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Startup Cincinnati: Assurex

Updated: Monday, November 25 2013, 10:20 AM EST
MASON, Ohio (WKRC) -- From three employees, to more than 160. That growth curve took place in just five years for Assurex Health. Now the company headquartered in Mason plans to expand even more.

Not every company would incorporate a 14-foot giraffe into office culture. Walk through Assurex Health and it looks like the African savannah. Company motto, when in doubt - give a giraffe.  Assurex Health's first employee, Don Wright, said the giraffe symbology is inspiring. "You know it's got the long neck and you can do all these things like reaching to the stars, reaching to new heights."

Good connections, but perhaps the best requires a second layer of giraffe-ology. The word, "giraffe" means fast walker. Since 2008, Assurex Health has gone from walking fast to a full on sprint. "The growth is pretty dramatic, 165 employees today, we had 80 this time last year, we had 29 the year before that and 12 the year before that," said Wright. He attributes much of the company's success to its product. "We help determine which medications work best in a patient."

Specifically, Assurex helps patients who take antidepressant, antipsychotic, ADHD and pain medication. By testing DNA, Assurex provides insight to doctors by grouping the medications into different buckets --- red, yellow or green depending on how well they match an individual's metabolism. Without the test, Wright says it can take years for someone to find the right drug.  Both the Mayo Clinic and Cincinnati Children's Hospital support this work.

Recently Gina Drosos left Procter and Gamble to take Assurex to the next level. "It's about serving more patients, we've done a little more than 50-thousand tests, we think of that as 50-thousand people who've gotten medication faster, but we're rapidly on the route to 100,000, half a million and beyond." That type of growth will require more new hires and an eventual transition.

"Things will really boom here when we go public or when we have some type of an exit where all the people here who helped start this company can take their stock options and start their own companies," Wright said.

CincyTech's president, Bob Coy, sees the ripple effects going even further. "This town has a lot of wealth and can invest in a lot of companies. But at some point some of those companies have to be really successful not only to create lots of jobs and continue the momentum" Coy said, "but to give everybody back their wealth and then they will reinvest a large portion of that back into companies and that will sustain the ecosystem going forward."

Consider that the startup circle of life.

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