At a time when other businesses are struggling to stay open, a new campus program is helping solidify a BGSU graduate’s start-up.
Nathan Heerdt, a 1997 Bowling Green alumnus, has been awarded $50,000 in New Venture Opportunity program funds for his online streaming video business, Caster Ventures Inc. A ceremony marking the first funding granted through the initiative is set for 1 p.m. Friday (Dec. 19) in the David J. Joseph Business Hub on the second floor of the Business Administration Building.
The College of Business Administration’s Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership is offering New Venture Opportunity, which is privately financed through the BGSU Foundation. The program allows any BGSU alumni to develop business plans that go to a board of successful entrepreneurs for consideration for funding. Board members include Mike Weger, the former Falcon football All-American and current Michigan businessman who suggested the program.
“It’s fantastic,” said Heerdt about New Venture Opportunity, “especially because now is one of the worst start-up environments you could imagine.” The Dublin, Ohio, resident, who holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from BGSU, founded Caster Ventures less than a year ago. With funding opportunities drying up elsewhere, most start-ups have no place to turn, he said, but “BG was there to back us up.”
He describes his venture as a holding company that builds online video stores for delivery of training and conference content to businesses through the Web sites Complycaster.tv and Conferencecaster.tv. A third site, Schoolcaster.tv, is a video store for schools, providing parents with a way to access online videos of their children’s school events, such as concerts and athletic contests.
A key feature of Caster’s online video stores, Heerdt said, is the ability to sell videos directly to companies and consumers. Caster video stores can be used for selling videos of an annual conference or the Friday night football game, after the events have happened. The business enables companies to extend the time in which they can create revenue from the content, and for people to interact with content even though they might have missed the live event.
The New Venture Opportunity money will go toward product development—building in new features and other enhancements to the Web sites, plus sales and marketing, including direct email marketing to companies and schools, he explained. Funds will also be used “to hire the right talent to help us scale each Web site,” he said, pointing out that hiring BGSU graduates and interns when possible is part of his plan to give back to the program and the University.
Heerdt, 34, was chosen as the first recipient of funding as an alumnus “with an outstanding business plan in an area of business that reflects positively on BGSU,” said Milt Baker, director of the Dallas-Hamilton Center.
Baker has been using Conferencecaster in MBA 609, a master’s-level class he teaches on business strategy. All the lectures are videotaped, then accessed on the Web by students “who want to review the material at a later time or have missed the class and want to see it,” Baker said. “You log onto the Web site, and all the lectures are available for viewing or for downloading.”
Caster Ventures, which currently has five employees, is not Heerdt’s first start-up. After graduating from BGSU, the North Olmsted native spent a year in Atlanta, where he used a local Internet job board in his job as a technology recruiter. Without access to such a tool when he returned to Ohio, he founded his first company, Jobboards.com, at age 23. He sold the start-up in 2004 to Cleveland-based Careerboard.com and, in 2006, the combined entity—of which Heerdt was vice president—was sold to Jobserve.com, a global job service headquartered in the United Kingdom.
At that time, he said, he began looking for a new pursuit and, with YouTube beginning to hit the mainstream, became interested in online streaming video. More specifically, he wondered how it could be used to improve business processes, which led to Caster Ventures.