Dec 5, 2019

Ohio's venture capital boom lures startup founders

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Data: PitchBook; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Venture capital investments in Ohio more than doubled in five years, and the increased availability of funding is helping attract a new crop of startup founders.

Zooming in: Columbus in particular is experiencing a mini-renaissance as technology is disrupting legacy industries such as manufacturing, insurance, financial services, retail and health care.

  • Columbus-based Drive Capital, one of the biggest VC firms in the region led by two Sequoia Capital alums, raised $350 million for its third venture fund this year. It’s backed companies like Root Insurance, which is now valued at $3.65 billion after a $350 million funding round (Ohio’s largest-ever VC funding round).

Connected cars: Arnab Nandi, 36, spun his company Mobikit, a data infrastructure platform for connected vehicles, out of The Ohio State University, where he is on leave from the faculty.

  • Being three hours away from auto-focused hubs of Detroit and Pittsburgh make Columbus ideal, he said. And he can recruit recent OSU grads.
  • "It's about giving those young professionals a reason to stay and not think that they have to move to California to start a tech career," he said.

Insurance: Steve Lekas, 38, worked at insurance companies in New York and San Francisco. When he co-founded Branch, which lets consumers bundle low-cost home and car insurance, he and his co-founder settled on Columbus after analyzing more than 80 cities. He's relocated six employees there and has since hired five more.

  • It came down to the cost of living and types of talent available. Columbus is home to several major insurance companies.
  • "I couldn’t find any real benefit to us being in the Bay Area," he said. "But I could see how the price we put in front of consumers was higher as a result in a very price-sensitive marketplace."
  • Branch has raised $8.5 million from Bay-area-based VC Foundation Capital, New York-based Greycroft and Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Fund, which also invested an undisclosed amount in Mobikit.

Go deeper: How Ohio boosted venture capital investment

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How Ohio boosted venture capital investment

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the battle for talent and economic growth, U.S. cities are often competing with each other to become the next tech hubs and lure new investment and jobs. In Ohio, however, venture capital investors in three cities are taking a different approach by working together to boost the state's startup appeal.

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