How companies across the Buckeye State have left their mark on a historic year
As 2020 comes to a close and COVID-19 vaccines begin distribution across the country, it’s a good opportunity to take stock of the amazing accomplishments that came from this year, even amid a pandemic.
For months, Ohio companies have been showing us that they’re much more than just business ventures. They’re built to help us learn, allow us to connect, keep us safe and even let us get away for a bit.
Here are just a few of the many Ohio innovators who have made a lasting impact on our state, country and world:
When COVID-19 hit, Dayton startup Tempagenix didn’t need to pivot. Overnight, their wearable, disposable thermometer strip had become a necessity. Between March and April alone, Tempagenix grew from about a $300,000 company to a $3 million dollar success story thanks to providing the perfect product for the times.
“We have been innovating on the fly since this started and we’ve really learned how agile we can be,” said co-founder Shelly Heller. “We’ve gone from selling small retail packs to now selling to Target, Kroger, CVS and Walmart. Being helpful is what drives us every day, knowing that we’re helping people, even just by relieving their fear of standing next to someone.”
Tempagenix is creating its important product almost entirely from home, sourcing and manufacturing in Ohio, primarily in Dayton. During the pandemic alone, they’ve sold 7.65 million strips that are letting families easily take temperatures and helping organizations stay safe.
In each freezer produced by Athens manufacturer Stirling Ultracold, 60,000 vials of COVID-19 vaccines can be transported at their proper temperatures. Stirling’s freezers can store materials between minus 20 and minus 80 degrees Celsius, which is how cold these crucial vaccines must be kept in order to stay effective. Thanks to their tech, Stirling is working with the likes of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca and more to help distribute vaccines.
“For us, this is huge,” said CEO Dusty Tenney. “The 150 people that are down here in southeast Ohio are really doing something for all of mankind, to be honest. I think it’s a great story that our team here at Stirling can go home and connect with what’s taking place and know that they’re creating solutions for a wide range of respective customers that will help provide distribution and storage for vaccines.”
Now, Stirling is working around the clock to produce as many of their freezers as possible. In the heart of the race to bring the vaccine to the public, the Athens company is reminding the country that Ohio innovation can almost always be found on the cutting edge.
Dublin startup Healthy Roster developed a platform that was meant to connect athletes with doctors and trainers. But early in the pandemic, the startup realized that, with some tweaking, they could help organizations return to work while staying safe. In May, they introduced SAFER Workplace, an extension of the Healthy Roster platform that tracks symptoms and infection, allowing companies, schools and other organizations to get back together.
“Our goal has always been to help keep people healthy and in the game,” said co-founder and CEO Nathan Heerdt. “It’s never been more imperative for people to be aware of how they are feeling and the immediate impact their health has on everyone around them. With SAFER Workplace, we’re uniquely suited to help organizations work together to keep everyone healthy and decrease the chance of being exposed to COVID-19.”
The platform was a hit, and has been used by 115 different organizations since its launch, including the PGA Tour, which used SAFER Workplace to return to play in June. Through the platform, Healthy Roster is now sending out 1.2 million COVID-19 tests per month.
When schools began realizing that COVID-19 would make education challenging, the team at award-winning education tech startup Abre knew they could help. The Cincinnati organization made its Abre Hub available free to schools and districts, helping educators adapt on the fly.
“We wanted to be able to do something to support districts who were already starting to test going virtual with their learning, and we didn’t want it to be a temporary offer — that would make it feel opportunistic,” said CEO Damon Ragusa. “It had to be simple, free, and permanent.”
The platform is now being used by more than 350 schools, providing a permanent improvement to distanced learning and helping districts across the country adapt to the new normal.
In a year full of challenges, one difficult adjustment has been finding safe ways to have a little fun. While social distancing made many traditional summer vacations and activities look a little different this year, Akron’s RVshare provided a much-needed option for those looking to take a road trip. The startup offers rental RVs of countless sizes and options, allowing families to take a safe, unique vacation in the time of COVID-19.
“I believe in expanding the definition of travel,” said CEO Jon Gray. “Twenty years ago, if you were going to go on a trip, your only real option was staying in a hotel. Now, you might still stay in a hotel in New York, but if you’re going to the beach, you may stay in a vacation home or an AirBnB. Well, if you’re going on the great American road trip, camping, tailgating or going to a music festival, all of those things are served better by an RV.”
Business exploded for RVshare this year. Between April and June, rentals rose 1600%. And in September, the company reached the milestone of customers spending 2 million days renting their RVs to get away safely and in style.
Columbus startup BeeHex is a NASA spinoff that uses 3D printing technology for food, creating complex dessert designs, personalized nutrition and personalized pizzas, among other concepts. But amid the pandemic, the company wanted to do more. In March, they teamed up with Columbus printer filament company IC3D to create much-needed face shields.
At their peak in early Spring, the companies were producing up to 5,000 shields per day. IC3D has since taken over full production, and has created 60,000 shields — 37,500 in Ohio and 12,500 beyond — used to keep people safe.
Adjusting to learning, working and socializing amid the pandemic has been a major adjustment for all of us. But for special needs learners, the transition has been even more challenging. Thankfully, Cleveland startup Vizzle has an answer for those students as well. The company’s platform specializes in helping special education students thrive, and helped connect kids and educators during this crucial time.
“What makes our platform special is that we’re student-facing and web-based,” said CEO Bob Gephart. “Right now, with students remote and focusing on distanced learning due to COVID, we’re getting a lot of attention from districts that are trying to find resources they can use with their special education kids to make sure students are still getting that academic piece from home while they aren’t in front of a teacher or sitting with an intervention specialist.”
Between February and November, Vizzle grew its user base by 132% in Ohio alone. The learning startup has been used for 40,000 remote lessons in Ohio and continues to grow.