Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Growing and Vibrant Tech Community Make Central Ohio “the Right Place” to Start a Venture | TechColumbus

A Growing and Vibrant Tech Community Make Central Ohio “the Right Place” to Start a Venture | TechColumbus

“Starting a business is like many other of life’s decisions – buying a house, having children, going back to school – there may never be a perfect time,” says entrepreneur Brain Zuercher. “But if you’re going to take that leap, there’s no better place to do it than in Central Ohio.”

Zuercher and his partners founded Clearwish, an online wish list and gift registry, in the summer of 2008 following the first Columbus Startup Weekend. “I had just come back to town after getting my MBA from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and I was looking for ways to get connected to the Central Ohio tech community.

Rick Coplin, TechColumbus business development specialist, suggested that Zuercher attend the Startup Weekend event in which interdisciplinary teams come together to form new companies – from concept to launch – within an intense 54-hour timeframe.

“I was the first person to pitch an idea and immediately there were four other participants who wanted to collaborate with me on the concept of creating a free resource for consumers to build their own virtual wish list for any occasion.”

Zuercher and two others, Brad Griffith and Steve Krause, continued to pursue the venture, which they named Clearwish, following the event. They launched their beta site soon after the weekend wrapped and they are currently on the site’s second iteration. As they head into their second holiday season, the site, whose business model is built on affiliate-based revenue, site visits have increased by 200 percent over last year.

“There is tremendous support within the Columbus tech community,” says Zuercher. “Other people want to see you succeed.”

According to a recent report from New York’s Center for an Urban Future, building a high-tech “ecosystem” that allows for frequent, casual interactions between the web of people who form the core of any dynamic tech sector, is vital. The report indicates that cities like Atlanta and New York lack this sense of community.

The tech community in Central Ohio however is widely connected and has access to a multitude of formal and informal opportunities for entrepreneurs to connect with one another and with the services, key resources and knowledge base necessary to support the launch and sustainability of new ventures.

“Tech Columbus is a huge facilitator of the tech community’s connectedness,” says Zuercher. “We have found the people there are always open to our questions, providing guidance and connections to the partners and key resources we need.”

Zuercher says the services and connections they’ve made through TechColumbus have been invaluable. As an e-Track Member of TechColumbus (a special membership program for technology companies with five or fewer employees) Zuercher says he and his partners regularly attend the many professional and business development programs presented by TechColumbus. He says at every event he has made a new connection either with another entrepreneur or a resource that can help Clearwish continue to advance.

“You know you’re not alone in this,” he says.

In addition to TechColumbus, there are a number of other organizations that help contribute to the connectedness and vibrancy of the region’s tech community. Some of these include the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). SBDC, led by Mike Bowers, provides one-on-one counseling as well as a number of other valuable resources such as the Ideas 2 Deals blog, free courses on business development and the annual Ohio Growth Summit and Capital Crash Course. SBDC serves the community from eleven offices within the region – including the newly opened Dublin Entrepreneurial Center (DEC).

The DEC along with the New Albany Business Development Center have quickly become hubs of entrepreneurial activity in their respective communities. They are regularly the site of professional, educational and networking events, including a number of popular “Jellies” that bring independent entrepreneurs together in one location for a day of co-working.

Complementing the more formal events, the tech community in Central Ohio enjoys a number of social and informal gatherings. These can range from an open house at COSI celebrating its latest exhibit on innovation to IT Martini Hours. IT Martini is a Central Ohio organization that was founded to bring the IT community together for what it calls “thoughtful and FUN events.” These events feature product demonstrations, charitable giving and a healthy dose of socializing. The tech community stays further connected through the grassroots organization Columbus TechLife which was formed to promote through social media the myriad events and happenings of interest to the tech community.

All of this activity is helping drive the growth of a closely connected and vibrant tech community that will help power the region’s continued growth and sustainability. As an example, through community connections, Clearwish has teamed up with another Central Ohio startup, KidsLinked.com, to provide the gift registry function within that site’s birthday party planning tool. And Zuercher has already teamed with another Central Ohio entrepreneur, Jim Kamnikar (former CEO of GoAntinques.com) to form another startup, FlyMuch.com which will provide real-time alerts to subscribers on available travel discounts and deals.

“We’re pleased that we’re making real progress toward our goal of becoming one of the top performing metro areas in the nation,” says Ted Ford, president and CEO of TechColumbus. “Despite a down economy, the Central Ohio tech community continues to move ahead and TechColumbus is pleased to be a part of a growing regional collaboration to build a nationally leading tech economy here.”

Posted using ShareThis


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home