In 2002, the forecast for entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio
looked rather dour. A ranking by Entrepreneur Magazine rated
the region 61st dead last among U.S. metropolitan areas
surveyed in terms of attractiveness to innovative start-ups.
Faced with such gloomy proclamations, many promising professionals left the region. Ray Leach, in the true spirit of entrepreneur-ship, decided to run against the herd and stick around. He had already
founded several successful start-ups in the area, and he recognized
the potential that had eluded so many.
Leach began to unearth that potential when he joined Northeast
Ohio Technology Coalition (NorTech) in 2003. With help from
McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm, NorTech was beginning to implement changes to boost the local entrepreneurial economy. The two organizations lacked the necessary resources, however, and Leach soon realized a separate entity needed to be created to
shoulder the burden.
That entity was JumpStart Inc.
Founded in 2004, JumpStart sought to bring together a broad range
of public, private and foundation leaders to promote, support and
sustain entrepreneurs and/or companies that had the potential to
transform the regional economy.
The task was easier said than done, however. Many observers of
local economic development and the entrepreneurial community
believed that Leach would have a limited ability to impact outcomes
that could help transform the region.
Since that time, JumpStart has met with more than 4,800 Northeast
Ohio entrepreneurs, has directly assisted 150 companies and has
made 37 investments in 26 different companies. Leach has also
helped develop IdeaCrossing.com, an online community where
ideas meet capital and where services and support help stimulate
growth and opportunity for a broader audience of entrepreneurs.
In the process, Northeast Ohio has catapulted into Entrepreneur
Magazine’s top 25. With a goal to reach the top 10 within the next few
years, it appears the region’s entrepreneurial forecast is beginning to
HOW TO REACH: JumpStart Inc., www.jumpstartinc.org or (216) 363-3400