In our role with the Venture Capital Advisory Task Force, JumpStart monitors angel and venture capital investment in Northeast Ohio. Identifying the amount of investment innovative startups in Greater Cleveland attract speaks to the health of the ecosystem and to the potential for JumpStart’s high growth companies to raise funding and go on to create jobs and wealth for the community. We talked to a few area angel investors and venture capitalists about why they put their money into the region. Investors told us there are talented entrepreneurs here starting companies around promising technologies.
In fact, Koleman Karleski, managing director of Chrysalis Ventures, believes Northeast Ohio is rich in the assets required to build exciting young companies, saying there are “universities, deeply talented people, pools of capital that have been formed through government and other economic development initiatives, and tenacious entrepreneurs.” Chrysalis invested in JumpStart portfolio company Cervilenz. “It is a very exciting young company located in Chagrin Falls,” said Karleski. “It’s solving a very serious problem in women’s health; principally helping to identify which women are at risk for developing the symptoms related to preterm birth.”
Clay Rankin, manager of North Coast Angel Fund, one of the country’s largest angel investment groups, pointed to some of the incredible healthcare companies being developed in what has been dubbed “the medical capital,” companies like Juventas Therapeutics, which is developing novel regenerative therapies for cardiovascular disease and has itself already spun off another company, SironRX. “It came out of the Cleveland Clinic and was backed by really some of the top minds in cardiovascular care,” explained Rankin. Nick Braun, a partner at NCT Ventures, talked about his firm’s investment in Embrace Pet Insurance, a company whose unique product—pet insurance sold directly to pet owners—had a big potential market.
Ultimately though, Braun was confident in the company’s ability to perform because he was impressed with the management team. The talented leadership of these companies was a consistent theme in talking to these investors, with Braun asserting that, “The companies that we look at that come through JumpStart are a lot further along . . . [and] it’s really valuable for us that we can start scaling instead of teaching entrepreneurship 101.” So, there are great companies and great entrepreneurs here.
And, for investors looking to find good deals and make money, it doesn’t hurt that they have their pick. As Tim Peterson, managing director of Arboretum Ventures, put it, “There’s a little less competition relative to some other places in the country that are more known for venture capitalism.”
Of course, JumpStart and our partners are working to make sure that Northeast Ohio companies don’t remain the country’s best-kept secrets. In 2010, Greater Cleveland companies attracted $237 million in investment and Q2 data shows angel and VC investing in the region is up $20 million over last year at this same time. Investors from all over the country (and even around the globe) are realizing there are talented entrepreneurs and good deals to be had here.
Sam Fryberger is the live music-loving, vegetarian Director of Communications at JumpStart. Her background includes advertising, public relations and social media and she has been promoting organizations, events and economic development in Northeast Ohio for more than 15 years.