August 6, 2018

By Mike Venerable/CEO, CincyTech


Most startups fail. About 90% fail to reach sustainability or achieve an exit that is financially meaningful for the founders and investors. It is a difficult path, very unlike the stories that typically make it to the media. And while a founder’s optimism is fuel for the start, that optimism must be transformed into determination and perseverance. And sometimes that is still not enough to overcome the barriers that new companies face.


I have long recommended that founders read nonfiction survival stories instead of the latest best selling, faddish business book. These stories feature heroes, often ordinary people, who combine determination, preparation and resourcefulness to survive a great challenge. Seeing others struggle and overcome much more daunting, life threatening challenges, reveals the character traits required to prevail. They also make our most challenging days seem ordinary.


Over the last few years I came to know a local high school teacher, Bryce Carlson, who seeks out extraordinary challenges. He is an endurance athlete in both running and rowing. I was awed when I first learned Bryce had decided to row solo and unsupported across the North Atlantic from Newfoundland to England. He would be totally alone and without a safety boat trailing him on a 2000+ mile journey in nearly freezing waters.


Bryce is always well prepared. He has a purpose-designed boat with the right safety and maritime equipment. But watching his location on his real time tracker (you can see that on his website, over the past six weeks, you realize how absurd this challenge is to almost anyone else. There is no amount of preparation that obviates the need for courage. Bryce was prepared, but it requires courage to push off and take such a large risk for an internal, deeply personal reward.


That private internal reward is what I think drives entrepreneurs to challenge convention and take personal risk. Accordingly, I thought we should support Bryce’s trip as an example to current and future entrepreneurs seeking a great challenge. We joined a handful of sponsors, and hundreds of friends, students, fellow teachers, and strangers who have contributed to Bryce’s journey.


To his students, Bryce is a trusted advisor, an engaged instructor, and a tough grader. And he is also someone who, by example, challenges them to radically change their sense what is possible.


We also want to ensure that this journey — which involves elements of technology, biology, geography, meteorology, psychology, and physiology– inspires students beyond his local classroom.  Abre, a smart, teacher-founded edtech platform and CincyTech portfolio company, is working with Bryce to develop curriculum to share with students everywhere online, in line with their mission to help extraordinary teachers teach.


This weekend Bryce not only completed his journey, but, pending approval of the Ocean Rowing Society, set a new world record for this feat. It’s been harrowing at times, as Bryce has capsized, had to repair a cracked centerboard, and early on had to dramatically alter his course to skirt the edge of the remnants of Hurricane Chris. Remnants could mean anything, but in this case it meant 72 hours of 10+ feet waves and 40 MPH winds. And through all of that Bryce was alone on a 20 foot boat in 40 degree water.


Congratulations, Bryce on an inspiring journey, born in southwest Ohio, that reminds us all to think big, challenge convention and be prepared for an uncertain journey.  You can learn more about Bryce by visiting