Diversity of ideas

Understanding tech startups to help foster collaboration

When you think of tech startups, what immediately comes to mind? My guess is you’re picturing a group of 20-something guys in hoodies hunched over laptops, pounding Monster Energy drinks, working out of a garage somewhere in Silicon Valley.

Smart guys with talent and motivation, they are on a mission to develop the next big software platform — the next Google, Facebook, Uber or AirBnb. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But if this is your only view of tech startups, then there is a lot more to see here.

Ultimately, understanding tech startups and how they operate can lead to possibilities for collaboration with mid-market and large corporations, especially those looking to innovate. Not only are tech startups more than just software, they are diverse, bringing different ideas to the table, and they are nimble and able to move quickly.

Lay of the land

First, not all tech startups are in Silicon Valley. In fact, it is estimated that in the Northeast Ohio network alone, which covers 21 counties, there are approximately 350 companies in the Entrepreneurial Services Provider (ESP) program, funded by the Ohio Third Frontier program. That includes close to 50 tech companies in the Bounce network.

Second, technology doesn’t equal software or IT. Many people hear the word “tech” and think “software.” But software is just one of several categories of technology, albeit a large one. Because a portion of our funding comes from the ESP network and Ohio Third Frontier, we define technology according to their guidelines, which is software/IT, biomedical/life sciences, advanced materials, advanced manufacturing, energy and sensors.

More than software

Here at Bounce, the majority of our companies are software, but there are more than 20 that fall into the biomedical, life sciences and advanced materials categories. And these companies are doing amazing things, such as creating 3D cancer tumor cells to increase accuracy of clinical trials, improving adhesives and wound dressings, developing all-natural skin care products and producing multifunctional, polymer-based coatings for vehicles.

Finally, tech founders and employees are a diverse group, not just 20-something males. Here at Bounce, 29 percent of our companies are run by females or persons of color. As well, if you line up all of our founders, their ages run the gamut from 65-plus to under 20. The Bounce workforce is made up of a large percentage of females and our leadership and advisory team is 50 percent female. Of course, those numbers can and need to be improved. As an industry, there needs to be more emphasis on outreach, support and funding for female- and minority-led tech startups.

As you consider your own company’s journey, perhaps there is a technology or innovation that a startup in Northeast Ohio is working on right now that could help solve a problem or take your business in a new direction.

Doug Weintraub, CEO of Bounce Innovation Hub, is an industry leader with more than 30 years of business and entrepreneurial experience in Northeast Ohio. An active angel investor, serial entrepreneur and mentor, Doug has helped grow businesses by providing investment opportunities and coaching to more than a dozen companies. He is a founding member of JumpStart Inc. and served on many board committees, from its inception to his final role as chairman from 2009 to 2012.

The public is invited to a Grand Opening and Open House event on May 22, celebrating Bounce’s brand-new, first-floor coworking, event and maker space opening in mid-May. There will be activities all day, with a culminating event from 4 to 8 p.m. For more information and to register, please visit bouncehub.org/grand-opening.