SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

November 7, 2012

No more ‘nosebleeds’

SCOTT SHAW THE PLAIN DEALER Tired of sitting in the nosebleed seats when better ones were empty, Jennifer Jeng, left, and Donna Lee created a way to buy them — Mascot Secret.


No more nosebleeds

Cousins create app so fans can upgrade to better, empty seats

By Robert L. Smith | THE PLAIN DEALER

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert founded Bizdom, a business incubator that is helping Mascot Secret get started.

CLEVELAND — From your seat in the upper corner of Quicken Loans Arena, you can almost make out Kyrie Irving as he glides up the court with a basketball. What you also see are the empty, awesome seats scattered about the lower bowl of the Q like gaps in a smile. ¶ Donna Lee and Jennifer Jeng know just what you’re thinking: What a waste.

“We understand because we sit in the nosebleed seats,” said Lee, a 32-year-old sports fan from California. “You don’t want to sneak down because there’s nothing more embarrassing than getting sent back up in front of 20,000 people.”

  • But what if you could take out your mobile phone, activate an app, and pay a few more dollars to upgrade to that better seat so obviously available?

The two cousins brought their idea from the West Coast to Bizdom, the startup accelerator founded by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.    Now, they’re developing a smartphone app that the Cavs plan to test this season and that the aspiring entrepreneurs hope will sweep the sports world.

Meanwhile, they are helping a new kind of business incubator establish itself in downtown Cleveland. Mascot Secret, “the secret to better seats,” is just the kind of venture Bizdom is looking for. It’s new. It solves a problem. And it can work in sync with one of Gilbert’s many enterprises, including his NBA franchise.

  • “We’re about revitalizing the economies in Cleveland and Detroit,” said Paul Allen, the leader of Bizdom Cleveland. “We need to work with the businesses we think we can help.”

Gilbert launched Bizdom in Detroit in 2007, declaring entrepreneurship the key to luring creative young talent to post-industrial towns. Bizdom Cleveland started a little less than a year ago and recently moved into newly renovated space in the 250 Huron Building, beneath the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

Along with for-profit Shaker LaunchHouse, the nonprofit Bizdom is pioneering the accelerator model in Greater Cleveland.

  • While traditional business incubators typically offer office space and an investment, Bizdom offers intensive coaching with the seed money. It invests up to $25,000 in selected businesses in exchange for an 8 percent equity stake. Company founders are put through a three-month business boot camp and enjoy free office space, tech support and kindred spirits.

They must commit to pursuing their venture full time — no school or second jobs — and to establishing the company in Cleveland or Detroit. So much the better if their idea aligns with the Gilbert family of companies, which includes sports teams, casinos, hotels, call centers, ticket agencies and the online mortgage company Quicken Loans.

“Those are the people we can get further faster,” said Allen, a software entrepreneur and the former interim director of Launch-House.

The current Bizdom class includes BackerBar, a company that will help you find the bar that backs your sports team; Safe Care, a background-checking service for nursing-home workers; and Sapphire Education, which seeks to organize the entire college experience on a single website.

The team soon will bring Mascot Secret to the NBA, at least on a trial basis. “There’s a marketplace for this,” team president Len Komoroski said last week.

(Absolutely love all these new startup ideas for new businesses and the genius people and factors which allow it to happen.  This is exactly what our eager, upbeat country is looking for.    Way to go Donna, Jennifer and Dan!    Jan)


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