By Antony Seppi
Cincinnati has got something going on. Something strong, something bold. Over this past week my colleagues and I have had the opportunity to work and mentor some of the most passionate and talented individuals from around the world who care a lot about water. Individuals from Sydney, London, Menlo Park, Oakland, Wise (VA), Orono (ME), and Cincinnati. They care a lot about water and they care a lot about their small businesses. They come to Cincinnati, Hamilton, and the Greater Cincinnati Region to pursue their dreams and passions. Welcome to Pipeline H2O!
For those of you not familiar with Pipeline H2O, we care a lot about water, we love water, and we have some of the world's best water. We help build businesses around water. And these startups come to Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Dayton over the next four months to leverage these resources in pursuit of growing their businesses and solving challenges around water. As individuals, we take a lot of these resources for granted, but for the startups that I worked with this past week they could not believe what is going on here in Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio. It is a perfect storm.
To begin with, we have a bevy of startup resources — mentors, labs, spaces, small companies, big companies, service providers, universities, funding — people that care a lot and want to help — all wrapped under the umbrella of #StartupCincy. As we progressed throughout our first week, we introduced our 2018 cohort to a good number of these resources and they were blown away. They were blown away by the passion and message that was delivered to them — "we are here to help". They couldn't believe it. Now I am not sure what goes on in California or Australia or the UK to help these companies, but what they communicated back to me about their native homes does not even come close to what we've got here. A united front to develop these water-tech startups right in our backyard.
Then there is the water part. When you get seven startups in a room that are extremely passionate about water, you get magic. This is unlike any other accelerator in that respect. In your traditional accelerator you can have the travel app or the money-saving app or the bike parking app (and there is nothing wrong with this model, but that's not what we do), but we've got companies that are literally saving the world and they've got one common driver — water. Additionally, these startups are building physical products which tap into our supply chain and create more of a multiplier effect for the region.
Finally, Southwestern Ohio (and Northern Kentucky, Southeastern Indiana) is awash in resources to develop startups that are focused on world water challenges — water scarcity, water reuse, water infrastructure, consumer innovations, and data. Of course, we've got the "Genius of Water" (aka Tyler Davidson Fountain) on Fountain Square in the middle of our downtown.
But more from a practical perspective, Cincinnati was tabbed to be the home for the nation's first federally funded water technology research park back in 1913. And in 1971 the EPA opened the Andrew W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center in Clifton. Plus, there are a number of universities and research institutions throughout the region that are dedicated to innovations around water (the region is #1 in water-related technology patents per capita in the U.S.).
And we've got a lot of companies that rely on water to run their businesses — breweries, food manufacturers, and flavoring companies. This type of environment provides a regional lab for testing innovative water technologies. When you expose startups to these types of resources — government, business, and academia — this is a huge win for both the startups and the learning institutions or businesses that they are working with.
Hence the perfect storm. A startup community that is willing to put in the hustle to propel visiting startups to the top of the pyramid and a water-rich region that has opened its arms to these new technologies — there is something in it for everyone — investment growth, company growth, and regional growth. Our first class from 2017 is changing the world. Our second class is well on its way. This is true impact and Pipeline H2O is making it happen.
Image credit: "The famous Tyler Davidson Fountain," sabreguy29, 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/