Ohio Third Frontier creates fund to invest in woman- and minority-owned startups

Ohio Third Frontier creates fund to invest in woman- and minority-owned startups

Women and minority founders of technology companies should find more open doors in Ohio: The Ohio Third Frontier Commission on Thursday approved a loan to back half of a $10 million fund focused on investing in historically excluded groups.

The JumpStart Inclusion and Diversity Tech Fund will look for companies throughout the state and try to attract entrepreneurs to Ohio. It’s being managed out of Cleveland by JumpStart Inc., the nonprofit that invests in and advises northeast Ohio startups analogous to Columbus’ Rev1 Ventures.

“I feel very encouraged and proud to be an Ohioan,” said Tanisha Robinson, a Columbus entrepreneur who participated in a panel discussion on diversity at the meeting before the vote. She’s CEO of fast-growing Print Syndicate LLC, which harnesses social media for just-in-time production of designs for clothing and home goods.

The commission approved a $5 million loan from its Pre-Seed fund, to be matched by privately raised dollars. Also in that batch of loans approved Thursday was $19.5 million that enables creation of funds totaling $59 million managed by Rev1 and Columbus venture capital firm NCT Ventures.
The Ohio Development Services Agency, which oversees Third Frontier, does not know of another fund nationally that focuses specifically on women and minorities, said Norm Chagnon, deputy chief of the Office of Technology Investments. JumpStart, which proposed the fund, has a strong history in inclusion efforts, he said.
Central Ohio has X Squared Angels, a group of private investors who focus on women-owned businesses.

As Robinson explains it, startup investing is hugely influenced by who you know. While her early success selling a tech company helped her find backers, she hasn’t found herself joined by many other black women entrepreneurs.
“How the dots get connected in the funding decisions – it very overtly excludes people who are not connected,” she told me after the commission meeting. “It’s not about whether or not they’re great businesses. Those great businesses are not connected to the same funding mechanisms available to straight, white men.”


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