Doug Weintraub looks to rev up Akron’s newest entrepreneurial engine

 

“I’m seeing the doors flying wide open and I’m seeing the entrepreneurs awaken to the competition among themselves, among other companies,” Weintraub says. “I see companies that, because we’re starting to have all these conversations and discussions about the companies, they’re looking to do things differently, kind of like a reset or restart. That means the companies are thinking about how to grow and how to add capital, which means they’re listening to the EIRs, which means they’re starting to gain traction with capital. And that, to me, says we’re starting to hit on all cylinders because now the companies have awoken.”

Making connections

Another part of helping its resident companies find success is fostering relationships with existing companies outside of Bounce. Some of that work will happen in the building’s common area on the philosophically critical — in terms of Weintraub’s vision for the accelerator — first floor, a place where people can come together, talk without an agenda and network.

A liaison on staff will work to connect companies to Bounce’s entrepreneurial residents. Weintraub says Bounce is also fielding requests from companies asking to use space in the building as a resource for innovation.

Bounce is also, tangentially, working another angle to support area early stage companies. In December, it announced the formation of Fusion Fund, a $20 million, for-profit venture capital fund aimed at growing companies in and around Ohio. Along with partners Acquire Investments and JumpStart, the fund offers seed and early-stage investment for companies located within a four-hour radius of Akron, with preference given to those located in the Akron area. Funding is anticipated to range from $250,000 to $1 million per investment.

To help manage and market the fund, Bounce was awarded a federal seed fund grant for $300,000. It is currently looking to raise additional capital, both private and institutional, setting its sights on a goal of $20 million.

“We’re not responsible for the Fusion Fund, but the impetus behind the Fusion Fund is capital,” says Weintraub, who represents Bounce on the fund’s investment committee.

At the time of the interview, Weintraub said the fund hadn’t made any investments, but the committee was engaged in a number of ongoing discussions.

When Bounce is full steam ahead, he says the accelerator will be fighting to figure out how to find room for tenants. Companies will be graduating into independence, its programming menu will be robust and the event and maker spaces will be buzzing.

“I hope that we have expanded to take on another building to be able to house companies,” Weintraub says. “I hope that this model works and it grows and that it’s communitywide. We can expand maybe to the nontech world to help grow jobs in Akron and support the community. If we’ve accomplished that, then I think we hit on all cylinders.”

Takeaways

» Accountability is critical to success.
» Open doors to facilitate connections.
» Create a space where the seeds of innovation can germinate.