After Top Jobs At Yelp And Yahoo, Mike Marchetti Looks To Grow Startup Culture In Cleveland

The Midwest tech scene is accustomed to asking, “What can we learn from Silicon Valley?”

Mike Marchetti offers another take: What can Silicon Valley learn from the Midwest? That comes from a perspective of someone who has spent the last 15 years at the center of the tech boom, working for companies like Yahoo and Yelp.

And this March, he started a new career in Cleveland.

“Everyone here wants to connect you to more people,” Marchetti says. “There’s this feeling that even if everyone’s working in different industries at different companies, we’re all in this together. And that doesn’t necessarily exist in San Francisco. Something we have going for us in Cleveland is this sense of pride. Everyone’s vested in getting this to the next level in different ways.”

Now, he’s diving back into the startup world with his new role as a venture partner at JumpStart, a Cleveland-based nonprofit that fosters entrepreneurship. In addition to working one-on-one with a portfolio of businesses, he’s adding momentum to one of JumpStart’s biggest events, Startup Scaleup.

The third annual one-day conference takes place Tuesday, Aug. 15. This year, Marchetti’s tapping his network to bring in speakers such as Alex Bard (Redpoint Ventures), Rob Krolik (former Yelp CFO), Jim Benton (ClearSlide) and John Locke (Accel).

Entrepreneurs will get to mingle with out-of-state investors. And that’s important to Midwest business owners who want to see that you can still find funding in Ohio even if you’re not living on the coasts.

But more than that, it’s a chance to showcase the city’s potential. With many of the Valley’s trailblazers looking to put down roots and start families, they’re searching for alternatives to the soaring prices of San Francisco.

Marchetti asks, Why not Cleveland? For him, it was a mix of meeting JumpStart CEO, Ray Leach, along with family in the area, that made it a perfect fit when he was ready to leave the West Coast.

We already have a growing culture, from food to sports to the arts, he says. And the energy of our startup scene reminds him of what he felt when he moved to the West Coast during the first big tech boom of the ’90s.

“I wanted to be at the forefront of wherever that next place may be,” Marchetti says. “I moved here because I think Cleveland can become one of the next great technology hubs, and I want to help grow a region, not just a company.”

The right culture

Anyone who works at a startup wears their share of hats. To Marchetti, that’s exhilarating, and he brings that excitement to his new role in Cleveland. But it took time for him to find his footing.

Raised in Poughkeepsie, New York, Marchetti landed jobs at Pricewaterhousecoopers and Arthur Andersen in New York City right after graduating Lynchburg College and George Mason University. It was suits and ties every day, he jokes. Today, he’s laidback in a rolled up button-up, jeans and low-top sneakers.

On a trip to visit a friend in California in 1999, he happened to check out the headquarters of Yahoo. At the time there were only 900 employees (it’s now home to around 16,000).

Two weeks later, he moved across the country to pursue a job. At Yahoo, he would become Senior Director of Business Solutions.

“The day I stepped foot in Yahoo, with its culture and the people and the energy, I knew ‘this is the place I want to be,'” Marchetti remembers. “People were playing foosball, but they were also working really hard. There was a lot of collaboration.”

After nearly a decade at Yahoo, he landed the role of Senior Director of Business Solutions at another fledgling company, Yelp, where he helped the company go public and grow the business from $30 to $600 million in revenue.

Marchetti thrived in the fast-paced startup culture, where he worked across different departments. Before heading to Ohio, he worked in business operations and technology as ClearSlide in its early stages.

“A lot of times, these companies are small and nimble and they don’t have enough people to take on everything; they’re growing very fast,” Marchetti says. “You jump in wherever you need to. And that’s not right for everyone. But for me, I loved the daily challenge of really impacting the business. The more exposure you get, the more you can learn, be challenged and grow your career.”

It’s what drives him to help – and understand – new businesses at JumpStart. For example, he attributes the success of Yelp to honing in on the right issues. With startups, you have a thousand things to do every day, but you can’t do them all.

“The importance of making that quick analysis of the biggest issue impacting the company is something I tell my portfolio companies every day,” Marchetti says. He says, to him, it’s the key to becoming a thriving startup.

He also learned the importance of company culture in attracting and retaining great talent. These days, you’ll never see him at a cubicle. Environments like open offices and whiteboard brainstorming sessions are key to him. Marchetti roams around the building feeding off the synergy of his coworkers.

Midwest moves

Like many in the startup world, Marchetti realized the value of adapting to so many different roles. In fact, he knew it gave him an upper hand outside of San Francisco.

So, what’s keeping others like him from choosing Cleveland?

“The number one thing I hear from people is accessing capital,” Marchetti says. “I want people to be aware that the capital is available. What I’m trying to do is carry over those relationships from the West Coast and help people see they’re interested in the Midwest.”

To maintain that link to Silicon Valley, Marchetti travels to San Francisco for a week every two months.

Capital, combined with culture, is the recipe for drawing talent to Cleveland – the region’s other challenge. But that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of homegrown potential just waiting to flourish.

“Before I moved here, I met with some entrepreneurs and I was so impressed with the spirit and energy and experience they had,” Marchetti said. “I had that ‘oh wait’ moment – you don’t just find these people in San Francisco. They’re here too.”

Marchetti found his groove here easily. His wife, Cortney, who was director of human resources at Lyft and Shutterfly before moving, has etched out her own freelance consulting business.

Together, the outdoorsy couple loves taking on new adventures in Northeast Ohio, like paddleboarding and skiing. They’ve discovered the restaurants, museums and orchestra.

But the city’s greatest asset they’ve found? Its people.

“Between the people that are here, the passion they have and the pride for the city, that’s what makes it a great foundation for these startups,” Marchetti says. “The city’s done a lot in the last five years and it can go so much further. I think we can build this region to be a really great place to start a company. ”

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