs of innovation and opened up new opportunities for people to fund their ideas.
The 19th annual National Association of Seed and Venture Funds (NASVF) conference will explore funding mechanisms for today's innovations. Titled "Advancing Innovation: Seeding Tomorrow’s Opportunities," the event will be held in Cleveland from October 15th-17th, drawing innovation experts from across the country to the Midwest.

The NASVF conference will be the first to be held since the group moved its offices to Lorain County Community College's Entrepreneurship Innovation Center earlier this year. One of the reasons why the national organization moved from Philadelphia to Ohio is because of the state's successful Third Frontier innovation investment program.
This year's event centers on best practices in raising and managing investment funding for innovation. An impressive lineup of speakers and moderators will highlight new and emerging trends in this sphere, focusing on potential partnerships among private, nonprofit and government organizations.
The event is geared toward seed investors, technology commercialization managers and accelerator and incubator managers. Keynote speakers include:

  • Steve Case: Chairman and CEO of Revolution; co-founder of America Online; chairman of The Case Foundation and chair of Startup America Partnership
  • Katie Rae of TechStars - Boston
  • Chuck Templeton, founder of Open Table
  • Sean Greene, Associate Administrator for Investment and Special Advisor for Innovation, for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
During the event, a dozen breakout sessions will highlight specific aspects of funding and growing young technology companies. Among those sessions is one entitled "Innovation Capital ... Creative Financing Needed as Funds Continue to Shrink!" David Rose, co-founder of a web platform to fund startups called Gust that is based in New York City, will be among the panelists in that session.
Gust has more than 125,000 startup company users globally, as well as 35,000 accredited investors. The Gust platform supports the entire investment process from pitch to exit. Rose, an angel investor and serial entrepreneur, also started the New York Angels, which is one of the most active angel groups in the country. The group has invested more than $45 million in startups since its inception.
The recent passage of the federal Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which enables equity-based crowdfunding for small investors, will make it easier for people to invest in startup companies, Rose says. At the same time, smaller amounts of money can make a bigger impact on companies looking to grow.
"It's an amazing time for entrepreneurs in the startup world. When I started my first company it took us $20 million to ship our first product," Rose says. "The second version took $2 million. A few years later, the first angel company I invested in took $200,000 to get a first shipment of product. More recently another company I invested in needed a total investment of $20,000."
With comparatively smaller amounts of capital needed to get a company's products to market, investment opportunities are growing in the Midwest.
"Everything is being thrown on its ear," Rose says. "Many of the services you needed to purchase just to start a business back in the day, you can now find free online. So seed funding can take you a lot farther. And you don't have to spend years and years working on your product -- you can see very quickly if people want what you are selling."
It's a perfect storm, and one that many Ohio entrepreneurs are taking advantage of. For instance, the Cincinnati-based startup SoMoLend is among the nation's first crowdfunding platforms. Through SoMoLend, small businesses that may not be eligible for traditional bank loans can apply for funding through small investors looking to put their money into a startup. The company receives funding, while the company earns a return. (SoMoLend will be represented at the conference.)
Additionally, Ohio's state government leaders also have taken a lead in seed investing. "Ohio has been a leader in the angel world for years," Rose says.
Trish Brasted, President and CEO of Wichita Technology Corporation and Wichita Technology Ventures, knows firsthand the benefits of public-private funding partnerships. She'll be detailing potential opportunities for state leaders as moderator of a session on "Using Policy to Create Innovation Capital."
"We support tech-based economic development, finding colleagues across the U.S. in the public-private arena, and then identifying the best practices that inform what we should be doing as a state to develop a robust economy," she says.

Brasted will be asking her panelists to unveil best practices and ideas that didn't work, in order to prompt ideas that innovation leaders can take home. "We'll have panelists from Michigan, Utah and New Mexico talking about innovation capital, how we talk to policy makers about it and how we use it to create jobs."

Programs like Ohio's Third Frontier are a great example of how states can target specific business clusters for growth. Targeting investment based on a region's particular strengths is key to successful investment partnerships, Brasted says.
Ohio has strong clusters in consumer products, manufacturing and medical and aerospace innovation that it is supporting through innovation investment.
"Ohio has many different economies based on where you are in the state. You must take advantage of the competitive resources you have, and build on them."
Find out about these issues and register for the conference at the NASVF website.
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