Beyond the Pitch
Do You Know What’s Happening at Innovate New Albany?
One of the greatest things about starting a company in the Columbus region is the expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem. From the Smart City Challenge grant to the innovation hot spots that are blossoming in the surrounding suburbs, people here are determined to build a collaborative environment that supports entrepreneurs and new business creation. One of the region’s hotspots for entrepreneurship is Innovate New Albany, the City of New Albany’s 16,000 square-foot incubator for technology startups and small businesses.
“Innovate New Albany is a public/private partnership,” said Neil Collins, the organization’s onsite leader who also leads his own firm that provides strategic marketing leadership and brand building services. The City of New Albany subsidizes rental rates and offers a wide range of services, including a robust fiber optics network. Collins uses his expertise to publicize Innovate New Albany – across Central Ohio and to recruit early stage, scalable technical companies to locate their operations in New Albany.
Innovate New Albany serves entrepreneurs, students, the independent workforce, and established companies.
“Scalable technology businesses are our number one priority,” Collins said. But Innovate New Albany serves all types of entrepreneurs—those who have started companies, those who are validating their markets and figuring out a business plan, and even those who think they might want to start a company someday.
Innovate New Albany currently serves as headquarters for 22 companies onsite and for another dozen companies who are considered virtual residents. It offers a calendar of education and networking events that attract more than 1500 people in a year. Students— in college, high school, and even middle school come to Innovate New Albany to learn, perform project work for startups, and engage in internships.
“We also work with local service providers,” Collins said. “These types of businesses provide interesting jobs and careers for people—and they play an essential role in helping other companies succeed. For example, everyone is well-served our community includes a startup-focused attorney and/or a VC firm who have partner meetings here, or a public relationships firm that can help our resident companies with telling their stories.”
Innovate New Albany attracts and welcomes people who are in what Collins refers to as ‘the independent workforce.’
“These might be people who may not imagine starting a company anytime soon, but they are very interested in working for one,” he said. “Or they have skills to offer, but they aren’t seeking a fulltime job. Whether they be independent contractors, between jobs, or just taking some time off, this is a place for them to learn and become connected.”
Innovate New Albany also serves other types of small businesses. “Some of these might be scalable, and some of them might be small companies forever,” Collins said, “but as full-time businesses, we encourage them to become part of this collaborative community.”
Collins said that Innovate New Albany is striving to build a strengthened connection between established businesses and the entrepreneurial community.
“We want to be relevant to mid-sized and larger companies,” he said. “Such companies often want to be good corporate citizens and give back, but I would actually like them to look at us and be more selfish. They have problems they are trying to solve, and startups are already working on many of those issues.”
Collins’s vision is to more assertively connect the two creating a broader opportunity for corporations that are willing to participate in ‘open sourced innovation.’
“Innovation for big companies is both different from and overlapping with entrepreneurship,” Collins said. “We want to create an exchange between entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, with corporate leaders listening and providing feedback. The larger companies will be well-served with new thinking, and maybe a few will become new customers for the startups.”
Innovate New Albany’s TIGER Events & Expert Office Hours
“When you come into our lobby,” Collins said, “you never know who you will meet.” That’s because the calendar of events creates endless opportunities for collaboration every week.
Innovate New Albany’s signature TIGER Events typically include lunch or breakfast, networking, and topics that jam the room. Several community members have attended more than 40 of these events since they were launched in 2015.
A TIGER Talk is an hour presentation by an expert. “A TIGER Tale is similar in format, but each features an entrepreneur who has achieved something great tells their story; it’s inspiring,” said Collins.
“People walk out of a TIGER Workshop with a new skill or new tool that can benefit their business immediately,” he said. “TIGER is emblematic of the personality of our presenters— I refer to them as our TIGER talent. They earn their stripes by sharing, and the audience members earn their stripes by increasing their knowledge and improving their skills.”
In 2017, Innovate New Albany started a new program called Expert Office Hours which occasionally runs on Friday mornings. A schedule of open hours is published on InnovateNewAlbany.org, and people sign up for 30 minutes of free consulting help. Experts range from digital marketers to attorneys, and public relations teams to bankers.
Learn more about Innovate New Albany and their Expert Office Hours here.
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