Blockland Cleveland tech hub close to finding a home

Todd Federman, managing director of the North Coast Angel Fund (NCAF), atttorny Jon Pinney and entrepreneur Bernie Moreno discuss Blockland Cleveland at NCAF’s annual meeting.

The effort to create a technology business incubator in Cleveland may be close to finding a home.

Jon Pinney, the managing partner of the Kohrmann, Jackson & Krantz law firm, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, told the audience at the annual meeting of the North Coast Angel Fund (NCAF) that Blockland Cleveland, the effort to make Cleveland one of the top homes for technology entrepreneurship led by auto dealer and tech entrepreneur Bernie Moreno, is close to finding a home for a tech innovation incubator.

Although the Blockland Cleveland movement has been tied to the emerging blockchain technology, Moreno told the NCAF members that Blockland Cleveland’s tech hub would welcome all types of technology startups, not just those based on blockchain technology, which is a decentralized digital technology that cannot be edited or deleted by anyone but its owner, but that can be available to a large group of people or organizations.

“We’ve evaluated 12 or 13 different sites and we’ve settled on one and we’ve zeroed in an actively negotiating” for the site, Pinney told about 250 investors in the angel fund and their guests. The tech hub could be a new building or, more likely, a part of an existing property. “We’ve designed a prototype, we presented to the developer and owner of the particular property and we’ve done a tremendous amount of research about best practices and other facilities around the world.”

Pinney would not identify the site, but he said Vocon Partners LLC, the Cleveland-based architectural and design firm, designed the prototype.

Blockland Cleveland’s leaders, all volunteers, said last year that they plan to find a location somewhere in downtown Cleveland for a $150 million tech incubator that will include a university technology think tank and a K-8 school on its campus.

The discussion with Moreno and Pinney, held at Corporate College East, was part of a program that reviewed NCAF’s 2018 results and looked to the future of the organization, a venture capital firm specializing in pre-seed, startup and early-stage investments. NCAF seeks to invest in technology companies based in Northeast Ohio that focus on life sciences, advanced materials, electronics and controls and information technology. The firm typically invests in companies based in Ohio with a focus on Northeast Ohio.

Managing director Todd Federman called 2018 an “inflection point” for the 12-year-old, for-profit investment firm and that he could report on several “companies that have demonstrated meaningful commercial success.”

An angel investor is an investor who provides capital for a startup company, or in an angel fund like NCAF, with the hope that, in the years ahead, that investment can be sold for a significant profit. Investing in an angel fund allows a person to spread his or her investment across a group of companies. Some may fail and some will succeed, but the hope is that the returns will more than offset the investment in companies that fail.