Dublin Entrepreneurial Center Innovates Entrepreneurship

This post was co-written with my good friends Erika Pryor and Sandy Blanquera.

The Dublin Entrepreneurial Center – The DEC – started out as an innovative idea, a four-story building standing empty for 6 years and one tenant.  Today, the building bustles with more than 40 businesses and in less than a year has become a vibrant community resource for entrepreneurs.  In 2007 and 2008, the City of Dublin, Ohio began to focus more attention on entrepreneurs and small businesses, looking for innovative ways to provide support and resources to “set the conditions” for business growth in Dublin and beyond.   Without dedicated resources or definitive operational goals and plans, the innovative DEC Team began a journey to create the premier environment to catalyze growth and success for entrepreneurs.  Dublin’s Economic Development Team worked closely with TechColumbus to identify innovators and their needs and to develop a sustainable approach to nurturing and encouraging entrepreneurs.
The DEC officially opened in April 2009 and houses companies ranging from low-tech to high-tech.  The “Green Integrator,” a pioneering incubator focusing on environmentally oriented companies, opened on the second floor in January 2010 and is home to 10 companies centered on green technologies, products and services.  Synergy has quickly developed and Green Integrator companies are partnering to provide full-service offerings to existing and potential clients. 
Spring Sunrise at The DEC

The DEC officially opened in April 2009 and houses companies ranging from low-tech to high-tech.  The “Green Integrator,” a pioneering incubator focusing on environmentally oriented companies, opened on the second floor in January 2010 and is home to 10 companies centered on green technologies, products and services.  Synergy has quickly developed and Green Integrator companies are partnering to provide full-service offerings to existing and potential clients. 


The DEC's Collaborator Wall

The DEC’s mission is simple:  “To support the creation and development of new technologies, businesses and jobs,” and is a great example of a community partnership championed by the Dublin Economic Development Team.  It has become a magnet, attracting local business leaders, innovators, schools and organizations as collaborators, who contribute resources and services to the benefit of DEC tenants and other Dublin-based businesses.  Typically, 10 to 15 educational and networking events are planned each month, including two “Jelly” (co-working) days where attendance is generally 30 to 40 people and features lunch provided by a local restaurant, Dublin Buffalo Wild Wings.


A DEC Jelly and BW3's lunch

A typical day for an entrepreneur at the DEC might include working with TechColumbus or the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to refine a business plan or commercialization strategy; attending a seminar on leadership, social media or software development; networking with DEC entrepreneurs over lunch; taking advantage of free legal consulting offered by local attorneys; and holding a meeting with prospective clients in one of the conference rooms in the afternoon.  The DEC offers free workshops to all entrepreneurs.  Seminars, panel discussions, and on-on-one coaching sessions are available to any small business owner, professional and entrepreneur in Central Ohio.  The DEC has an “arms wide open” approach and all are encouraged to participate in events and utilize the building’s resources, including the free Wi-Fi available to tenants.


Dublin Apprentice Networking Challenge

In Dublin, entrepreneurs start young.  The “Dublin Apprentice,” an innovative three-week summer camp focused on entrepreneurship for middle school students, was inaugurated in July 2010.  The Dublin Economic Development Team and DEC entrepreneurs, in conjunction with the Dublin Recreation Services department, designed and developed the camp that involved more than 10 local businesses.  For a bit more on this pioneering camp, read this short article about the Dublin Apprentice and check out photos of students engaged in a networking challenge at The DEC during the camp.


The innovative team that guides The DEC consists of entrepreneurs, city contractors and DEC tenants who rely on key collaborators and self-organizing groups to accomplish much of what is in place.  TechColumbus and the Small Business Development Center play significant roles, intimately involved in the development and leadership of The DEC and also providing workshops and mentoring of business owners to help them to be successful.  Columbus TechLife, a globally recognized Meetup, has been a key partner in raising community enthusiasm.  A virtual community of local businesses and entrepreneurs gathers online daily to support each other and The DEC, resulting in generous contributions of time and resources, including meals, furniture and equipment, and training and services donations.  The success of The DEC has attracted the attention of other community leaders, who often tour The DEC and view it as a model for similar initiatives in their own communities. 

DEC companies enjoy a highly collaborative and innovative environment, recycling, printing and wireless services, education, networking and more.  In the end, innovation is important, but without community and results, innovation’s true benefit cannot be measured.  The DEC Team’s measurement? From one to 40+ flourishing businesses and growing in less than 12 months. 

Check out this quick overview video to get a feel for The DEC:


Check out the original DEC post from February 2009.

I work alongside emerging companies on business formation, commercialization strategies, and capital planning. My passion is to find, support, mentor, coach, incubate, & fund start-ups engaged in innovative technology businesses.

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