“We have deep depth.” — Yogi Berra
This is as very exciting time to be part of the Central Ohio business community—especially for entrepreneurs. So much is happening here that Kiplinger recently named Columbus to its list of 10 Great Cities for Starting a Business.
Consider how our sources of investment capital have expanded. We have NCT Ventures and Drive Capital, which is run by two former Silicon Valley VCs. At TechColumbus, we’re on track to invest in 50 percent more companies this year than last with the goal of helping Columbus become one of the most active seed investment regions in the Midwest.
Central Ohio also has a great quality of life, a low cost of living, and a highly educated workforce constantly refueled by OSU and corporations like OhioHealth and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
But, as another recent article, this one in The Atlantic , calls out, it’s our collaborative spirit that’s our “secret sauce.”
Tomorrow night, TechColumbus is hosting VentureNEXT, an event showcasing that collaborative spirit. VentureNEXT is a celebration of Central Ohio’s leading entrepreneurs, creatives and corporations. We expect hundreds of folks for this relaxed evening at the LC Pavilion—great mixing, great food, and great awards that recognize some of the most outstanding startups in our region.
Over the last few months as we’ve prepared for VentureNEXT (there’s nothing casual about delivering a casual event), I’ve been reminded almost daily of just how collaborative this region is when it comes to boosting entrepreneurs.
To borrow from Yogi, “we have deep depth.” Here are five ways entrepreneurs can tap in.
1. Connect with local customers. We have many major corporations looking for solutions to all kinds of business problems. Forbes named Columbus its No. 1 Opportunity City, in part because there are so many major corporations here that represent so many potential customers. Through our First Connect Network, TechColumbus connects client startups with industry contacts, mentors and even decision-makers in regional corporations. Seek out early adopters and beta customers here.
2. Partner with other Central Ohio entrepreneurs. Every startup is trying to accomplish the same goal—building a solution that customers want to buy. Get to know the other entrepreneurs in this region, especially those in your industry. Learn about their products. You can share contacts and potentially even team up to present a better solution to a customer. As an example, more than a third of the residents at The DEC, Dublin’s business accelerator, are working together on business deals.
3. Connect with local incubators and accelerators. These are great places to build connections—and you don’t have to be a resident. Many local incubators, like SpringBox Labs, recently named a Top 10 business incubator worldwide, offer drop-in space and welcome inquiries.
4. Get to know the investors in our community before it’s time to raise capital. VCs and angel investors are busy people. Smart entrepreneurs are mindful of this, yet still find opportunities to build relationships. One such opportunity is through high-voltage networking events, like VentureNEXT or when investors judge pitch days or other entrepreneurial competitions.
5. Engage in targeted and efficient networking. It’s possible to attend a networking event nearly every night. That’s not the way to build a successful company. Instead, sample what the region has to offer. Find groups or events that fit for you, then when you attend talk to people you don’t know. When you make a connection that seems interesting, ask for a business card. Follow up with an email, a phone call or coffee.
There will be lots of people there that you should know.