The challenges and opportunities to catalyze economic transformation through entrepreneurship have been my focus at JumpStart for the last 20 years. As I prepare to pass the torch to a new CEO, I want to highlight entrepreneurship’s significant role in reshaping our economy and how this progress has only been possible through collaboration.
JumpStart helps to lead Northern Ohio’s collective efforts to build a thriving tech startup and small business ecosystem. In recent weeks leading up to my departure from JumpStart, I’ve been reflecting on the journey of advancing this work, our progress to date, why our efforts have received local and national support and recognition, and how much opportunity exists to realize more meaningful progress.
Passion, dedication, resilience, and creativity are attributes of JumpStart – the same characteristics many savvy startup founders need to advance an idea to become a unicorn. While these attributes are essential, we also acknowledge JumpStart’s ability to create and grow meaningful long-term partnerships has most profoundly impacted our work and the strength of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.
A Journey of Collaboration
When I first embarked on this journey in 2003, I wholeheartedly believed, along with other community leaders, that strengthening entrepreneurship could make a significant difference in our economy and community. What has impressed me most over the last two decades is how much the success of these efforts would rely on effective, long-term, strategic partnerships. Our public, private, philanthropic, and institutional partnerships are the foundation of JumpStart’s capacity and influence every facet of our work.
From JumpStart’s earliest days through today, the role of Northeast Ohio’s foundations and philanthropic organizations in our efforts cannot be understated. Their early support provided crucial resources for JumpStart to take root and flourish. Foundations including Abington, Burton D. Morgan, Cleveland, Codrington, Fund for Our Economic Future, GAR, Gund, Knight, and many others laid the groundwork for our journey.
Yet, the Ohio Third Frontier has been our most significant partner. Their steadfast commitment, demonstrated by awarding over $208 million for entrepreneurial services and capital across supporting dozens of our partner organizations throughout Northern Ohio (all of which have also required non-state matching funding), has been critical to fueling Ohio’s tech startup ecosystem.
The Evolution of Partnerships
Over the last seven years, our partnerships have evolved and strengthened as the opportunity to work with new collaborators enabled us to launch our flagship Impact Program, which has helped 175 businesses access grant capital, high-impact service, and critical resource connections to empower them to scale their businesses. We’ve also focused on uniting organizations and initiatives to create community and collective impact via partnerships with The Ohio Third Frontier, the Fund for Our Economic Future, the KeyBank Foundation, and many others.
However, a conversation about our recent history would be incomplete if we did not acknowledge the challenges and opportunities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. JumpStart’s response, marked by adaptability and collaboration, helped catalyze $40M million in business stabilization grants. This funding and thousands of hours of support provided to local firms helped hundreds of startups and small businesses navigate the turbulent waters of the pandemic.
Twenty years of problem-solving, diligence, and dedication from hundreds of JumpStart teammates, community leaders, and partners have enabled JumpStart Ventures to invest $95M in 173 tech startups, provide services and connections to thousands of local entrepreneurs, helping them generate $11.6B of economic impact since 2010. The financial and economic returns from these efforts have created a foundation for this work to continue for decades.
As I step down as JumpStart’s founding CEO, I look to the future with hope and optimism. JumpStart will continue to thrive under the outstanding leadership of our board, team, and community. Collaboration remains the lifeblood of our work and progress.
JumpStart’s unwavering commitment to entrepreneurship will persist, with an enduring focus on fostering equity and inclusion, but only through the power of partnerships. Collaboration is the driving force behind any successful, purpose-driven organization. I encourage investors, foundations, and institutional and corporate leaders to get more involved and expand their partnerships with JumpStart to advance Northern Ohio’s economic outlook and unlock the full potential of entrepreneurship to transform our entire community.