Joel Crites only has about $2,500 in revenue to show for Micro Fantasy, his predictive-gaming startup of two years. But the North Canton Hoover High School graduate continues to swing for the fences, and he's drawing a crowd of people who believe he can make it happen. Many will recall him pitching at SunDown RunDown events in Mansfield, Akron, and Canton.

Joel Crites only has about $2,500 in revenue to show for Micro Fantasy, his predictive-gaming startup of two years.But the North Canton Hoover High School graduate continues to swing for the fences, and he's drawing a crowd of people who believe he can make it happen.The company — which has developed software that allows users to predict which plays will occur in a sporting event in real time, thus giving host organizations the chance to run contests and bring in sponsorships — has had a hectic last 12 months, even by startup standards.Crites, who is working full-time as a controller for a Twinsburg manufacturing company, in March negotiated a three-year contract with Pointstreak Sports Technologies. The deal — just in time for the start of baseball and softball season — allows Micro Fantasy to use Pointstreak's real-time stats feed to run its in-venue contests.Micro Fantasy's web-based platform (the company also has free apps for Android and Apple users) was on display during the National Pro Fastpitch League draft in April, plus the Florida Collegiate Summer League's All-Star Game earlier this month. The company's technology also is being used by such teams as the Lake Erie Crushers of the independent Frontier League, as well as the Akron Racers and Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch League."We have taken all the guesswork out. That's what the past year is all about," Crites said. "If you have a minimum amount of labor, it can work."And that's the key, said Crites, who came up with the idea while trying to keep his then-16-year-old son, Koby, interested at a Cleveland Indians game in 2014.Teams such as the Bandits, whom Crites said employ a pair of interns to promote the softball team's contests, have shown that the more consistent the promotion, the greater the likelihood that fans will be willing to join a Micro Fantasy contest during a game.Another National Pro Fastpitch team, the Racers, have sent staffers from their promotions department into the stands at Firestone Stadium in an effort to round up fans for that night's Micro Fantasy contest."We'd get 20 people who were interested in playing. Then they'd compete for prizes," Akron owner and general manager Joey Arrietta said. "It's been a fun ingredient."Like most things right now, that's relatively small potatoes for what Crites anticipates will one day be an all-out feast.During its first full year with live automation capabilities, Micro Fantasy isn't charging clubs to use its product, though it is asking for a revenue share should an organization sell a sponsorship related to its in-park Micro Fantasy promotion.With his model producing proven results, Crites believes he can begin to bring in licensing fees of at least $1,000 per team, plus a 50/50 sponsorship share in 2018 — and he thinks there are several hundred clubs who can be signed up for the services.Contest participants choose one of 10 options prior to an at-bat in baseball or softball, with a correct answer generating points based on a scale of somewhat likely (such as a groundout or single) to improbable outcomes (i.e., a triple in baseball).The 10-option interface allows Micro Fantasy to seamlessly transition to other sports. The company's first football contests went live at several restaurants and bars in November 2015, and Crites has developed versions for basketball, hockey, tennis, soccer, esports and even rodeo.And just as taking his oldest of four kids to a Tribe game led to his big business idea, time spent with his grandmother, who has dementia, gave Crites another reason to think his product can work on a large scale.Nursing homes, unlike bars, don't expect a big return on their investments, and they have budgets set aside for events such as a Micro Fantasy night — which Crites said has "been a hit" during Indians games at The Oaks of Brecksville."I think that will be more profitable than sports bars," Crites said. "We're still working every angle."A product with the potential to work in more than one industry, and with so many sports, has impressed Ken Cook, who had been Pointstreak's CEO until the Canadian company was acquired by Blue Star Sports, a Frisco, Texas-based youth sports management giant that is backed by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones."I really like the way he's taken a look at different market segments," said Cook, who's been a mentor to Crites and said he "wouldn't hesitate" to invest in Micro Fantasy "if the timing was different."Crites has put in $80,000 of his own money since founding the company. He's hoping to raise $300,000 in a current round of investing, which would allow his "core four" group of employees (himself, a chief marketing officer, a chief technology officer and a software engineer) to focus more of their efforts on the startup. (The other three are currently working part-time.)Micro Fantasy is one of 20 finalists for a $100,000 investment from Stadia Ventures, a St. Louis-based accelerator that chooses to work with two up-and-coming startups per year.Crites is also awaiting approval from Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which he believes could lead to Micro Fantasy working with a large group of minor league clubs."I love Joel's commitment and his enthusiasm for it," said National Pro Fastpitch commissioner Cheri Kempf, whose six-team organization held Micro Fantasy contests during its 2016 championship series.Crites, full-time job and all, continues to meet with potential investors and believes he's one big break — one huge agreement — from his startup being a sports industry staple."The goal now that we have that strong foundation laid is to get that investment to devote ourselves to it," Crites said. "That's the only constraint right now."

Read more: SunDown RunDown alum Joel Crites, Micro Fantasy featured in Crain's Cleveland Business News URL:

Jerry Holden is the president and broker for The Holden Agency, and a board member of the Braintree Business Development Center. After a career in professional baseball, Holden redirected his competitive mindset toward real estate and quickly built a reputation of success in the industry.Holden has been recognized as the no. 1 sales agent for 11 years straight in North Central Ohio and a top sales agent in the state of Ohio. Most recently he was announced as an Inman Innovator 2017 finalist in the Most Innovative Brokerage category.He will take the stage at the Indie Broker Summit on Monday, August 7, to address brokers from across the country on how to compete with the industry giants.

Holden has completed real estate transactions all over the continental United States and is currently expanding The Holden Agency into new markets using his four key principles in every transaction: innovation, integrity, vision and partnership.Holden will take the stage at the Indie Broker Summit on Monday, August 7, to address brokers from across the country on how to compete with the industry giants like Keller Williams. (Hint: Listen to your grandma, and practice as hard as LeBron James.)We caught up with Holden to hear why he loves being an independent broker and what trends to keep an eye on.What do you see as the biggest benefit to being an independent broker?The ability to abide by three simple rules:1. No assholes2. Have fun3. The grandmother rule: Treat every customer with white glove service as you would your own grandmother.Also being able to develop a culture, rather than just talking about it. People always talk about culture and their business, but it’s very difficult and takes a lot of time to have that culture be enriched and accepted by everyone.I work every day with keeping in mind and developing the culture so this is the place everybody wants to come and work.What are your best tips and tricks for building your client base?Getting better! Not getting bigger! If you get better the consumers will demand that you get bigger!What do you see as the most important trends (good or bad) that independent brokers should be keeping an eye on in the coming year?Always being a student of the business. Being flexible and referring back to being a student of the business and understanding market data and the different trends from absorption rate, median prices, average prices, etc.Things may slow down, and you have to have that trending data from at least six months back to be able to counsel your clients in the right way. Also don’t get caught up in all the different tech gadgets or technology.LeBron James is in his off-season right now. However, I guarantee you he is working on getting better right now.If you keep that frame of reference in your mind, you will get better, and then your business and your base of clients will ultimately get bigger!

Read more: Braintree board member Jerry Holden to speak at Indie Broker Conference in San Francisco URL:

InfoGPS partners with C&F, advances into GDPR Market

July 14, 2017
by Paul Hugenberg InfoGPS Networks
InfoGPS Network, a member of the Braintree family of innovative startups, is pleased to announce a newly signed strategic technology partnership with C&F, a European company focused on enterprise governance, risk and compliance in regulated industries. By being located in the European Union, C&F is uniquely positioned to utilize InfoGPS in response to the upcoming GDPR data privacy compliance requirements.

InfoGPS is excited to announce their strategic technology partnership with C&F, a company focused on enterprise governance, risk and compliance in regulated industries. C&F is based in Poland with offices in the US. Located in the European Union, C&F is uniquely positioned to utilize InfoGPS in response to the upcoming GDPR data privacy compliance requirements.InfoGPS and C&F solution AdaptiveGRC will integrate technologies to automate the process of creating a risk based inventory of sensitive content at all organization levels; a critical component of the AdaptiveGRC suite of products. Leveraging the power of both companies to deliver a comprehensive risk management solution will allow organizations in regulated industries to manage their risk in real-time, score risk and make decisions that will protect overall shareholder value.“This is an exciting partnership for InfoGPS. With pending EU GDPR compliance on the immediate horizon and many solutions claiming to be overnight experts, we sought a partner with experience in the international privacy market, had boots on the ground, and was actively addressing the new regulation. We will learn faster and our mutual clients will benefit in a meaningful way”, said Paul Hugenberg, CEO at InfoGPS.AdaptiveGRC by C&F is an integrated governance, risk management and compliance cloud based or on premise solution suite. It supports a much more effective and efficient approach to operating and reporting on any or all primary GRC activities, creating earlier visibility and mitigation of risks and substantial operational impact reductions. “We believe that partnering with InfoGPS will allow us to provide better overall GRC solutions to our customers. InfoGPS has years of experience working with companies addressing risk across all business disciplines. Our joint offering will help these organizations to meet the growing risk concerns and the compliance requirements companies face in regulated industries everyday by providing the ability to automate this discovery and scoring in real-time.” said Jan Anisimowicz, Head of AdaptiveGRC.About InfoGPS Networks, Inc.InfoGPS Networks, Inc. is an Ohio-based software company focused on data discovery, classification and risk mapping; and endpoint change monitoring. For organizations that are addressing regulatory pressures to protect sensitive information, or provide risk-based services to these clients, InfoGPS will automate the process of creating the risk based inventory of sensitive content at all organization levels as well as monitor for changes to the endpoint that may put data at risk. www.infogpsnetworks.comAbout C&F
C&F, established in 2001, is a team of passionate people working around the globe. We operate from 5 locations (Poland, US, Australia, Japan, Czech Republic) with HQ in Warsaw, Poland. Our solutions are deployed in 60+ countries in over 25 different language packs. We specialize in Life Sciences, Financial Services and Oil & Gas with years of GRC expertise spanning across multiple other industries where security is of the highest importance.

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Two businesses graduate from Braintree's residency program

July 14, 2017
by Tracy Geibel,
Launching new businesses is Braintree's business, and two more figure to blossom after Friday's ceremonies: KnowledgePost and Solutions in Polycarbonate.

Two businesses were honored Friday at the Braintree Business Development Center.Bruce Gold, of Solutions in Polycarbonate, and Andrew Bennett, of KnowledgePost, were celebrated with a luncheon after graduating from Braintree’s residency program.“The help that (Braintree) gave us was huge,” said Gold. “It was a good thing we ran into Bob Cohen (business advisor).”Braintree serves as an incubator for start-up businesses.Solutions in Polycarbonate manufactures window wall systems and skylights made to increase energy efficiency and durability.The company came to Braintree in 2016 after making pitches at SunDown RunDown events and the Akron ARCHAngels Investment Forum. But after every pitch, Gold heard the same thing.“They’d tell us come back to us when we had the prototypes,” he said.But it wasn’t that easy. He’d already invested an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 before prototypes were built.Braintree gave the start-up just what it needed. Gold said Cohen helped him develop a plan and provided space for the construction of the prototypes. Solutions in Polycarbonate also received a Braintree Tech Sprout Grant and is a client of the Appleseed Microfinance Program.Now Solutions in Polycarbonate needs a bigger production space, so Gold plans to move into a Medina location, near where he and his wife live.“It was great to be here to get things going and growing, but we knew where we were eventually heading,” Gold said.KnowledgePost also graduated from the incubator.CEO and co-founder, Andrew Bennett’s business serves as a web-based platform that connects training service providers with people who are seeking a specific skill set.He compares it to Consultants, educational institutions and professional trainers can connect with businesses and people who need their professional expertise.“There is no other platform, not even LinkedIn, which allows people and businesses to showcase all their professional services and learning resources,” Bennett said. “As a result, people and businesses are not being found by potential customers, which means they are missing out on potential revenue opportunities.”He says people might search Google for this information, but only find what they need after scrolling through pages of results.KnowledgePost was founded in 2013 and stayed as a Braintree resident since 2014.The business has received Braintree’s Third Frontier Direct Grant and the Innovation Fund “A” Award from the Lorain County Community College “GLIDE” program.Bennett will operate from MidTown Cleveland and focus on that region as his first market before expanding further.New to Braintree is NYTSTND, a company manufacturing charging stations for Apple devices.

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The Richland County Foundation Board of Trustees recently approved about $70,000 to invest in economic development, including $50,000 in scale-up evergreen funding administered by the Braintree Business Development Center that will go to The Phoenix Brewing Company and Market Brothers to help the two local companies grow their businesses.

The Richland County Foundation Board of Trustees recently approved about $70,000 to invest in economic development. A total of over $50,000 in scale-up evergreen funding will go to The Phoenix Brewing Company and Market Brothers to help the two local companies grow their businesses, foundation president Brady Groves said. An additional $20,000 will go to Richland Community Development Group for a business attraction plan. Managed through Braintree Business Development Center, the two scale-up projects are part of the foundation’s $1.1 million, five-year economic development plan.The Phoenix Brewing Company received funding to purchase additional equipment and supplies to maximize the productivity of its brewing systems. Market Brothers, a local brokerage firm, received funding to add an executive sales director to its team. The scale-up evergreen fund is a pool of money to help minimize a local company’s risk by fronting part of the cost of external services. Scale-up companies typically are at least three years old, make $2 million to $50 million in annual revenue and employ 10-99 people. Target outcomes for the funding include increasing jobs, payroll and fixed asset capital investment in the region.Phoenix Brewing Company and Market Brothers are the third and fourth local businesses to receive scale-up evergreen funds. Companies are often identified and recommended for scale-up funds by Richland Community Development Group's director of economic development, Barrett Thomas, but anyone can recommend a company for scale-up funding. In addition to the scale-up projects, the board approved a grant request for a business attraction plan from the Richland Community Development Group. The plan includes training for the RCDG staff, data collection, architectural master plans of high priority business sites and fees to display at business attraction trade shows and events. “Richland County is at a pivotal point in its economic evolution," Foundation President Brady Groves said in a news release announcing the economic development funding. "The groundwork has been laid, key people have been hired, organizations are working together and we are now posed to make significant strides.”A Strategic Review Committee comprised of foundation board members and community leaders is tracking the progress and monitoring metrics of the economic plan to ensure positive outcomes in the county. The project will evolve and be adapted as the plan’s objectives are met, or not, over the next couple of years.

Read more: Richland County Foundation approves $50K for Braintree, RCDG scale-up funding for two area companies URL: