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In Columbus, from mattresses to startups

Out with the old. Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty Images

It's an unmistakeable sign of the times. In Columbus, Ohio, a huge warehouse that was once a Serta Simmons mattress factory has been converted into a investor startup studio.

What's happening: Serta Simmons, the nearly 150-year-old mattress titan, is now struggling and owned by a private equity firm. In its shuttered factory, Rev1 Ventures is hosting scores of tech and health care startups in an effort to redefine the city as an alternative to Silicon Valley.

  • When considering the dollar amount of seed funding going to startups, Rev1 Ventures — the startup studio — is ranked 4th in the country and 7th in the world, city officials say. Last year, the nonprofit Kauffman Foundation named it the top place in the country to scale companies.

The backdrop: Rev1 Ventures began in 2015 as an investor and a resource for Columbus startups. This year, it will provide seed funding to 30 companies.

  • The incubator has high-profile partners that contribute to its funds, including Ohio State University.
  • The effort is part of Columbus' wider economic development strategy: to try to expand the city's economy through incentives for startups at a time when the number of new companies forming around the country is falling.

Go deeper: The heartland's fight to stay relevant

Editor's note: This story has been correction to reflect that it is Rev1 ventures (not Columbus at large) that was ranked as a top location to scale startups.

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