Cintrifuse names local startup vet new CEO

Cintrifuse is turning to a familiar face – and one with a strong understanding of the local startup ecosystem – to take over as its new CEO.

The Over-the-Rhine-based organization selected J.B. Kropp to replace longtime executive leader Pete Blackshaw. Beyond his new responsibilities, Kropp plans to continue serving as managing director of the organization’s investment arm, Cintrifuse Capital, which provides financial support to young, promising Cincinnati-area businesses.

J.B. Kropp

Blackshaw announced in early January his intentions to step down to pursue new opportunities related to artificial intelligence.

As part of the leadership changes, the board also named longtime Cintrifuse staffer Nikki Boehmker as its inaugural executive director.

“At Cintrifuse, we want to provide resources to anyone working towards building big, venture-scalable tech companies, and then use the fund to help the best companies put their foot on the gas,” said Kropp, who’s been with Cintrifuse since April 2023.

A change at the top

Cintrifuse’s board of directors decided to turn to Kropp after a two-month search and evaluation process that included input from internal and external stakeholders.

“Our executive search committee considered a number of different paths when we set out to find a successor for Pete, ultimately selecting J.B,” said Guy B. Persaud, Cintrifuse’s board chair.

“Our board and I agreed, and we feel that J.B. is the right leader for us moving forward, and that this structure best aligns the entire organization around the transformative efforts of our fund,” Persaud continued. “We are confident that J.B. will build on all of the momentum that Pete and our Cintrifuse team have created and take us to new heights.”

The sign outside Union Hall on Vine Street in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine. (Casey Weldon)

The leadership change is a big one in many ways for Cintrifuse. Blackshaw had served as its CEO since November 2018.

Blackshaw plans to stay on board temporarily to help with the transition. But in the future, he envisions doing his part to support startup space at Union Hall as a founder. He called it an “extraordinary, historic AI-powered moment” right now, and this opens up a world of possibilities for entrepreneurs

He believes Cintrifuse is going to be there to help.

“This is a very positive direction for Cintrifuse,” Blackshaw said of Kropp’s selection. “I’m certain J.B. will take the organization to new heights.”

A Cincinnati startup pioneer 

Kropp is no stranger to Greater Cincinnati’s business environment. In 2010, he co-founded The Brandery, a local accelerator leveraging the region’s branding and marketing expertise to support economic growth. He’s also co-managed Vine St. Ventures, a regional early-stage investment fund, and he co-founded Main Street Ventures, a nonprofit in OTR that supports budding entrepreneurs. 

Kropp remains a board member for both The Brandery and Main Street Ventures today.

Over the course of his career, Kropp has also held strategic and operational leadership roles at Gorilla Glue, E.W. Scripps Company and Twitter, currently known as X.

“It feels like there is a renewed energy and vigor within the local startup community,” Kropp said. He stressed a list of successful founders launching their second acts and impressive up-and-comers raising sizable seed funding and “A rounds,” which is the early money a company receives from private equity investors or venture capitalists.

A key focus of Kropp’s work since joining Cintrifuse last spring has been planning and preparing for the deployment of a new investment strategy, Fund III, which aims to inject millions of dollars into seed-stage businesses.

Funds I and II mainly focused on investing capital into other VC funds across the country. Fund III is going to continue with that strategy, but also going to be investing into local companies, Kropp said.

Kropp described his dual appointment as creating a more cohesive link between the efforts of Cintrifuse Capital and the work of the nonprofit, which assists young companies at all stages of development.

“Making sure that both the startup support and ecosystem-building side of Cintrifuse are closely tied to the work of the fund is going to be critical in ensuring we have startups in Cincinnati that achieve transformational, region-changing outcomes,” Kropp said.

It takes a village

To help Kropp with day-to-day operations, the Cintrifuse board created the executive director role and turned to Boehmker for that position. She came to the organization in 2021 after 17 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC, also known as PwC.

Boehmker currently serves as the organization’s controller and Cintrifuse Capital’s chief compliance officer. Her new responsibilities include overseeing all operational aspects of the nonprofit aspects of Cintrifuse. All Cintrifuse functions will report to Boehmker, and she’ll report to Kropp.

Nikki Boehmker

Cintrifuse’s new executive tag team have worked closely together over the past eight months. Kropp stressed being impressed with Boehmker leadership skills, attention to detail and ability to tackle “complex challenges.” 

He noted that together, they can provide the region’s entrepreneurs with the resources, connections and capital they need to scale.

“In my eight months leading Cintrifuse Capital, I have seen first-hand the vibrancy of our startup ecosystem and the opportunity we have ahead of us to drive a step-function improvement for local entrepreneurs,” Kropp added.

Cintrifuse


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