5-minute read

What Ohio State’s entrepreneurs are working on

Historic gift will further expand entrepreneurial opportunities at Ohio State.
Ratmir Timashev, right, shakes hands with a student in an integrated business and engineering class.
Ratmir Timashev, right, shakes hands with a student in an integrated business and engineering class (photo: Logan Wallace).

Entrepreneurs at Ohio State have a prolific portfolio when it comes to making big investments pay off, benefiting people and communities near and far. And today, those current and future innovators got a massive boost from one of their own.

As an enterprising scientist, Ratmir Timashev ’96 MS often credits Ohio State and the Midwest for boosting him into the stratosphere with his entrepreneurial ventures in the tech world. And once again, he’s paying forward by investing in Ohio State’s innovators and big thinkers.

The Timashev Family Foundation has made a historic $110 million gift to Ohio State for the creation of the Center for Software Innovation. It is the largest single gift in Ohio State history.

The new center will expand Buckeyes’ opportunities to develop their entrepreneurial skills. It will also assist professors teaching software innovation, offer student scholarships, and create an incubator program that nurtures ideas with the potential to become new startups. In addition, the gift provides initial funding for the center to be housed on two floors of a new, state-of-the-art entrepreneurial and research-focused building. Construction will begin once additional, external funding is secured.

The timing goes seamlessly with another momentous entrepreneurial occasion. Soon, the university will cut the ribbon on the first of several buildings at Carmenton, the new innovation district for our region. Carmenton brings the private, public and academic sectors together, to spark the kind of breakthroughs the world needs now.

“Now is the perfect time to invest in innovation and younger generations, particularly in efforts that harness different disciplines and functional areas,” says Timashev, who recently spent time at Ohio State discussing entrepreneurship with business and engineering students. “The community and tools that this Center will foster will soon empower the next great minds in software and beyond, whether it’s in AI, machine learning, cybersecurity, the metaverse, or another area not yet even on our radar.”

Already, there are more than 100 active startups that have spun out of Ohio State technology, according to the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, and over 100 students across a wide range of majors have been connected with entrepreneurial internships.

To put a face to some of those numbers, check out these examples of what Ohio State’s students and faculty are doing with those resources:

From left, Garrett Carder, Caroline Karbowski and Enan Srivastava meet in the College of Nursing Innovation Studio (photo: Corey Wilson).

Caroline Karbowski ’22 and Garrett Carder: Karbowski,  who majored in biology with minors in American Sign Language and chemistry, and Carder, a computer and information science major who is slated to graduate this spring, have teamed up to create two startup ventures to improve STEM education for people who are blind and connect them with jobs. See3D is a nonprofit that prints and distributes 3D learning models for blind people, while A Cubed Design is developing a low-cost Braille display to promote Braille literacy.

Starting with Ohio State’s Innovation Studio, Karbowski and Carder learned how to pitch and refine startup ideas, which helped them build See3D. Those skills culminated last spring when they won a President’s Buckeye Accelerator award, which included $50,000 of funding and mentorship to bring their company to life.

“One thing that’s been discussed a lot is, ‘What does your company value? Are you doing good in the world?’” Carder says. “The people guiding us are really helping us define our paths forward.”

Dr. Melissa Bailey MS ’01, OD ’01, PhD ’04: A professor in the College of Optometry, Bailey’s numerous patents and inventions have focused on improving lives by solving vision problems. In recent years, she’s created two startups – Lentechs, LLC, a novel soft contact lens, and OcuDoc, Inc., a smartphone application that can estimate a glasses prescription.

Bailey credits Ohio State’s Technology Commercialization Office and Paul Reeder, executive director of the Center for Innovative Strategies, for helping her hone her entrepreneurial side, allowing her to create solutions that could change millions, even billions, of lives globally.

“I feel a really strong personal sense that I have talents and I need to use them to make the world a better place,” Bailey says. “It’s what drives me.”

Kai McKinney ’21: As a student at Ohio State, McKinney used an entrepreneurial mindset to become a wizard at developing solutions to problems. McKinney, who majored in industrial design, co-founded the student startup Helm to empower team collaboration after participating in HackOHI/O and MakeOHI/O.

Helm is designed to help businesses train, onboard and develop new hires — especially remote workers, who can struggle to feel part of a workplace. It won the 2019 BOSS competition (Best of Student Startups) and the Business Builders’ Idea Pitch Competition and eventually helped McKinney found the Can’t Stop Columbus network in response to the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Can’t Stop Columbus quickly became a network of more than 1,000 volunteers to respond to the myriad of local people struggling in the wake of COVID-19 – connecting people to food delivery services, for example. McKinney’s Helm team members provided the initial proposal plan and used its web-based project sharing platform for group communications that continued to grow over time.

“Ohio State has a culture of caring but also erring on the side of action,” McKinney says. “It’s because people genuinely care about building communities, and that shows.”

Since graduating, McKinney co-founded another startup, Relay. He has also returned to Ohio State as a BOSS judge and is an executive in residence of Fisher’s MBA program, helping student founders build startups.

Arnab Nandi: An associate professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Nandi is an entrepreneur who is dedicated to helping Ohio State’s students find their paths.

Nandi co-founded the OHI/O program, which promotes Ohio State’s tech culture through hackathons and mentorship, and the STEAM Factory, a network for interdisciplinary research and collaboration. On his own venture front, Nandi founded Mobikit in 2019 as a data platform that aggregates data and provides insight into how businesses’ delivery vehicles can be more efficient. It’s also technology that could be used in driverless trucks and cars one day.

“People are often afraid that computers are going to replace them, but what I like to think is that I want to give people superpowers with my research,” Nandi says. “I'm very passionate about having my research have an impact on the real world.”

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