A Family Feel at a Mission-Driven Startup: Meet Your 2020 Startup Culture Award Winner!

How Hive Networks translates its focus on healthcare innovation to its tight-knit team

Ohio, you’ve topped yourselves once again. We were overwhelmed by the response to this year’s annual Startup Culture Awards. On our way through the competition, it took more than 125 nominations, 1,300 votes for our 18 semifinalists and over 2,500 votes in the final round to decide our winner: Hive Networks.

Based in Cincinnati, Hive Networks was founded in 2019 as a software company that builds platforms to facilitate what they call learning health networks, a method of delivering healthcare that engages patients, families, clinicians and researchers. Their goal is to connect all parties to improving outcomes for people with various health problems, particularly chronic conditions. They enlisted the help of their family, friends and coworkers to win this year’s competition, earning more than 1,200 votes in our final round. We went inside Hive Networks’ headquarters, an old house converted into a collaborative office space, to find out what makes the winning formula to their company culture:

“This company is based around the idea that we’re going to help people get better and solve problems,” said Chris Sauer, Hive’s systems architecture director. “We have to embody what we sell, right? So we come at this with humility and curiosity and an excitement about figuring out how we’re going to solve those problems. To do that, you can’t be siloed and you can’t be one guy thinking he always has the answers. You have to have a culture that values and respects everyone’s ideas and is willing to change. That’s what we’re about: the changes that will make people’s lives better. We have to be like that too.”

While the casual, informal vibe at other startups — with beer taps in the office and game rooms around the open layout — might work for some companies, Hive prefers to stay grounded in building a familial feel. Whether they’re emphasizing their open-door, no-stupid-questions policies, gathering for a potluck lunch or walking across the street to a low-key happy hour, the Hive team takes pride in avoiding what they see as gimmicks.

“It’s really a family feel,” said Bentley Davis, senior organizational advisor. “We’re all working on our own projects but we all know that we can reach out to everyone else, whether to bounce ideas off of each other or for help. That creates camaraderie, and we also have kind of a ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude. I’ve never been one for ping-pong or beer in the office. If others are, that’s great, but that’s not going to make me pour my heart and soul into the job.”

It’s one thing to have a good office feeling in person, but Hive has been able to maintain their team attitudes, productivity and even some fun since COVID-19 began spreading. Hive launched in mid-2019, so much of their existence has been during the pandemic, and from leadership to employees, they all said that virtual happy hours, team meetings and trust from superiors has helped the team continue on as normal.

“We’ve kind of grown up during COVID, so I think we’ve probably had it easier than a lot of companies that were more set in their ways pre-pandemic,” said Ted Wimmel, client services director. “We were somewhat virtual prior to COVID anyway, so it hasn’t been a huge stumbling block for us. But we’ve been very successful in adapting and working completely virtually for the past six months. We’ve maintained that super informal mood with lots of collaboration and ‘meetings’ that aren’t really meetings but are an excuse to talk with folks and understand problems and get different perspectives. That went on in the office and it’s carried over virtually. We were already in the mode of virtual collaboration and now we’ve only doubled down on it.”

Their tight-knit, hard-working attitude makes Hive fit in perfect with their Cincinnati surroundings. Hive’s CEO, John Bostick, is an experienced entrepreneur and founded the company after working with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to identify ways the learning health network could be effective. He said that experience working with the hospital was key to shaping the culture and scope of Hive’s work, which always goes back to their mission of helping people. Bostick has spent most of his career in Cincinnati and the Midwest, and said the Queen City has provided the ideal place to launch and grow Hive.

“When we built Hive Networks, we really looked at how Cincinnati Children’s and their culture was developed with over 600 clinical care sites across the world,” he said. “I’ve been a Midwesterner for most of my life and I really love and cherish Ohio. We’re seeing so many startups thriving in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and all around the state. We see a whole great Midwestern climate for startups and we think it’s a great place to live and start a business. There are a lot of great investors that are willing to support you. We’re not one of the coasts, but we have so much to offer.”

Thanks for making our third annual Startup Culture Awards our biggest yet. All across Ohio, companies are doing groundbreaking work with innovative teams and amazing company cultures, and we’re proud to showcase just a few. Thanks for nominating, voting and sharing your stories with us. We’ll see you next year for another showcase of great company culture in Ohio!

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