Beyond the Pitch

Creating Connections between Startups and Large Corporations

Big companies have big problems to solve. Startups have big ideas that can help.

A significant part of TechColumbus’ strategy is linking Central Ohio’s corporate community with our region’s startups and entrepreneurs.

Everything we are doing, from our new investment funds to expanding our strategic partnerships—in both number and scope—is aimed at increasing connections between the amazing corporations here and the people who are commercializing new technologies and founding new businesses in this region.

We are delighted to report that the corporate community is as enthusiastic as we are.

Already, thirty-four new corporate partners have invested in TechColumbus. Forty-plus professional services firms have committed to deliver more than $2 million in pro bono and discounted services to our engaged clients.

And this is just the beginning.

TechColumbus will keep coming up with additional ways to create meaningful mentoring and business relationships between established companies and our most promising startups and entrepreneurs.

Connecting Central Ohio’s Fortune 1000 firms that have unmet needs with entrepreneurs and startups that are commercializing nascent technologies is a way to solve problems and create jobs.

As an example, there is Rich Langdale, founder of Columbus venture capital firm NCT Ventures. An entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, Rich is a big-picture thinker. He has invested time, money, and a lot of thought in figuring out what a region like Central Ohio needs to be successful in creating jobs and wealth from innovation.

“NCT is group of entrepreneurs turned VCs,” Rich says. “About thirteen years ago, we had a bunch of exits as entrepreneurs and investors. We wanted to find ways to give back by supporting economic development in the region.”

NCT Ventures was an early investor in TechColumbus, and Rich’s vision, energy, and leadership got the Center for Entrepreneurship at Ohio State University up and going. NCT Ventures has donated $1.5 million to the center over the years. In conjunction with the center, NCT also created the Ideas-to-Business Model that expanded to become available to all entrepreneurs as the Venture Highway.

Rich has continued to stay actively involved with the Center for Entrepreneurship and was honored last summer when the school renamed its graduate program for him.

“As we were getting the center going, organizations like Deloitte and Battelle were hiring multiple groups to study what the region could do better from an economic perspective,” says Rich.

“Columbus had everything that Silicon Valley, Boston, and Austin had—research, the Entrepreneur Center, and TechColumbus with its advisory services and business accelerator, but we were still missing two critical  things—venture capital and the connections between our early entrepreneurs and the large companies in town. Those were the recurring themes with multiple trade missions,” he says.

Fast forward to now.

Graduates from the Center for Entrepreneurship have started remarkable TechColumbus client companies including Minimally Invasive Devices Inc., Traycer Diagnostic Systems Inc., and Nanofiber Solutions Inc.

Investment capital is flowing into the region. TechColumbus has announced millions in fresh capital. NTC has closed its second fund to invest in early stage technology businesses, particularly in logistics and marketing.

And TechColumbus has introduced First Connect (FCN), an initiative that creates a regular forum for entrepreneurs and corporations to find mutually beneficial ways to work together.

“Columbus has spent more than a decade researching what a strong economic development program looks like,” Rich says. “The path is clear. It involves venture capital and connection based on business needs between large companies who want to help local entrepreneurs launch, and startups with technology and solutions to address those large companies’ needs.”

Rich says that NCT has first hand connecting startups with potential corporate customers. “Nationwide Insurance and P&G have been first or early customers of our portfolio companies,” he says. “We know this works.”

It’s early in the life of First Connect.

“So far, the people in the room are more people like me,” Rich says, “engaged citizens who are there and trying to get this connection between companies and startups going. We are starting to see the table more filled with people from corporations. We are big advocates and supporters of continuing to get more or our large corporations to bring their needs and desires into the room to match up with an entrepreneur who has the ability to iterate around those needs and desires. First Connect is off to a great start. Let’s do more.”

TechColumbus has a robust corporate network that no other organization has. Whether through First Connect or some other create approach, we know that when leading corporations become very involved with startups and entrepreneurs jobs get created and business problems get solved.

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