A major benefit when a company sets up shop in the heart of central Ohio's retail ecosystem is the rich trove of customers and potential clients within close proximity.

A major benefit when a company sets up shop in the heart of central Ohio's retail ecosystem is the rich trove of customers and potential clients within close proximity.

The Columbus Region is like one giant neighborhood, says Yaacov Martin, CEO and co-founder of Jifiti, a local operation that provides gift registry services for retail outlets. And that kind of closeness makes it convenient and easier for his business to chew over concepts and issues with clients.

"You can meet for coffee on a Sunday in Bexley and develop a relationship and bounce ideas off one another," Martin says. "There is no substitute for that kind of hands-on, face-to-face type of meeting."

The ease of being able to form intimate business relationships in the retail market is one of the advantages of the area that attracted Martin and co-founders Shaul Weisband and Meir Dudai to locate their business here in 2012.

The previous year, the trio had developed their digital business prototypes in Tel Aviv, Israel, aimed at resolving barriers to gifting. Afterward, they decided to bring the operation to the US.

Through Jifiti, people browse and choose gifts online from leading retailers and then send them to a recipient's email or phone. The beneficiary gets a notification along with a gift card for the amount of the gift, allowing them to make changes if they so desire. The receiver completes the transaction after sending a shipping address and product details.

"We always came back to the Midwest, but Columbus was our most frequent stop," Martin says. "We found it to be the retail capital of America with the type of retail ecosystem that was very valuable for us to use."

The relocation was cemented when the founders discovered the warmth of the community and great school systems for their own children, Martin says.

"We have a gold mine here in terms of schools that provide talent for our business, our location and the cost of living," he says. "Columbus has developed beautifully in the last 10 years to be attractive to young professionals."

The company recently moved to Franklinton after operating out of Rev1 Ventures during its beginning years. Organizations like Rev1 Ventures, Columbus 2020 and the Columbus Foundation have been generous and helped Jifiti grow, he says.

"Over the last four years the growth for startups in the retail ecosystem has been very reassuring. We've seen more and more innovation and collaboration with various organizations looking to promote business in this area," Martin says. "Having folks in town who speak your language in every single area you deal in is important."

Innovation in technology within the Region has also been a critical element for the company's progress and is important for the entire retail sector, he says. For instance, a multichannel approach can provide customers a seamless shopping experience, but not every organization has jumped on board.

"Instead of thinking of these as additional features, like offering mobile apps, thinking must be changed," Martin says. "Technology is no longer just about gadgets. It is an enabler of different types of experiences that touches every facet of our lives."

With mobile devices gaining ground daily, shoppers, for instance, are no longer "trapped" when inside a brick-and-mortar store. Regional retailers should consider some hands-on experimentation within their stores, he says.

"We are in a new generation of e-commerce, and if the retail industry treats it the right way it can take advantage," Martin says. "We need to encourage retailers to build their own innovation hubs where they bring in various companies from the Region to experiment with them."