Three people with ties to Miami University – a pair of Farmer School students and a 2020 graduate – are among Cincy Inno’s 5 Under 25 winners for 2022. The winners were from a group nominated by readers and ecosystem leaders and selected by Business Courier and Cincy Inno staff, people whose new companies and big ideas could help them become power players in the city’s startup space.
Senior finance major Abigail Bartlett is in her second year as managing director of RedHawk Ventures, one of only a handful of undergraduate student-run venture capital funds in the nation. The fund invests in companies founded by Miami students and alumni, such as Mad Rabbit Tattoo and OROS.
“The work we do is right up there with other VCs,” she told Cincy Inno. “(University officials that approve RedHawk’s investments) trust that our decision was made thoroughly. To have that power as 20-year-olds is incredible.”
Ahead of graduation and a job at Goldman Sachs next year, Bartlett is working on raising a second fund for RedHawk Ventures to help its self-sustainment continue.
“It's pretty exciting. It was definitely a good surprise to be featured among the 5 Under 25. RedHawk Ventures is something that I've been really passionate about since my freshman year, So it's exciting that we’re being noticed on a larger scale within Cincinnati,” she said.
Senior finance and entrepreneurship major Blake Faulkner started Bloxsmith when he was still in high school, but after coming to Miami and adding Mason Williams as a co-founder, it grew into a platform that allows game developers to sell their 3D model creations for interoperable use across major metaverse platforms such as Roblox, Decentraland, Mutate, and The Sandbox, among others.
“We want to build a billion-dollar brand,” Faulkner told Cincy Inno. “We think we can be the nexus of game development going forward.”
This year, Faulkner was one of three Farmer School entrepreneurship students to sweep the top spots in the first Launch It: Cincy Pitch Competition and then won Draper U. Demo Day in San Francisco. He was also a member of the RedHawk Launch Accelerator's seventh startup cohort.
“I'm excited about being one of the 5 Under 25. I've had friends that were on the list last year, and its super exciting that we're able to showcase Bloxsmith like this and get recognition for all the cool stuff that we're doing,” he said.
Cristion Brown, 2020 Miami University software engineering graduate, came up with the idea for Hypernova Technologies during the second half of his senior year as a way to help smaller businesses deal with disasters of all sorts, ranging from COVID to changing regulations to human resource issues.
“I’ve thought about (giving up) so many times. I’d tell myself, ‘You have a software engineering degree. Go get a job and live like a normal person and eat good food and get a place for yourself.’ But I wanted to create something from the ground up,” Brown told Cincy Inno. “If I don’t work on the problem, it’s still going to be there.”
Brown earned a Mini-MBA degree from the Farmer School during its first iteration in 2020-21, and was member of the RedHawk Launch Accelerator's sixth startup cohort. Hypernova has shifted from a consultancy product to a software-as-a-service, which he said will be on an insurance-based model.
“It’s been cool to help out small businesses that may not have the experience to build out something themselves, and we can do it cheaper and faster than a regular dev shop or tech provider,” he told Cincy Inno.