Believeland: How Collaboration and Inclusion Drive Innovation In Ohio

“Welcome to Believeland!,” was the enthusiastic greeting from Ray Leach, CEO of JumpStart, Inc., to an audience of entrepreneurs, venture capital investors, nonprofits, foundations, government entities, universities, and corporations, who were among the hundreds gathered for JumpStart, Inc.’s Second Annual Startup ScaleUp event in Cleveland. 

Believeland is a fitting moniker for a city that is celebrating its first professional sports championship in 52 years, will host one of the nation’s preeminent political events, and represents the forefront of the vibrant, diverse and active entrepreneurial ecosystem growing across Ohio. Chief among the priorities of Ohio leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship is a focus on leveraging its greatest asset – their people. In Cleveland, a majority minority city, people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, women, immigrants, students are all playing a central role in revitalization.  NVCA has made diversity and inclusion key priorities in our work to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We think about inclusion from the perspective of supporting innovation in diverse geographies and leveraging the talents of people of diverse backgrounds, gender and races,” Bobby Franklin, NVCA President and CEO, told the audience.  “Ohio has a lot to share with the rest of the country.”

This year, JumpStart, Inc. announced the Focus Fund, a $10 million venture capital fund that will exclusively fund women and minority-led startup companies based in Ohio or, willing to relocate to Ohio. The Ohio Third Frontier, a public sector technology-based economic development initiative, has made diversity foundational to its mission to accelerate the growth of startups and invested $5 million in the Focus Fund. The Focus Fund is one of the very first funds in the country to integrate diversity into its investment thesis. The fund itself is an achievement – even before it deploys any capital – and is emblematic of the public-private partnership that seem to define much of the successful development in the state.

Walking around Cleveland, one finds many reasons why an entrepreneur might choose Ohio. With 38 colleges and universities, The Cleveland Clinic, affordable real estate and a growing venture capital ecosystem, the state has the talent, capital and resources to attract top companies.  The outward signs of progress are paralleled by the long-term vision of Ohio corporations, venture capital firms, government entities, nonprofits, universities, foundations, and life sciences and technology companies to advance a concerted and collaborative effort to build a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Read the full story at National Venture Capital Association.