Most of my columns are directed at entrepreneurs and startup companies. This one is a little different. I’d like to reach out to the CEOs, senior executives and innovation officers of our region’s many Fortune 1000 businesses.
Here’s the message: Columbus is developing as an innovation hub, a place where entrepreneurs and a connected business community can work together to build the products people want and the companies people need.
There’s a world of opportunity for this region in the words “connected business community.” And I don’t mean ordinary opportunity.
Rather, there’s something unique that is happening here — a kind of synergy between corporations with needs and startups with solutions that is already accelerating the success of a number of young companies.
Leaders in Columbus’ corporations and midsized businesses really do want to help grow Central Ohio’s innovation economy.
How do I know? Individuals and firms have contributed talent, focus and resources. Executives have served as advisers and mentors to entrepreneurs. And still they are asking, “What more can we do to feed the entrepreneurial economy here?”
There’s an answer.
Most startups don’t fail because they lack investment capital. Nor do they fail from poor execution or runaway development costs. Most startups fail because they don’t have customers.
Help build sustainable companies
So if you believe that new businesses and the jobs they produce are the lifeblood of every economy, here are three specific ways you can help entrepreneurs build sustainable companies by helping them develop customers:
1. Include young companies and their new technologies in your company’s make or buy decisions. Every corporation is looking for innovative ways to address new opportunities, solve problems or reduce costs.
No one company has the expertise or bandwidth to accomplish everything on the list. Startups are amazingly nimble with remarkable ideas. Become deliberate about seeking a local match.
2. Get up close and personal with entrepreneurs and startups in the region. Attend events that showcase young companies, such as the second annual VentureNEXT on Thursday, Oct. 22. Give Rev1 a call and let us help explore if your needs match the solutions being delivered by our portfolio companies.
3. CEOs, senior executives and chief innovation officers need to use your contacts to help connect regional entrepreneurs with decision-makers who might be a fit even if your business isn’t. It’s all about opening doors before entrepreneurs have to knock.
Over the last several quarters, we’ve engaged in a concentrated effort to help entrepreneurs make connections with potential customers. Ten of our startups have created business relationships with leading firms in our region, including Cardinal Health, M/I Homes, Safelite® AutoGlass, Worthington Industries and others.
We can all work together to capitalize on this momentum.
Tom Walker is the president and CEO of Rev1 Ventures. Tom is a seasoned founder and manager of venture funds and entrepreneurial initiatives. He has been a leader in entrepreneurship and turning innovation-based discoveries into commercial opportunities for 20 years.