CINCINNATI -- There's a lot to celebrate about 2017 and the growing impact of Greater Cincinnati's startup economy.
Key benchmarks included the arrival and graduation of the first class at Hillman Accelerator, the nation's first minority-focused startup accelerator. CincyTech, a leading public-private seed fund focused on Southwest Ohio, touts a $1 billion high-water mark in the cumulative regional impact of its portfolio and its impact on funding capital as well as attracting top talent to the region.
This is the time to finalize lists for those leaders, executives and entrepreneurs who helped define Cincinnati business in 2017, but these same startup co-founders, funders and advisers will advise you to look ahead.
Entrepreneurship is a future-focused economy, and resources are better spent forecasting those startup leaders likely to cement credentials and reputations in 2018 and beyond.
With December 2018 in mind, let's look at the wave of startup companies coming to life in Cincinnati's $132 billion economy.
Some of these startup companies are already well known, but 2018 looks to be their most exciting chapter yet.
Leaders of the Pack
Description: Broadcasting, digital media and sports startup that live streams point-of-view (POV) video from custom cameras in hats, helmets and equipment via patented software and networking customized for stadium environments
Founders: Max Eisenberg, Dhani Jones and Chris McLennan
What to look for: After a successful debut in the Arena Football League and partnerships with Monumental Sports & Entertainment, look for unique in-game points of view and content experiences in more sports leagues powered by ActionStreamer.
Description: Supplier Management Software Company based in Mason, Ohio
Founder: Rod Robinson
Founded: March 2010
What to look for in 2018: Increasing thought leadership on the subject of supply chain diversity, sustainability and responsible sourcing
Eccrine Systems, Inc.
Description: Advanced biosensor company based in Cincinnati; developer of noninvasive, electronic wearable system that measures and transmits real-time data around human sweat
Founders: Robert Beech and Jason Heikenfeld
Founded: December 2013
What to look for in 2018: Robust growth via product breakthroughs like a wearable system to remotely monitor dehydration status during thermally intensive activities; this system will also provide end users and safety personnel with real-time alerts to help avoid the dangerous effects of heat stress.
Entrepreneurship is future-focused
If these nine startups reach their potentials and become economic powerhouses, ConnXus Founder Rod Robinson points out that the continuing growth and diversity of the entire Greater Cincinnati tech ecosystem will have made it all possible.
"When I started ConnXus seven years ago, things were different," Robinson said. "If I were to characterize the ecosystem as a 100-floor skyscraper under construction, we were moving from the basement to the first floor just seven years ago. Today, we are on the 25th floor. Current and future startup founders now have access to a solid foundation of cashed-out entrepreneurs, experienced angel investors, advisers and a wealth of other relevant resources including CincyTech, Cintrifuse, The Brandery and Hillman. It will only get better from here as we continue to witness more successful exits."
Description: Cincinnati-based enterprise software company providing agile work systems to the funeral goods and services industry
Founder: Scott Mindrum
Founded: March 2014
What to look for in 2018: Increase in customer traction and marketplace share thanks to deep knowledge of customer needs in the funeral home marketplace
Description: Developer of VR workplace productivity software
Founder: Renji Bijoy
Founded: June 2016
What to look for in 2018: A boost in customer traction via comprehensive integration with a user's laptop operating system via features and functionalities around virtually extended displays and monitors
Description: Location data software company and former OCEAN and TECHSTARS accelerator graduate that blends ethnography and machine learning to give down-to-the-hour views of the evolving culture of cities
Founders: Lyden Foust and Will Kiessling
Founded: January 2016
What to look for in 2018: Ongoing development of artificial intelligence software that understands human behavior around location -- look for market traction in smart cities; tech, real estate and travel; and autonomous automobiles via a partnership with the Ford Motor Company
Leading the Silicon Midwest
Some of these startups will continue to scale up Ohio's strengths in key tech industries like biotech and medtech. Even more exciting are those startups driving frontier tech industries like virtual reality and artificial intelligence. According to David J. Willbrand, chair of early stage and emerging company practice at the business law firm Thompson Hine, these rising startups will not only drive new jobs but also diversify Greater Cincinnati's economy and help move the needle regarding Cincinnati's leadership within the "Silicon Midwest."
"We are making strides," said Willbrand. "We still need the coasts to adjust their frame of reference; too many in venture and tech still see the Midwest as flyover country. Changing that perception takes time, but it's happening. And it's happening because of the handful of marquee wins combined with the many green shoots being produced here."
Ones to Watch
Description: Unique fashion tech company providing software to help consumers build outfits from their existing wardrobe
Founders: Tim Brunk, Chris Merchich and Blake Smith
Founded: June 2013
What to look for in 2018: New designs and photo features help boost the Cladwell mission of sustainability in the clothing industry and make their styling app sticky with millennials.
Description: Enterprise software company that provides a first-of-its-kind analytics solution that finds software failures before a single line of code is written; the Trekmarker platform also helps build accurate and clear product requirement documents.
Founders: David Hollabaugh and Joshua Rose
Founded: May 2017
What to look for in 2018: New branding and nomenclature look to establish its leadership position as the "spell check" for software requirement documents.
Description: Developer of a subscription, web-based curriculum designed to help preschool children learn world language alongside parents and teachers via play.
Founders: Moulay A. Essakalli and Julie Klear
What to Look for in 2018: Growing partnerships with educational enterprises from Xavier University to Cincinnati Country Day School look to grow the community of advocates, customers and influencers in support of the Zid Zid platform.
The future is bright for Cincy entrepreneurs
One of the benefits of forecasting those startup teams poised for success in 2018 and beyond is that the exercise ignites optimism for all players throughout Greater Cincinnati's tech startup community. It makes one bullish for what current startups are accomplishing and what the next wave of Cincinnati-based startups will achieve.
"Our companies have moved the needle," said Mike Venerable, president of CincyTech, a leading public-private seed fund focused on Southwest Ohio. "That's the key. Without good startup product, no amount of hype will matter. We have proven you can put money to work in the region and see good outcomes."
Want to take part in Cincinnati's growing startup community in 2018? Check out startupcincy.com .