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How We Create the Newest New Thing

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Provided by The Enquirer
Written by Carolyn Pione

What are you doing at 4 p.m. Tuesday?

If you're up for broadening your horizons, head to Cincinnati Museum Center to hear some "big ideas" that could have their home in Cincinnati soon.

The Greater Cincinnati Venture Association is holding a "big-ideas" competition of sorts there. They've invited three groups of would-be entrepreneurs to present their new products and services that could be the next big medical device or Web site.

Jennifer Wolfe, president of the group, told me last week the group is hoping to create inspiration for other innovative thinking in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Apparently we're somewhat short on big ideas around here. That's a theme I've heard from a number of people as I've done my lunch lessons around town in the last seven months.

Mark Richey, who runs the local office of venture cap firm Draper Triangle and is a member of GCVA, says we have plenty of money in this region to help entrepreneurs get started. What we need is more people who have ideas for products or services where a business can be built, gather traction and grow, and then be sold - at a profit for its investors, of course.

"Existing funds have raised additional capital, new funds facilitated by (Ohio's) Entrepreneurial Signature Program are operating and actively investing, and the region will most likely see several new funds come online within the next 12 months," Richey says.

"There will be increasing demand for quality business plans based on world-class innovation."

Part of the process, of course, is connecting entrepreneurs with this money. So CincyTech, the local group that helps high-growth companies in their first three stages of development, on Tuesday will introduce a Web site called IdeaCrossing.org. The site works sort of like a Match.com for the entrepreneurial community: Entrepreneurs and investors fill out profiles and then get matched up based on needs and interests.

Already more than 1,000 people from Ohio and elsewhere have registered on the site, according to Bill Cunningham, executive-in-residence at CincyTech and a longtime GCVA member.

Also Tuesday, you'll hear about these three big ideas: a company called Proacticare out of Wisconsin that has developed a device for hospital beds that monitors patients to be turned so they avoid bedsores; a social-networking company a la Facebook called Droptome.com, out of Indiana, which lets users share word-of-mouth product and service recommendations; and Heart Sounds, which is commercializing research out of the University of Illinois to create a non-invasive, high-tech heart monitor.

And here's why you should care about this: If any of these companies do get funding from Cincinnati-area investors, they will no longer be Wisconsin or Indiana or Illinois-based. They'll be Walnut Hills or Covington or downtown. And our economy needs them.