Cleveland’s entrepreneurial community is about to get a jolt of energy. In March, Plug and Play, the startup accelerator that’s helped Google, PayPal and Lending Club, expects to kick off its first startup class in Cleveland through a partnership with JumpStart and the Cleveland Clinic. During the program, two annual cohorts of 10 to 15 companies will engage in three months of intense mentorship and, hopefully, relationship-building with investors both local and national. “It was an opportunity for both the Clinic and JumpStart to put a stake in the ground and launch something,” says JumpStart CEO Ray Leach. Here are four things you need to know.Healthy Choices
Cleveland is Plug and Play’s first foray into health care technology outside of California. While JumpStart and other partners worked for about two years on attracting the accelerator, the Clinic’s eventual involvement made the difference, says Connie Weisman, Plug and Play vice president for corporate partnerships. “We don’t go into a new area unless we have a partner on the ground there, and it has to be a partner that can really bring some clout to what we’re doing,” she says. “Cleveland Clinic is the No. 2 hospital in the country. That made it an easy decision.”
Leach expects the three-year partnership with Plug and Play to extend Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial reach. While Cleveland ranks 28 out of the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., the region is experiencing a surge in startup activity that lifted it from 37th in 2016, according to the Kaufman Foundation’s 2017 entrepreneurship index. Previously, JumpStart was limited to working with Ohio-based startups, but this opens the door to any entrepreneur interested in Cleveland’s assets. “Now what we’re saying is, ‘Hey, come to Cleveland for Plug and Play,’ ” says Leach.
Although it’s not exclusively for Plug and Play companies, JumpStart and the Clinic have a combined $50 million in early-stage investment funding over the next three years to potentially invest in promising startups willing to stay in town. But beyond direct investment, Plug and Play hopes to leverage connections and investments from its big-time local partners, such as Sherwin-Williams and Goodyear, to spark even more economic activity. “Plug and Play is really doing it with a bang,” says Leach.
Northeast Ohio’s strengths in manufacturing, banking and professional services already has non-health care startups considering connecting with Cleveland’s legacy companies through the accelerator as it expands. That could mean entrepreneurs interested in the internet of things or manufacturing automation and data exchange, for example. “There’s a lot of industrial 4.0-kind of technologies that we feel we can bring there as well,” says Weisman. “Think about the Lubrizols and the Eatons and the Parker Hannifins.”