The Lab at Cuyahoga County aims to give entrepreneurs a testing ground for products and ideas

Posted at 10:20 AM, Jan 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-16 17:53:36-05

CLEVELAND — The newly-formed The Lab at Cuyahoga County is getting ready to work with local start-up companies to give them a place to test out ideas and products in a low-risk environment.

One of the hardest parts about being an entrepreneur might be having an idea that few people can help you shape.

"We're always needing people that have a trustworthy ear," said The Fab Foundation Chief Implementation Officer Sonya Pryor-Jones. "[Someone] you can share your ideas with and protect your intellectual capital at the same time and get a lot of good feedback."

That's why Pryor-Jones says The Lab could help.

"If you're selected to be part of our cohort, we'll be a test-bed for you," said Cuyahoga County Chief Innovation and Performance Officer Catherine Tkachyk.

Tkachyk is in charge of helping Cuyahoga County think outside the box to help it run better.

"I think we typically think of providing things only as dollars but we, as a county, we have a lot of assets that we can make available to the community and that's what we want to do," said Tkachyk.

In this case, the county's assets are its people and connections.

Start-ups can apply to be part of the first group from January 6 through Feb. 7 at 12 p.m. with the cohort starting in March.

Accepted businesses will fall into one of two groups:

  • The Product Ideation Track: Where entrepreneurs can meet with subject-matter experts to better frame their idea
  • The Product Validation Track: Where entrepreneurs can meet with subject-matter experts to field test a product

"We'll be able to give you that input so you can take that and know you're ready for product launch or make those changes before product launch," said Tkachyk.

Tkachyk says it's better to get that feedback from a county employee testing a company's product than from a paying customer.

"This gives you the ability to be a little bit more risky to try something out here," said Tkachyk.

Partnerships with public organizations like NOACA, Cleveland Metroparks, and the Cuyahoga County Public Library open up the connections even more.

There are no expectations that the county will eventually purchase any product or service because The Lab is strictly a place to see if the ideas and products can lead to viable businesses.

Pryor-Jones says that's plenty for entrepreneurs.

"I think having a network is extremely worthy in any profession but particularly in entrepreneurship," said Pryor-Jones.

If you want to apply, click here.