StartInCLE's Successful Campaign Brings Venture for America Accelerator to Cleveland

Most Clevelanders don’t picture our city as an incubator of the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that resonates in booming metropolitans like New York, Charlotte and Austin. But in fact, with a favorable housing market, lower cost of living, supportive networks (like StartinCLE) for startups and developing organizations, our city is developing an environment favorable for growth and new developments.

Cleveland is on the move, situating itself as a health, technology and innovation hub. Look no further than the Health Tech Corridor in Midtown. Take a trip down Euclid Avenue, and you are surrounded by organizational giants like the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. Move a few streets over, and IBM and other businesses are moving in and growing. 

New businesses, coupled with the growing atmosphere and momentum in Cleveland, continue to shape the entrepreneurial environment that inspires individuals to build, buy and create their own opportunities. It’s this quality of self-determination and drive that nonprofit organizations like Venture for America are creating and cultivating.

Venture for America (VFA) is a non-profit organization that provides the necessary tools, experience and support that empowers graduates looking to start their own businesses and connects participants to potential careers with startup organizations. Selected participants in the fellowship program attend a training camp where they learn startup skills and gain expertise, apply for positions with partnered startups and work full-time for a two-year period. Over 700 fellows have landed careers while working with VFA, with participants impacting over 2,000 startups. With their presence in a number of cities including Cleveland, Venture for America is helping to create new businesses and careers nationwide.

Each year Venture for America seeks out a city to host its annual national accelerator program and, while Cleveland had made the list of potentials, it certainly had competition in Cincinnati and Columbus.

“Cleveland is a great place for an accelerator,” StartInCLE Co-founder and MidTown Tech Hive Manager, Anna Buchholz affirms, “but Cincinnati and Columbus have a robust startup community. Ensuring that we illustrate what an excellent location Cleveland is, is of upmost importance. We want to support things like that here in Cleveland to help not only the startup community but the City in general.”

StartInCLE, a community organization focused on driving engagements with founders, investors and executives around the needs of local startups, led the charge in bringing the accelerator to Cleveland. With the help of Gelise Littlejohn and Midtown Cleveland’s Max Uptown, StartInCLE set out, engaging with various organizations to rally support around bringing the VFA’s accelerator to Cleveland.

Buchholz said about the process:

It was Ed [Ed Buchholz, StartInCLE’s Founder & Managing Director] and my first time working on something like this. Ed, Gelise, Max and I reached out to our personal networks to gather support. We sought not only support but mentorship, space and funding. We were able to gather 30 letters of support from local organizations which was great. Destination Cleveland provided us with statistics for the city and information about the diverse activities that Cleveland offers while HIMSS [the local Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society] donated space to use for Demo Day.

Three locations in the City offered their space as a potential venue for the accelerator – Glenville Circle North, StartMart and DigitalC’s MidTown Tech Hive. Within several weeks of sending in their proposal, Buchholz learned that the accelerator would be coming to Cleveland and that the Hive was selected as the coworking venue for the program. The excitement around the VFA’s announcement has left the MidTown Tech Hive and Cleveland abuzz.

“We were so excited to learn that Cleveland had been chosen for the VFA accelerator program.” Buchholz exclaims. “Our city will undoubtedly benefit from having a group of exceptional young founders move in, and our hope is that some will choose to headquarter their companies here.”

For information about The Midtown Tech Hive and  as the selected venue for the Venture for America accelerator program, please contact Midtown Tech Hive Manager, Anna Buchholz at anna.buchholz@digitalc.org.