The Tech Tribune staff has compiled the very best tech startups in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Making the list is Farm Fare, a Mansfield SunDown RunDown alum.

The Tech Tribune staff has compiled the very best tech startups. In doing our research, we considered several factors including but not limited to:Revenue potentialLeadership teamBrand/product tractionCompetitive landscapeAdditionally, all companies must be independent (un-acquired), privately owned, at most 10 years old, and have received at least one round of funding in order to qualify.Farm Fare - Founded: 2016“Farm Fare is a delivery service, hub management software suite, and mobile shopping app that curates and connects the local food supply chain from source to destination. Founded in Cleveland, Ohio, in April 2016, Farm Fare serves the B2B market, such as restaurants, schools, grocery stores, and food artisans, to distribute the freshest products found within 100 miles of the business. We believe that local food is better food – for people, planet, and profit.”

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DECA Manufacturing in Lexington is under new ownership, and Cameron Haring plans on embracing his new role to change the company, and the community, for the better. Cameron is on the Braintree Board of Directors.

Taking ownership of DECA Manufacturing is really the culmination of 15 years of work for Haring. He had always known he wanted to be an entrepreneur of some kind, and now, everything has come full circle.“I’m finally getting where I’ve always wanted to go,” he said. “This transition has been pivotal in my life.”As both owner and president, he is taking a hands-on approach to DECA; representing the company at tradeshows, meeting with prospective clients and talking with his employees on the shop floor. He has a broad skill set and deep knowledge of business operations, he is enthusiastically investing both in DECA.DECA Manufacturing1 of 4Cameron Haring graduated from Mansfield Senior High School and earned his BS in Organizational Leadership at Miami University of Ohio.Ribbon cutting at DECA.Christmas party at DECA.DECA's shop floor.Haring graduated from Mansfield Senior High School and earned his BS in Organizational Leadership at Miami University of Ohio. After graduating from college, Haring moved to Chicago where he worked in sales for a logistics provider. After a few years he wanted to deepen his business expertise, so he returned to school, earning his MBA in General Management and Operations from Vanderbilt University.With his MBA in hand, Haring sought to apply his business knowledge and skills to a larger corporate arena. His 10-year journey saw him serving in various capacities with growing responsibilities at a global company that manufactures and distributes scientific equipment. The experience Haring gained during this time gave him a more sophisticated appreciation of management principles and their direct application.An entrepreneur at heart, Haring began to think about how he could apply his expertise to run a smaller business. He realized that the best way to fulfill his entrepreneurial dream was to venture into small manufacturing.While Haring’s career had included a great deal of business travel and introduced him to many parts of the world, there was something that kept pulling him back to the Mansfield area. It truly felt like the stars were aligning when the opportunity arose to return home and buy a business; not just any business but one in the exact industry he wanted - small manufacturing.Haring could not be more excited for this new chapter in his life, the DECA Manufacturing story, and the opportunity to support the region’s economy.“I’m excited to really test myself and to employ all of the knowledge and skills I’ve learned. But it’s not just about me. I want to do the right thing by adding to the economic prosperity of the area,” said Haring.Haring is hitting the ground running and has big plans for DECA’s not-too-distant future.
“I want to turn it into a fast, agile growth company. I’m looking to create sales, engineering and everything else you need for a company to grow more quickly. I want to make the business more sophisticated and change the approach to growth.”Turning DECA into a company of growth isn’t just nice words. Haring has already begun putting things in place to help his team generate more sales by hiring two new sales representatives and a new project estimator.However, he also explained that this expansion process is not just about hiring.“We’ve done a lot with new production systems, back office processes, and we have purchased a lot of new equipment as well,” said Haring.Success isn’t Haring’s only goal. He is putting a plan in place for sustainability too.“I’m planning on making the building completely renewable in the next three years,” he said. “I want to do something that’s not your grandpa’s manufacturing.”Haring explained that because of the nature of the manufacturing DECA does, sustainability is entirely possible.“The building is already geothermally heated, so we already have renewable heating. We use LED lights which cuts our electric consumption. The custom electronic industry doesn’t use a mountain of electricity anyway. But, for the electricity we do use, I want to implement a solar array.”Haring has also worked in previous factories to make plants landfill-free, so he would like to use this experience and knowledge to do this for DECA as well.Among all of these attributes Haring brings to DECA, he believes his biggest strength is his past experiences with strategic management.“My strength is having exposure to the management of a big business and touching all aspects of that business. I’d like to bring that to DECA. I bring a unique background as far as business development.”Haring’s vision, experience and passion for small manufacturing are all combining to serve as a powerful catalyst, which will infuse new energy into DECA’s story as well as the Lexington and the greater Mansfield area.

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Former Braintree tenant Dan Manges now a part of $3.65 billion startup

September 9, 2019
by Carrie Ghose, Columbus Business First
Root Insurance is now valued at $3.65 billion after a $350 million funding round – the largest single venture capital round ever in the state.
The co-founders pack a one-two punch: CEO Alex Timm, 31, is a mathematician and actuarial science wiz who worked in the insurance industry since age 14. Chief Technology Officer Dan Manges also was CTO of startup Braintree Payment Systems, which was acquired for $800 million by PayPal in 2013. He is also the cofounder of Fractal Surfing, formerly a tenant company at the Braintree Business Development Center in Mansfield.

Root had already been valued at more than $1 billion with $150 million raised in two rounds last year, also the highest in the state for 2018. Statewide Ohio startups set a record last year for a combined $1 billion in VC funding, according to JobsOhio. That's for hundreds of deals.Before this latest round, Timm's equity in his creation had shrunk to 10%, according to a cap table filed with the Ohio Department of Insurance. Manges was among a group of owners with less than 10%, 27% was owned by original investor Drive Capital.

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Third Frontier program awaits decision by governor

August 11, 2019
by Jay Miller, Crain's Cleveland Business
The Ohio Third Frontier program is looking to approve spending at least $82 million before the end of 2019.The 17-year-old program, which has spent more than $2 billion to stimulate new business development, awaits a decision from Governor DeWine on its future. In 2018, the Third Frontier board awarded $28.2 million to a group of Northeast Ohio entrepreneurial support organizations including JumpStart, Flashstarts, MAGNET, and Braintree.

The Ohio Third Frontier program is looking to approve spending at least $82 million before the end of 2019.The 17-year-old program, which has spent more than $2 billion to stimulate new business development, awaits decisions from the administration of Gov. Mike DeWine on its future. Earlier this summer, the Ohio Development Services Agency released requests for proposals (RFP) looking to invest Third Frontier bond money to help grow technology businesses in the state. The DeWine administration has been noncommittal about the program's future. In an emailed statement, DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the administration is examining how best to support new and growing businesses."Gov. DeWine and Lt. Gov. Husted are committed to making Ohio globally competitive and attracting growing industries, and Third Frontier has provided many benefits to Ohio businesses over the years. It has also continued to evolve," Tierney wrote. "We are looking at ways to maximize these resources to take them to the next level."
The Third Frontier program gives grants to universities, businesses and nonprofits to spur technical innovations designed to lead to new businesses. It has funded a wide variety of research that might lead to the commercialization of products. It has financially supported everything from resurfacing the test track at the Honda of American Manufacturing Inc. with a $6 million grant, to a dozen $200,000 grants to organizations, including the University of Akron and of Aurora, that are pursuing technology-based solutions to address the opioid epidemic.Voters in 2010 authorized a renewal of the original 2002 bond issue, approving the spending $700 million over the next decade. Spending $82 million before the year is out will leave the bond fund with about $100 million in spending authorityRay Leach, CEO of JumpStart Inc., the Cleveland nonprofit business accelerator and investor, said he thinks that had the Third Frontier program and its money not been around, there would be significantly less startup activity in the state than there is. JumpStart has been the beneficiary of significant Third Frontier financial support and has used some of that money to fund other organizations that help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable businesses."I do think the outcomes of the program are such that it would be very hard to wind down this work," he said. "The only way would be if there is a better alternative, and maybe there is, but I haven't seen it."Leach added one important key to the success of the investments the Third Frontier program has made is the requirement that most grants have a matching private or local investment.The current RFPs are for its Entrepreneurial Services Provider (ESP) program and its Technology Validation and Start-up Fund (TVSF). The ESP program funds a network of six regional nonprofits, including JumpStart, that offer technology entrepreneurs and early stage companies advice, technical support and entre to early stage and venture capital. The TVSF program provides grants to universities and other nonprofit research institutions to help transition technology from Ohio research institutions into the marketplace through Ohio startup companies. TVSF awards typically go to research programs at universities and other nonprofits, such as a $50,000 award to the Northeast Ohio Medical University for research into a commercial screening kit for gene therapy.In 2018, the Third Frontier board awarded JumpStart $28.2 million to lead a group of entrepreneurial support organizations for 2018-20, including BioEnterprise, which works with entrepreneurs to commercialize bioscience technologies; Flashstarts, a business accelerator and venture fund that provides capital and support services for tech companies; and the MAGNET Incubation Center (MIC), which helps turn manufactured product ideas into growing businesses. Flashstarts, for instance, uses its own money to support and invest in a young business, but is also one of the organizations that benefits, through JumpStart, from funding through the entrepreneurial support program. It can assist an entrepreneur in turning an idea into a business by providing help on things such as forming a corporation, filing the right tax forms and even naming the business.
"Early stage companies often need advice more than money," noted Shannon Lyons, chief operating officer of Flashstarts. "The Third Frontier money has allowed us to work with hundreds of companies."Though the DeWine administration has so far been mum on how it will continue to support entrepreneurial efforts, the research foundation of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce in July 2018 completed a study that offered an alternative.In "Ohio Bold: A Blueprint for Accelerating the Innovation Economy," the chamber's research organization recommended accelerating the state's business-building activity around four innovation platforms, which it called Next Gen Manufacturing, Future Health, Smart Infrastructure and Data Analytics. "The statewide Innovation Hubs will focus on 'industry-facing' activities and specialized shared-use facilities to advance new-product development, process improvements and commercialization of new technologies through active connections to serial entrepreneurs, angel investors and seed-stage venture capital funds," the report stated.

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While researching patent attorneys nationwide, Stephen Key reached out to Braintree Board member Jacob Ward, a patent attorney from Tiffin Ohio whose firm serves primarily independent inventors. In addition to teaching patent law at the University of Toledo, he regularly advises inventor groups in the Midwest. In fact, Forbes became acquainted with him in 2017 due to his support for independent inventors.

I’ve written about a conflict that exists between inventors and patent attorneys. I’ve been a little hard on them, even. But there’s more than one side to every story of course. With that in mind, I interviewed two patent attorneys I know who have a great reputation among independent inventors about their practices.Let me be clear. I believe in the patent system. Patents are tools you can use to further your goals. In 2003, I successfully defended my portfolio of more than 20 patents in federal court. Early on in our relationship, my patent attorney John Ferrell gave me superb advice when he told me flat-out, “Steve, protection is easy. Selling is hard. Go sell.”That was more than 20 years ago, and it profoundly affected the choices I made as an entrepreneur moving forward. Because I decided to worry about selling instead of protection, I became extremely successful at licensing my patent portfolio. These patents, I might add, covered a technology that was invented in the 1950s. Carr & Ferrell took great care in defining my point of difference and allowed me to help guide them. And when I sued for infringement, they took the case on contingency. Talk about standing behind your work!</fbs-ad>I think it’s important to share what patent attorneys who are deeply invested in the success of their clients are doing. After all, it takes years and a significant financial commitment for a patent to issue. Working with someone you trust is key to obtaining the best outcome possible.First, I spoke with patent attorney and inventor Damon Kali, whom I’ve known for more than a decade. He recently moved from the Silicon Valley, where he spent his career, to the Eastern Sierras of Northern California. One thing I’ve always appreciated about Kali is his perspective on the value of determining whether you have a marketable idea. When the vast majority of patents are not profitable, that’s a clear example of looking out for your client.Then I reached out to Jacob Ward, a patent attorney from Northwest Ohio whose firm serves primarily independent inventors. In addition to teaching patent law at the University of Toledo, he regularly advises inventor groups in the Midwest. In fact, we became acquainted in 2017 due to his support for independent inventors. (Full disclosure: Ward Law Office made a donation to help Inventors Groups of America, the group I cofounded, put on its first conference, part of which took place United States Patent & Trademark Office. I wrote about that event here.)Here are key takeaways from our conversations about how they help inventors obtain patent protection.1. They start slow and with the big picture. First and foremost, Kali wants to understand what potential clients are trying to accomplish. He achieves this by spending about 30 minutes on the phone getting to know the inventor.“Once I have a clear idea of what the inventor is trying to do and what their experience is, I can start tailoring a patent application to fit their needs,” he explained.2. They do not charge for an initial consultation. Be wary, Kali advised: A patent attorney who charges you for an initial consultation is setting the tone for how they are going to charge you for future services.3. They embrace education. In fact, Ward views educating inventors as a core part of his business.“I do so much initial consulting, sometimes spending one or two or even three hours on the phone for free,” Ward told me. “Before they step into this process, an inventor needs to have a good understanding of what’s required so we can cooperate.”He also directs potential clients to a network of experts who are similarly willing to share helpful information for free.“From a business standpoint, I think it’s important that inventors surround themselves with a strong network. No one is an expert at everything.”With inventors and startups, Kali takes the time to patiently break down intricacies of the patent process. This is markedly different from how he engages with his larger clients, like IBM. “I don’t need to speak with larger clients ever — I do the work and bill. Smaller clients are different. This is a long and complicated process and smaller clients need to understand what, why, and how it’s all going to happen.”He acknowledged that the process of learning about patents is often painful. But he thinks it’s worth it, and I wholeheartedly agree.4. They’re good communicators. Kali was a partner in a boutique firm before deciding that he wanted to be able to develop more of a relationship with his clients than what billable hours — the billing system most law firms follow — allowed for. Today, he provides his clients with an upfront estimate of what it will cost to get a patent. This way, he said, he’s able to focus on getting the job done right.“I’m not thinking about how long our phone calls are. In my opinion, communication with a client is critical for understanding and fulfilling their needs. It’s also what’s required to build a relationship. It doesn’t matter how well you draft claims if you don’t understand what the inventor actually wants and needs,” he added.If you cannot understand what a patent attorney is saying, that’s a red flag. Don’t be intimidated by jargon you don’t understand. Instead, keep interviewing patent attorneys until you find one who makes you feel comfortable and that you click with right away.5. There are no billing surprises. Two years ago, when Ward opened up his own firm, he immediately lowered his billable rate.“I did that for a couple of reasons. Partly based on our overhead — the Midwest is not New York or D.C. We try to provide high quality services at a lower price,” he explained. Like Kali, a fixed estimate is provided upfront for most of his firm’s work.Receiving a bill before any actual work has been produced is another warning sign to watch out for, Kali said. “My feeling is that if you’re going to charge someone several thousand dollars, something needs to be produced. Not just talking,” he said. “It’s never too late or too soon to pull your case and begin working with someone else.”In my opinion, good patent attorneys understand that inventors who have a marketable idea and are successful become loyal clients.Be mindful about who you choose to make part of your team.

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