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Information Technology

Ocean Accelerator – Startups with a Mission

One Oakley-based startup accelerator is changing businesses by asking “Why?”

Founded in 2014, Ocean Accelerator is the only faith-based accelerator of its kind in the United States. Backed by Oakley-based Crossroads Church, the program attracts more than 350 applicants annually from every corner of the world – and more continue to flock to Greater Cincinnati.

That left us asking – what drives startups Ocean’s program? 

Faith-based, open arms

Brian Tome, senior pastor at Crossroads, noticed that people were always on their laptops at his church. As it turns out, Crossroads’ free Wi-Fi and coffee provided the ideal coworking space for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Coffee and free Wi-Fi alone cannot sustain a person – let alone a founder. Just like traditional startup accelerators, Ocean provides its entrepreneurs with mentorship, business programing and a working space. But, Ocean’s program has an added component, supporting the founder’s spiritual growth and exploring how it can play a role in the business.

It all comes together with a simple question – why? Ian Smith, program director at Ocean Accelerator, asks founders, “Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s your ‘why’ behind it?”

Ocean’s program helps founders discover the true inspiration behind their companies and draw links to Biblical principles. Yet, founders do not need to be Christians to enter the program.

“We ask companies who join our program one question – will you agree to explore the role faith may or may not play as you grow your business?” said Smith. “It doesn’t matter if they’re Muslim or agnostic. The important thing is that they’re open to the conversation.”

Greater Cincinnati is the place for startups

While Ocean offers a supportive environment for startups to grow, the accelerator’s location in Greater Cincinnati helps. The region’s density of large companies and low cost of living make it the ideal place for a business.

“If I’m a west coast investor and I write a $1 million check to a company, that might get me six months [of operating time] on the east or west coasts,” said Smith. “But it would get me 12 to 18 months in Cincinnati.”

While Smith concedes some investors prefer regions where they can interact with a higher density of entrepreneurs, the Cincinnati region is putting itself on the map for innovative accelerators.

“Investors are not flying to see traditional accelerators just anywhere, because they already have great tech startups and accelerators at home. But they’ll get on a plane to see Ocean because we’re doing something nobody else is doing.”  

And Ocean is growing a roster of success stories. Next week, we’ll share how one entrepreneur’s mission to add a human element to data turned into a startup that is now working with Ford Motor Company and MapQuest.