Some of the United States’ largest companies packed Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium yesterday for Brand Fusion — an annual event that connects marketers from these brands with enterprise-ready startups from around the country.
In attendance were Fortune 500 companies like Proctor & Gamble, PepsiCo, Hershey and General Mills among others. Northern Kentucky startups like Flamel.AI and Nichefire were also present, using the event as an opportunity to mingle with high-level marketing professionals.
The event is designed for brand marketers from the large companies to come up with three to five challenges that each startup could face. Those challenges are then tackled by the marketers and startup representatives in a variety of one-on-one meetings. In the meetings, the representatives from each party will create solutions for how each startup can solve their specific challenge.
Each brand was slated to have 12 meetings with different startups. Each startup was promised around six meetings. Each meeting lasted 15 to 20 minutes.
Northern Kentucky entrepreneurial resource and advocacy nonprofit Blue North and planned and organized the event.
In total, there were 35 global brands participating along with 52 venture capital backed startups. 13% of the startups in attendee were from the Greater Cincinnati region, Blue North Executive Director Dave Knox told LINK nky.
“I started doing this as a kind of matchmaking or speed-dating between brands and startups,” Knox said.
Brand Fusion was started in 2012 by Knox who launched it as an adjacent event to The Brandery’s Annual Demo Day. Brand Fusion was a way to attract more investors and brands to Demo Day, according to Knox.
Prior to the most recent iteration, there had been seven past versions of the event. Over those seven events, approximately 225 brand marketers and 330 startups had participated.
Ultimately, COVID-19 derailed Brand Fusion. The last held in-person during 2019 at then-Paul Brown Stadium. A small virtual meeting was held in 2020.
Blue North, along with meetNKY, Cintrifuse Capital, and Stepstone Group among others, were just some of the organizations that helped revive the event for 2023. This year was the series’ largest event, Knox said.
In addition to helping startups, Brand Fusion is designed to showcase the Greater Cincinnati area as a middle-ground for startups and large companies to do business together. Startups from New York City, San Francisco and Austin were all present at the event.
“It’s really something that’s just for showing that this region is a place for this type of stuff to happen,” Knox said.
Brand Fusion kicked off on Sept. 27 with a dinner at Opal Rooftop, a new Covington restaurant located on the roof of the revamped Republic Bank building. It concluded yesterday with the private meetings at TQL Stadium.