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Jam-packed Union Hall welcomes Steve Case back

Three years ago, when billionaire entrepreneur, businessman and investor Steve Case first walked up Vine Street, he passed a vacant set of buildings –  the half block of 1311, 1313 and 1315 Vine Street was nothing more than an abandoned nightclub, without a single tenant.

This past Wednesday morning, Steve Case opened up the door from his Uber revealing not just a neighborhood transformed, but an entire ecosystem on the rise. The previously vacant set of buildings he passed by in 2014 were now his destination. 1311 Vine Street had become Union Hall.

Beyond the simple structural metamorphosis that occurred on Vine Street, we opened the doors to a changed ecosystem. When Steve Case last visited, StartupCincy was just a hashtag – a Twitter shortcut used in passing to promote entrepreneurial successes. In 2017, it’s a different story.

StartupCincy is the rallying cry of an ecosystem. It’s the driving force behind our region’s new economy. Built by innovators, makers, founders and disruptors, the StartupCincy community has created something special over the past couple of years. And on Wednesday morning, most of those catalysts returned to Union Hall to hear Steve speak.

But first, we shared a few of our own updates. After all, it had been three years. Voted on by the community, we shared the big-ticket news items that Steve couldn’t miss.

  1. We built Union Hall. A door to the entrepreneurial community opened up in the summer of 2015 and has seen tens of thousands of visitors since.
  2. We grew the funding pipeline. Since 2014, we’ve seen $175 million go to 21 different startups. Five of those startups raised multiple rounds in that timeframe and two of them took Series B. 
  3. We established more front doors to the ecosystem. Accelerators, enterprise and entrepreneurial hubs opened their doors with OCEAN, MORTAR, Flywheel and Hillman all kicking off since 2014.

At the center of the morning was our “fireside chat” with Steve and our CEO, Wendy Lea, Steve and Wendy dug deep to see what Steve had learned in his Rise of the Rest tour.

Steve talked about some new concepts, but much of the morning was a reinforcement of our efforts and a wake-up call to make sure we don’t let up.

A leading example Case gave the room was the city of Detroit. Not in recent years, but decades ago – long before Silicon Valley led the country in venture capital – Detroit was the epicenter of innovation. Then they grew complacent. What followed was years of explosive and daring innovation that put Silicon Valley at the forefront of the world. If Cincinnati were to slow down now, we’d be left in the dust.

Still, Steve sees the tides changing. More venture dollars are pumping into the heartland of the U.S. and more entrepreneurs are finding success in regions other than Silicon Valley, Boston or New York City.

At the end of a jam-packed hour in our building, it was time to send Steve off. With much encouragement and new focus, it’s time for StartupCincy to lock into another growth phase and build up success stories for Steve’s next return to the city.

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