CLEVELAND, Ohio — Two weeks ago, we started listing the Top 10
Tech Evangelists in Northeast Ohio. These are brave souls who have taken on preparing Cleveland as a key tech center in the U.S. It is not easy duty. The first five on the list were:
10. Jill Miller Zimon – OpenNEO
9. Todd Goldstein – LaunchHouse
8. Mel McGee – We Can Code IT
7. Jeff Epstein – Health Tech Corridor
6. Anthony Hughes – Tech Elevator
Here are the final five Tech Evangelists:
5. JJ DiGeronimo – Tech Savvy Women. Inspiring women to join and thrive in tech companies is a great and welcomed initiative in the male-dominated world of technology. And one of Cleveland’s own is shaping the narrative for women in tech internationally.
JJ DiGeronimo founded Tech Savvy Women, an international organization of experienced women in tech careers and organizations. She began her career designing data-center infrastructures for Fortune 500 companies after graduating with a computer information systems degree in 1995. Prior to her recent work, JJ had a 20-year career in high-tech, positioning new technology solutions to CIOs where she advanced into leadership positions within Silicon Valley-based technology companies including VMware and Inktomi.
DiGeronimo just released her second book, Accelerate Your Impact: Action-based Strategies to Pave Your Professional Path. DiGeronimo has been featured in many publications and TV shows including Forbes, Fox Business, ITWorld, and Career-Intelligence. She hosts a YouTube Channel for women in tech: www.TechSavvyWomen.TV, and has shared her expertise with Amazon, Ingram Micro, RIT, Sears Holding Co., Clemson University, Symantec, VMware, Grace Hopper, KeyBank, and Cisco.
Why Cleveland and Northeast Ohio? “The people in Northeast Ohio are genuine and eager to work together to help each other. Starting Tech Savvy Women in Cleveland was not only rewarding, but it also had an immediate impact on the Women in Tech that participated!” -JJ DiGeronimo
4. Charles Stack – FlashStarts. Charles Stack is the dean of startups in Northeast Ohio. Numerous entrepreneurs flock to his startup StartMart to vie for some time with him.
Stack is a successful serial entrepreneur, angel investor, startup advisor, and the co-founder of the startup accelerator Flashstarts and StartMart Cleveland. Every year Flashstarts dedicates time and resources to launch 12 new startups providing a complete suite of services from formation, funding, and fund-raising.
Accomplishments. Through FlashStart’s Cleveland200 venture fund, its startups can receive follow-on funding and thoughtful investment advice. Stack launched StartMart, a 35,000-square foot startup/co-working community, in Terminal Tower.
Why Cleveland and Northeast Ohio? ” … I have built three global tech companies, been the lucky beneficiary of two acquisitions by a Fortune 500 East Coast company and a Fortune 500 West Coast company, and both times politely ‘declined’ to move. Why? Because I love it here. We have world class culture, housing, schools, sports, people, and four full seasons. And I can drive to all of it in 20 minutes or less from my wonderfully diverse community in Cleveland Heights.” –Charles Stack
3. Jim Cossler – Youngstown Business Incubator. Jim Cossler is the Huntington Bank Entrepreneur in Residence for the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI). Cossler joined YBI in 1998 as its CEO, when YBI was positioned as a traditional “mixed use” incubator, and became the primary architect of its transformation into the internationally known incubator, accelerator and managed technology cluster that YBI is today.
That success has been well documented by Businessweek, The Economist, Next City, Entrepreneur, Details, Governing, Wired, Salon, the German Financial Times, and the BBC, CNN, NPR, MSNBC, ABC and Tokyo Broadcasting. In 2014, YBI was named as the No. 1 University Affiliated Incubator in the World by the global bench marking firm UBI, based in Stockholm, Sweden. In June 2017, Jim stepped down from his CEO to devote his time to mentoring and coaching YBI Portfolio Companies as the Huntington Bank EIR.
Accomplishments. In 1998, Cossler took an abandoned furniture store and began developing the building into a five-building technology campus. He set the groundwork to attract a $70 million Innovation Center to the YBI campus and create its own venture capital fund.
Why Cleveland and Northeast Ohio? “Since its inception, YBI has had a focus on software. And here’s the dirty little secret about software customers: They don’t give a crap about the physical location of the provider. So why not Cleveland or Youngstown, where the provider has a 2x to 5x built-in cost advantage over providers on the ‘coasts’? I like the North Coast just fine, thank you.” –Jim Cossler
2. Lev Gonick – DigitalC. Lev Gonick is co-founder and CEO of DigitalC, the non-profit organization enabling and celebrating innovation, collaboration, and productivity through next generation broadband networks focused on connecting the unconnected, big open data solutions, and using the Internet of Things (IoT) for public benefit.
Gonick, who is leaving DigitalC in November for Arizona State University, was chief information officer at Case Western Reserve University from 2001-2013. He was named by Inside Business magazine, in 2015, as one of the Power 100 for this region. Gonick also was recognized by ComputerWorld as a Premier 100 IT leader and honored by CIO Magazine with a CIO Top 100 Award.
Accomplishments. Gonick and DigitaC helped create community partnerships, with support from the Cleveland Foundation, to launch ReStart, a program focused on digital skills acquisition for at-risk members of the community, including returning Vets, those re-entering the community from prison, and youth timing out of the juvenile justice system. He was instrumental in the launch of the DigitalC Fund dedicated to pre-seed investments of $30,000-$50,000 in the areas of big data, artificial intelligence, IoT, and other civic tech initiatives.
Why Cleveland and Northeast Ohio? “As a prototypical ‘legacy city,’ our journey from a 1950’s manufacturing powerhouse through two generations wandering through the valleys of despair, is now on a trajectory for a sustainable, tech-lead economic future. That’s not only exciting for us in Cleveland but for the hundreds of legacy cities across the country and around the world.” -Lev Gonick
1. Ray Leach – JumpStart. During the past 14 years, JumpStart Founding CEO Ray Leach has helped create an innovative venture development organization in Cleveland, become a national leader in the venture industry and leveraged that success to help raise the profile of Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem on the national stage.
In 2004, Leach was tasked with accelerating Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by combining venture capital investment with high-impact technical assistance for entrepreneurs. Since then, companies assisted by JumpStart and its partners have gone on to generate billions in economic impact for Ohio. Recently, CoverMyMeds, a JumpStart portfolio company, became Ohio’s first $1 billion financial exit.
Accomplishments. Leach has been instrumental in creating three operational venture capital funds under the JumpStart banner. The funds are the $10 million Evergreen Fund, the $10 million Focus Fund and the $20 million NEXT Fund. Leach is also on the board at the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and served on President Obama’s National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Why Cleveland and Northeast Ohio? “Given our proximity to world-class universities and research institutions–combined with our low cost of living, the ever-lowering costs of doing business and the increasing realization by investors that it’s possible to build a great company in Ohio, there probably hasn’t been a better time in decades to be a tech entrepreneur in Northeast Ohio.” -Ray Leach
All 10 of these Top Tech Evangelists in Northeast Ohio are diligently working toward making Cleveland a citadel of tech entrepreneurship.