Best Accelerators in Cincinnati, Ranked

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Contributor, Benzinga
June 4, 2021

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Cincinnati is the center of the largest metropolitan area of Ohio and its economic hub. Tons of Ohio startups choose Cincinnati as their home, which may be why it has such a great selection of accelerators. Not sure which accelerator is best for you? Use our list of the 10 best accelerators in the Cincinnati metropolitan area to find your best fit.

Some of the accelerators we have reviewed specialize in serving minority founders, women innovators, are faith-based and tech-focused. The good news is that there is an accelerator available for every type of entrepreneur, so let’s dive in.

What is an Accelerator?

An accelerator is a business program that aims to give developing businesses and companies access to training, mentorship and investment to become self-sufficient and stable. Apart from gaining investment and mentorship opportunities, businesses undergoing an accelerator program gain technical and logistical support, including office space. They also will be connected to peer businesses they can learn from.The program can last for 2 to 6 months.

An incubator is a building where rent is subsidized and other forms of business support are included to benefit companies in their early stages.

What makes up an effective and efficient business accelerator? An accelerator  has the following:

  • It has a fixed term of 2 to 3 months
  • It includes a cohort of participants or startups
  • It has experienced mentors
  • It includes educational programs for knowledge transfer
  • It has a selection process for a cohort to be considered as the best

What Type of Companies are Accelerators For?

To accelerate means to speed up; hence the goal of a business accelerator is to enable businesses to move forward quickly. How does a company diagnose itself and see whether it needs an accelerator? Here are some pointers.

A company needs an accelerator if:

  • The company is profitable but has no cash
  • The founder wears all the hats in the business
  • The founders want their investment to grow without giving up ownership
  • You want to be accountable to someone else
  • You have been working hard but have never hit your target margin
  • You lack entrepreneurial peer network support
  • You do not know where and when to start your business
  • You need tools to grow your business
  • You want a structured MBA kind of learning minus the expense
  • You want to know how to get to point B from point A

How to Pick the Right Accelerator

Due diligence is essential before applying to join an accelerator program. To establish which one is a good fit for your business, consider the following:

Social proof: Find out the number and type of startups that have graduated from the program. Also, find out how much they received and whether those businesses are still up and running successfully. The impact of a good accelerator outlives graduation.

Networking and relationships: What kind of community has the accelerator established, and what types of educators and experts are associated with it? Your network is your net worth, so find out if the network in the accelerator is relevant to your goals.

Industry: Some accelerators are tech-oriented, while others are service product-oriented. Go for a program that aligns with what your business offers.

Location: There are accelerators almost in every country today, and you are likely to attend the program in person. If you cannot take time out to travel, then choose a program that is within your locality.

As a startup founder, you are prone to people telling you what works best. Note that not all accelerators perform equally. Before signing up, ensure that you understand the differences of the options you have. This means weighing the benefits and drawbacks.

10 Best Accelerators in Cincinnati 

Here are our picks for the best accelerators in Cincinnati.

1. Top Accelerator for Female-Owned Businesses: Aviatra, founded 2010


Aviatra Accelerators was founded in 2010. This is a business accelerator program that specializes in helping women start and run businesses sustainably. It is a multistate nonprofit organization that has 1 of its branches in Cincinnati. The program provides access to capital, business basics and guidance from coaches and mentors. 

Aviatra has educated more than 2,000 female business owners and granted over $1 million in loans. Aviatra’s graduates also have received more than $10 million in follow-up funding.

2. Top Branding and Design Accelerator: The Brandery, founded 2014


The Brandery accelerator serves the Cincinnati region, but it is also nationally ranked. It has excellent local rankings when it comes to branding, design and marketing. This is a seed-state accelerator for startups, and since its inception, 66 startups have graduated. The Brandery offers high-quality mentorship. 

Startups under the accelerator are paired with leading creative agencies, giving them access to several global companies such as Procter & Gamble and Kroger. This accelerator runs a 12-week program once a year for 5 companies. Each participating company receives $100,000, free office space for 1 year and additional benefits worth over $200,000.

3. Top Public-Private Partnership Accelerator: Cintrifuse, founded 2012


Cintrifuse was founded after the Cincinnati Business Committee, together with the CEOs of top companies, decided that Queen City needed an upgrade. Delta Air Lines Inc. had just pulled out of the airport, and as a result, many people lost their jobs. Cintrifuse has positioned itself as a startup catalyst that is owned by both the public and private sectors. It advocates for entrepreneurs in high-growth tech startups. 

Cintrifuse attracts, inspires and supports them all the way. Interested businesses must apply for membership, which costs $150 per year for each company.

4. Top Local Accelerator: CincyTech, founded 2016


CincyTech accelerator is a subsidiary of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. It is a seed fund focusing on business software companies, digital healthcare, life science, technology-enabled services, digital marketing technology companies and enterprises. 

Companies participating in this program have created 1,087 , and there are 36 active organizations in its portfolio, including Stack, Roadtrippers, Losant and Navistone. More than 24 local corporations support the accelerator.

5. Top Accelerator for Local Manufacturing: First Batch, founded 2014


The First Batch accelerator program deals with local manufacturing and physical products. It is the only one of its kind nationwide. It does more in terms of helping entrepreneurs with sales, gaining inventory, revenue and ventures. Its past graduates include Skube, Daughters of Style and Circle Circle Jewelry. First Batch helps businesses turn prototypes into finished market-ready products. The aim is to establish rapport between participants and design, legal and logistical support.

6. Top Accelerator/Incubator for Water Tech Companies: Pipeline H2O, founded 2016


Pipeline H2O is an accelerator program that deals with water-based startup tech companies. This program is supported by several stakeholders, including Confluence, Cintrifuse and Village Capital. The Hamilton Mill is charged with administrative duties. The accelerator organizes a 15-week program that sees the coming together of water-tech industry organizations.

7. Top Accelerator for Entrepreneurship Education: Hillman Accelerator, founded 2017


Hillman Accelerator seeks to empower early-stage tech startups with a particular focus on underrepresented founders. It does this via mentorship, opportunity and offering business capital. Founded by Dhani Jones, Candice Matthews, and Ebow Vroom, Hillman is the only full-time accelerator program. It counts Warmilu, SoLo and viaggi among its graduates. 

Hillman takes 4 months, and during each round, 5 tech and 5 tech-enabled companies are selected. Apart from mentoring and access to the entrepreneur in residence, participants also receive seed investment.

8. Top Incubator for Entrepreneurs: HCDC, founded 1989


The HCDC is a startup incubator cum hub located in southwest Ohio. This nationally recognized incubator enables entrepreneurs to start successful tech-oriented businesses. This is done via coaching, innovative programs, capital access, a diverse learning environment and connections. More than 300 businesses have participated in the program, and 2,300 jobs have been created. The incubator has generated economic activity worth $500 million. More than 140 businesses have graduated, and the success rate is 70%.

9. Top Accelerator for Minority-Owned Businesses: Minority Business Accelerator, founded 2003


The Minority Business Accelerator (MBA) is a program run by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber that focuses on businesses run by minorities. The aim is to develop such businesses by strengthening and expanding them throughout the minority entrepreneurial community. The MBA works with regional companies and seeks to connect them with minority-owned companies within the region.

10. Top Accelerator for Faith-Based Startups: Ocean, founded 2014


OCEAN Programs is an accelerator program that blends faith and entrepreneurship. The founders of this program believe that there is a need for more healthy founders to create healthy businesses and cultures, forging a clear path based on marketplace intellect and biblical principles.OCEAN  focuses on high-tech companies. It has 27 alumni and has created 46 jobs. Half of the companies associated with the program are based in Cincinnati. Some of the acclerator’s alumni are QR, We Love Work and StreamSpot.

Find the Top Accelerator for Your Cincinnati Startup

As you can see, early-stage startups in Cincinnati have more to work with. This encourages innovation that steers great change in the world of tech. 
Want to learn more about the best accelerators and other rankings? Check out the rest of Benzinga’s Rankings guides.

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