Growing Cleveland's start-up culture could come from new technology and a new place to work

Posted: 6:46 AM, Dec 11, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-11 17:56:49-05

CLEVELAND — Cleveland business leaders say after hosting a conference centered around Blockchain technology for two years in a row, the third annual conference could be showing off parts of a new co-working space in the heart of downtown Cleveland.

Right now, Charisma Curry's start-up, Parents in Motion, works from a co-working space called StartMart in Tower City with other entrepreneurs often just a few feet away.

See News 5's previous coverage of Parents in Motion here.

"Where one or two or more entrepreneurs are gathered, the ideas and the possibilities are endless," said Curry.

Teams finish a final project during a coding bootcamp at StartMart in Tower City.

But those possibilities are limited by the size of Cleveland's start-up community right now, which isn't nearly as large as it is in other nearby cities.

In Columbus, local corporations started funds to support start-ups.

In Cincinnati, Cintrifuse is a nonprofit that guides businesses through their early stages.

In Pittsburgh, universities like Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh embraced technology development decades ago, offsetting lost manufacturing jobs.

Tower City could be the new home of a co-working space that could help build Cleveland's start-up community, helping the city catch up to places like Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

"Technology-based economic development is never about just supporting today's status quo," said Cleveland State University's Albert A. Levin Chair of Urban Studies and Public Service Dr. Bob Gleeson.

He works at CSU now, but he helped get Pittsburgh's tech revitalization off the ground while at Carnegie Mellon years ago.

"It's about understanding the possibilities for what the economy can look like 10, 15, 20 years out into the future and putting your loyalties into that future."

Dr. Gleeson says it was a risk worth taking.

Cleveland tech company Chairman Bernie Moreno says it's a lesson Northeast Ohio needs to learn.

Moreno leads a discussion about the future of City Block on stage at Blockland Solutions 2019.

"I don't want to say that we're risk-seeking, but we have to be risk-tolerant, meaning that we try different things and are OK that failure occurs," said Moreno.

That's why he has pushed to make Cleveland a Blockchain Technology hub through his Blockland Solutions Conferences in 2018 and 2019.

"I think we use that as a catalyst to become a relevant tech city and beyond that, a relevant tech city for innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity," said Moreno.

The next step is to give tech start-ups a work space that Moreno calls City Block.

See the latest rendering of City Block here.

"We really have to fortify our city core, so that's the mission of what City Block is about," said Moreno.

City Block would take Tower City's relatively quiet shopping area and turn it into a place where start up businesses, like Parents in Motion, can work. It would put many entrepreneurs in the same building, creating the kind of communities that exist in other cities.

Outside the business community, it could also change the impression Cleveland gives to visitors who land at the airport and can take a train directly to what could one day be City Block.

"You land in this extremely vibrant center for entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation and that's your impression of Cleveland," said Moreno.