Destination Innovate committee: Back row, from left: Ben Berling, Bobby Smyth, Joshua Diedrichs, Mike Rodarte and Tom Stasi; front row, from left: Mary Gaertner, Kari Wethington, Breana Roth, and Bryan Beischel
Through a day-long, exclusive bus tour on Friday, October 24, 50 local university students will learn first-hand about Cincinnati’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and discover why the Queen City is the ideal place to put down roots and launch their careers.
Kari Wethington, a committee member for Destination Innovate, has been planning the event along with nine other committee members since last spring, all who work for different local companies. Other committee members donating their time toward these efforts are: Tom Stasi, Breana Trauger, Bobby Smyth, Mike Rodarte, Mary Gaertner, Joshua Diedrichs, Bryan Beischel, Ben Berling, and Evan Nolan.
“We have planned a busy day for participants that will truly give them the lay of the land when it comes to the local startup ecosystem,” says Wethington. “They will not only get to see the places where startups are working and where accelerators are operating, but they will get to meet these movers and shakers in person to make direct connections.”
The day’s programming includes an introductory session that gives students a history and overview of the major players in the Cincinnati startup community. They will also hear from startup accelerators in various sessions throughout the day, in Covington, downtown Cincinnati and OTR. While the bus tour is limited to 50 hand-selected students, anyone interested in learning about Cincinnati’s startup scene is encouraged to join the after-party: a happy hour at Rhinegeist at 5:15 p.m. Here, students will be able to reflect on the day, network with entrepreneurs and share what they’ve learned with others.
Destination Innovate is a project of C-Change Class 9, a premier leadership development program of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. They have focused this year’s program and five class projects on changing the perception of Cincinnati as an unfriendly city.
Their efforts come in response to the 2012 Regional Indicators Report, which surveyed more than 1,600 people in the Greater Cincinnati region on topics related to diversity and inclusion. The results showed that diverse transplants do not feel the community fully embraces them and a number of respondents also characterized native-born Cincinnatians as “cliquish.”
“When we looked to develop the curriculum for this year’s class, we didn’t shy away, we wanted to meet this particular challenge head on,” says Julie Bernzott, manager of HYPE programs for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “We look forward to seeing both the short and long-term impacts on the community from this year’s class.”
“In talking with students and professors, we found that even students who are interested in working with startups or who are curious about entrepreneurialism didn’t know about the startup ecosystem in Cincinnati,” says Wethington. “Without this local knowledge, students may think they have to move to San Francisco or New York to get that hands-on experience, when in fact, there’s a wealth of opportunities right here.”
Since launching, they have made many new connections with the startup community while deepening the ties they already had as individuals, while learning so much about how all of the pieces work together. “As we tell people about the event, we see a lot of interest around town and we’re excited to be able to raise awareness,” says Wethington.
“We are very excited to bring students straight to the source of the innovation that’s happening day in and day out in Cincinnati,” says Wethington. “Our goal is that these students learn about the amazing opportunities here in town and consider putting roots down in Cincinnati after graduation to help further build this community.”
“While C-Change is a one-year program, we are currently brainstorming ways to give Destination Innovate legs so that it can continue into the future,” says Wethington. “We’d love to hear from any groups interested in helping with those efforts.”