Movers & Shakers: Adam Rakestraw on X-ray vision, building his own house and pivoting from law to medical tech
Early in his career, Adam Rakestraw thought he was going to be a lawyer. The northwest Ohio native went to law school and opened a private practice before realizing it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Now, more than 15 years later, Rakestraw is chairman and co-founder of rapidly growing MediView XR Inc., a medical imaging company with revolutionary tech that gives surgeons X-ray vision. We sat down with Rakestraw to talk about his entrepreneurial journey, his successful career pivot and his latest home-improvement project.
How did MediView come together?
MediView was founded by me and John Black. We had both worked in the medical device field for more than a dozen years, starting from the ground floor and working our way up. We were in surgeries late at night, battling difficult cases, loving what we did and being involved with patients and healthcare. But we wanted to do something more and we both had a drive to further our careers within healthcare.
John got connected with the Cleveland Clinic and introduced me to this innovative technology. Once we saw it, we knew it had amazing potential. It was in a rough form, but we knew that this new imaging technology had the opportunity to change healthcare forever. So we set about founding MediView, negotiated with the Cleveland Clinic to license the technology globally and started building the company.
We’ve developed tech that allows a surgeon to put on a pair of glasses and look down at a patient and see their internal anatomy, see how their tools are going to interact with that patient and track those tools to the correct part of a patient’s anatomy. This is something that’s never been done. We’re giving a surgeon X-ray vision into a patient so they can see what they’re supposed to be doing.
What’s exciting about MediView right now?
When we founded the company in 2017, we worked really hard and bootstrapped and competed in pitch competitions. We earned a grant from the state of Ohio and took any other non-dilutive funding we could get. That hard work was a big sacrifice, but it put us on a stage for tremendous fundraising and national exposure.
Lately, we’ve been in Forbes, Wired, VentureBeat and in countless online articles. That exposure, combined with good advice and funding, is setting us up for exponential growth. It’s given us tremendous runway to continue to build our technology. Now, we’re building the staff infrastructure for MediView and continuing clinical and technical research and development.
Why has Ohio been a good home for MediView?
Ohio has honestly been phenomenal for us. From day one, the minute we started the company, we had a bunch of interest from different organizations like JumpStart and NextTech. They gave us insight and guidance and direction on what path to take. There’s a lot that goes into making a company that you don’t know initially. And not only did they give us guidance, they also gave us funding that helped us move along our path and build the company. Being in Ohio allowed us to use technology from a world-class healthcare organization like the Cleveland Clinic and build that technology within the state.
And we’ve continued to fundraise. Initially, our goal was to raise $1 million on our first round of funding. With the momentum that we built based on that guidance, we actually raised $4.5 million, primarily from Northwest Ohio. So whether it’s guidance, funding, opportunities or even the people around you, I don’t think you can ask for much more from the state.
You weren’t always involved with medical tech. How did you find yourself in that field?
I’m born, raised and educated in Ohio, and I took a traditional path, following my father and grandfather into law. I went to Ohio Northern Law School, graduated top-10 in my class, went to work for the Ohio Third Appellate District and then did private practice for two years. But it never spoke to my heart; it was never something that drove me.
I did something that surprised people and I just pivoted. I came home to my wife one day and said, “I’m going to go to med school.” Fortunately, she’s much smarter than I am and said, “Like, heck you are.”
But I wanted to get involved in medicine and healthcare, so the path that I found was medical devices. I became trained on procedures, involved in procedures daily and helped serve the physician and staff, be a part of patient care. All that time, I was still reflecting on the skill set I developed as an attorney. I wanted to do more. I knew that we could build a company and I always felt that there was more potential out there. Fortunately, that opportunity presented itself with MediView.
Did you always have entrepreneurial aspirations?
Not necessarily. But as an attorney, I was a private practitioner, so I ran an independent office and managed our staff and that was natural to me. So when I transitioned to medical devices, I worked for someone else and I always felt that pull toward being able to set my own destiny. Now, I can build a company with the people and the technology I want around me and do something bigger.
How is daily life different as an entrepreneur?
It’s one thing working for somebody else, delivering on what they want to do and their goals and their endpoints, and that’s rewarding in and of itself. But it’s a whole different amazing world when you get to start a company on your own, see the vision and build a culture. That’s something that has been tremendously exciting and rewarding for both John and I. John is doing a lot of the day-to-day stuff while I’m working behind the scenes and making sure to guide the company. Having that opportunity and being able to grow a technology is awesome.
What’s the best part of your job?
Building our culture is my favorite thing. Every day is something new. It’s something to focus on, something to aspire to, and it’s that day-to-day excitement of building something. Sure, there’s frustration and it takes perseverance and focus and all those things. But if you’re an entrepreneur and that speaks to you, it’s incredibly rewarding.
It’s a long-term vision of knowing that you’re building something that came from nothing, that there was an idea you knew was going to take a lot of work. Then you put the effort, focus and determination behind it and watch it start to blossom and build into something bigger. It’s very rewarding.
What do you like to accomplish in your spare time?
My downtime is limited. But I worked construction to help pay for school, and I still enjoy it. It allows me to blow off steam and focus, and it makes my wife happier for things to get built and done around the house. Honestly, working with my hands and mentally decompressing doing construction projects speaks to me.
I built a home myself from the foundation up in northern Ohio along Lake Erie. That was a really rewarding experience for me. I think it’s a reflection of being driven and pulling things together. Recently, my wife was unsatisfied with the size of her pantry, so I gave up some of my garage space and blew out the wall into the garage and extended her pantry. Happy wife, happy life, as they say. Between spending time with the family and doing construction projects, those are my releases.
What advice would you give fellow entrepreneurs?
Go out and find the help that Ohio has to offer. Look to organizations like JumpStart or NextTech or the State. Whether you need funding, help hiring people or advice, all those things are out there. Leverage the resources that Ohio offers to you and it will make you that much more successful.
There is a network of entrepreneurs who have been through this and want to help one another. I think that’s one of the most rewarding things that we see. People are coming to us and asking how we did it, and it’s great to help.
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