It’s clear that Cleveland has transformed in the last decade, in ways that have fundamentally changed the city. Before reading this section, you may have thought of the city as another in a long line of rust belt cities, whose better days are behind them. However, once you abandon some of these preconceived notions you begin to see that Cleveland is not only surviving but also thriving. Especially in the medical field, the city is producing an environment that is second to none in terms of advancements and innovations.
There may not be a better example of this new era than Cleveland HeartLab Inc., a fast paced, medical innovation company spun out of the Cleveland Clinic. When first looking to start a medical diagnostics company, Jake Orville, President & CEO of Cleveland HeartLab scoured the country for an ideal location. Someone said to Orville, “Go to Cleveland.” Having lived on both coasts, he kind of gave them a funny look, Orville tells me with a laugh. However, based on the reputation of the Cleveland Clinic alone he thought it was worth a look. “When I got to Cleveland, I was blown away by the medical technology and innovations I saw. It was an environment that rivaled the coasts. I walked out saying this is where I want to be,” Orville explains.
I asked Orville what was different about Cleveland as compared to other cities that have strong medical research infrastructure. “What really stood out to me in Cleveland was the ecosystem that was in place to support innovation, entrepreneurs, and new companies. Some of the top medical innovations are coming out of the city. That is great but not necessarily unique. What is unique is the combination of this medical innovation with the support system that Cleveland has built.” This is a vitally important and often overlooked feature of a city that can help jumpstart new businesses such as Cleveland HeartLab. Having access to an ecosystem built for innovation, with resources, facilities, investors, and networks ensures a greater chance for success.
I asked Orville why so many innovative medical companies have found success in Cleveland. “You have the best medical institutions (Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital), you have Case Western Reserve, you have hundreds of early stage and established innovative companies and then downtown you have the Economic Development Office offering to do whatever it can to help. You can start, scale and maintain a wonderful company here in Cleveland.” This environment has allowed Orville’s company Cleveland HeartLab to enjoy tremendous success. After spinning out of the Cleveland Clinic in 2009, Cleveland HeartLab has been able to commercialize a number of cutting edge tests for heart disease through its top tier clinical lab and R&D program. These tests help identify the risk of cardiovascular events (heart attacks and strokes) and are available to clinicians all over the country. With its success and growth, Cleveland HeartLab can now contribute back to the ecosystem it once relied on when Orville initially started the company.