The Best of 2021: TechOhio’s Top Ten Stories of the Year

man holding a cell phone wearing headphones around neck. Best of 2021

It’s been another unbelievable year for Ohio startups!

From massive funding rounds and historic revenue to philanthropic efforts, startups in Ohio have made an unbelievable impact on the state and beyond in 2021. We featured dozens of company stories on TechOhio this year, showcasing the amazing work, game-changing innovations and life-saving tech being developed in the Buckeye State. But which of our stories was most popular among our audience?

We looked into the archives to bring you our readers’ 10 most popular features of 2021:


Velontra engineers working on a jet engine

Velontra is Building Hypersonic Engine to Power the Next Generation of Space Flight

Could the next engine that powers space flight come from a hangar office at a small Ohio airport? The minds behind Velontra sure think so. The company is building an engine capable of hypersonic speeds that could be crucial as a new space race heats up, with the potential to power satellites and rockets.

“Goldman Sachs predicts the space economy market is going to be over a trillion dollars by 2040, but rocket systems are inherently expensive,” said CEO and Co-founder Robert Keane. “SpaceX has gotten launches down to $62 million a launch, which is incredible, but that is still way too pricey. Our propulsion system, which is 10 times more efficient than any current rocket, will provide low Earth orbit access at a cost of below $5 million per launch, which is 10 to 12 times more efficient. This will enable more companies to access low Earth orbit on a more robust and reliable platform. We think it can really expand all the things we can do in space to benefit even more people around the world.”

Everyone knows about Ohio’s long and storied history in flight and aerospace. Maybe Velontra is next.


pete blackshaw standing on TED stage

Movers & Shakers: Pete Blackshaw on sustainability, his international corporate career and a love of networking

Of all the people in the Ohio startup scene, Pete Blackshaw has one of the most impressive résumés. The Cintrifuse CEO is an experienced entrepreneur who launched a business in Cincinnati that sold to Nielsen, where he worked for several years before becoming an executive at Nestlé. Now, he’s helping entrepreneurs find success in Cincinnati and beyond with his experience, love of networking and forward-thinking nature. He sat down with TechOhio to talk about the Cincinnati startup scene and much more.

“I’m a big social connector,” he told us. “If you just spend two minutes on my social media handles — Twitter, Pinterest, even more recently TikTok — you can tell I love connecting people. If you’ve got a business idea, I know someone who could help you, who might be on your board, who might have money, who might be a good team member. I get a certain high out of that. The same dopamine rush that some people get from a like on Facebook, I get from helping someone in the startup scene click with another person. It’s a really exciting job, and when you see that value creation take place it’s incredible.”

Our sit-down touched on topics ranging from corporate America and his college years to sustainability and Tik-Tok.


Roll a Rack logo with solar panel

This Cleveland Startup Wants to Make Solar Panel Installation Affordable for All

Almost everyone understands the great potential of solar power, but in a residential setting or for individual customers it doesn’t make much sense, right? Think again. Cleveland startup Roll-A-Rack is aiming to lower costs and spread the use of solar panels through their tech that makes installation easy.

“Roll-a-Rack is a new way of building solar panel systems,” said CFO John Turner. “It uses an existing technology that has been used in making sheet metal roofing and seamless gutters. You take a roll of sheet metal and put it through one of our new machines that presses it into the desired profile. Then the builders just have to clamp the solar panels onto the rack. Racks on the market today have multiple components, they’re very time-consuming to install and the process involves significant overhead. And if one piece gets bent or damaged, your project could be set back for a couple of weeks while you order a replacement. But with the Roll-a-Rack, you just roll out a little bit more of the rack and you’re good to go.”

Clean energy is the way of the future, and Ohio companies are leading the charge.


startup culture awards winner

Company Culture that Comes from the Top: Introducing Our 2021 Startup Culture Award Winner!

Want to bring great culture to your work environment? This is how you do it. Columbus startup Branch Insurance was named the winner of our 2021 Startup Culture Awards, giving us the chance to showcase their employee-first philosophy and flexible working methods.

“We’ve both seen bad or mediocre company culture,” Co-Founder and CTO Joe Emison said. “Sometimes, companies are building fast and trying to grow, and they just don’t think about culture. It ends up being a reflection of the people who are there and their unintentional acts and personalities. For us, it was really important to intentionally set the culture from the beginning as a place we wanted to work for the rest of our lives. The easiest way to summarize the culture is that we treat people like people. We respect their humanity and we don’t try to mine people for everything they’re worth.”

We love hearing about this kind of great company culture, and Branch is the perfect example of why the Startup Culture Awards are one of TechOhio’s most popular topics each year. Be sure to check back next fall for our fifth annual contest!


Kurome logo with technitian

This Cincinnati Startup is Innovating Targeted Cancer Treatments

What if newly created drugs could entirely change the way we treat deadly cancers? That’s the important and impactful work being done at Kurome Therapeutics thanks to research from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The company is one of many exciting health care startups in Cincinnati, and its leaders are major proponents of the Queen City.

“In Cincinnati, it’s the quality of the talent that makes this particular project possible and there’s an environment here that supports it,” said President and CEO Jan Rosenbaum. “We’ve got the medical talent, we’ve got the research talent and we’re improving the depth of investment capital. Cincinnati has done a phenomenal job of attracting it over the last several years. And on our team, this is a group of people who are collaborating together and understand the drug development process and are completely focused on turning this into something that can help patients. That’s a unique situation, because you often don’t find it in academia. So the talent’s there to support this project, it’s cheaper to live here than the coasts — even the commute is easy.”

Ohio is in the midst of a massive wave of health care innovations, and Kurome is one of the promising new names in the game. And those interested in health companies shaping the future will find plenty to get excited about on the rest of this list.


Ohio Entrepreneurs Share their Story - John Romano on a computer

Movers & Shakers: John Romano on climbing the ladder, meeting his co-founder at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and making a nationwide impact

Our sit-down with first-time entrepreneur John Romano was one of our most-read stories of 2021. We covered everything from his early career at Enterprise Rent-a-Car to his love of the Columbus startup scene as he navigates the early days of prescription startup giftHEALTH. Romano’s passion for changing health care was just one of the topics we touched on.

“Healthcare is complex and it has big problems to solve,” he said. “A normal patient doesn’t really have the tools to solve those problems or even have incremental wins. I always think about my mom. When she gets a prescription, does she know the best approach on how to get that filled and how she can save money? That’s typically not the case for many patients. So with us, tackling a really huge problem is very motivating. We’re able to make a difference in individual’s lives across the US.”

Romano’s story is a great reminder that it doesn’t take a seasoned startup veteran to accomplish great things, and that Columbus is helping new entrepreneurs reach great heights every day.


creativity challenge winner

Meet the Winner of the TechOhio Startup Creativity Challenge

In our first ever Startup Creativity Challenge, dozens of companies submitted their incredibly creative solutions in nearly every possible industry, showcasing the wide range of innovation happening here in Ohio. Our judges had a real challenge to pick a winner, but Cleveland startup IdentifySensors earned the title thanks to their development of an in-home device that can test for COVID-19, with plans to expand that tech to allow testing for many other diseases with results sent directly to your phone.

“We’re going to introduce the electronic age in laboratory medicine for pathogen detection, which is a $50 billion market every year in the United States,” said Dr. Gregory Hummer, founder and CEO. “And when you add in COVID-19, the United States has spent well over $80 billion on detecting just this one pathogen. Our test takes a signal from the cartridge to the cloud where we determine if it’s positive or negative. It’s radically different from current tests, which have no digital output. And we can create new algorithms for influenza A, influenza B, hepatitis A, B, and C, HIV, hep-C, you name it. That’s the excitement — there’s no end in sight.”

Our judges agreed. “With a more connected world, we see scale and amplification of infection at greater rates than ever,” one judge said. “Having a system that can rapidly scale to meet demand for RNA testing could be a game changer.” We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the second edition of the challenge this year!


giftHEALTH logo

ScriptDrop Co-Founder Launches New Venture to Improve Prescription Processes

Nick Potts and giftHEALTH just can’t stay out of the news. The central Ohio startup veteran worked with CoverMyMeds during their early days and co-founded ScriptDrop in 2016. His new venture with co-founder John Romano is proving popular already, both among our readers and in the broader startup community. The pair of founders believe their new company can make a real difference in people’s health care experience.

“Right now, you go to your physician and they write you a prescription and ask, ‘What pharmacy?’ There’s no brain or thinking behind that,” Potts told TechOhio. “The physician sends the prescription over to the pharmacy and you don’t know if they have the drug in stock, if they’re busy and backed up or if they offer delivery. You wait in line, they tell you it’s not ready and to come back in a few hours. Most places don’t offer free delivery, so that’s another trip for you. It adds a lot of steps and friction. Our platform sends the prescription to a brain that makes those decisions. It knows the pharmacies that have the drug in stock, offer delivery and work with your provider. We pick the pharmacy that isn’t busy, offers free delivery and sends it to your home in an hour or two.”

From giftHEALTH to ScriptDrop and many other companies in between, Ohio startups are changing the way we think about prescriptions.


AmplifyBio logo

Battelle Spin-Out AmplifyBio Advances Life-Changing Therapies from Central Ohio

When Ohioans hear the name Battelle, they pay attention. The Columbus-based global research and development organization has been working to develop new therapies for years. And to expand their reach, the company has spun out AmplifyBio in central Ohio as an independent, for-profit startup, armed with significant capital for quick growth. The exciting company is working to accelerate the development of next generation therapies by creating and optimizing new platforms and technologies, and sees central Ohio as the ideal location for its innovations.

“We want to have drug development companies and people who are trying to develop advanced therapies come to us for safety and efficacy testing,” said President and CEO J. Kelly Ganjei. “We can eventually augment those platforms that could help accelerate and scale that technology. We’re also putting advanced analytics in place. Drug discovery development is only as fast and good as the analytics you have built, so by augmenting our ability to analyze the data of our clients, we believe we can help accelerate their development efforts.”

Ohio’s long track record of innovation has led to an exciting future for health care advancements, and AmplifyBio is certainly one company to keep an eye on in the future.


Skylife logo and interior of airplane full of boxes of humanitarian aid

Toledo Startup Drops Life-Saving Humanitarian Aid from the Sky

It’s easy to see why our most viewed company feature of 2021 was popular among our readers. Amazing tech? Check. A great mission? Check. Huge potential for the future? Check!

Toledo startup SkyLIFE Global has modernized the process of dropping life-saving aid in humanitarian situations. The company makes two main products, SkyPACK — which delivers small packages and looks like a piece of paper that flutters to the ground and can be airdropped safely on top of people — and SkyBOX — meant for larger packages that drop out of the sky like a traditional pallet. Both have been deployed in Africa and can be used to combat almost any emergency scenario.

“Imagine people are stranded somewhere with no way to get any distribution on the ground,” said CEO and Co-Founder Jeff Potter. “We believe our technology is the first line of assistance and the new standard of care globally to assist those that need it most: people that simply cannot get deliveries because of some form of obstacle, manmade or natural. It could be a warring faction a few miles away or a natural disaster. We can even deliver what’s been dubbed the “undroppables” by the United Nations, things like vegetable oil in fragile containers. We’ve even dropped fresh eggs with a 100% success rate from 1000 feet at 150 miles an hour.”

Our readers know a great story when they see it, making this feature our most visited in 2021.

Thanks for a great year, TechOhio readers. Have a favorite feature that didn’t make the list? Let us know at TechOhio’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram!

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