Cleveland’s next chapter is yet to be written and a central question lingers: Are we—aided by our low cost of living, our expansive space, our blue-collar roots—going to return as a classic manufacturing city? The booming, smoke-on-the-water Cleveland of old? Some think so—in fact, the LaunchHouse in Shaker Heights focused heavily on recruiting manufacturing startups for their accelerator this year.
Or will we reinvent ourselves as a young, hip tech spot? That’s possible, too. Below are two tech pioneers who’ve foregone the temptations of the coasts and resolved to build something awesome right here in Cleveland.
Rapchat is an app that allows you to record freestyle raps over beats and send them to your friends. Think the app-child of “8 Mile’s” battle rap scenes and Snapchat. Rapchat is a product of Ohio University—it was the winner of Startup Weekend Athens in 2013. Its founder and CEO, Seth Miller, relocated to Cleveland right before the summer.
“Rapchat’s an app that allows an every day person to become a rapper for thirty seconds,” Seth said. “You can go for hours with your friends, battle rapping and trying to outdo each other—I’ve done that before.”
Although the app was only released in June, Miller sounded excited about its future and fast-growing community. “People love the app so far,” he said, “But there’s so much more we can do. Soon you’re going to be able to buy beats in the app, to add vocal effects, and showcase your skills to the larger Rapchat community. We’ve also been signing up big Ohio producers and rappers like Cal Scruby, Matt Houston, and P-Holla to provide beats…we want to put on for the state.”
Apart from a fast-spreading word of mouth buzz from hip-hop enthusiasts, Rapchat has also been featured on The Huffington Post, Fox News, and Product Hunt. They recently celebrated their 3000th download.
Download it here.
Most kids in high school look up to the quarterback, right? Well, Phenom is a social media app that capitalizes on that. Released in mid-August, the app is founded on the premise that all athletes—at the professional, college, and high school levels—are microinfluencers within their communities. Phenom allows athletes to capture “moments” of theirs—i.e. a picture of them making a fade-away three in overtime to win the basketball game—and post them, along with whatever gear they were wearing at the time and a song of their choice.
You might recognize Phenom from your drive on the 2 Shoreway—going west, look to your left towards Cleveland’s skyline and you should see a rooftop mural that says “Phenom” and “Return of the King.” That’s a reference to when the app made national press for offering Lebron James 1% of the company to return to Cleveland.
Founded by entrepreneurs and former college athletes Brian Verne and Michael Eppich, the company has received support from several angel investors and already started to coagulate its community. “This isn’t just another social network,” gushed one reviewer on the App store, “It was made by athletes, for athletes, and you can tell.” I, as a normal American, fantasize about being an athlete constantly, and so I’ve subverted the app and posted pictures of my intense chess matches—which is kind of the same thing, right?
Download it here.
[Editor's note: After reporting on this story, the author became professionally involved with Rapchat.]