TOLEDO — High-tech entrepreneurs, listen up: Rocket Ventures wants you.
People in Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Hardin, Mercer, Putnam and Van Wert counties may not know it, but the Northwest Ohio venture capital and entrepreneurial resource serves the region. Organization officials are looking to get the word out that while the firm is based in Toledo, it welcomes clients from many counties.
Since its founding in 2007, Rocket Ventures assisted client companies in achieving more than $178 million in investments, sales revenue and other income, Rocket Ventures Director Dan Slifko said. That number includes $71 million in revenues.
The firm can make investments between $250,000 and $750,000; provide pre-investment funds for prototyping; provide business management services, such as an interim CEO; develop other funding, such as grants and loans; and help with comprehensive and strategic planning. Rocket Ventures provides the help free of charge.
In 2007, the state awarded $15 million to each of six regions in the state, which needed to be matched by $7.5 million by each region, to improve the diversity of the state’s economy and help early-stage high tech businesses, Slifko said.
“The private side likes having a partner to mitigate their risk in investment, and it’s a value to the state,” Slifko said. “Jobs will be created and wealth will be created in the community. When we invest, we expect some return on our investment down the road.”
Slifko said the firm visited with economic development officials in the region some time ago, but it wanted to remind people of its services because those services are supported with tax dollars.
“I think that’s our biggest challenge, that people can forget about us. Out of sight, out of mind,” Slifko said. “It’s our responsibility to continue to market what Rocket Ventures does, to remind people that they have access to us, at no cost to them, to help with their ideas.”
Rocket Ventures is looking for early stage technology companies, with products and services that are defendable and solve large problems.
That initial grant ends with 2012, but the region has been re-approved for another $2 million matched by $2 million for years 2013 and 2014.
The original grant recipient was Regional Growth Partnership, an economic development agency in Toledo. Today, Rocket Ventures is a partnership between RGP and the University of Toledo, with dozens of investors. It focuses on advanced materials, alternative energy, biomedical, energy storage, web development and automation, among other tech areas.
People with questions about the group can find it online at RocketVentures.org or call 419-530-6230. They can also contact their local economic development officials, Slifko said.
The group’s main purpose is to steer this region toward a new economy and create new jobs, Slifko said. The average wage of the jobs created ranges from $62,000 to $76,000.
“We’re not creating thousands and thousands of jobs, but the average wage is much higher,” Slifko said. “The state had the foresight to understand that Ohio needs to continue to innovate and realize we have a tremendous amount of talented people. If you have a technology idea, we want you to be able to say you’ve talked to Rocket Ventures and know about the services available.”