Rocket Ventures aids high-tech visionaries

In this time of depressing economic news across the country, Rocket Ventures is offering finances and
direction to visionaries hoping to start high-tech businesses in Northwest Ohio, including Wood County.
In its two-year existence it has already helped 58 companies.
"In the last six to seven years almost all the growth in business has come with small
businesses," said Rocket Ventures Director Greg Knudson, who has had experience helping to
"grow" several companies worldwide. "People aren’t joining GM. The real growth is coming
through entrepreneurs and small company start-ups. That’s a key to our future."
Rocket Ventures is an arm of the Toledo-based Regional Growth Partnership and deals strictly with
technology-based business development.
The RGP started about 15 years ago and has gone from being a public economic development organization to
a private one, funded by about 70 investors in Northwest Ohio. The agency works with traditional
entrepreneurs who ask for help finding a good location with access to many highways and regional
shipping ports.
In contrast, Rocket Ventures is only two years old. "It’s the first time anything like this is in
Northwest Ohio," said Knudson.
It is part of Ohio’s Third Frontier. The RGP asked for a contribution from the State of Ohio Department
of Development Third Frontier Initiative which agreed to give $15 million in support of Rocket Ventures.

The 10-year Third Frontier Initiative was created in 2002 by Gov. Bob Taft and funded with $1.6 billion
which are protected from being used for budget shortfalls. Some money has gone to universities for
research on how they can turn out more patents and commercialize their intellectual property; what
Bowling Green State University is doing. But some of the money also went to Rocket Ventures to
"grow" tech companies.
Knudson said the program is so good, for every dollar invested by the state, it has brought a return of
$9. When he gives speeches and talks about Ohio Third Frontier, he always hears, " ‘You guys in
Ohio got it right.’ "
Ohio was divided into six areas, each with 16 to 20 counties. Northwest Ohio is covered by Rocket
Ventures, while other areas have names like Jump Start and Tech Growth.
In addition to the $15 million from the state, Rocket Ventures raised $7.5 million from the private
sector, including banks, insurance companies and wealthy individuals. Rocket Ventures’ mission is
"to accelerate the commercialization of tech-based companies. Our goal is to grow tech
It does it with three types of resources. First, Rocket Ventures provides business management resources,
including input from 13-14 business people who can coach budding entrepreneurs. Secondly, it provides
capital; usually $250,000 up to $1 million to tech companies which have great potential. Thirdly, it has
valuable networking resources.
"We know how to connect people, who they should see, talk to, and introduce them to other venture
Knudson said since January of 2008, over 500 entrepreneurs and start-up companies have come in to see
Rocket Ventures. In turn, it has helped 58 companies get started, "which is beyond our expectation.
We’re helping commercialize 58 companies."
He said about 20 of those companies have come from out of the region or out of state. "They’re
coming here because of technology; universities; it’s close to some of their customers; and … because
of Rocket Ventures. They can’t get that kind of service" in other states.
"We have access to such great markets, based on the Great Lakes and shipping here," including
the coming CSX intermodal project in southern Wood County. "It’s logistics and transportation,
university infrastructure, the fact Rocket Ventures is here. It is all of these combined. People say,
‘It all makes sense.’ "
One aspect of Rocket Ventures is its ability to provide a $50,000 Ignite grant which can be used for
market research or working with attorneys for licensing intellectual property. The very first Ignite
grant went to Blue Water Satellite of Bowling Green for a market-research study. It proved there was a
market for the company, which helped draw investors.
"We’re working with probably six or seven companies in Wood County in various stages," added