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Innovation Fund Commits $275,000 to 5 Northeast Ohio Startup Companies

Cycle 49

December 9, 2019 |Elyria, OH: Innovation Fund Northeast Ohio, the region’s most active pre-seed fund for technology-based startups, has awarded $275,000 to five startup companies. These companies are due to receive Innovation Fund awards ranging from $25,000 to $75,000, allowing them to carry out projects that will further their technologies.

“The quality of presentations from this group of entrepreneurs made the round of funding extremely competitive, which is a testament to how the region is rising the tide going forward,”-said Jim Walborn, Co-Director of GLIDE.  

The following five companies received funding in the 49th cycle, which ended on September 15, 2019. They were chosen after a thorough three-month application and selection process: ($25,000 | Cleveland Heights) applies advanced machine learning technology to help prevent U.S. corporations from overpaying the $30B of sales tax that is paid in error each year. Currently, the only option is to have a team of external tax consultants spend months to recover this money through a reverse audit, but they charge up to 35% in contingency fees. With’s subscription software, corporations can prevent these tax overpayments from happening in the first place and break the endless cycle of reverse audits.

According to CEO Austin Murray, what differentiates them from others on the market is that “ is the only company offering machine learning software that corrects tax over- and underpayments proactively.”

Strife AI ($25,000 | Olmsted Township) is developing a software platform to allow video game developers to leverage the latest machine learning (ML) techniques. With billions of dollars up for grabs, competition in the gaming industry is extremely fierce.  Players have both limited time and money, so game development studios of all sizes are looking for cutting-edge gameplay to entice players to their games.  ML is a promising area for unlocking new kinds of player experiences, but many small game development studios lack the expertise needed to add this technology to their games.

“Every existing game genre could use ML,” says founder Brendan Mulcahy. By creating an affordable and reusable software package, Strife AI can enable these companies to attract new players and sell more games. 

RoadPrintz Inc. ($75,000 | Cleveland Heights) is bringing modern robotic technology to the dangerous and inefficient field of pavement marking, superseding the historical practice of hand stenciling symbols such as turn arrows, bike logos, etc. Founder Sam Bell is developing a special truck equipped with a robotic arm that won’t be scalded by using hot paint that dries in less than a minute. Instead of using stencils, it will use GPS measurements guided by a computer. Their system will dramatically increase safety and improve efficiency of road painting, offering greater precision, speed, and flexibility while reducing risk to operators, reducing traffic congestion, and supporting greater road safety through enhanced markings.

Using this modern technology, Bell figures he can restripe roads for less than a third of the going rate. “Our focus is on the robot intelligence that makes our system capable of outperforming humans in road painting,” he says.

Thrivable ($75,000 | Bedford) is a technology platform that helps health care organizations tap into a comprehensive patient database to do market research activities. Right now the market research process is slow, expensive, and frustrating for companies. Thrivable has created a solution that reduces the time it takes to get insights from months to hours.

“This company began as a labor of love. I met a woman who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and we wanted to connect and learn from others in our situation. So we built a website called Diabetes Daily to make it happen,” founder David Edelman says. “As our community grew, health care organizations began reaching out to better understand our community. They said that they were struggling to find the right patients to speak with about their products. We built Thrivable to address their needs.”

NelDerm ($75,000 |Strongsville) develops and sells hydrogel dressings for treating various types of wounds, securing IV lines, and collaborations with wearable medical technology companies. NelDerm’s hydrogel dressings provide a truly hypoallergenic alternative in would care, based upon careful research and development. They are an ideal solution for any patient with sensitive or fragile skin.

“We believe completely in the gentle effectiveness of our Hydrogel Dressings, and we know they fill a significant need in improving patient care,” says founder Kevin Nelson. “That’s why we founded NelDerm – to help patients and care providers.”

Since the Innovation Fund launched in 2007, it has committed more than $15 million to 274 Northeast Ohio startups.

For more information on these and all the Innovation Fund portfolio companies, visit  

About the Innovation Fund
The Innovation Fund, founded by the Lorain County Community College Foundation, is Northeast Ohio’s most active and successful early-stage fund. It awards technology-based startups up to $100,000 so they can validate their technologies and business concepts. The Innovation Fund averages six funding awards each quarter and fills the capital needs of businesses at the earliest stage of development, before they can attract angel and venture capital funding. Innovation Fund awards are made with funds from the Ohio Third Frontier, which have been combined with matching support and contributions from the Innovation Fund partners. These partners include the University of Akron, the University of Akron Research Foundation, Braintree Partners, Cleveland State University, the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE), the Lorain County Community College Foundation, Stark State College, the Youngstown Business Incubator, and Northeast Ohio Medical University.