This article was originally published in Inc.
This is not the type of startup story you typically read about in Inc.
This is not a group of computer science majors living three-to-a-mattress and surviving on Ramen until their app suddenly becomes worth billions of dollars. This is not another subscription box service.
This is a story of talented executives, pooling deep experience in a specific industry to develop a better way to deliver important services. And these former founders of multiple successful companies have chosen to base their headquarters in OPO Startups–a tech and design coworking facility located in St. Charles, Missouri–largely to draw on the wealth of talented designers, social media and marketing experts, and coders who have set up shop in that space.
The company is Fusion5, and its focus is reducing costs and improving the effectiveness of Medicare-funded procedures. Chief Executive Officer Jim Gera has a decorated career in healthcare, having spent the last few years focused on programs and opportunities within the Affordable Care Act. Chief Operating Officer Denise Gallagher is the former co-founder of Senior Whole Health, a previous #1 company on the Inc. 500 and a former Aetna executive.
In other words, this team knows what its doing–and the market recognized it. Shortly after its founding, Fusion5 won what could end up being a multi-billion-dollar RFP from OrthoForum, a leading association of orthopedic surgeons.
You don’t have to be a healthcare expert to know that while rare, Fusion5 is the sort of “startup” the media pays far too little attention to. They are not another social networking site. Their founders have no aspirations of launching their own space program or staying young by harvesting the blood of young people.
They are just a solid company built on the foundation of a strong executive team.
And they are the kind of company that startup scenes and entrepreneurial ecosystems outside of the coasts should pay more attention to. The reality is that the next Instagram or Uber is not likely to come from Pittsburgh or St. Louis, for a variety of reasons. The tech ecosystem in Silicon Valley has more than a half-century head start, not to mention the fact that Sand Hill Road and Stanford are not likely to relocate to Columbus or Kansas City.
But tech companies aren’t the only unicorns.
Warren Buffet has built an empire in Omaha by focusing on industries like insurance, condiments, clothing, railroads, ice cream, and airplanes, the sort of things people will always need and/or want, regardless of whether AI takes over the world. Warren Buffet understands that all the disruption in the world won’t get rid of ketchup and underwear.
Like Warren Buffet’s holdings, Fusion5 is the type of nuts-and-bolts company the economy depends on. Fusion5’s founders and funders are betting that strengthening Medicare before moving on to other spaces in the health insurance sector is a pretty solid business plan.
And it’s a business plan that should benefit more than just the company’s founders and investors. For the past decade, the St. Louis region has worked hard to position itself as a startup hub. But even with all that hard work, it isn’t often that a company comes along with the potential to create as many good jobs as Fusion5 likely will.
“It’s a huge win for the St. Louis region to get Fusion5,” said St. Charles County Economic Development Council (EDC) CEO Greg Prestemon. “Healthcare makes up about 20% of the entire U.S. economy. To have a company with so much potential locate its business in a coworking facility in the suburbs of Middle America shows that entrepreneurship is alive and well everywhere. It also shows that supporters of startup scenes outside of the coasts should be focusing on more than just the tech sector.”