Cincinnati well-positioned to be fintech hub

Cintrifuse’s goal is to be the top startup tech hub in the American midwest and it is well on its way to achieving that status, CEO Pete Blackshaw believes.

Focused on the greater Cincinnati area, Cintrifuse brings together the key tools needed to drive growth. It begins with the Cintrifuse Syndicate Fund, a strategic fund of funds connecting corporate investors to a network of venture capital, startups and business solutions. Many of the region’s largest companies including Procter and Gamble and Kroger support the fund, which drives local deal flow and sets a model for innovation and access to technology.

“It drives an external focus for a lot of the companies to understand they need to transform themselves,” Mr. Blackshaw said.

Entrepreneurs benefit from 38,000 square-feet of co-working space providing access to mentors, capital, and other supports. One of the opportunities, currently underway, is FinTech Frontier, which is offering $60,000 in prizes for the top ideas which will shape the future of fintech for the region. The winning ideas will best address the challenges posed by founding partners Western & Southern Financial Group and Fifth Third Bank.

There are two competition streams. Closing the Gap enables consumer financial security by expanding access to affordable financial tools. Powering Business seeks fintech solutions that empower business and consumer experiences. Finalists will be announced October 22.

“At a high-level KPI we want to be the top startup hub in the midwest and the top innovation centre in the country,” Mr. Blackshaw said.

And fintech will take them there, as Mr. Blackshaw believes it is one area where Cincinnati can have an outsized impact. The region’s top financial companies are on board, as are local success stories like Paycor and some emerging companies.

What companies at all growth stages agree on is there is plenty of room for disruption in all areas of fintech, from payments to insurtech through supply chain logistics and even beyond in health tech, Mr. Blackshaw said. Entrepreneurs see the possibilities, but instead of encountering friction from an establishment seeing them as threats, they are greeted by a climate that recognizes innovation is crucial to survival.

The support extends beyond business, Mr. Blackshaw added. All of the area’s major universities are participating, and are building on their established strengths in farm and agricultural technology. The municipal government is one of the nation’s best in sharing its data with entrepreneurs so they can solve problems. Together they are addressing issues such as sustainable economies and supply chains.

“Extreme challenges drive the best innovation,” Mr. Blackshaw said. “There is definitely a big way for fintech to play a big role.”

There’s more discussion of companies either venturing out of Silicon Valley or not going there in the first place. Mr. Blackshaw said the pandemic has shown teams can succeed with remote workplaces in any location. 

Housing and office costs will also attract companies to Cincinnati, Mr. Blackshaw said.

“We are bullish on the potential of attracting fintech entrepreneurs to the midwest on the premise of quality of life and stretching cash flow.”

Combine support at the highest levels of business with a hungry entrepreneurial base and add the contributions of academia and government and Cintrifuse has a recipe for success, Mr. Blackshaw said.

“It’s a golden age for entrepreneurship and I think fintech is one of the most exciting spaces. We think we’ve got what could be a good combination for entrepreneurial activity and get our share.”

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