The scaleup movement

Northeast Ohio program emphasizes setting business growth goals

Northeast Ohio has focused lots of attention over the last decade on growing a multifaceted ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs starting ventures from scratch. More recently, elements of that ecosystem have morphed to support companies poised to grow but facing barriers, often related to capacity, customer base, or cash management.

Our region is developing its own scaleup ecosystem dedicating its resources to growing companies, creating jobs and developing innovative product lines. One such program is Scalerator NEO, a six-month educational program for leaders who choose to grow their businesses. Scalerator is the creation of renowned ecosystem builder Dan Isenberg and his Babson College colleagues, based on years of global experimentation with this specially tailored curriculum.

In Northeast Ohio, Scalerator is aimed at companies in the range of $5 million to $15 million in revenue, with each cohort including a wide variety of industries, ranging from technology to construction to manufacturing. The program has been operating in Northeast Ohio since 2017 with support from Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the former Richard J. Fasenmyer Foundation, allowing companies to participate tuition-free. To date 39 companies have entered the program, and in fall 2019, Scalerator will begin recruiting for cohort four, set to commence at Bounce Innovation Hub in Akron in April 2020.

Katie Sutter is co-owner and COO of Excelsior Marking, an Akron-based company that specializes in customized product marking. She participated in cohort two in 2018 and reflected on the impact of her company’s experience, noting that “Scalerator gave us tools to refocus our efforts on quality sales over quantity. We have reviewed personnel, products and processes, and made adjustments to foster future growth and improved margins. Our significant growth will be seen in a 20 percent increase in profitability.”

Companies in cohort one also grew revenue 20 percent in the first year and expanded 38 percent from 2017 to 2019, adding 67 jobs through mid-2019.

During this intense shared learning experience, Scalerator companies form tight bonds with fellow cohort members as they engage in workshops, complete homework assignments and participate in challenge groups. The connectivity of companies is fueled by the concept of a Scaleup Marketplace, where participants post offerings from their own operations or networks that could help address the needs of other cohort members. During a recent Marketplace session, postings included referrals to service providers, technology solutions, available space and inventory management consultation.

Following Scalerator graduation, participants stick together for ongoing networking, sharing and socializing during planned alumni events. Graduated Scalerator companies often find themselves on a growth trajectory that they want to pursue in more depth, and those businesses can take advantage of other services in the ecosystem offered by MAGNET or JumpStart’s Burton D. Morgan Mentoring Program.

Scalerator NEO is part of a scaleup movement that emphasizes setting growth goals as a choice that must be pursued with intentionality and discipline. The program provides a proven construct for leaders who “choose growth” and want to work on their business, not just in their business.

Deborah D. Hoover is president and CEO of The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, which champions the entrepreneurial spirit, contributes to a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem and serves as a leader in the field of entrepreneurship education.