An Initiative of the City of Akron

From concept to reality – FUELing the fire of northeast Ohio’s startup community


I cannot believe our FUEL event is one week from today! We are so excited for our inaugural event and really looking forward to everyone meeting our final three software startups and learning more about these exciting companies.  As the event draws near, we wanted to take you behind the scenes and show you  how FUEL went from concept to reality.  

A competition is born

It all began with an idea to find a  way to identify deal flow for The Bit Factory – i.e. we thought this competition would be an interesting way to find new client companies. FUEL stands for Fostering Unique Entrepreneurial Leads and we are looking for FUEL for our Factory – get it?? Second, we wanted to do something that was unique to northeast Ohio. There are a lot of pitch competitions around the region, but none of them take a Shark Tank-like  format where companies actually negotiate investment in front of an audience.  Live negotiating an investment is a little intimidating, but it’s also an extremely valuable learning experience for not only the entrepreneurs, but also for the audience. Our “sharks” are arguably a bit more forgiving than Mr. Wonderful, so this format gives companies an opportunity to take a stab at negotiating with an investor.

We decided it would be optimal to do the competition during Global Entrepreneurship Week in November and we were ready to get to work!

Picking the sharks

The first two sharks were natural choices – Anthony Margida, Akron Accelerator CEO and president of The Bit Factory, and James Hilton, a mentor at The Bit Factory. We also thought it would also be fun to include local attorney Michael Craig, who is a partner in the intellectual property group at Brouse McDowell. Brouse McDowell has done a great job inserting itself into the startup scene in Akron and we knew they would be a great partner for this event. When we brought the idea to Michael, he happily agreed to be a shark and Brouse McDowell agreed to be the exclusive sponsor of FUEL – a very exciting day for us. 

To be sure, each shark will bring a unique perspective to the competition.

Choosing the finalists

In order to keep the competition as authentic as possible, Jack Hilton, mentor at The Bit Factory and I were tasked with reviewing all of our applicants and identifying our finalists.  Applications opened Sept. 15 and closed Oct. 14. We received 42 requests and 23 completed applications. Of the 23, we selected 10 companies to interview for three spots. The process was very competitive and we selected the 10 companies based on their technology fit with The Bit Factory, the viability of their business models, their product/market fit, knowledge of their markets, and the ability of the team to execute. After interviewing all 10, three stood out above the rest – Komae, SkinnyTable and TPA Stream. Not only were we impressed by the teams behind each company, they all seek to solve a problem that currently does not have a better solution. 

Running the show

We are also excited that Eric Camulli, vice president of marketing and product management at 7signal Solutions, one of our own Accelerator client companies, will be our host and emcee for the event. Eric’s background in tech marketing will bring a unique perspective to the event that should make for a very fun evening. 

FUEL is free and open to the public, but space is limited. To register to attend, visit

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