Cleveland startups need more private investors like Ed Cochran: Tech Czar Talk
Northeast Ohio startups need more private investors.
Michael C. DeAloia, special to The Plain Dealer By Michael C. DeAloia, special to The Plain Dealer
on January 17, 2016 at 7:00 AM, updated January 17, 2016 at 7:08 AM
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CLEVELAND, Ohio — While Cleveland’s technology sector is surging with numerous high-growth companies and promising startups, there simply is not enough local and regional capital to fuel the continued boost.
Startup capital in this region is precarious, Series A capital (a company’s first significant round of venture capital) is as mythological as a unicorn, and bank loans are nearly non-existent.
Michael C. DeAloia mug.jpg
Michael C. DeAloia
It is up to the angel or individual investor to compensate for this lack of institutional capital. The various economic development groups – such as Jumpstart, BioEnterprise and others – have put out the clarion call for regional individual investors to become more active.
It is mission critical that this happen.
There is enough individual and family wealth in the Cleveland area to make a significant difference in the investment arena for tech-based enterprises. The lack of local corporations making private equity investments in startups and emerging-growth companies is shameful, especially when compared to comparable-size cities such as Cincinnati’s corporate investment efforts.
But, there is at least one private investor, relatively new to the investment world, making his presence known.
Ed Cochran is a self-made, reserved man with a bold vision for his ever-growing list of local investments in his community. He recently said his goal is to put nearly $10 million into various tech and entertainment-based opportunities.
Cochran was born and reared in Streetsboro. His family lived in a trailer park (and he would tell you that he would forego his Shaker Heights manse to go back to living in the trailer). His father bought and sold junk; his mother was a factory worker.
Yet, education was a priority and Cochran said he thinks he is the only Streetsboro High School graduate to attend Harvard University.
“I was studying how to get into Harvard starting in 8th grade,” he noted. He didn’t tell his school guidance counselor that he applied, but one day there was a knock on the front door of his trailer. Outside was a chauffeur and limo, he said. The chauffeur waved him into the car and that’s when Cochran met the then CEO of BF Goodrich John Ong, a Harvard grad and the university’s Northeast Ohio rep
After Cochran made it to Harvard, Ong pleaded with him, “You have to succeed, Ed, I fought for you. Do not waste your time here.” After Harvard, Cochran attended Columbia University law school. Near completion, Cochran said he asked himself, “Should I stay in New York and head out to Wall Street, or move to a hot city that offers a ton of legal opportunities?”
Atlanta it was, for 18 months, until his mother became ill and Cochran returned to Ohio to join Squire Sanders (now Squire Patton Boggs) law firm from 1976 to 1979. From there he worked for Benesch Friedlander and finally Kohrman Jackson Krantz. By 1985, he had decided to break from the traditional and set up his own law firm specializing in class-action lawsuits and mass tort. He was, by all accounts, insanely successful.
Now, Cochran is venturing into a new era – investment. He said when making an investment, he wants to understand the purpose of the technology and if it is good. He also asks if the core technology can be applied to other opportunities. He enjoys investing in earlier-stage investments as opposed to later stage, which is a rare occurrence in Northeast Ohio. Better yet, Cochran said he only wants to invest in the Cleveland area.
Currently, he has investments in Boxcast, a streaming technologies company; Everykey, a master key technology for laptops, tablets, car doors, house doors; CF Bank, a local bank, and; he is the key investor in the Crop Restaurants chain. Additionally, he has committed capital to Northcoast Angels and Jumpstart.
Northeast Ohio needs more investors like Cochran — secure in their financial well-being, but ready and unafraid to invest in the risky venture with a high reward.
From Here to the Moon. One of Cleveland’s finest public servants is retiring after more than 45 years working at NASA Glenn.
Dr. Robert “Joe” Shaw may never get the notable accolades or the flashy awards as he finishes his career as director of Venture Development and Partnerships at NASA Glenn. He was a joy to be around and exuded the hope and inspiration of space innovation. He is a firm believer in research and development as an economic development catalyst.
When I was a fledgling appointee during the Campbell Administration at Cleveland City Hall – Shaw introduced me to the wonders and grand science happening at NASA Glenn and NASA Plum Brook, the space power facility in Sandusky that contains the world’s largest space simulation chamber.
Shaw made me realize just how powerful a Cleveland – NASA partnership could be for the development of coveted jobs and eye-opening science. While he never made headlines, he was a man of great influence and profound vision.
He and his easy demeanor will be greatly missed.