JUMPSTART INC. was created in 2003 to address Northeast Ohio's declining economy, loss of jobs and lack of entrepreneurial growth. The region's civic, community and philanthropic leaders explored these issues, and, as a result, NorTech and CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY launched this venture development organization. THE CLEVELAND FOUNDATION , CLEVELAND TOMORROW , the George W. Codrington Foundation, and the Ohio Department of Development through its Ohio Third Frontier program provided founding grants to form JumpStart. The nonprofit is charged with providing focused resources to diverse entrepreneurs and the community, accelerating the growth of early stage businesses and ideas into venture-ready companies, and ultimately transforming Northeast Ohio into a nationally significant center of entrepreneurship and innovation.
Ray Leach became JumpStart's Chief Executive Officer in 2004. Under Leach's leadership, JumpStart grew as a public, private philanthropic partnership with support from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the Richard J. Fasenmyer Foundation, The FirstEnergy Foundation, FOREST CITY ENTERPRISES Charitable Foundation, the Fund for Our Economic Future, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, KeyBank Foundation, and many others. JumpStart quickly became a force in growing regional resources for potential entrepreneurs. It was a founding member of the Venture Capital Advisory Task Force in 2006, a group interested in furthering entrepreneurial investment and success in the region. In 2007, JumpStart launched online community IdeaCrossing to connect entrepreneurs with business assistance, investment capital, mentors, and a year later, began posting job openings at startups on VentureLoop.
JumpStart's economic development work has been nationally recognized. It received the State Science and Technology Institute's 2009 and 2010 Excellence in Technology-Based Economic Development Awards, as well as a 2009 Excellence in Economic Development Award from the U.S. Commerce Department.
JumpStart launched the JumpStart Entrepreneurial Network in 2010. JumpStart manages this collaborative group of entrepreneurial advisors, funds, investors, incubators and educators working to accelerate the successes of entrepreneurs across Northeast Ohio's 21 counties. That same year, CEO Leach joined the National Advisory Council, a 26-member council that informs the country's innovation strategy by helping to develop national policies that foster entrepreneurship. JumpStart also began collaborating with national leaders to expand and enhance their regions' entrepreneurial capacities. This community advising work was initiated with support from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Surdna Foundation and the Economic Development Administration.
In 2011, Leach joined the board of the National Venture Capital Association, which serves as the voice of the U.S. venture capital community, and advocates for policies that encourage innovation and reward long-term investment. The same year, JumpStart launched the JumpStart America initiative to build public, private and philanthropic partnerships to create or accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship programs nationwide. This initiative is a founding member of the Startup America Partnership, a national, private-sector coalition of mentors, advisors, funders, major corporations and service providers that deliver strategic and substantive resources to help entrepreneurs start and scale companies that generate wealth and jobs for their communities.