Business Incubator Blues

by Megan M. on November 1, 2007 · View Comments (Projects) |

I just watched a great interview from Thomas Mulready of, with the Youngstown Business Incubator’s Jim Cossler. You should watch it, and pay attention. It’s incredible. It excites me. But I have demands. (This discourages me only slightly, because how can you find earth-shakingly-fabulous solutions if you don’t start with some kind of problem?)

I’ve seen the Youngstown Business Incubator’s website, and I’m not pleased.

I want a more educational, more easily parseable and navigable site for the Youngstown Business Incubator. They are a huge influence on the Youngstown business community—probably more than I even know. This should be done right.

I see this problem everywhere in Youngstown’s corner of the web. Rosetta Stone had a good thing going until they stalled out (and God knows where they are now); a solid internet design influence would do really well in Youngstown. It could provide a desperately needed service to local businesses. But I don’t see it. Where are you when we need you?

After watching this interview, the state of the YBI site really distresses me. Why isn’t there more detailed content, instead of the same mainline bio over and over? Is there some reason the layout structure can’t be consistent? It’s hard for me to want to read the material, even after watching such an incredibly engaging interview. And, dude—the Incubator can easily be taking new, gorgeous photos and publishing vignettes about its businesses, giving them excellent publicity from the get-go. There’s no reason for the graphics to be so out-dated.

More importantly: Why can’t I find a list of startups they’re assisting? I want to support YBI companies in Youngstown!

I’m very frustrated. I don’t want this to be a bitch-fest—I need it to be a call to action. The YBI is an unbelievably excellent resource that is going to waste in its web space because no one has taken the time to solve these problems. Of course, they’re spending that time in an awesome way: They’re helping businesses grow in the Youngstown area. But getting the website taken care of just isn’t that hard. Can you convince me that redesigning this site, and fixing all the content issues, navigability issues, making it from an eyesore into a fantastic, useable, functional web presence is anything but easy? Where are the excellent, internet-bent artistic minds? Where are the Youngstown arts community web designers and skilled developers? I know you’re out there. (For Heaven’s sake, send me resumes.) There’s work to be done!

This wouldn’t take a lot of effort, or a lot of money. When is it going to happen? The whole situation causes me a great deal of personal pain, because Cossler is full of exciting ideas that seem to be coming to fruition. I loved this piece here:

Mulready: “Why Youngstown? Why is something like this so successful here? This is something that’s really not happening in Cleveland, it’s not happening in Pittsburgh, it’s not happening in Akron or Columbus—why here?”

Cossler: “…Rather than being mediocre and incubating a broad range of technologies, we chose to be world-class at one technology, and we are world-class at business-to-business software. It’s narrowness of focus.”

Cossler: “…The second thing is, we have what we call a managed cluster. Every single one of my companies and every single one of their employees has a responsibility to share their knowledge with people who need it. Now, there’s 230 people working in this building today—that’s a lot of institutional knowledge for a two-person startup to tap into.”

Link (via).

Now, if you’re me (or anyone else, trust me), this is really, really exciting. It’s right in line with many of the business precepts I’ve been fixating on—think Seth Godin, think 37signals—and it’s right on the money, it all fits together. Jim goes on to talk about Turning Technologies, which is a great story—but what he’s explaining is an incredible system that makes me excited for growing Youngstown businesses.

Cossler: “[Turning Technologies was] just named the fastest growing software company in the country by Inc. Magazine. Not San Jose, not Austin, Youngstown, Ohio.

That made me grin. This guy is awesome! Why isn’t there more information on the site? If I could read the damn thing, I would be completely hooked. Who is involved? What can I do to help? Where do Youngstown startups go if they aren’t in business-to-business software? Anyone? How can I help, how can I tell people about what’s going on, if I can’t get answers from the one place that should guarantee them?

Anyway, just listening to the interview it’s obvious to me that they have some serious structure underneath the sub-sentient web presence. If you are thinking of putting together something wonderful, the Youngstown Business Incubator could be exactly the resource you need… as long as you’re not depending on their website for more than contact information. I guess that’s what business cards are for. But man… the web is so much better than that. It can give people so much more than that and honestly, it’s what they’re coming to expect. Now just isn’t the time to screw around with lame implementations. And Youngstown is growing so fast—can you just imagine what a solid web presence could do for an entity that’s already creating so much amazing change?

Someone needs to set the precedent for positive, appealing design in Youngstown. Who better than the Youngstown Business Incubator? It’s already given so much, and been such a role model for Youngstown business ventures. I don’t see any indication, from what I could find, that someone is working on it now.

You know what else? I can’t add YBI news to my feed reader, because I can’t find an xml feed anywhere.

Let’s get on the ball!

  • Lou
    I thought that about the incubator site also. It's very "Templatey" and the tenants logos are really kin thrown up there wherever they would stick.

    Of course, What do I know abut design?

    P.S. COuldn't they have found red and white template? What's up with the orange?
  • Megan M.
    Whoa! That's incredibly awesome! Thank you for updating me -- I lost my contact number for George Lenahan around the time I moved, and I've been dying to get back in touch with him to find out what's going on. I think their whole concept was great and I'm really excited to see what they've come up with since.

    I did in fact email Jim and he responded in a super friendly fashion (which doesn't surprise me)! So much good stuff is happening, it's easy to forget how frustrated I was getting for awhile there. ;}

    I am in problem-solving mode for sure!
  • Phil Kidd
    Nice post, Magpie. You should shoot an email to Jim with a link to this post. He'll be more than happy to share his thoughts. He's as nice a guy as he is a quality YBI Evangelist.


    P.S. Update on Rosetta Stone: Had a $330,000 start up fund. Moved forward, interior is/was done, brought their premier chef up from FLA. The chef dies the month he gets here (insert joke here). Anyways, this proves to be a good thing as the owners rethink their business strategy - decide to up the investment to over $500,000 and expand operations!

    The building is done, help wanted flyers are posted all over YSU campus, and they want to be open for First Night Youngstown.
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