Sparking Innovation In Akron

Nick Petroski had become frustrated by the lack of startup events being held in Akron. The Launch League co-founder and board chairman was aware of a few weekend-long events in the area, but felt they didn’t fully encapsulate the highs and lows of building something. Taking matters into his own hands, he and his wife, Meghan Goetz, designed a new kind of weekend entrepreneurship experience, one he hoped would help spark new innovation in the city of innovation.

Growing steadily since 2014, SparkAK—hosted by Launch League—offers the ultimate startup experience for anybody interested in learning what it’s like to start a company. The objective for attendees is to build a startup or test a great idea while receiving guidance along the way from local mentors. With prizes on the line, participants work in teams to develop and then pitch their ideas to a panel of judges comprised of area founders.

“Sometimes the hardest part in starting something is taking the first step, and that is exactly what SparkAK is here to do—to give potential founders a safe environment where they can work alongside mentors, test their ideas, and get the tools and motivation they need to move forward with a company, or perhaps fail fast and move on to a different idea,” said Courtney Gras, Executive Director of Launch League.

SparkAK is just one example of the many ways Launch League is working to build a stronger startup community in Akron. Since 2014, Launch League has put forth efforts to attract, connect, and develop talent with the intent to increase startup success and retention in the region.

“Our goal is to make Akron THE place to build a startup,” said Gras. To make this happen, Launch League acts as a backbone organization and partners with entrepreneurship support and service providers across Northeast Ohio.

Launch League’s core program is their micro-communities, comprised of front-end developers, designers and marketers. These individuals meet regularly to share knowledge and experience to build a more educated and engaged community of founders, tech and business/operations talent.

The organization further fosters a connected community by maintaining a robust calendar of networking and educational events. In addition to SparkAK, Launch League hosts a regional startup conference, Flight, which was first held in December 2016 and attracted more than 200 participants from across the region. Events held more frequently include, tech networking happy hours, startup dinners (held quarterly, the first one is scheduled for March 16), civic hackathons (April 15), and startup career fairs.

“There’s a growing energy around startups that didn’t exist before and we’re hearing people from Columbus, Pittsburgh and beyond asking how we’re doing it. It’s kind of funny to watch their expressions when we tell them the secret sauce is in the community,” said Petroski.

To experience this community for yourself, join Launch League on February 18th and 19th at OSC Tech Lab for SparkAK. Visit the event page for more information and to register.

To learn more about Launch League and how they contribute to Akron’s startup success, visit their website.