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Liberty Mobility Now’s growth, funding poised to receive boost via RISE OF THE REST competition


October 12, 2017

Liberty Mobility Now, a startup company supported by the Ohio University Innovation Center and TechGROWTH Ohio, a program of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, will soon compete for national recognition and added funding; it’s among eight companies that will compete on Friday, Oct. 13, for a $100,000 investment through the RISE OF THE REST pitch competition.

Each company will make their best pitch to Steve Case, the chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC and a co-founder of America Online, and an all-star panel of judges during the Oct. 13 competition in Columbus, Ohio. The winner will receive a $100,000 investment from Case.

Liberty Mobility Now works to provide transportation in rural and small urban areas, collaborating with other transit systems to ensure all areas are covered for those in need of the service. While founded in Nebraska, it is now headquartered in Athens, Ohio, thanks to the efforts of the Ohio University Innovation Center.

“The Innovation Center, the top university business incubator in North America and 2016 Rural Incubator of the Year, has a long history of helping start-ups like Liberty Mobility Now get off the ground, succeed and become the local employers that fuel the local economy,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “These relationships help build a strong connection between the University and the communities we serve.”

The Innovation Center (IC) has worked with numerous clients, including Liberty Mobility Now, throughout the region to support the growth and development of their companies, Innovation Center Director Stacy Strauss said.

“Since our first interaction with Liberty Mobility Now in October of 2016, the IC has been consistently impressed with the vision, passion, commitment and coachability of the company’s leadership team. Given such, in April, 2017, we were thrilled to add Liberty as a client and have continued to be inspired by their work and growth as a company,” Strauss added. “We are proud of Liberty’s selection as a RISE OF THE REST finalist and look forward to continuing our role as a connector for and resource to Liberty in its continued growth and expansion.”

Soon after the IC and other Ohio University Research Division staff who support industry and community partnerships made the initial connection with Liberty Mobility Now, TechGROWTH Ohio began working with them to nurture and build out their innovative technology platform. TechGROWTH, an Ohio Third Frontier Entrepreneurial Services Provider that is part of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, has been deeply engaged with Liberty to provide operational assistance, strategic planning, growth strategies and financial modeling.

Ultimately, these venture development services prepared them to be ready to accept investment. Both TechGROWTH and local angel investors, who saw the opportunity to expand this technology to help the region, had significant participation in the initial $1 million round of pre-seed funding.

“The application of this technology to the delivery of non-emergency medical transportation has significant potential, and will be particularly impactful in the southeastern Ohio region and rural America. Liberty Mobility Now will help create jobs, provide a service and meet a need in the region, in an otherwise underserved market,” Jane New, TechGROWTH Manager of Investments and New Venture Development, said.

Building on this initial round of successful funding, the Voinovich School’s new Social Enterprise Ecosystem OH/WV (SEE), funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, is making connections for Liberty with family foundations and social enterprise investors who are interested in the business’ social impact.

Liberty Mobility Now president and CEO Valerie Lefler said the company came to Athens because of Ohio University. The company now has drivers in five states, with plans to expand to eight by the end of the year.

“The University is the reason that we chose Athens, Ohio, to relocate,” Lefler said. “The partnerships with the faculty, the business and industry department reaching out to say here’s what OHIO can offer you, to working with the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the Voinovich School, TechGROWTH, the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and The College of Health Sciences and Professions. It’s the ability of the faculty and the departments to work with business and industry that has been the most exciting for us.”

The RISE OF THE REST pitch competition will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. The event also includes a fireside chat with Case and J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” at 3 p.m., as well as a happy hour at 6 p.m. Tickets are free but must be obtained by Oct. 12 here: https://www.riseofrest.com/events/details/rise-of-the-rest-columbus-presents-rise-of-the-rest-main-events-columbus-metropolitan-library#/

The RISE OF THE REST tour seeks to inspire entrepreneurs and investors to grow meaningful businesses from the ground up. It provides an opportunity for startups to garner support from local communities and support their local communities in return.