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Make a MySpace match Business incubator turns to online audience



Published: Mon, July 16, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

There is talk of creating an online community forum next.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN — She’s an Aquarius, likes to meet people with great ideas and is into serious relationships.

Intrigued by this description on MySpace.com, lots of young techies have been calling the Youngstown Business Incubator lately for more details.

They’re calling the downtown home of technology companies because it’s the Aquarius that’s looking for the right match.

Its posting on the social networking site includes a little bit of serious stuff, such as a description of the services it provides for fledgling entrepreneurs and contact information.

Most of the page, however, is dedicated to trendier items, such as a music clip, two music videos from YouTube.com and a Web log, or blog. The incubator can be called an Aquarius because it opened in January 1995.

Plenty of 18- to 28-year olds have called the incubator after viewing the page, said Jim Cossler, incubator director.

People from this age group are a critical audience for the incubator, which is looking for entrepreneurs with the next big idea in technology, he said.

Reaching them has been difficult, however, so he’s starting to use online sites where people are spending time.

“We’re finding them now,” he said.

Making contacts

The MySpace page went up three months ago, and now the incubator has a page on a similar site, Facebook.com.

The effort has been noticed by Anita Campbell, a columnist on www.smallbiztrends.com. She wrote recently that she doesn’t recommend MySpace for most businesses but was impressed by the incubator’s page.

“MySpace attracts the next generation of entrepreneurs — young people who in a year or two or three may be looking for assistance to get their tech startups off the ground,” she wrote.

Some of those who have visited the incubator’s page have stopped by for a tour of the incubator’s five companies, which employ more than 200. Most said they had never heard of the incubator until they saw the Web site.

The incubator hasn’t lined up any potential tenants from these visits, but Cossler thinks they have been valuable because they show what can be accomplished in Youngstown.

“It’s all about seed planting. It’s all about cultivation. At least they know they can do it now,” he said.

Plans to expand

Most of the visits have been from area residents, but Cossler said contacts have come from former area residents who now live around the world.

“They are excited that high-tech jobs are bubbling up in Youngstown,” he said.

Nearly 200 people are listed on the MySpace site as “friends” of the incubator. These are people who have linked their own MySpace sites to the incubator’s.

Cossler said the incubator’s site has proven so popular that he would like to create an online community forum. This site would compile ideas on improving the community from local blogs.

Cossler said he’s considering organizing a “blogger’s bootcamp,” which would be an eight-hour session that would teach people the ins and outs of blogging.

“I believe communities become vibrant when communication is facilitated,” he said.

The incubator is a state-funded organization that provides free rent and services to new companies. These companies have been so successful that a new building is being built to house the ones that are ready to leave the incubator.

shilling@vindy.com


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