LaunchHouse brings together entrepreneurs, freelancers, consultants and others looking for a business community outside of corporate confines and a place where they can learn from one another while developing their businesses.
Todd Goldstein wasn’t ready to accept that Cleveland’s best days were behind it.
His grandfather, who owned the legendary Theatrical Grill downtown, told him stories about the city, but everything seemed to have peaked in the 1950s.
“We had a conversation about how Cleveland had lost its way and he said, ‘If people don’t move back, Cleveland’s never going to change.’”
That convinced Goldstein, who had recently graduated college, to return to his hometown to make a difference.
In 2008, he and a friend, Dar Caldwell, opened a coworking space, LaunchHouse, above a pizza parlor in University Heights. It became home to a small community of entrepreneurs eager for help and direction.
It moved three times as it grew, adding a maker space for hands-on creators and eventually landing in a former car dealership in Shaker Heights. LaunchHouse began investing in member companies and gradually transformed into a startup accelerator, while still mentoring entrepreneurs and hosting community events.
Though successful, Goldstein felt LaunchHouse had strayed too far from its original mission of creating a supportive community of coworkers. So he retooled, ending the investing and accelerator programs and returning to the original concept.
LaunchHouse moved from Shaker Heights to an industrial park on Alpha Drive in Highland Heights in 2016. It’s an unusual location for a coworking space, which tends to prefer repurposed buildings and urban neighborhoods, but it’s been a success, growing from an initial 5,000 square feet to more than 15,000 square feet.
It’s home to 149 members and hosts events for the greater entrepreneurial community. “The current mix of startups, freelancers, consultants, designers, entrepreneurs, and others is lively, engaged, and supportive of each other,” Goldstein said.
In the spring of 2018, it opened a second location in Lakewood to serve West Side coworkers.
Later that November, it cut the ribbon on CoWork Oberlin: Powered by LaunchHouse. It was a licensing joint venture between LaunchHouse and the nonprofit Oberlin Business Partnership. Like many of the businesses that LaunchHouse has helped start, CoWork Oberlin now runs independently of LaunchHouse.
A number of member companies are enjoying success and, just as importantly to Goldstein, are remaining in Northeast Ohio.
“We didn’t start LaunchHouse to help companies move to Silicon Valley,” he said. “We want them to stay here and help Northeast Ohio.”
“Our philosophy is to provide small businesses with the space and community they need to be successful over the long term.” – Todd Goldstein, CEO, LaunchHouse
Like the growing small businesses it houses, LaunchHouse has gone through changes, some of its own volition and others in reaction to outside forces. It has never stopped growing.
LaunchHouse wants to expand more, Goldstein said, possibly by buying its own buildings or partnering with other cities. But Northeast Ohio will always be home.
“We’ve thought that maybe we would try to expand a nationwide footprint, but we want to focus on northeastern Ohio. We want really good spaces with really good programming and a community that supports small business growth and entrepreneurs in the region,” he said.
LaunchHouse and KeyBank
From its beginning, LaunchHouse wanted a single banking resource for itself and its member companies. Though the organization was small, KeyBank recognized the importance of its work and has supported LaunchHouse and its startups.
KeyBank financed relocations to ever-larger spaces, while also helping member startups create their first checking accounts and making loans as small as $1,000. It also sponsors LaunchHouse’s annual fundraiser, the Bootstrap Bash.
“When companies have needed Key, Key has been there to support them and I cannot say that about other financial institutions,” Goldstein said. “They’ve been an ideal financial resource.”