Is Columbus Finally Embracing its “Tech City” Status?
The path to launching a successful startup or tech career seems narrow and obscured, but local experts describe the Columbus tech scene as a roadmap, with the city having more express lanes to success than any other in the Midwest — or beyond.
That’s the city’s message for potential talent. Tech talent, far from meeting current demand, wants to live in a tech-aware city overflowing with resources and success.
With CoverMyMeds’ recent acquisition by McKesson, that’s one success in the books. Before the company existed, patients could end up waiting days for prescriptions to be approved by their insurance company. Now, with businesses like CVS and Walgreens implementing their electronic prior authorization software, for physicians, pharmacists and millions of patients, life without CoverMyMeds is unimaginable. All that’s left for the city to do is convince tech professionals near and far that Columbus is a spot primed for creating more CoverMyMeds.
The company, founded in Twinsburg, funded by Cleveland-based JumpStart Ventures, further invested in by San Francisco-based Francisco Partners, and nurtured by Columbus and state resources, is a true culmination of efforts that is described in Columbus as “the broader community pulling together,” by Mike McCann, Vice President of Partner and Program Engagement at Rev1 Ventures.
Through advisement and public and private investment from Rev1 Ventures, Columbus 2020, NCT Ventures, Drive Capital and others, local startup entrepreneurs have access to an extensive support network. To fill those startups with smart, tech-savvy brains, they’ll need to continue creating ways to draw in outsiders and keep the homegrown at home.
Aside from showcasing success and touting resources, tech professionals need to see a city looking at IT for itself, and Columbus’ Smart City grant could be that pivoting point. Jung Kim, Managing Director of Research and Business Intelligence at Columbus 2020, said it’s a talking point for leaders of cities nationwide. Every metro area wants to be known for its tech innovation. The Smart Columbus project, funded by the grant awarded in June of last year, provides the opportunity to grow the city’s tech presence and prep the scene for more startups.
The City of Columbus, OSU, AEP, Battelle, Honda and about a dozen others are partnering in Smart Columbus to bring about smarter transportation technology, an effort that, on top of potentially inspiring new startups, could add more tech jobs to existing companies, a continuation of the ongoing trend.
“I think you do hear people in the tech scene talk that way: ‘Oh, tech is eating everything,’” Kim said. “I think a lot of the leaders, in whatever industry they’re in, they are thinking about tech.”
Kim talks about tech in Columbus as an exportable good. Huntington’s app development spread to Chase; Abercrombie and Fitch is advancing on-site personalization — “They’re producing it here and it’s being used in the US and around the world,” Kim said.
These local opportunities are often overlooked by Columbus’ own tech population. Programs like Venture for America, connecting recent grads with new companies, and Tech Elevator, offering training to those without a technical background, work to keep tech talent in Central Ohio. And, while students could easily remain within their university bubble for four years, unaware that Nationwide or L Brands are headquartered down the road, the university addresses thousands of freshman at orientation to inform them on Columbus career opportunities and attractions. More than just a place to go to work, the ideal city for the young professional is walkable and possesses a rich culture with plenty of bars, restaurants and venues to frequent. Like tech itself, the approach to feeding the market new and more innovative brains has to be all-encompassing.
“You hear a lot about Columbus being an open city, being a connected city,” McCann said. “That’s what’s so great about what’s going on here is that those dots are getting connected, and because of that, that starts to get the attention of the broader market and helps people see ‘Wow, this is the place to go’ for any type of job, whether it’s kind of what Columbus has historically been known for or in terms of technology.”
Our new technology series is presented by our partners at TCETRA.
TCETRA is a software development company based in Dublin, Ohio. Since 2007, the company has been focused on serving the prepaid wireless industry through the development of specific business tools, software, and applications. Our team is made up of talented technical and creative professionals dedicated to delivering innovative solutions to complex problems and helping grow the technology community in Columbus and the Midwest.