Community Gem: ‘You don’t do this work because you want notoriety’

Over the years, when hundreds of Dayton-area small businesses trying to commercialize a technology-oriented product or service needed a champion, they turned to the Entrepreneurs Center, led since 2015 by Scott Koorndyk.

Friends have nominated Koorndyk, 53, as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.

Under his leadership, the center —today simply called “EC” — has been able to help more than 1,000 entrepreneurs, Katie Ausdenmoore, marketing director for the Entrepreneurs Center, said in her nomination.

“Scott played a major role in envisioning the largest university-anchored innovation center in the country with our partners at the University of Dayton,” she said, referring to The he Hub Powered by PNC at the downtown Dayton Arcade.

Beyond the Hub, longtime friend Bruce Langos recalled that the EC has been able to secure Ohio Third Frontier funding, in 2017 and 2019. “You couldn’t ask for a better outcome,” said Langos, an executive with RG Properties and the former Dayton-area executive for Teradata.

“He’s partnered with Wright-Patt, he’s partnered with universities ... It has just been tremendous and the entrepreneurial community loves it,” Langos said.

Koorndyk appreciates the accolades. “You don’t do this work because you want notoriety.”

In 2019, the center received nearly $11 million in funding from the Third Frontier Commission to lead the Dayton area’s Entrepreneurial Services Provider (ESP) presence, a state program providing funding for promising technology-based startups.

By that time, with a roster of about 1,000 client businesses, the center’s list of customers was about 40% higher than it had ever experienced, Koorndyk told the Dayton Daily News last year.

“We set our eyes (on) building an organization that creates results for the community,” he said in a more recent interview.

Koorndyk was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Mich., a town he still loves. A biochemist by training, he has been in Dayton since he began studying at the University of Dayton School of Law in 1991, then moving on to what became LexisNexis in 1994.

It was at UD that he said he “fell in love” with Dayton. He has seen the region in good times and bad, but he never doubted it should be his and his family’s home.

“I’ve never believed in the bad news, and I never believed in the hype,” he said. “Dayton is better than anybody who criticizes us is. We ought to work harder, and we ought to be grittier and we ought to be more resilient.”

He added: “That’s who we are.”

From law school, he went to what was Mead Data Central before the acquisition by Reed Elsevier plc and the transformation to LexisNexis. He spent a decade there, acquiring small businesses for LexisNexis and working with “incredible” colleagues and entrepreneurs.

It was there that he saw a truth at work: It’s not uncommon for a good entrepreneur to try to sell a poor idea or product. But it’s rare for a poor entrepreneur to come up with a truly great idea.

“At LexisNexis, I learned very clearly: Whether you’re a big corporation ... whether you’re a start-up, it’s about the vision of that founder,” he said.

Koorndyk saw that as the start of the “thread” that led him to the EC. After some four years at the Dayton Development Coalition, Koorndyk headed to the EC, which Barbara Hayde had led from 1988.

In his time at the EC, he and his staff have concentrated on building a bridge to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — and particularly the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is headquartered there. There has also been a focus on establishing links between academia and corporations, and of course, moving on from 714 E. Monument Ave.

“The Entrepreneurs Center wants to punch above its weight,” Koorndyk said. “We can’t focus just on the businesses that are inside our four walls.”

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