With a combination of national press, west coast funding, and “hockey stick growth,” Northeast Ohio and Columbus-based CoverMyMeds has helped to reinforce Ohio’s entrepreneurial reputation in the public eye. The company’s November 2014 funding from California-based Francisco Partners, was rumored to be one of the year’s largest investments in an Ohio-based venture, has helped to put Ohio on the map as one of the nation’s next entrepreneurial hotspots.
However, the CoverMyMeds story is about more than dollars and cents. It’s about promoting superior care—both for the end-user as well as the employee who helps to create the experience.
CoverMyMeds was founded in 2008 out of the realization that, due to inefficient processes, millions of patients were unable to access the medications they needed to live healthier lives. By targeting prior authorization—which enables healthcare providers to verify a patient’s prescription needs through his or her insurer—the company has improved the healthcare experience for nearly 400,000 prescribers and pharmacists, making it easier for patients to access the medications they are prescribed.
This service-oriented approach transcends CoverMyMeds’ mission and permeates through every aspect of the company’s culture. Over the years, its collaborative environment (which includes a reading nook, in-house chef, yoga classes, and the occasional nerf gun war) has earned the company recognition as one of the region’s top places to work. Even outside of the workplace, its employees are prominent and enthusiastic advocates for Pelotonia, Startup Weekend, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
In keeping with that same community-oriented attitude, co-founder Matt Scantland doesn’t want CoverMyMeds to be the one success story coming out of Ohio. In order to turn Ohio into the next startup hub, he said, “We need to have lots of success stories, not one success story. That way, the city starts to generate the network of people, know-how, and capital sources that had a great ride and want to do it again.”
How do we make that happen?
By emphasizing our region’s historic strengths, Ohio startups can contribute to the strong ecosystem that already exists around those respective industries. “We need to focus on building software companies in industries we know well already, not just look to consumer internet,” Scantland said. “The phrase ‘software is eating the world’ is a great one for Ohio. If we focus on transforming food services, healthcare, retail, and logistics, both new software companies and our big traditional companies that embrace them will all do well.” With nationally-recognized brands like The Limited, Nationwide, and Cardinal Health on our doorstep, finding ways to add value within our existing infrastructure can benefit new companies (in search of customers and validation) and established companies (in search of innovative ideas) alike.
In order to keep the best ideas in Ohio, we need to cement it as a place worth living for the long haul. As Scantland said, “The state as well as the city should be easier to live in and travel outside. We need to make them seem cooler.”
Over the past year, Columbus has worked to promote its reputation as a place where people of all ages can work hard and have fun at the same time. Experience Columbus’ #lifeincbus campaign did this by targeting college students in US metro areas, and Southwest’s direct flights from Columbus to Boston and Oakland, California are making the region more connected than ever before. Companies like CoverMyMeds also add to our community’s reputation, from hosting surprise fireworks displays to sponsoring and hosting the next Columbus Startup Weekend.
It goes without saying that people of all walks of life are more willing to move where they see plenty of opportunity. While our region already has many flourishing startups like CoverMyMeds, Scantland believes that we need even more if we want continued success. The key to do that isn’t just to create great companies—it’s to fund them. “By waiving capital gains taxes, we could get investors to view investing here as an edge.”
Another part of showcasing Ohio’s investment potential is to make it appeal to investors from across the nation. While Southwest’s direct flights certainly help this cause, bringing even more direct flights to Columbus can introduce a stronger channel of outside investors. Further incentivizing these investors with tax credits can help Ohio to build a reputation as an “investable” state.
CoverMyMeds’ success is proof that, contrary to what many may think, coming from Ohio can be a boon for a startup’s investment potential. CoverMyMeds has turned so many heads because of its purpose-driven, socially-conscious growth—and their mindset has found a loving home in the Midwest. That community loyalty has helped the company stick in investors’ minds. As Scantland said, “Our investors on the west coast love that we are in Columbus. Out of every VC we talked to, not a single one thought that we should move.”