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For these prodigal entrepreneurs, Ohio is home sweet home

Jon Snyder of Neuros Medical in Willoughby, OH. Photo | Bob Perkoski
Jon Snyder of Neuros Medical in Willoughby, OH. Photo | Bob Perkoski
Successful, smart and talented people often say hometown culture played a role in creating the person they are today. Those same people, however, at a turning point in their lives, often move away to pursue something bigger and better. But if their home really is special offering a combination of the personal and professional fulfillment they crave one day they'll come back.

hiVelocity talked to three entrepreneurs who did just that, including one non-native who returned to the state to start his own company. All say Ohio offered them the same career opportunities that they could find on the East or West coasts, with the added benefits of vibrant community life and family support, which grew more important as they started their families.

Jon Snyder

Snyder, president and CEO of Neuros Medical, was born and raised in Ohio and attended Ohio University. He's seen the world, with more than 20 years of domestic and international management experience in biomedical and healthcare sales, marketing, operations, and venture capital investment at start-up and Fortune 500 companies.

Snyder worked for Cyberonics, Cardinal Health, Imalux, STERIS, and Arboretum Ventures before starting Willoughby-based Neuros, which has developed Nerve Block, a small device that uses an electrode to deliver high-frequency stimulation to sensory nerves in the peripheral nervous system.

In 2007, while still working for Cardinal Health, Snyder moved to Chicago to help the company expand its marketing efforts.

"Chicago is a great town," Snyder says. "It's like a big Cleveland, and there are a lot of things to do. The opportunity was what really drove me there. Cardinal Health has division in Chicago, and I was a marketing lead for their surgical instrumentation division."

But Snyder didn't stay there long when he saw a better opportunity back in Ohio. He says the turning point was an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that said Ohio ranked third in the nation in biotechnology investment. Ohio also had theThird Frontier high tech economic development initiative.

"I thought, 'Here I am in Chicago, and all the innovation and investment is really in Ohio," Snyder says.

So he made a few phone calls to some former colleagues at STERIS, and they suggested he reach out to BioEnterprise, a healthcare-related business incubator in Cleveland. By 2008, Snyder moved back to the area as BioEnterprise's first CEO in residence. Shortly after, he started his own company, which recently received $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to work on its neurostimulation device to block pain from amputated limbs.

Greg Flexter

Greg Flexter is CEO and co-founder of Blue Ash Therapeutics, a Cincinnati-area startup that secured the license for the anti-arrhythmic drug Azimilide from Procter & Gamble and then from Warner Chilcott, which bought P&G Pharmaceuticals last year. The company was formed to keep drug development know-how in Cincinnati.

Flexter, originally from Kansas, first lived in Cincinnati when he worked just across the river at Shire Pharmaceuticals, which was based in Northern Kentucky. Several years ago, the company left the region, and Flexter relocated to Philadelphia. He eventually left Shire to become an adviser with a New York investment firm.

But opportunity, and the Cincinnati area, called him back in 2007. When Procter & Gamble decided to sell its prescription drug business, he and partner Kevin Malloy, a 25-year P&G pharmaceutical veteran, decided to build a company around Azimilide after securing the license for it.

"To start a company like this you need an innovation, something you can build the company around. PG allowed us to do that," Flexter says.

Support from startup and entrepreneurial organizations like the Third Frontier, CincyTechQueen City Angels and others also have helped the company get its feet off the ground, Flexter says.

"Being a very small company, we're able to use a small amount a funding to get a lot of work done. We're also able to access support to put a business plan together, envision the future of the business, build our board and build our business in a sophisticated fashion," he adds.

Dan Meyer

Dan Meyer, President and CEO of Comet Solutions, also grew up in Ohio. Comet Solutions uses virtual modeling to test a variety of products for functionality and durability prior to manufacturing. Incorporated in 2001, the company moved its headquarters to Cincinnati suburb Blue Ash after in 2008 after being awarded $1.4 million in incentives from the Innovation Ohio Loan Fund.

Meyer moved from Cincinnati when college and career called him away. He studied at New Jersey's Princeton University and was immediately recruited after graduation by a large investment banking company. He lived in New York for two years, then moved in the early 1990s to San Francisco, where he settled down, met his wife and made plans to stay.

"It was certainly an exciting time in my life to try different things and meet different people. Some of the best friends I have today are from that time in my life," Meyer says.

In California, Meyer switched career tracks, went to Stanford University and got into Silicon Valley's tech industry. In 1993, he worked for Synopsys, an electronic design automation that went public that year.

"It was an exciting time to be working for a fast-growing company," he says.

Meyer and his wife were happy in their life, and though he'd gotten job offers elsewhere, he'd turned them down. But there was still one place he'd consider moving if the opportunity was right.

"I wasn't even looking for a job, and a recruiter called me about this opportunity in Cincinnati. He had no idea I was from Cincinnati. (The opportunity) was a combination of a really good career opportunity for me, and it was the right point for me family wise, considering the quality of life, cost of living and having family nearby in Cincinnati," Meyer says.

Though Meyer says personal and family considerations were an important factor in making the move back to Ohio, he's quick to point out that he didn't have to give up anything in his career to return in 1996.

"My family and my career are important. If I felt I had to make sacrifices on any of those fronts I wouldn't have taken the opportunity. I felt like this was the right fit," Meyer says.
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