When the founders of Aver Inc. went looking for a new home for their upstart healthcare information technology firm, they needed to find a labor market that provided the perfect blend of software developers and data scientists.
Their search took them from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Chicago, Denver and other notable IT hubs. But once they took a good look at Columbus, the founders said their search was over.
Aver provides an operating system that enables alternative reimbursement models for healthcare costs. Kurt Brenkus, founder of Aver, said, “We provide the financial and clinical analytics, and we need a steady supply of developers and scientists. Up to three-fourths of our business is R&D. Those are difficult skills to come by. We looked at cities around the Midwest.”
Columbus proved to be the perfect match, says Brenkus. “We considered cost of living, access to talent, ease of getting in and out of the city, amenities that could attract people, and the presence of a strong data science community.”
Columbus passed every test, he says. “Ohio State University has been developing data scientists for the past 10 years. True data scientists are hard to come by, and we found them in droves here,” he notes. “Plus, we have access to all of the major Ohio healthcare providers. We are close to OhioHealth, Mount Carmel, the Cleveland Clinic and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. People with deep healthcare experience are here.”
Growing from just seven employees to over 50 today, Aver recently took over the entire 14th floor of the Huntington Center skyscraper on Capitol Square in downtown Columbus. With 23,500 total square feet, Aver now has room to grow.
A Hub for Healthcare Data
Over the past decade, a vibrant healthcare IT startup community has combined with more established healthcare providers and insurers — like Nationwide Insurance — to turn Ohio’s capital region into a mecca of medical information technology.
The roll call of healthcare IT firms in the Columbus Region is as impressive as any that can be found anywhere in the US. This roster includes such names as CoverMyMeds, CrossChx, DataMed Solutions, MassMatrix, RelayHealth and Updox. No fewer than 30 emerging and startup healthcare IT companies call Columbus home.
The emergence of this startup culture is just one reason why the Urban Land Institute on October 26 named Columbus the No. 1 Market to Watch in the US. “A major university town, Columbus is seeing a surge in entrepreneurial activity,” ULI said.
Other rankings bolster this point:
Mike Morgan, CEO of Updox, which helps physicians coordinate patient care with other physicians’ locations, says his firm was founded in Columbus in 2009 because “this is a great place to start a company, and you have an ability to build a strong team here.”
On a rapid growth curve, Updox employs 53 people and plans to hire another 30 workers in 2017, says Morgan. The firm recently doubled the size of its space in suburban Dublin, but with revenue growth expected to double each year, moving to larger digs may become routine.
“You can build a very good foundation for growth here,” says Morgan. “We have some great health systems in town. Columbus is very creative in the delivery of healthcare. The universities, with schools like OSU and Otterbein, do a nice job of preparing students for their first job and a career in software development and other IT fields. They don’t just bring theoretical experience with them to the job. They are productive quickly.”
Innovation, Hard Work Drive Success
Updox was so sold on Columbus from day one, says Morgan, “that we did not even consider other markets. We felt strongly that this was the right place to build the business. Rev1 Ventures helped us by providing seed capital, and we were a recipient of JobsOhio funding. That was key for us.”
Today, Updox serves more than 40,000 physicians and over 45 million patients.
As the firm continues to grow, “most of our new talent will come from the Columbus Region,” Morgan says. “Columbus offers something very valuable — a combination of innovation and a good work ethic. That is the recipe for success.”
Aver’s Brenkus agrees. “What we’ve found since we moved to Columbus is that the people here are excited to work on something that is meaningful, and they are dedicated,” he says. “We went through a massive amount of growth since 2004 — over 400 percent growth — in revenue and people. We are now in a mode where we have created so much efficiency.”
The reception that Aver received in Columbus was overwhelming, Brenkus adds. “I landed here and within two weeks I got a phone call out of the blue from the mayor,” he says. “I was really blown away by that. He invited me to a basketball game. We hung out and talked about Columbus and the resources that were available to help us grow. They even give you incentives to help you stay and grow. The overall network of people and organizations work together to help companies like ours thrive.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of Columbus 2020. For more information on the Columbus Region, call 614-225-6063 or go to www.columbusregion.com.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.