The Kentucky Innovation Act was passed in 2000 in order to promote economic growth throughout the state. The act launched the Kentucky Innovation Network, which consists of twelve entrepreneurial support programs throughout the state of Kentucky. The network exists to “assist companies in the process of providing products or services to federal, state, and local government organizations,” according to its website. “I like to think of it as a confederacy of offices given local leeway. Each office forms around the strength of its region,” says Casey Barach, director of the Northern Kentucky Branch.
One of the 12 locations, Northern Kentucky Innovation (NKY Innovation), is thriving in the northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area. This location was founded in 2005 when the need for an entrepreneurial support program in such a high-tech area as northern Kentucky became apparent. Casey Barach was elected director, and has held this title ever since.
Because NKY Innovation is a product of the Kentucky Innovation Act, its services are provided by the state of Kentucky and its local economic development organization, Tri-Ed. So, all of its services are free. While the branch’s focus is technology and technology-driven companies, it will never turn down anyone with an idea. “We believe that everybody with an idea should be heard, and we are here to help them however we can. Sometimes that’s simply giving them our opinion or setting them up with a past client of ours,” says Barach.
Most of the company’s clients are small businesses or start-ups. For each client, NKY Innovation goes through a series of “ABC steps.” The first step focuses on assessing where the company would like to be in the future. The second step, B, stands for business planning, which is figuring out exactly what will be pitched to the customer. C is for “capital,” which consists of networking and introducing the client to capital sources.
The company has been quite successful in helping businesses grow, having had over 500 clients since its founding. One of the most well-known companies is Tier One Performances, which started in the “incubator” of NKY Innovation and now has numerous offices across the country. “We do a good job finding investment capital for our clients and prepping them to raise capital. In the end, our goal is to promote economic development in the northern Kentucky region,” says Barach.
The Northern Kentucky branch is responsible for the creation of Uptech, one of the top 30 accelerator programs in the country. Uptech functions specifically for data-driven start-ups developing technology-based solutions. The program consists of intensive entrepreneurship education, one-on-one mentoring, and extensive community involvement.
The branch is located at 1 Innovation Alley in Covington KY. For more information, visit the branch’s website.