JumpStart is a nonprofit ‘venture development organization’ (VDO) originally formed in 2004 as a result of Ohio’s inability to retain economic importance throughout the 90’s and on into the 21st century.
The Cleveland based organization has received a combined $70m in funding (55% public, 30% foundation, 15% corporate) over the past seven years to subsidize “high growth” startups within Northeast Ohio.
A self described “non-financial return oriented investor,” JumpStart doesn’t measure results in the dollars and cents way an old school venture investor would. Rather, the group measures ROI in an amorphously political manner: job creation, matching/ follow-on funding and other “resources” provided for entrepreneurs.
In 2010, the VDO began talks with the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration,the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Surdna Foundation. Based on JumpStart’s self-reported “impact” from 2004 – 2009, these partners would provide $2.5m in additional funding to explore how “certain core elements of the successful JumpStart approach” could be replicated within select upper midwest Knight Foundation Communities, including: Ft. Wayne and Gary, IN; Detroit, MI; Duluth and Minneapolis-St.Paul, MN; and Akron, OH.
The resulting entity, known as JumpStart Community Advisors, has since embarked on an agenda to fulfill that commitment and “identify gaps in other regions, build a strategic plan that they can get excited about, that they can believe in, and bring the spirit and energy from our initiative in Ohio to those other regions,” said JumpStart CEO Ray Leach.
JumpStart began that exploratory process here in MSP through a series of three public forums held last winter (Dec, Jan, Feb), and a multitude of 1:1 closed door meetings. During that process, the group identified and recruited a set of 15 or so MSP “stakeholders” who, by association and/or action, would endorse JumpStart Community Advisors and carry the mission in Minnesota while said strategic plan was formulated back in Cleveland “based on the uniqueness of the the region.”
But a long and quiet period followed as the VDO from Ohio would seemingly disappear from the local limelight. Meanwhile, back at home, JumpStart would find itself under fire from some Ohioans increasingly concerned about what’s going in vs. what’s coming out.
Then last month, JumpStart revealed its annual retrospective Northeast Ohio ‘2010 economic impact report’ that was off in both timing and style. Released six months later than expected, it deviated from previous methodology used to measure impact, secure annual funding in Ohio and convince local MSP stakeholders that the model was, in fact, as effective as claimed. Many of the concerns emanating from Ohio remain unresolved today; in some cases they have only intensified.
Which all brings us to a draft proposal recently authored by JumpStart Community Advisors and positioned as MSP’s suggested ‘Regional Entrepreneurship Action Plan’ (REAP).
We’ll be reviewing this recommended plan over the coming weeks. In the essence of transparency and facts, we intend to publicly talk through it with JumpStart, MSP stakeholders, Minnesota entrepreneurs, Ohio’s critics and fans.