Just nine months ago, Barb Ewing was appointed to serve as the CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator (“YBI”). Previously, Barb was the organization’s COO, working to bring new ideas to the organization, and spearheading the YBI’s Additive Manufacturing (AM) Program. Ewing is particularly excited for the opportunity to facilitate the adoption of AM and partnering with America Makes. She is passionate about the mission to advance the technology and to help make US manufacturing more competitive.
What has made the difference in the last 20 years that helped the YBI to be what it is today?
“For all good organizations, staff changes, but the board is the core of the organization. Our board recognized a long time ago that if we were really going to have a larger impact in the local community that we needed to start identifying ways to work beyond our software program and that gave us the opportunity to explore more options. We also recognize the importance of the investment fund and they have been willing to take risks. Our board is very visionary in that respect.”
How do you see our region in 5 years? And what role can the YBI play in the region?
“Part of our vision is to turn the larger region of the 21 counties of Northeast Ohio into the Silicon Valley for AM. We believe that we can attract companies from around the world to come here and to help deploy the technology into our existing manufacturers and support start-ups. We can also leverage those relationships to attract software companies and to help our portfolio companies to grow faster. We have a lot of opportunities ahead of us and it is incumbent upon our communities, our economic development organizations and our government leaders and the universities to understand how they can play a role in getting us from where we are today to where we want to be.”
Why do you believe that our region can be the Silicon Valley of Additive Manufacturing?
“We did a study to understand where we are today in terms of that landscape and to identify what gaps we need to fill in order to get to where we want to be. That study helped identify a lot of assets that are unique to this particular region. First and foremost is America Makes. It is the only lab of its kind and is a national accelerator for AM. We also have an incredible plethora of universities and colleges in a 100-mile radius that provide an educated workforce to understand how and when to use the technology and also to do research to advance the technology. We have legacy strengths in the industries that are more likely to be early adopters of AM and that understand how and when to use it. Last but not least we have more than 2,700 metal and plastic companies in the region that are potential customers as well as being part of the supply chain for AM.”
How do you see VGV playing a role in the region?
“The single greatest truism for start-ups, especially outside of software, is that you can only bootstrap companies so far. You have to have some influx of capital in order to get products to market. VGV is an important source of capital for those companies and more importantly, the infrastructure that it is creating the awareness of the topic around early-stage investing, making more savvy investors, deepening the pool, bringing more people to the table so that companies get smart money and people who really understand a specific area.”
In late 2017, the YBI formed a partnership with The Junction and F2 Capital in Israel. The Junction is the leading platform in Israel for early stage startups to accelerate and advance their ventures into better products and companies. F2 Capital is an early-stage venture capital fund based in Israel.
How will the partnership with The Junction and F2 Capital benefit the YBI?
“One of the things that set YBI apart in its conversations around building a relationship with Israeli technology firms is the fact that we have a formal partnership with F2 Capital and The Junction. It is a different level of credibility for us and it is a different type of relationship when you have an active engagement with an early stage accelerator in Israel that sees so many deals. It gives us an advantage over other communities that are fighting to see the quality of deal flow that we see.”