YBI Sees Venture Capital Fund as Game-Changer

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A new local venture capital fund targeting technology-based startups should be able to start making awards in three to four months.

Yesterday the Ohio Third Frontier Commission announced it hasawarded $3 million to Valley Growth Ventures LLC. The investment fund is a partnership of the Youngstown Business Incubator, the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp. and Youngstown State University.

“This is probably the most meaningful project that I’ve worked on in terms of really changing the climate and culture of the community,” said Barb Ewing, YBI’s chief operating officer.

The funding is part of the $16.35 million in awards the Third Frontier Commission announced yesterday.

Valley Growth Ventures LLC will invest in technology startups primarily in the Mahoning Valley, although the fund will be able to provide grants anywhere in the state of Ohio, Ewing said. The partners have raised about $3.4 million, exceeding the matching funds requirement for the state funds, Ewing said.

“We hope to get as high as $4 million or $5 million,” she said.

Agreements still need to be formalized so the partners are three to four months “away from actually being able to begin rolling out the program,” Ewing remarked.

Unlike other funds awarded on a quarterly competitive basis, she said Valley Growth Ventures will award funds on a “rolling deadline,” as it identifies companies the partners think are a good fit.

“If you’re going to grow technology-based businesses, you’ve got to be able to invest in them,” she said.

Having the fund also will help to attract companies to the region, she pointed out. “We know deals follow money,” she remarked. “If we have the ability to invest in the company, it is more likely to invest here. When you couple that with our expertise, it really does begin to change the game.”

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