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Success in 3-D

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Saturday, February 11 2017
in Business Assistance

As additive manufacturing explodes, MakerGear gets spark from LCCC’s Fab Lab


In the early days of 3-D printing, MakerGear founder Rick Pollack bootstrapped a small business making components in his Shaker Heights garage.

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Cracking cybersecurity: What businesses need to know

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Thursday, January 12 2017
in Business Assistance

As cyber criminals become increasingly sophisticated, digital crime has grown at an alarming rate, motivating businesses of all sizes to strengthen their cybersecurity protocols and hire new talent.

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How a startup becomes a scale-up

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Wednesday, January 11 2017
in Business Assistance

All successful companies start as an idea, but at some point, that idea has to generate sales if the business is to succeed.

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Mastering business fundamentals for startup growth

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Wednesday, January 11 2017
in Business Assistance

With a doctorate in engineering from Case Western Reserve University, Simon Melikian knew a lot about building technology when he founded Recognition Robotics.

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The One Question Every Entrepreneur Should Answer

Posted by John Rastetter
John Rastetter
John advises applicants on their business strategy and the application process
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on Tuesday, December 20 2016
in Business Assistance

I was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama visiting my mother-in-law a few weekends ago.  One of the things I always do while I’m there is visit the University of Alabama. That got me thinking about the entrepreneurship space. 

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Pitching your startup to investors? Be ready to answer 3 questions

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Tuesday, November 22 2016
in Innovation Fund

Entrepreneurs: when pitching to investors, you need to stay focused on only a few key items. While most likely you will be asked about many different aspects of your business, there are three elements you need to understand and be able to discuss in depth and with clarity. Most entrepreneurs would prefer to discuss their product or business idea, because that's what they've been focused on developing for months or years. But investors only have one goal—making a return on their investment.

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How a Favor Helped Launch this Fast Growing Business

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Thursday, November 17 2016
in Innovation Fund

It all began at a funeral home on Cleveland’s west side. The funeral director wanted to help families with the grieving process when not all members could travel to attend the service. He asked his tech-savvy friend Gordon Daily to help.

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A Startup Giving Stroke Victims Hope

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Friday, October 28 2016
in Innovation Fund

Every year nearly 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke. One-third of the survivors experience vision loss. This team plans to give them back their sight.

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Why Startups Should Always be Raising Money

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Friday, October 21 2016
in Business Assistance

Money makes startups fast.

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A Reality Check for Your Startup Expectations

Posted by John Rastetter
John Rastetter
John advises applicants on their business strategy and the application process
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on Thursday, October 06 2016
in Business Assistance

As you begin your journey as an entrepreneur what are your expectations? If you’re like many new entrepreneurs, you’re probably thinking you have a great idea for a new business. You assume you’ll dedicate your time and talents to your startup for the next year or two, get it to positive cash flow in three years, and in five years you will be in control of your destiny. You’ll be in charge of a profitable business venture with opportunities to either grow it or sell it.

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5 Mistakes Startups Make when Negotiating License Agreements

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Friday, September 30 2016
in Business Assistance

Negotiating a license agreement is hard, especially when you’re the small, young company in the deal. Here are the top five mistakes startups make when negotiating.

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Dreaming of an Acquisition? Here’s How to Prepare

Posted by John Rastetter
John Rastetter
John advises applicants on their business strategy and the application process
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on Wednesday, August 24 2016
in Business Assistance

You’ve made it as an entrepreneur. Your startup has positive cash flow, proven growth, and a strong management team. What’s next? No problem, you say. Just sell the company for big bucks. Easier said than done. Here are the things you need to think about before considering acquisition.

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The Most Common Reasons Startups Don’t Receive Funding

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Monday, August 01 2016
in Innovation Fund

Next month the Innovation Fund will announce the latest group of companies to win funding awards. This money is usually the first market validation that a new business idea has the potential for success. But there are a number of reasons why a good idea might not be awarded funding—at least not on the first attempt.

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The Rules of Startup Financials

Posted by Nancy Ernstes
Nancy Ernstes
Nancy helps entrepreneurs develop pro-forma financial statements for their busin
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on Friday, July 29 2016
in Business Assistance

Applying for funding when you're a cash strapped entrepreneur can be stressful. Developing the financials for your business can bring on additional stress, but it doesn't have to. As long as you have a well thought out business plan, doing the financials to go with it is just a matter of putting the dollars to the business tasks. Here are my seven rules of effective startup financials.

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Turning $100,000 into Millions

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Monday, July 25 2016
in Innovation Fund

Every startup that’s raising money needs to start somewhere. For startups in Northeast Ohio, that place is the Innovation Fund. That’s where Doug Carr brought his company.

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Cleveland Whiskey’s College Connection

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Wednesday, July 06 2016
in Innovation Fund

Cleveland Whiskey is one of Northeast Ohio’s most successful and well-known startups. The company has raised more than $2 million, perfected a disruptive technology that dramatically accelerates the maturation of distilled spirits, and sold more than 200,000 bottles of its whiskey around the world. 

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A Cleveland Startup Blazing the Trail in VR Gaming

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Friday, July 01 2016
in Innovation Fund

“VR is not a trend. VR is the sandbox the future will be created in.”

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Under the Microscope: Why this Scientist Launched a Startup

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Tuesday, June 21 2016
in Innovation Fund

Todd Doehring spent years working as a scientist at the Cleveland Clinic and as a professor of Bioengineering at Drexel University. His projects centered on images and micro-testing systems. He wanted to make them work better for doctors and other scientists. Todd researched and taught biomechanics of soft tissues and microscopy.

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Improve Your Odds of Raising Money

Posted by John Rastetter
John Rastetter
John advises applicants on their business strategy and the application process
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on Tuesday, June 14 2016
in Innovation Fund

If you’re running a startup, chances are you’ll need to know how to raise capital.  You need to know how to find the right potential funding sources and once those sources are identified, how to increase your odds to get funding from those sources.

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How This Startup Captured 92% of Its Customers from Social Media

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Monday, June 13 2016
in Innovation Fund

Beth Potratz owns an eharmony.com of sorts for truckers. Not for love, but for matching truck drivers with jobs they will love. The human resource expert was working on driver recruitment solutions for a trucking industry client when she spotted a two-way challenge: employers couldn’t find the best-fitting drivers and drivers couldn’t find the best-fitting jobs.

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How Startups Should Approach Doing Financials

Posted by Nancy Ernstes
Nancy Ernstes
Nancy helps entrepreneurs develop pro-forma financial statements for their busin
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on Wednesday, May 25 2016
in Business Assistance

"Wait, I have to do financials for my business?!" That's what many entrepreneurs shriek as perspiration rolls down their foreheads when they're told three or five year pro-forma financials are needed for their business when applying to the Innovation Fund. That's closely followed by, "How am I supposed to do that? I'm an entrepreneur, not an accountant." In all honesty, when asked to write this blog I shrieked, "But I'm a numbers person. I don't write!" It took a bit to calm me down, but I realized I do know about financials and I have written before, so I could do this. Hopefully, your panic will subside or at least diminish and be replaced by some degree of confidence after reading this blog.

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Top Ways Startups Can Make their Money Last

Posted by John Rastetter
John Rastetter
John advises applicants on their business strategy and the application process
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on Wednesday, May 18 2016
in Business Assistance

If you’re running a startup I’ve got one important bit of advice: you will never have enough funding. You will (and should) always be looking for your next source of funds. Well, maybe never is a bit over the top, but never is a good benchmark during the first five years of any startup.

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Bringing Blood Tests Out of the Lab

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, May 17 2016
in Uncategorized

To perform most blood tests, a nurse draws a vial of blood from a patient and sends the sample to a lab, where it’s spun in a big machine and analyzed. Then the lab technician sends the patient’s results to the physician who ordered the test. The entire process takes up to two hours, but can be rushed for urgent cases.

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Here's $100,000. How Much of Your Company Do I Get?

Posted by Russ Donda
Russ Donda
Russ is the EIR for medical device and biosensor technologies at GLIDE, BioEnter
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on Wednesday, May 11 2016
in Business Assistance

It's a valid question. Your innovation is going to require money in order to advance from development to commercial launch. Whether your total capital needs are $3 million or $30 million, the needed money can trickle in via smaller increments or in tranches of millions of dollars—depending on how you ultimately structure your funding request. But, independent of such incremental amounts, you must establish and validate a valuation for your business. In other words, how much of your company (i.e., stock or ownership) will an investor get for their investment?

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A Cleveland Startup that's Quietly Winning

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
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on Wednesday, May 11 2016
in Innovation Fund

Some growing startups are flashy, hit social media hard, and make headlines in Inc. or Entrepreneur. Others grow in a quieter, more conservative way. David Levine built Wireless Environment like that.

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Why Every Startup Needs a Task and Timeline

Posted by Russ Donda
Russ Donda
Russ is the EIR for medical device and biosensor technologies at GLIDE, BioEnter
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on Monday, May 09 2016
in Business Assistance

An embryo seems to miraculously mature through layers of development. Cellular differentiation, a forming spinal column, organ development, and more, are all necessary for a healthy, vital birth. Just as the developing fetus goes through a myriad of maturation steps, your innovation and your company must proceed methodically through multiple tasks. But this business procession is no miracle—it’s plain old work. I would say the adage, “plan your work, and work your plan” is invaluable advice—provided that your plan is well constructed.

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Inventor’s Syndrome: The Symptoms and the Cure

Posted by Russ Donda
Russ Donda
Russ is the EIR for medical device and biosensor technologies at GLIDE, BioEnter
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on Friday, May 06 2016
in Business Assistance

Can you diagnose these symptoms? The subject has conceived of a novel innovation that he or she believes is so important it will soon become a staple product across the globe. The inventor thinks its features and benefits solve a problem facing the world. However, our inventor has never queried anyone beyond him or herself and a few friends.

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An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Patent Infringement Research

Posted by Russ Donda
Russ Donda
Russ is the EIR for medical device and biosensor technologies at GLIDE, BioEnter
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on Tuesday, May 03 2016
in Business Assistance

How likely are you to obtain a patent for your invention? If you made and sold it right now, would you be infringing someone else’s patent? Researching the patent databases will help you answer these questions and give you a good idea about whether your innovation is already described or claimed by others.

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3 Ways the Innovation Fund is About More Than Money

Posted by Guest
Guest
Entrepreneurs, innovators, mentors and investors who've contributed to the GLIDE
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on Monday, May 02 2016
in Innovation Fund

This guest blog was contributed by Andrew Bennett, co-founder of KnowledgePost and $25,000 Innovation Fund award winner. It's a firsthand perspective on the Innovation Fund application process. 

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Why Having a Patent Doesn't Guarantee Startup Success

Posted by Russ Donda
Russ Donda
Russ is the EIR for medical device and biosensor technologies at GLIDE, BioEnter
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, April 20 2016
in Business Assistance

IP. Many of us have heard that commonly used abbreviation “intellectual property.” IP includes patents, trade secrets, trademarks and copyrights. If you have an innovative idea that could, some day help people or solve a real world problem, then being a little versed in IP, especially patents, could be very important.

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Five Things to Address if You Want to Get Your Technology to Market

Posted by Russ Donda
Russ Donda
Russ is the EIR for medical device and biosensor technologies at GLIDE, BioEnter
User is currently offline
on Friday, April 08 2016
in Business Assistance

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear about an entrepreneur’s new service or product. If you’re one of those innovators toying with such a technology right now, then you must deal with some very critical realities. In fact, I would boil those realities down to five basic elements.

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This Startup Owns Heart Rate Driven Virtual Exercise

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, March 23 2016
in Innovation Fund

meet the new company twitter bodiesdonerightAs virtual reality continues to make headlines as it floods into the main stream tech scene, one startup recently funded by Innovation Fund Northeast Ohio is hoping virtual exercise follows suit.

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An App that’s Changing the Way We Watch Sports

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
User is currently offline
on Friday, March 18 2016
in Innovation Fund

Joel CritesThis month, the Innovation Fund announced its latest funding round, injecting $250,000 into seven Northeast Ohio startups. This cycle was a first for us—it was our first venture into gaming technology.

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Students and Startups Make the Perfect Pair

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Wednesday, March 09 2016
in Internships

This article was originally featured in the Winter/Spring 2016 issue of Community College Entrepreneurship, a publication of NACCE.

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What 'Skin in the Game' Means to Investors

Posted by Cliff Reynolds
Cliff Reynolds
As Director of GLIDE, Cliff is responsible for the planning, organizing, and dir
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on Wednesday, January 27 2016
in Innovation Fund

skin in the game imageEvery quarter a handful of entrepreneurs are pitching their companies to the Innovation Fund investment committee. That same day, the committee decides which companies will receive between $25,000 and $100,000 to advance their technologies.

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Meet the startup team turning wood into energy

Posted by Leigh Keeton
Leigh Keeton
Leigh manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging w
User is currently offline
on Monday, December 28 2015
in Innovation Fund

The founding team of Renewable Carbon & Electric is trying to change how we produce energy and make products. With a recent $25,000 Innovation Fund award, the company will continue to test the wood-based carbon products they hope will help reduce the environmental problems facing the world today.

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Size Up Your Market with These Four Questions

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Friday, December 11 2015
in Business Assistance

Sizing the market is a necessary task for business planning and budgeting for all startups. Those seeking investment from third parties want to be particularly diligent in this task, as VCs and angel investors need to know they are investing in a business with potentially large market size. To determine the market size for your startup, ask yourself the following four questions:

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Ten Years and 1,000 Pitches Later

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Wednesday, September 17 2014
in Uncategorized

The Ohio Third Frontier's Entrepreneurial Signature Program has been supporting Northeast Ohio's incubators and entrepreneurial support organizations for approximately ten years now. GLIDE joined the ESP as a state-funded incubator 2006 and since that time we have helped numerous companies through the challenging early days of their startup.

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Why the Innovation Fund Loves When Entrepreneurs Who Don’t Win, Don’t Give Up

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Monday, August 04 2014
in Innovation Fund

You know the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again?” Well, it’s pretty fitting for the Innovation Fund’s application process. On average, it takes entrepreneurs two to three attempts before they win funding. Surprised? I’m not.

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Your New Tech Transfer Office

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Wednesday, October 23 2013
in Business Assistance

What do you think of when you hear technology transfer? Maybe you picture a university professor approaching the school's technology transfer office with an idea that has been the basis of her graduate team's research for years. The college then foots the bill to patent it, build a prototype, and license it to a startup for commercialization.

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How Startups Can Determine Market Need

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
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on Monday, September 24 2012
in Business Assistance

I wish I had a dollar for every time we are told that the market really wants this product or service. For most startup companies conducting well designed and professional market research is a non-starter. In addition getting even limited access market research reports can also be very expensive. Scouring free online news reports can be helpful but generally they only report a snippet of the actual data in a market research report and very seldom question the validity of the study. Some startups conduct informal surveys that can be helpful but probably not conclusive based on who they pick for the study.

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The GLIDE Blog is Open for Business Assistance

Posted by Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco
Dennis Cocco is responsible for developing marketing and technology-based busine
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, August 15 2012
in Business Assistance


openforbusiness 1Well, this is a first! The first GLIDE blog...when we started GLIDE in 2001 I am not sure if blogs existed. But over ten plus years you see and learn a lot. And that's what the GLIDE blog will be for the most part, a discussion of the entrepreneurial lessons we've both learned and shared in the past decade. All the questions we've been asked by entrepreneurs and the business advice we've given will make their way to this blog.

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Latest Blog Posts

  • As additive manufacturing explodes, MakerGear gets spark from LCCC’s Fab Lab


    In the early days of 3-D printing, MakerGear founder Rick Pollack bootstrapped a small business making components in his Shaker Heights garage.

    “When we started out, we made our machines out of laser-cut plywood,” Pollack recalls. “I was making printer parts one at a time in my garage.”

    In 2008, a friend introduced him to the Fab Lab at Lorain County Community College’s Nord Advanced Technologies Center. The lab had a much better laser-cutting machine, so Pollack quickly jumped on the opportunity to use it to augment his own equipment.

    “The lab gave us access to a $25,000 piece of cutting and fabricating machinery for basically no cost,” Pollack says. “It was really a visionary thing for the college to do. They saw how manufacturing companies like ours needed access to advanced machinery that required too large of an investment for a startup.”

    Eight years later, MakerGear is a thriving manufacturer selling thousands of 3-D printers a year to companies via its website, www.makergear.com, and an Amazon reseller.

    Printing in three dimensions

    3-D printing – also called additive manufacturing – is still a relatively young technology, but it’s fast becoming a key aspect of advanced manufacturing. Once the exclusive domain of research and development, 3-D printers have expanded beyond their R&D roots of modeling and prototyping to the production of end-use products.

    “The applications of additive manufacturing are expected to grow significantly as advancement in materials and technologies continue,” says R. Scott Zitek, Assistant Professor, Automation and Fab Lab Coordinator at LCCC. “The ability to print objects with various combinations of mechanical, optical and thermal properties will expand the possible applications.”

    Improvements in the speed and accuracy of 3-D printers are creating a world in which plastic or metal parts can be printed instead of formed in tooling molds, eliminating the time-consuming process of creating a mold. That allows the manufacturing process to jump from raw material to product fabrication, resulting in less scrap and waste.

    “As the technology evolves it will be able to produce increasingly more capable parts by integrating materials that offer a range of properties from flexible to rigid, transparent to opaque, and conductive to isolating,” Zitek says. “In addition to prototyping, this technology will be used for the creation of rapid tooling and flexible production.”

    3-D printing can potentially allow for a made-to-order production system in which products can be fabricated quickly and shipped in smaller batches, allowing distributors, wholesalers and retailers to more closely manage their inventories.

    Energizing MakerGear

    LCCC opened the Fab Lab in 2005, making it the first of its kind in the country outside of Boston. When Pollack heard about it three years later, he decided to augment MakerGear’s production operations.

    He quickly set to work using the machinery to build a better product, hiring an LCCC student to run the Fab Lab’s cutter. He even took a course on how to use the lab’s advanced equipment.

    “So many technology businesses are out there looking for a way to bootstrap, and LCCC is one of the local entities that has provided a facility that can help deliver that,” Pollack says. “And outside of the class fee, it’s available for no cost – a huge factor for a company just starting out.”

    With access to the Fab Lab’s more advanced machinery, MakerGear’s business began to take off. Pollack was able to spend less time focused on the manufacturing process and more time focused on building his business.

    “We were really able to bootstrap the business with that increased level of efficiency, as well as build a commercially viable business with the capacity to grow even more,” Pollack says. “We could devote time to refining the product, refining our business plan and developing strategies to take our products to market.”

    MakerGear has continued to grow along with the rapidly expanding market for 3-D printing. It has purchased specialized machinery to outfit its production facility in Beachwood and it is preparing to open a second location in Northeast Ohio to serve as an R&D and production facility. MakerGear will produce parts for existing products as well as develop new products at the new location, which will house multiple production CNC centers.

    As a way to thank the college for its help in getting MakerGear off the ground, the company last year donated one of its 3-D printers to the Fab Lab.

    “You think about the fact that I paid $100 for a course on how to use the Fab Lab equipment at LCCC, and the benefits our company has received from it, many times over,” Pollack says. “It wasn’t a cheap investment for a local college to make, but my business, and so many others, have benefited from it.”

  • As cyber criminals become increasingly sophisticated, digital crime has grown at an alarming rate, motivating businesses of all sizes to strengthen their cybersecurity protocols and hire new talent.

    To learn more about the evolving area of cybersecurity, I spoke with Kelly Zelesnik, dean of the Division of Engineering, Business and Information Technology at Lorain County Community College, Douglas Huber, LCCC assistant professor of computer information systems, and Hikmat Chedid, LCCC professor and director of the Advanced Digital Forensics Institute. Here's what the group wanted you to know:

    Cyber attacks are more common than you think. 

    Zelesnik: Most companies don't want you to know if they have been breached. So every time you hear of confidential files being hacked, there are probably 50 to 100 other significant breaches that you don't hear about.

    Some industries more vulnerable than others.

    Huber: A really vulnerable area is in the manufacturing space. The industrial controls systems that control valves, tanks, manufacturing machines, rolling mills and nuclear power plants. Many of these were never developed with security in mind, and because of the expense, they are upgraded only in a 20- or 30-year cycle.

    There are more stringent cybersercurity policies on the way.

    Chedid: Cybersecurity insurance policies are already in effect, but new, more stringent policies are coming soon. These policies will help ensure that a company is conforming to some minimal security standards and provide a baseline of security.

    Chedid: Companies should also keep in mind that Europe has rich data privacy laws that are different from the U.S. That affects how cybersecurity solutions get architected and delivered, so you have to be compliant with those European standards. People with knowledge of that space can be very valuable in cybersecurity activities.

    Make sure your cybersecurity professionals have the right skills.

    Huber: Cybersecurity involves everything from auditing and policy development, all the way up to very specific technical skills, such as penetration testing and vulnerability testing. There are functions that are technically deep, but there is still a place for nontechnical people in the profession.

  • All successful companies start as an idea, but at some point, that idea has to generate sales if the business is to succeed.

    “People come up with an idea and start a business but in a lot of cases don’t have the business background to drive the company through to profits,” says Cliff Reynolds, co-director of GLIDE.

    Companies that are able to make the leap from startup to scale-up find the right support along the way.

    Jim Walborn of Banyan TechnologyWhen Jim Walborn and Lance Healy started a commercial construction materials distributorship in 2001, it wasn’t with the idea of becoming technology entrepreneurs. But as their young company developed processes to better manage freight logistics and connections, the pair began to see the potential for software that could help other companies do the same.

    They took their idea for Banyan Technology to GLIDE, Lorain County Community College’s technology incubator, with the idea of growing it into its own business.

    “When we first moved to Lorain County, we took that leap of faith from an entrepreneurial standpoint,” Walborn says. “A big reason why we moved here was because of what LCCC and GLIDE provided in terms of support for a tech startup.”

    After relocating to the Great Lakes Technology Park on the LCCC campus, Banyan Technology’s staff learned important lessons that helped them bridge the gap from idea to commercialization to growth. These lessons have transformed the company into a successful freight management software and solutions provider.

    Find good advisors

    It’s a lesson any tech entrepreneur needs to learn early – discover people who have gone down similar roads and learn from them. Mentorship is crucial because there are so many potential pitfalls in going from a startup to a growth company.

    “GLIDE exists, in part, to help take some of the learning curve out of the entrepreneurial life cycle,” Walborn says. “You learn from fellow business owners who have been where you want to go.”

    By focusing on the business development process, the GLIDE team helped the company bring clarity and understanding to the business, developing a strong foundation for growth.

    GLIDE’s Reynolds says that without that strong foundation and a well-defined sense of direction, a young company may not make it past the startup phase.

    “Our job is to take a great idea that an entrepreneur has and give him or her the tools to fashion it into a business plan,” he says. “We take someone who might have a great idea for a product or concept, but might not have the business background, and help them connect with mentors and other relevant support.

    “Initially, mentors are experienced people the founders trust,” Reynolds says. “But as you get bigger, creating a formal board of directors that meets on a regular basis and provides the management with strategic input becomes important.”

    As Banyan progressed, Walborn and Healy formed a formal board of directors, whose membership has changed over time as the company scaled and its needs changed.

    “When we look at a board, we are looking for those people who could help govern and guide,” Walborn says. “At the end of the day, Lance and I have a great vision of what we want to take Banyan to, but how do you complement that with other industry experts or businesspeople who are very good at what they do, from either a finance standpoint or experience in an industry? How do you make that gel together to strengthen the backbone of the company?”

    Fund the business

    Cliff Reynolds of GLIDEFunding is the biggest issue for any company going from startup to scale-up mode, Reynolds says.

    “Because young companies carry a high risk for investors, obtaining cash requires constant effort,” he says.

    It sounds like a cliché, but cash is the lifeblood of any growth company.

    “You need to know what your cash needs will be as your business advances,” says Russell Donda, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at GLIDE. “What does your cash position look like in the next month, the next quarter, the next year? Plan for any shortfalls by raising the money that you’ll need ahead of time.”

    While that has to be done from the start, it can become even more of an issue as you grow, Donda says.

    “As you are adding people, adding overhead, you’ve got a bigger nut to crack every month. You have to understand clearly and early where your shortfalls are and plan for those.”

    Through its network, GLIDE provides access to a number of potential funding sources. For a young Banyan Technology, that meant securing a $350,000 early stage commitment from JumpStart, a Northeast Ohio nonprofit focused on accelerating the success of entrepreneurs.

    “With GLIDE’s guidance, we became a JumpStart portfolio company,” Walborn says. “The two organizations accelerated our growth not just through financial investment but through the investment of knowledge that they’ve passed on as we’ve grown.”

    Banyan Technology used that early money to improve its computer infrastructure and ramp up its hiring of computer programmers. As it was doing that, it was reducing its risk.

    “As companies accomplish development milestones, they become less risky, and when commercial launch -- and then increased revenue -- occur, investment risk becomes even less, and more investment opportunities become available,” Reynolds says.

    For Banyan Technology, that opportunity came from River SaaS Capital, a debt fund that specializes in lending to Software-as-a Service companies. It provided $2 million in nondilutive capital that not only simplifies Banyan Technology’s debt structure but fuels accelerated growth by paying for much-needed sales and marketing resources.

    “Lance and I were the two sales guys,” Walborn says. “Lance and I are not the sales guys any more. We put together a sales team and we are putting together a marketing team so we can create the market awareness to help drive sales.”

    Wendy Jarchow, chief investment officer of River SaaS Capital, says her firm is eager to fund scaling companies and work with them to continue their growth.

    “Companies like Banyan are getting traction, they have a solid customer base, they are growing and need capital so they can focus on sales and marketing so they can scale their businesses,” Jarchow says. “River SaaS is not just a financing partner. We can bring to bear some operational experience and we can help portfolio companies with introductions to new networks.”

    Hire and develop talent

    As young companies begin to scale up, it becomes increasingly important to find the right talent.

    “You are only as good as the people you hire, so it’s important to find qualified people,” GLIDE’s Donda says. “The companies that I’ve worked with that brought in good people have rocketed to the next stage.”

    For Banyan Technology, being on LCCC’s campus gave it ready access to high-quality talent. LCCC’s student population provides Banyan Technology with a pipeline to the specialized workforce of technology developers it needs to keep its business thriving.

    “We have had 17 interns through LCCC and the University Partnership, and hired seven of them as full-time employees,” Walborn says.

    As the company has matured, it has evolved from a startup into a pillar of the technology park.

    “We didn’t plan on taking over the third floor of an entire building, or growing from five people to a team of 42 in the same location,” he says. “But this is where we’ve found the resources to grow the company.”

    Banyan made a major hiring move in October. Brian Smith, who helped grow Proforma from $40 million to $400 million and ultimately became its president and CEO, came on board as Banyan Technology’s new chief executive, a role previously held by Walborn.

    “Lance and I have a vision to make a difference in our industry,” Walborn says. “We understand the industry. There is experience that Brian Smith brings to the table that we don’t have. He’s navigated the HR side. He’s navigated the finance side. He understands growth and can complement what Lance and I are doing. We just put in another pillar to strengthen the organization. That’s really what Brian brings to the table. He’s a classic hire that is better than yourself.”

    Build a strong culture

    A company’s culture plays a major role in attracting and retaining employees. In the midst of trying to develop and commercialize an idea, the founder of a scale-up can’t lose sight of the type of business he or she is building. It’s the founder’s idea and company, but for the people coming on board, it’s their livelihood and their reality for 40 hours or more each week.

    “As a company gets bigger, the CEO can’t touch every single thing,” Reynolds says. “When you bring in a level below the CEO, and then you’ve got employees reporting to them, it changes the chemistry. Hopefully, every level you bring in takes on the culture of the CEO.”

    Walborn and Healy have worked hard at keeping a strong culture as Banyan Technology scales in size.

    “We have a culture where we have each other’s backs,” Walborn says. “In our space, you really need to have a work hard, play hard kind of culture, where you know how to balance work and play, and you emphasize the importance of giving back to the community. It’s about creating the type of culture that people want to be a part of.”

    Walborn credits GLIDE, LCCC and other regional institutions for making it possible.

    “You look around and see the investment opportunities and the high caliber of interns and graduates produced by the educational institutions throughout the area, and you realize this is a great place to develop a business,” he says. “There are so many organizations out there to help you. All you have to do is ask the right questions.”