Saturday, October 11, 2003

Cincinnati tech supporters invest in businesses' future

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

To develop his own company, called SaccoSport, Patrick Walters has tapped about $100,000 from his own savings, family and friends. Now he needs help.

So the Mount Lookout resident has tapped a new fund formed by a group of local "angel" investors for at least $50,000 more. It should help him finish the hardware for his new product, which measures speed, cadence, heart rate and other biometric data for people riding high-performance bicycles.

Walters hasn't finished the as-yet-unnamed product, so he has nothing to sell, making a traditional bank loan or venture-capital investment unlikely.

"This is a tough economy to raise any kind of money," Walters said.

The Queen City Angels First Fund, formed in September, contains the newest resources available to high-tech entrepreneurs trying to get their companies off the ground. The Fund was seeded with half a million dollars from local investors, then it received $1 million from Ohio's Third Frontier effort.

It's one of several efforts by local tech advocates to get more resources to entrepreneurs quickly, in hopes of spawning more companies such as SaccoSport and more entrepreneurs such as Patrick Walters.

Here's another: Main Street Ventures, the Over-the-Rhine tech incubator; and The Circuit, which provides professional services and technical assistance, will combine under the umbrella of The Grid, with a storefront office at 1209 Main St.

Advocates said that by combining The Circuit with Main Street Ventures, the Grid will help deliver not just money, but the counseling and technical assistance new companies need.

"Those resources can vary from, 'Keep your day job' to 'Here's where you should go for capital,' " said Barbara Aras, chief executive officer of Main Street Ventures.


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