It’s a common refrain that talent is the most important element to establishing and growing innovative startups. As the talent war rages on, demand for top talent continues to outstrip supply, and as the school year wraps up, high-growth startups are scanning the horizon for new hotbeds of entrepreneurial, talented graduates to recruit.

Ohio is one of the startups hubs where the entrepreneurial economy has grown with lightning speed. As an example, Ohio saw more than 12,000 new business filings in January alone, up 20 percent from January 2018. And luckily for Ohio-based startup leaders, they don’t need to look far to find their next generation of world class talent.

OIF company Aware hosted college students for an immersive day of learning about startups. 

A recent study conducted by Ohio Innovation Fund, a leading venture capital firm in Ohio, and Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, a partnership of OU’s College of Business and Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, asked tomorrow’s workforce where they see entrepreneurship fitting into their plans for success and which areas they consider hot spots for business and economic growth.  

In a nutshell: these young professionals are staying put—and they’re eager to build great things in the Midwest. The findings offer a glimpse into the motivations and challenges facing these leaders of tomorrow and provide today’s startup CEOs with insights to help them win the next generation of innovators:

  • Nearly 75 percent are interested/very interested in starting their own businesses.
  • 85 percent are interested/very interested in working at a startup.
  • Respondents believe Ohio is the best state to start a new business, followed by California and New York.
  • The biggest benefits respondents see in Ohio is cost of living and Midwest values (what we at OIF call “grit”).
  • By a huge margin, 90 percent, the respondents think Ohio is a better environment today for entrepreneurs than in the past.
  • An impressive 92 percent say they’re optimistic about the future and the environment continuing to improve.

All in all, the evidence points to startup talent and wealth moving away from the coasts to new areas of influence, and Ohio is one of those major centers. According to data compiled by Pitchbook, the Great Lakes region (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota) accounted for 5 percent of VC deal value in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2019. That may seem nominal, but the region’s share nearly doubled versus first quarter 2018, when it was at 2.6 percent.

The increased growth and interest in the region has clearly started to grab the attention of investors. With a new wave of talent acutely interested in both entrepreneurship and staying put in the Midwest, the region is poised for a sustained period of significant VC growth in the coming years.

Survey Methodology: In Q4 2018, Ohio Innovation Fund and Ohio University surveyed 114 students who were enrolled in entrepreneurship and management courses. A special thank you to Ohio University Professor Jacob Hiler and the Consumer Research Center for their work on the project.