CINCINNATI - Less than a year after launching with great fanfare, the Cintrifuse startup accelerator has graduated its first tenant. Pingage , a four-month old marketing firm that helps brands build new connections with Pinterest users, has outgrown its space at Cintrifuse offices at Sixth and Sycamore streets downtown.
The six-employee company has moved to Hyde Park after raising money from several new investors.
"This is cause for celebration," said Cintrifuse CEO Jeff Weedman. "They've got a proposition that's allowing them to raise money, acquire customers and outgrow the space that we have available. They're staying in the region. This is all good."
Cintrifuse is a nonprofit formed by some of Cincinnati's largest companies with the goal of boosting the region's entrepreneurial climate. Already, the group has raised $40 million for a fund of funds that will invest in up to 10 venture capital firms nationwide. The goal is to attract more venture capital to Cincinnati to give local startups better fundraising options.
Cintrifuse is also organizing legal, social media, marketing and business development training for its young startups. And it's trying to build a network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and executives from some of Cincinnati's biggest companies to ensure that entrepreneurs make connections crucial to growth.
Pingage is an example of how such connections can lead to jobs, said Rob McDonald, an attorney in the business and finance group of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister.
"They came here from St. Louis for the Brandery," an Over-the-Rhine startup accelerator that provides marketing advice to startups, McDonald said. "When they came to Cincinnati they were a brand new company called Maroney. Then they pivoted and turned into a company called StyleZen. Then, this latest technology kind of evolved from the work on StyleZen. And from there they decided this technology (could) be quite a big asset to other businesses."
Pingage co-founder and president Bob Gilbreath is a former P&G brand manager who served as chief strategy officer at Cincinnati advertising agency, Possible Worldwide. He left that job in October 2011 to become entrepreneur in residence at CincyTech USA, a public-private partnership that also promotes startups.
Gilbreath said Pingage is not ready to reveal all details about its launch, but confirmed the six-employee firm has lined up financing from five investors, mostly from Ohio. It moved to office space above the Cock & Bull Public House in Hyde Park. And it's hiring.
"We are right now looking for client service people and developers," he said.
Pingage benefited from its environment on the ground floor of the P&G Sycamore building, where Cintrifuse is temporarily housed as its permanent headquarters is renovated in the 1300 block of Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine. Cintrifuse has more than 10 tenants who share desk space and conference rooms in an open office configuration where every tenant is visible to others.
"There is desk space and rooms and phones and everything else you need to just kind of start working," Gilbreath said. "There's the additional benefit of some good networking and good peers to interact with."
Weedman sees the graduation of Pingage as evidence that the Cintrifuse model is working.
"I hope this is the first of many," he said.