Last year, in April, Doug Weintraub stood in front of a crowd of a few hundred people in Akron’s historic B.F. Goodrich building on South Main Street as the newly appointed CEO of Bounce Innovation Hub, an organization representing the city’s newest push to create “jobs of the future.”
“Akron has always been a hub of innovation and ingenuity,” said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan via press release in August 2017, “and my innovation-based economic development strategy is designed to harness the incredible talent we already have in Akron and attract new talent by creating a one-stop shop for innovation and entrepreneurship.”
And with that, Bounce was born.
In that April crowd were some of the people Weintraub had met as he traveled the area introducing himself and learning about the surrounding community. Through those conversations, the entrepreneur, investor and founding member of Cleveland’s venture development organization Jumpstart Inc. discovered people with pent-up demand for ideas and opportunities, people who were hopeful for Akron’s economic future and people eager for a success story.
But business incubators and accelerators are not new to Akron. Bounce’s generational predecessors include the Akron Industrial Incubator, which became the Akron Global Business Accelerator, and Bits and Atoms. While the AGBA was productive, the latter was just a blip on the city’s entrepreneurial timeline. Sitting in the driver’s seat of Akron’s newest economic development vehicle, it’s up to Weintraub to determine which path Bounce will take.
As head of Bounce, Weintraub, is in a difficult position. He’s got investors to please — the taxpaying citizens of Ohio, Summit County and Akron, and a city political administration hoping to spur local business growth — and metrics to meet. But none of the entities working within the bricks-and-mortar of Bounce, entities that ultimately drive those metrics, is under Weintraub’s control. So how will he achieve results?
“Our goal is to help these companies grow — build them, be supportive of them, but actually graduate them,” he says. “This is not a place that everybody stays forever.”