There are several really amazing startup accelerator programs in and around the Cleveland, Ohio area. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing some of the staff at the Shaker Heights based LaunchHouse. They are working around the clock getting ready for their newest class of young minds looking to be molded. Whether you are a techy, an entrepreneur, or accidently on this site, my interview with LaunchHouse has something for you!
LaunchHouse is a company that promotes entrepreneurship in the Cleveland, Ohio area but you are actually located in the Cleveland neighborhood of Shaker Heights. What kind of relationship do you have with the leadership of Shaker Heights and why is it such a good fit with your accelerator program?
LaunchHouse has been able to establish a strong relationship with the City of Shaker Heights as well as with the community as a whole. The city is home to several small and home-based businesses that have been able to leverage LaunchHouse in regards of free business development, networking and educational resources. LaunchHouse has also worked with the Shaker Heights schools through internship programs, events and educational classes.
The City of Shaker Heights is home to highly renowned business professionals, leaders including large corporation CEO’s and venture capitalists. These residents are an awesome fit for fulfilling mentor roles within the LaunchHouse Accelerator program and even taking their own new ventures through the program.
Why did the founders decide on creating LaunchHouse in Cleveland? What makes the Cleveland area so appealing for accelerators?
The LaunchHouse mission is to retain the best and brightest talent and innovators in Northeast Ohio. Assistance to idea-stage startups was a necessity that was greatly lacking in the region as many were leaving Cleveland for better opportunities. Todd and Dar, the LaunchHouse cofounders, saw that many of their own friends from the Cleveland-area were leaving for greener pastures on the East and West Coasts, and they decided that they wanted to make a change in Cleveland that would make it a more desirable place to work and live as well as a destination for people from other areas of the country.
When thinking of Cleveland, Mecca for entrepreneurship and hub for innovation don’t necessarily come to mind. However, what people don’t realize is the abundance of resources that Cleveland has to offer – Fortune 500 companies, top college and universities, renowned business leaders – as well as the thriving startup ecosystem. Startups are able to grow, achieve validation and ultimately be one step closer to market entry within a short amount of time.
In 2012 the Ohio Third Frontier supported the LaunchHouse mission and designated LaunchHouse as the first premier accelerator in the region, with the award of a $200,000 ONEFund grant in order to run the inaugural LaunchHouse Accelerator program.
Do you believe that the Cleveland region could become the next boulder?
We love and admire the startup community that Boulder has been able to create over the past 40 years. Cleveland has similar attributes which we are now beginning to harness. However, Clevelanders don’t want to be the ‘next’ anything. We have our own philosophies regarding entrepreneurship in Cleveland, which is why we created a leading, innovative approach to growing and fostering our ecosystem, culture and early-stage technology companies.
**This answer is highlighted because I love it! This is the exact attitude that is leading the “Silicon Rust Belt” to greatness!!**
Applications for the program are due on May 1st. How is the application process looking so far? Are you exceeding the amount of applicants that you had expected?
This year we are on track to substantially exceed the amount of applicants compared to last year. We are very impressed, not only in quantity but quality of applicants including the types of ideas and early-stage startups. The response we’ve received from outside the region and even outside the country has greatly increased as well.
Does LaunchHouse typically accept one particular type of company or is there a variety?
LaunchHouse is seeking early-stage startups focused on:
* Data, SaaS, healthcare software, security, storage
* E-commerce, gaming, advertising, social networking, media, search, enabling tech
* Applications, communications, gaming, monetization
* Disruptive hardware, manufacturing, innovations
With the popularity of accelerator programs what makes yours stand out amongst the larger programs?
Typical accelerator programs are product driven, we’re customer driven. LaunchHouse took adaptations of the customer development model popularized by Steve Blank and the business model canvas framework of Alexander Osterwalder in order to create a leading accelerator program. Teams are required to “get out of the building” and engage with potential customers to validate elements of their business – the problem/need and the solution – while generating early adapters. We also have a very hands-on approach to the way we interact with our teams. We pair our teams with meaningful mentors not only in entrepreneurship, but also in the particular industry and focus of their company.
LaunchHouse also offers:
* Access to low cost entrepreneurial-styled housing
* Innovative workspace for LIFE
* Strong startup community
* Diverse network of mentors which fulfill specific startup needs
* Entrepreneurial connections, including partner organizations and investor ties, both within and outside the region and state
What is the two day discovery that will take place in June?
As part of the selection process, LaunchHouse will host a “2DAYdiscovery” in which the top teams will have a “taste” of the LHX methodology and speak to potential customers, analyze their data and report back to the LHX mentors. LaunchHouse, with the help of its mentors, will select the 10 teams to participate in the LHX program after 2DAYdiscovery.
The program will run from Aug 12th until November 5th (Showcase Day). What mentors do you expect to be a part of the growth process for accepted companies?
We are looking to leverage several of our mentors from last year’s program, as well as past graduates of the program. Past mentors include:
Morris Wheeler, CEO and President, Clarion Direct Investment, mentor at TechStars Boulder
Anthony Broad-Crawford, Chief Product Officer, GiveForward
Phil Alexander, President, Brand Muscle
Brad Boyer, Founder & Owner, Boyer Communications Group
David Willbrand, Partner, Thompson Hine LLP
We will also be recruiting mentors that are experts in the particular industries of each team that is accepted into LHX.
What investors do you expect to be there for showcase day?
More than 150 investors from across the country attended Showcase Day 2012, with live streaming to 30 more investors nationwide, which we’re looking to build.
Accepted companies will enjoy over $75k in perks. What are some of these perks?
* Free hosting provided by RackSpace
* High speed Internet provided by One Community
* Free work space for life at LaunchHouse
* Low cost entrepreneurial housing
* Low cost business services
* Access to educational workshops and events
* Presentation services provided by Quick2Launch, LaunchHouse Accelerator graduate company
Free Work Space for life? That’s pretty awesome are there any stipulations on this?
NONE! Once we have invested in a company it will always be considered part of the LaunchHouse community and will always be welcome.
I noticed that LaunchHouse is involved in other events. What sort of events do you typically get involved with?
LaunchHouse has established strong, mutually beneficial partnerships with fellow startup organizations, as well as others in the overall startup ecosystem and community focused on assisting startups and fostering entrepreneurship in the region. Through such partnerships LaunchHouse and organizations work together to cross promotion, sponsor and host joint events for the benefit of the Cleveland entrepreneur.
We like to be involved with any event in Cleveland that is focused on growing the tech, creative and entrepreneurial culture and opportunities. We’ve been involved in so many types of events in Cleveland ranging from hackathons to festivals to expos and anything and everything in-between.
Events held at LaunchHouse include more than 500 educational workshops and networking events, with more than 9,000 entrepreneurs and professionals in attendance. Five entrepreneurial showcases have been held at LaunchHouse, as well as at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Ingenuity Fest totaling more than 40,000 attendees.
We’re making strides to forge partnerships in order bring other entrepreneurial events to Cleveland from outside the region.
Lastly, as an aspiring entrepreneur I’m taking advantage of my role here with Silicon Rust Belt to pick the brain of the incredible entrepreneurs I have the pleasure of interviewing by asking them this question: If you were in a room full of bright eyed young entrepreneurs what piece of wisdom would you wish to impress upon them?
If you’re going to fail, it’s best to fail fast in order to move on to your next venture.