The University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State University, Wright State University, The University of Dayton and Xavier University announces a first-ever cross-institutional partnership in the region to accelerate startup launches.

Why is this multi-university agreement important for Cincinnati and the region?
Startup ecosystems thrive most when communities come together to better leverage assets and resources. The University of Cincinnati, because of its role as the region’s Carnegie Research 1 institution, has a responsibility to the surrounding region to bring ideas and innovation to the market. While we recognize there are a lot of ideas coming from the Bearcat Family, it is time to open these valuable resources to our partner universities. Our partners have a wealth of ideas that could contribute to large scale economic development.

What is the Venture Lab program, and who can participate?
The Venture Lab is the University of Cincinnati’s startup pre-accelerator at the 1819 Innovation Hub. The Lab runs a two-stage accelerator to build momentum around a promising early-stage business concept. The first stage, the pre-accelerator, is a seven-week program that works to (a) help the innovator/entrepreneur decide if they are genuinely motivated to work hard to grow their business and to (b) connect the EIR network to these ideas to enhance the team. The second stage is the Venture Lab Accelerator where teams connect to non-dilutive capital to continue to build their business. Once open to the Bearcat Family only (UC faculty, staff, students and alumni), the Venture Lab is now open to all of the above from UC and its partner institutions: Cincinnati State University, the University of Dayton, Wright State University and Xavier University. 

How does the Venture Lab work?
The Venture Lab runs 101 meetings twice weekly to meet potential entrepreneurs and provide an overview of the program. To apply to enter the Pre-Accelerator potential teams should complete the form located at Applications are reviewed five times a year in time for each of the five cohorts that run in a 12-month period. More specifically, the pre-accelerator cohort meets for two hours, Tuesday mornings, for each of seven weeks at UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub. A portion of each of the first six weeks is dedicated to classroom instruction on a variety of topics focused on refining business ideas and solving business problems. The balance of time is spent in breakout sessions in which teams work with Venture Lab EIRs, each of whom has past success building, owning and/or leading their own companies. The seventh and final week is Graduation Day, in which each startup presents their company to the broader community in rapid-fire, five-minute presentations. Unlike a pitch day, Venture Lab Graduation presentations focus on what the company needs to succeed, and the community is invited to connect with graduating Venture Lab companies to help bridge skill and knowledge gaps, facilitate introductions to industry contacts and form valuable business relationships.

Why is this agreement so important to students, faculty and staff at universities?
Universities are engines for teaching and research, and rarely on campuses do you find skill sets for launching a startup and raising capital. The students, faculty, staff and alumni bring the great ideas and technology, and the Venture Lab is a high-velocity vehicle to connect them to the entrepreneurial talent they need to get their new business moving.

Startups take investment to get going, where does that come in?
Most startups require some funding to get to the point where investors will put funding in as part of a seed investment round.  The Venture Lab provides connectivity to state and federal grants, experienced entrepreneurs with deeper pockets themselves, and to shared services providers that know how to work with the lean budget a startup has to operate under.

Faculty are busy teaching and doing research, students are busy taking classes.  How does one find the time to do this?
The Venture Lab pre-accelerator was built to work efficiently and impactfully with minimal time burden on university innovators. Pre-accelerator teams spend two hours per week at the 1819 Innovation Hub working side-by-side with seasoned commercialization experts during the program’s first six weeks, with graduation presentations given during the program’s seventh and final week. After Week 7, the entire model is based on connecting an innovator or team to an entrepreneur who then takes on a leadership role and does much of the heavy lifting to surround the innovator with a high-powered startup team.

How do I apply?

Each university has a point of contact that can help connect you: 

  • Cincinnati State – Grant Hoffman (UC) - (513)558-5695
  • Xavier University – Mike Halloran 513-745-3050
  • Wright State University - Whitney Hough - (513) 628-0860
  • University of Dayton – Matt Willenbrink 937-229-3469
  • University of Cincinnati – Grant Hoffman (UC) - (513)558-5695

If you are not affiliated with one of these universities, but you believe the Venture Lab could help you, we still want to hear from you at The Venture Lab Pre-Accelerator selection process is competitive, but if your business is not initially selected, we have events, programs and services to help you take your startup concept to the point where it is ready for the Pre-Accelerator.

When does it run? How can I learn more?
The seven-week pre-accelerator cohorts run 10 months out of the year, often enough to find a session that may fit the busy schedule of the applicant team.  There is no better way to learn more than to attend one of our Graduation days and witness for yourself the companies it produces and the talent network your startup will be able to tap into.

Where and what is the 1819 Innovation Hub?
A place of thinking, making and doing, of discovery and delivery, the 1819 Innovation Hub is UC’s one-stop destination where industry meets University talent. The 1819 Innovation Hub is located at 2900 Reading Rd. in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Avondale. 

How will the other institutions socialize this opportunity and program? 
We will work with each partner institution on a plan for socializing this opportunity to its constituents. What works at the University of Cincinnati for outreach may not be the same at each institution and we intend to be an active partner in helping convey the value and opportunity to those interested.