Monday, March 11, 2013

Cincinnati Startup Scene: An Epiphany

I had an epiphany about working on a startup in Cincinnati.

There is a much different tempo, culture, talent base, and overall timbre in Cincinnati than there is on the ‘coasts’.  Things are a bit slower, less electric, and a hell of a lot smaller.  This rant could probably be applied to many cities across the midwest where the startup scene is trying to explode, but for my own selfish reasons I am going to apply it only to Cincinnati, which is the only place I’m interested in seeing actually explode.

This epiphany I had was started by reading one of those blog article/profiles of some guys who started a checkin app that debuted at SXSW a couple of years ago. You can probably guess it.  There were pictures of the founders head shots.  One of the guys had this smug, shit-eating grin that drove me crazy while I was reading the article.  I wanted to grab him by the front of his shirt and shake him.  Not really professional, but something about that cocky grin was driving me crazy.

And that’s when I realized that’s exactly what we need: swagger.  Please note: I do not under any circumstances approve the use of the word ‘swag’.  If you say ‘swag’ in normal conversation we can never be friends.  Anyhow.  We need some good old fashioned ball-busting boasting, gloating, obnoxious self-aggrandizing.  Someone in Cincinnati needs to be shouting our names from the rooftops.  We should be smiling smugly at chumps reading blog articles about us.

Oh, and we also need to build shit that people want to shout about.  Yes, we have plenty of great startups here, some really brilliant people are working on them.  And that’s awesome.  It’s a beautiful thing.  We need better than that.  We need game-changing, SXSW rattling nonsense.  Who cares if it’s a flare-up and burn out?  A couple of jackasses need to whip up something intense and insane to show off.  The guys at CrowdHall seem like a good combo.

How about Lisnr?  Use that sonic beacon technology to organize a flash mob or Harlem shake at city hall or in the casino.  Piss off someone.

Once we get some excellent, shallow, loud, explosive PR surrounding stuff and pointing it all back to Cincinnati, we’ll start getting the attention we deserve.  I’m getting sick and tired of telling this underdog story.  We have one of the top accelerators in the country, ... and all that other crap people always tout.  But do you think people really see us as a viable option to the coasts?  Come on.
We have the potential here to be ridiculous and eccentric and gravitational in the startup world, let’s just goddam do it.

Our next Startup Weekend should have the theme: “Balls to the Walls: Shake Shit Up.”


  1. While we don't have official themes for SW, "Shake shit up" just became the unofficial them for May.

  2. We have something similar in St. Louis - lots of startups, great accelerator with nice (cheap!) office space. But nobody knows what we do. And to be honest: I prefer it that way. I don't want the rich VCs with their shiny teeth and slick hair to descend upon our metropolis with a voracity unrivaled by plague locusts, buying and selling and investing. The startups around here are focused on slow burn: making something of value, and growing slowly and judiciously. I think it's the better way to go. Seems like startups in Cincy are the same way?

    1. Viewed in that light, yes I would say I agree with you.

      However, my position on our startup scene that pushed me to write this rant is that we need to be a desirable and attractive place for people to come with their talents and their ideas. We need a loud bang to turn heads.

      If we have to rely solely on homegrown talent, it will be a long time coming.

  3. I guess our friendship is over - as I said the word swag twice today.