Heights entrepreneur receives JumpStart funding

Ron Cass in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Big River's largest client. Photo by Steve Toth/JToth Graphics.

Cleveland Heights resident and entrepreneur Ron Cass, president and founder of Big River, has received a $250,000 funding commitment from JumpStart, the Cleveland-based business accelerator.

Cass, a Chicago native, is a 1984 systems engineering graduate of Case Western Reserve University (CRWU). He founded Big River in 2011 following a career in IT focusing on artificial intelligence.

After a stint at LaunchHouse, the business incubator on Lee Road in Shaker Heights, Big River was one the first firms accepted into Bizdom, the business-accelerator program created and funded by Dan Gilbert, the owner of Quicken Loans and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Big River is a cloud-based software program designed, developed and implemented to improve fundraising activities of nonprofit organizations. The customizable program enhances and strengthens connections between the organization and donors.

Cass has been involved with nonprofit organizations since his student days at CRWU. He has been a longtime staff member of WRUW-fm (91.1), the radio station at Case. Cass manages the station’s fundraising program, and over the years has developed software programs to assist the fundraising efforts of WRUW-fm and other nonprofit organizations. Rrecognizing that a gap existed in how nonprofits ask for donations and how donors make contributions, he saw a business opportunity. After spending the better part of a year studying the market, he founded Big River.     

The payoff of Big River is that it benefits both sides of the giving transaction. The “ask” is more intentional and unique. It can be made specific to the needs of the organization. The “gift” is more relevant and appropriate to the donor’s giving objectives and strategies. Ultimately, the goal for Big River is to augment its clients’ existing fundraising system and invested capital, making the entire fundraising program more successful and sustainable.  

The Cleveland Museum of Art is one of Big River’s clients. According to August Napoli, deputy director and chief advancement officer, “Our membership has gone up two-fold as a result of our going online with Big River.” Cass plans to use the JumpStart funds for personnel additions and product development. His goal for 2013 is to increase the customer base three- to four-fold.

Cass and his wife, Emily Tuzson, who works for Siemens Industries in Garfield Heights managing large-scale alternative energy projects, enjoy living in Cleveland Heights. They find Cleveland to be very approachable, and a place where business and social connections are readily made. To quote Ron: “It is easy to put down roots.” Go to www.gobigriver.com to learn more about this growing, local company.

Michael Knoblauch

Michael Knoblauch is a member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors and owner of DVUV, LLC, a firm specializing in UV-cured powder coat finishing systems.

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Volume 6, Issue 3, Posted 12:45 PM, 02.28.2013