Youngstown Business Incubator blazing a trail around the world


There are innovators in Italy, France, China and more than 60 other countries undoubtedly asking the same question today: “How did the Youngstown Business Incubator in Youngstown, Ohio, get the better of us and secure the No. 1 ranking in the world?” Rather than answer that question ourselves — given our unabashed pride when it comes to the YBI — we’ll let the man who announced the ranking to the international community do the talking.

“Youngstown Business Incubator is an exceptional incubation program,” said Dhruv Bhatli, a co-founder of University Business Incubator Index, based in Stockholm, Sweden.

“It performs really well on our global benchmark by providing its client start-ups an environment with excellent peers, as well as access to an outstanding investor network.”

Bhatli and UBI Index’s other founder, Ali Amin, came to Youngstown last Tuesday to present James Cossler, YBI chief executive officer, with the award and to announce the No. 1 ranking in the university-associated business incubators category to a worldwide audience via the Internet.

Present at the announcement at YBI headquarters in downtown Youngstown was James Tressel, president of Youngstown State University, who is quite familiar with being No. 1. As head football coach, first at YSU and then at Ohio State, Tressel won five national championships.

“I have stood in front of a podium saying we were No. 1 in the nation,” the new president of YSU said. “But never have I stood in front of a podium saying we were No. 1 in the world.”

Let those words swirl around your mouth and rattle around in your head: “No. 1 in the world.”

YBI IN GREAT COMPANY

Who was No. 2? H-Farms Ventures in Venice, Italy. No. 3 was Tech in Columbus (yes, Ohio). No. 4 was Montpellier Business Innovation Center in France. And No. 5 was Hub China in Beijing.

About 300 incubators in more than 60 countries were evaluated, analyzed and graded, and when all the numbers were crunched — from the research conducted by UBI Index’s Paris office — the Youngstown Business Incubator stood tall.

It is important to remember that just last year, the YBI was ranked 11th in the world. What a difference a year and total dedication to the ideals of the organization make.

Indeed, the success stories of the incubator, led by Turning Technologies and including Factset Revere, Sequentia and Learning Egg, are what impressed Bhatli and Amin. These and other companies that were literally incubated from infancy to graduation make up the roll call of the YBI’s 19-year history.

We have been with the incubator every major step of the way — and with good reason.

It was The Vindicator that bought the vacant Furnitureland building on West Federal Street and the warehouse on West Boardman Street and donated them for the business incubator. The incubator was initially funded with $1.35 million in federal and state grants and $100,000 from area banks.

The rest, as they say, is award-winning history.

Cossler’s role as the self-styled “chief evangelist” of the incubator should not be minimized. His vision, energy and unwavering determination to make YBI the best of the best has been contagious, both in the private and public sectors.

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