Root Insurance had the 9th largest startup funding round in the U.S. last year! The company was founded in 2015 by Alex Timm & Dan Manges.(Dan is a Lexington native, former Braintree tenant, and two-time SunDown RunDown alum).

9. Root Insurance $350.0M
Round: Series E
Month of Funding: August
Description: Root, the largest property-casualty InsurTech in the country, offers personalized, affordable coverage in an app. Founded by Alex Timm and Dan Manges in 2015, Root Insurance has now raised a total of $527.5MCoatue Management, DST Global, Ribbit Capital, Silicon Valley Bank, and Tiger Global Management.
Investors in the round: Coatue Management, Drive Capital, DST Global, Redpoint, Ribbit Capital, Scale Venture Partners, Tiger Global Management
Industry: Auto Insurance, Automotive, Insurance, InsurTech, Mobile Apps, Property Insurance
Founders: Alex Timm, Dan Manges
Founding year: 2015
Location: Columbus
Total equity funding raised: $527.5MThe TechWatch Media Group audience is driving progress and innovation on a global scale. With its regional media properties, TechWatch Media Group is the highway for technology and entrepreneurship. There are a number of options to reach this audience of the world’s most innovative organizations and startups at scale including having prominent brand placement in a high-visibility piece like this, which will be read by the vast majority of key influencers in the business community and beyond.

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Braintree grad Hess Industries serves tool and die clients worldwide

January 13, 2020
by Katie Ellington, Richland Source
Hess Industries, a graduate of the Braintree incubator, is a tool and die shop where workers program machines to mill and heat treat metal, grind it down and meticulously slice it with electrically charged wires.

It’s easy to take for granted the numerous metal products around us. Phone chargers, pots and pans, door hinges are all so ubiquitous, it would be easy to assume they are near-effortless to make.
Yet all of these products owe their existence to the tool and die makers. They manufacture the equipment that is foundational to mass production -- the tools, molds and stamp dies used by other manufacturers to make goods. Any object that’s been cut, formed, shaped or molded out of sheet metal was made with tools and dies. Inside Hess Industries Ltd., a tool and die shop in Mansfield, workers program machines to mill and heat treat metal, grind it down and meticulously slice it with electrically charged wires. Sometimes the products are large, other times they’re no bigger than a pinkie finger. In tool and die, precision is the name of the game -- employees are working with measurements as fine as 1/30th of a human hair.Modern tool and die workers are skilled technicians, who are constantly learning and adapting to the industry’s latest technology. Coding, programming and virtual design have become essential skill sets.“Today's tool and die shops are not your grandfather’s machine shop,” said Mark Hess, who founded Hess Industries in 2000. “They are technical centers that use state-of-the-art machinery throughout the entire facility.”At the turn of the century, experts warned that the tool and die sector was dying. Hess Industries is a prime example that the opposite is true. Tool and die is not dying. It’s evolving.
Hess defied industry trends when he opened his own tool and die business 20 years ago. Looking back, he describes it as a call from God.“I had to really lean into my faith,” Hess said. “There was a huge risk that we could lose it all, but I really felt led by God and knew that he would take care of us through the thick and thin.”Hess and his wife Pam sold their home and put all their personal equity into the business. Hess Industries opened in June 1999 in a rented workspace inside Braintree. The company remained steady as the recession took its toll on the manufacturing industry. Hess believes staying ahead of the technological curve was a key factor in his business' survival. “A lot of tool and die shops went out of business in 2008 because they didn’t grasp the modern tech,” Hess said. “We were able to thrive through all that. It wasn’t easy.”While some tool and die shops were resistant to changes within the industry, Hess Industries was an early adopter of computer-aided drafting (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technologies. “What Mark does is he embraces new technology to try to always stay ahead of the curve. He was always up to speed on what the newest technology was,” said Tom Hutchison, Hess' business partner and president of Hutchison Tool Sales.“When I look at the future of tool and die, I see more technology used to build the tooling,” Hess said. “In a way, it’s kind of less craftsmanship, but in another way it’s a different way of being a craftsmen and doing it in a 3D virtual world.” Hess Industries integrated 3D solid modeling into its operations in 2002.“We were one of the first to really get into the 3D world,” he added. “Most tool shops that are in business right now have either made the plunge into the 3D world or are making it now.”

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Mbrio's Pregnancy Earbud Adapters hit the market in June 2019, and they're getting noticed. Founder Jonathan Klinger presented this product at the October 16, 2019 SunDown Down RunDown pitch event at Old Bag of Nails in Mansfield.

Inspiration arrives in unexpected ways.Thirteen years ago, Jonathan Klinger came home from work to find his wife, Julianne, in the living room of their home in Cambridge, England. She was holding a CD player and had big earmuff-sized headphones strapped to her pregnant belly.More than a decade later, the couple's baby-tech startup has gone through loads of research, engineering, testing, relocation and risk-taking. After several prototypes, securing a patent and winning the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Innovation Fund of America prize (a "Shark Tank"-like competition) in the form of a $100,000 interest-free loan, Mbrio Pregnancy Earbud Adapters hit the market in June 2019, and they're getting noticed.The adapters, which transform regular earbuds into pregnancy headphones, garnered an Instagram shout-out from supermodel Ashley Graham to her almost 10 million followers, blurbs in People and Us Weekly magazines, online coverage on lifestyle sites including PopSugar, and a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon.Having an idea, designing the product, manufacturing it and establishing a company around it are daunting tasks. Jonathan and Julianne Klinger merged their experience — his in engineering, hers in marketing — to create earbud adapters that clip to a pregnant mom's waistband. They're made of safe, quality materials in an ergonomic shape. Decibel level and frequency testing was performed by a nationally registered lab."I'd heard about playing music to my unborn baby from my mom and sister," Julianne said. "It wasn't a new concept, and after my midwife suggested it, I decided to give it a try. I thought I could go to the store and pick something up. All I found were bulky speakers that required adhesives or straps and splitters or adapters. That got us thinking that there must be a better way."Jonathan, raised in England, is an engineer with a graduate business degree from France. Julianne, raised in the Midwest, has an undergraduate degree in anthropology and an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, where the two met through a mutual friend.Together, the couple moved often, following their jobs. Jonathan worked in marketing and product innovation for large corporations, while Julianne worked in advertising and marketing for a large Fortune 100 company."We kept thinking that playing music for our baby shouldn't be a different experience than playing music for ourselves. It should be seamless and use things we already had," Julianne said.Three months after their first child was born, Jonathan's work took them to New York. Design began with a trip to Walgreens and CVS, where they bought everyday products, including things with plastic clips, gel shoe inserts and other items that would attenuate sound.As an engineer, Jonathan had two questions. "One was: How do you make the sound safe for the baby? And the second is: How do you hold it to the mom's belly without harnesses or sticky stuff? The first sketch was literally drawn on the back of an envelope."We made several iterations," he added, "and by the time we got close to the final prototype, we searched to see if anyone had done anything like it. No one in the world had, so we applied for and received a patent. No one can legally copy it."After having another child and moving to Cleveland a few years ago, the Klingers were nearing the home stretch. They discovered Sears think [box], a public-access innovation center at the Case Western Reserve University School of Engineering."They have a phenomenal 3D printer that we could use for free," Jonathan said. "Unlike many 3D printers that only produce items in hard plastic, this printer allows you to model the squishiness of the piece.""We gave prototypes to local pregnant moms to try," added Julianne, who named the company Mbrio. They also commissioned, a market research company, to carry out an online survey of 500 pregnant moms across the U.S. to confirm attitudes about the benefits of prenatal music and interest in their product.The couple also discovered the JumpStart Inc. nonprofit accelerator, which provided mentoring, networking and ongoing support before, during and after the grant application through Glide (Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise) for the Innovation Fund of America prize and the product's launch.The final product, which looks as sleek as anything hanging on the wall of an Apple Store, meets the standards put out by the CDC and the National Institution for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). It's made of medical-grade silicone and a plastic clip that are joined without screws or glue but using split, flanged pegs. When it came to finding a manufacturer, Jonathan says that many turned the product down due to the complicated design."It was our choice to be this concerned about product safety. I've been through this with other products," said Jonathan, who left his full-time job two years ago. Through his contacts, he chose a high-quality, tier-one manufacturer in Asia to make the two components.The next step, he added, became equally important."The organization that assembles the product and the packaging is a nonprofit based in Norwalk called CLI Supports," he said. "It provides paid employment to adults with developmental disabilities. They assemble the silicone to the clip and package the finished product. We also have the graphics done locally and use Ohio suppliers. Many are women-owned businesses.""We could use suppliers from around the world," Julianne said. "We could have the graphic design done elsewhere, anyone could do our fulfillment, but we feel the community has given us so much, we love Cleveland and we want to give back."She manages engagement with influencers and moms through Instagram. "That was a big part of this for us," she said. "Who we are in terms of bringing this product to light is also about who we are as parents. We left our lives in large corporations to do this a certain way. It might have taken us a little longer, it might cost us more, but there is integrity in it and that's the only way we wanted to do it. We came into it launching a product for pregnant women, but the richness has been the lives of these women we've gotten to know and remain in touch with. That's been the jewel of the whole thing."As for additional items from Mbrio, Julianne said, "We're thinking of the next product as we consider the community and their needs."Mbrio Pregnancy Earbud Adapters fit earbuds by Apple, including wireless AirPods, Samsung and Google Pixel. They're available in white or aqua, sell for $30 and can be purchased at and on Amazon. For additional reviews and images see mbriotech on Instagram.

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Braintree's Aspire Technologies Company Makes Athletes Faster

December 16, 2019
by Lisa Colbert, TechOhio
Aspire, a Braintree tenant company, works with various resistance-based equipment used by athletes. The company has developed a way to release the equipment quicker and easier using wireless technology, bringing wearable speed-trainers into the 21st century and giving aspirational athletes a better training tool

For an athlete, speed can be the difference between a casual hobby and a shot at a scholarship or a professional career. So why are the tools athletes use to improve their quickness often so clunky and outdated? That’s the problem Todd Kelley of Aspire Technologies is trying to fix. Aspire works with various resistance-based equipment such as speed sleds, bungee cords and parachutes, which are used by athletes to help them develop straight-line speed. The company has developed a way to release the equipment quicker and easier using wireless technology, bringing wearable speed-trainers into the 21st century and giving aspirational athletes a better training tool.
“We specialize in developing wearable devices to help athletes who want to improve their speed,” said Kelley, founder and CEO of Aspire. “The Vmax Speed Trainer is a resistance-based product that improves the equipment they already have. Athletes are using resistance products to do drills and training to improve speed. But imagine you’re running with a parachute and you reach a small cone and you must release the parachute and pull away. You’re breaking form when you do that, which hinders performance.”
Instead of relying on athletes making an unnatural body movement to disengage the parachute or unstrap a harness while they’re trying to run, the Vmax Trainer works wirelessly so users can keep running. The streamlined process improves muscle memory and makes for a more efficient workout, allowing athletes and coaches to focus on form and technique rather than remembering to pull a velcro strap to release the equipment. It’s an important difference between existing products, but one that Kelley says no one else has tackled at the consumer level.“Our product uses a mobile app or a remote control, and at the push of a button you can release your parachute,” said Kelley. “This is an important difference for coaches, trainers and athletes because it removes all the cumbersome ways that the technology currently works. And there really aren’t other companies making this product. So we’re hoping we can work with manufacturers to be able to build on the existing tech that’s already out there.”Though it’s still in its early days, Aspire already has a lot of interest. At demos with high school athletes and coaches, Kelley said there was more demand than prototypes available. And because speed is crucial in all athletic events, nearly every sport can benefit from the product. If all goes well with testing, he hopes to be on the market next year with several satisfied teams and athletes using his equipment. And for Kelley, helping athletes isn’t just a business model, it’s a personal mission.
“I’m a former athlete myself, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with communities on coaching, youth development and mentoring,” said Kelley. “After sports, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to do next. So when I saw people using this equipment to run faster, but not having what they needed, I saw my opportunity. When I was younger, coaches used to just say, ‘just run, you’ll get in better shape.’ But science says athletes get faster by activating neuromuscular firing patterns, and that’s why they use resistance equipment. Ultimately, I want to help athletes improve, and not just those who can afford the top-of-the-line equipment.”
Kelley’s entrepreneurial journey has been years in the making. He taught, worked in music and started a nonprofit before settling on Aspire. Once he decided to work full-time on his idea, he began taking advantage of Ohio’s many available resources, working with TechGROWTH Ohio at Ohio University, the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Kent State Tuscarawas and the University of Akron’s I-Corps program. Eventually, he found a home at the Braintree Business Development Center in Mansfield, where he’s taken his idea from dream to reality.“I love the quote, ‘There’s nothing more common than unsuccessful men with talent;’ that’s something I can really relate to,” said Kelley. “For years, I’ve had access to so many partnerships in Ohio that have provided tremendous help and support. From coworking space to advice and help seeking financial assistance, I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the help of those organizations.”

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Balloon, a Mansfield SunDown RunDown alum, has now raised $2.1 million

December 10, 2019
by Brian Rinker,
Fledgling company Balloon announced today that it has raised $2.1 million in seed funding, led by angel investor Jason Calacanis, who was an early investor in Uber. Originally from Ohio, and once known as "Balloonr, " it is a workplace communication platform similar to Slack but anonymous so co-workers can share ideas without the fear of judgement or failure. Amanda Greenberg pitched at the very first SunDown RunDown event in Mansfield in February of 2014.

Fledgling company Balloon announced today that it has raised $2.1 million in seed funding, led by angel investor Jason Calacanis, who was an early investor in Uber. Balloon, however, has nothing to do with the sharing economy. Rather it is a workplace communication platform similar to Slack but anonymous so co-workers can share ideas without the fear of judgement or failure. The idea is that in-real-life workplace meetings are unproductive because they are monopolized by senior-level management, said Balloon co-founder and CEO Amanda Greenberg, adding that many people don't feel comfortable sharing in such a setting. Because of this, according to Greenberg, many good ideas are never born.

Greenberg founded Balloon with her husband, Noah Bornstein, in 2015 in order to create a product that allowed merit-based ideas to balloon to the surface of the company. "We wanted a name that really captured the movement. Information is being ballooned, pumped up and taking off in a company,” said Greenberg.

While this is Greenberg's first startup, Balloon already has some big name customers, including Capital One, Thumbtack, Google, US Cellular, and the LA Angels. Balloon makes money by billing customers an annual subscription. Here’s how Balloon can work: At the end of a big project, a company can seek feedback on what worked and what didn't. Employees can post anonymously and click on the balloon icon, similar to a “Like.” Posts with the most balloon clicks rise up above the lesser ones. If someone has a really good idea that gets a lot of balloon pumps, as Greenberg calls them, the employee has the option of casting away their anonymity and revealing themselves to certain people or everyone. </i-amphtml-sizer></amp-img>All nine of Ballon’s employees work remotely, but five are based in San Francisco. With the new capital, Greenberg expects to hire several employees and set up a brick-and-mortar office somewhere in San Francisco in the new year.

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