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CincyTech CEO on innovation in healthcare

CBTS periodically asks IT thought leaders to share their insights and perspectives on important technology issues and challenges. We recently chatted with Mike Venerable, CEO of CincyTech. CincyTech is a seed-stage investor that was established to help transform innovation into high-performing life science and digital companies in Southwest Ohio, which in turn create jobs and economic vitality.

CincyTech focuses its investments on four core areas: enterprise software, business software applications, life sciences, and digital health, with healthcare featured significantly in its portfolio of companies. Mike and his team work with entrepreneurs, investors, economic development partners, research institutions, and community stakeholders to accelerate the growth of promising technology and life science startups in the region.

How would you describe the focus of CincyTech today?

While we look broadly at technology-based innovation, our focus has narrowed to healthcare, broadly speaking, and software – primarily B2B software. We do make a few investments in consumer digital services, but that’s a smaller part of our portfolio. We will also look at advanced materials, advanced technology opportunities occasionally. The bread and butter of what we do, 80 to 90 percent of the portfolio, is healthcare-related or business-to-business software.

What does your healthcare focus include and why is it an attractive industry?

We have a broad portfolio interest in healthcare, everything from therapeutics to medical devices and diagnostics. We have a growing interest in and investment focus around digital health, which is a little different in our view than the healthcare IT category.

I think of healthcare IT as more the automation of distinct healthcare processes, whether they’re clinical or business processes, and we view those investments just like we would view any other B2B software investment. Digital health is the application of digital scale and ubiquitous computing to healthcare problems, usually with a relationship to traditional clinical or scientific innovations.

Today it’s rare that a medical device does not have a digital element. Digital innovation is now pushing hard against traditional resistance to change in healthcare. We’ve seen digital innovation transform other industries, and we expect that to happen across healthcare, and not just in very traditional healthcare delivery means, but in other domains as well.

How can startups influence transformation in the healthcare sector?

All large companies in the past have been, and are being, disrupted by technology. There’s almost always early resistance. That resistance in healthcare is driven by good intentions, which is that change can be dangerous in a healthcare environment. There’s a good and natural role for a high bar to disruption. But if it starts to become clear patients are not getting access to disruptive technologies that can be curative or palliative, then we’ve got a problem.

The problem is the system first may not fully reward innovative companies for those benefits. We take a long view and assume that if you meet the disruptive bar – dramatically changing patient outcomes – then you’ll eventually get paid. People won’t wait and will pay for curative and enduring remitive therapies. There is a growing wave of these treatments that will reduce intensive engagement with the healthcare system, which not only makes lives better but will drop those costs. The bricks and mortar and balance sheet economics of healthcare will be disrupted by this change wave.

How is technology transforming healthcare delivery?

There’s this whole notion of ubiquity, continuous access to computational scale through continually connected devices. All these connected devices are allowing patients to be engaged continuously outside of a traditional encounter.  And when you change that brick and mortar orientation, then you start to push preventative care out to the patient, out to the individual human, and you can keep them out of the most expensive care delivery models.

I am watching all of these new facilities come online and I fear that we are investing precious dollars in models that are not helpful. And many consumers view hospitals as dangerous places to go. Infections, medical errors, and poor service experiences make people wary of hospitals already. Maybe in 20 years, they don’t matter at all. It’s important to try to see the future, to look beyond just what this technology allows us to do, to implement current healthcare in a distributed model. It’s really what will technology do to change care, to enable us to deliver care in different ways.

One of the most active seed funds in the Midwest, CincyTech is supported by Ohio Third Frontier, more than two dozen foundations, corporations, municipalities and individuals as well as its founding partners, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the University of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, of which CincyTech is a subsidiary. For more information, go to

To learn how CBTS is helping healthcare organization drive internal innovation and collaboration, read case studies here and here.

How governments are developing IT workforce

Government confronts many of the same challenges as the private sector, but also faces budget constraints that limit its ability to adopt new technologies and develop a workforce necessary for digital transformation.

While governments at all levels are working to attract and retain top talent, including Millennials, they are also looking to technology partners to collaborate and fill human resource gaps.

Tim Lonsway, Regional Director at CBTS, engages with governments across the country at the regional, state, and federal level and has seen a definite shift in how governments are deploying technology and changing workflows and structures in order to attract talent and maximize internal resources.

What are some of the limitations governments face when filling roles that support their IT initiatives?

Younger people don’t always seek the public sector out. I’m on a few committees where that’s an active topic. How do we attract younger people?  How do we get these younger people engaged in government, to care about government, to feel like they’ve got a valuable career in government? Government is spending energy on that issue and is taking action.

Government workers

How do governments look at technology partners to address workforce challenges?

They are really focused on getting out of the technology business – the infrastructure technology:  compute, storage, network, security, firewall, things of that nature – and focusing more on the applications that serve constituents. You allow other people to do those things, so you can focus on initiatives that make more sense and that will attract the younger workforce.

Governments want to make the infrastructure newer, lighter, more modern, and leverage mobile technologies – the ability to work off a laptop, tablet, or smartphone – those types of things. You couldn’t do that 10 years ago. But today, people need the ability to work from different places and not have to work from a centralized location every day. The infrastructure needs to support that.

Are you seeing some rationalization of technology across departments and more unity?

Yes. For example, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is proud of its ability to service constituents. Seventy-five percent of its interactions with constituents are done either through a web portal, or through a chat interface. Constituents don’t necessarily have to pick up the phone to talk to somebody. They’re being serviced through the technology. With that technology, that infrastructure then becomes kind of that binding space, and that common interface. That “common user experience” is a term you hear a lot.

So, whether you’re on your mobile phone, laptop, or desktop, or whether you’re talking to Rehabilitation and Corrections, or Child and Family Services, or Taxation … whoever you’re talking to, they’re really driving you toward that common interface.

If you look just at the trends, the current RFPs in many states, it’s all about, “Let’s get this common front end. We’ll leverage these APIs on the back end, and make all of this stuff tick, and tie together.”

What are governments looking for from their IT partners like CBTS?

If I’m a government and my partner comes to me and says, “Oh, I hear what you’re saying. Let’s create a statement of work, and I’m going to need a PO before we get started,” that’s not the kind of partner I need. I need somebody that’s in it with me, that bleeds with me, that succeeds with me, that drives toward success with me.

That’s what differentiates CBTS in general from a lot of other service providers or partners. We become an extension of their organization, of their IT staff. We’re in there with them. We’re supporting them. We’re jumping right in.

Read how CBTS helped the State of Ohio leverage a Hosted Enterprise Unified Communications solution.

How education CIOs manage BYOD demand

It wasn’t long ago that your C-suite of higher education CIOs didn’t have to worry about trends like Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD). But the advent of BYOD is one of the many challenges education IT leaders face as the mounting demands of mobile computing make transitioning to new IT operating models critical.

We recently asked Brent Flaugher, Senior Account Manager with CBTS, to describe these challenges and how CBTS products and services are helping make that transition easier.

Higher education CIOs are increasingly focused on delivering value-added initiatives and strategies.  What is driving this transition?

The constant 24/7 need for connectivity is a critical underlying factor driving this transition. This need increasingly makes the legacy methods of information delivery – platforms, network structure, and means of content delivery – unable to provide the quality that users expect and demand for a first-class 21st century education.

Using Technology Collaboratively with BYOD

What are the main challenges that higher education CIOs face as they transition from their legacy role of “keeping the lights on?”

Higher education CIOs are expected to do more with less. This can represent a monumental challenge as they contend with the increasing bandwidth demands of ever-more sophisticated multimedia-based educational content, which in turn requires better network optimization.  Coupled with these demands is the proliferation of mobile student-owned BYOD that replace the past model of school-provided devices.

BYOD introduces another level of security challenges. And as the number of these devices expands, so do bandwidth requirements – adding more pressure to the capacity of their existing networks.

The traditional model of educational IT ownership is changing. Tell us how forward-thinking CIOs are leading this change?

These CIOs are opting to transition to cloud-based services where they can rely on the deep expertise of IT professionals who can manage and grow their networks to support agile mobile offerings that are in such demand in the educational sector.

How do CBTS products and solutions meet the BYOD demand?

We constantly hear from our clients in the education sector that they are hungry for products that can increase their bandwidth and offer them a more robust and dependable wireless technology. But it is an inconvenient truth that implementing their value-added and data-loaded initiatives comes with a hefty trade-off.  With more data access comes more data center requirements. Additionally, CIOs are faced with the prospect of providing vast amounts of storage to accommodate all of this access and hiring expert staff to support these initiatives.

The CBTS focus is to meet these wishes by offering shared cloud-based offerings that can make wish-lists a reality. We do this by optimizing their storage, backup, voice, and security requirements. It’s not just a smart strategy for delivering a top-of-the-line education to their students. Our services also help the bottom line by avoiding large capital expenditures and the need to recruit, retain, and continually retrain a large IT staff that can handle the critical demands of their connected educational organization.

For more information on how CBTS is helping higher education IT leaders read this case study and this interview with Paul Czarapata, VP and CIO of the multi-campus Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS).

Explore how the Communications solutions at CBTS can help support your BYOD demand here

Q&A with Fifth Third’s Melissa Stevens

Melissa Stevens is Chief Digital Officer and Head of Design & Innovation and Omnichannel Experiences for Fifth Third Bancorp, where she is responsible for driving a deep understanding of customers.

Melissa uncovers new opportunities for the Bank, guiding her team through innovation and Agile development, and pushing a mobile-first approach to improve the customer experience while driving growth.

Melissa came to Fifth Third almost two years ago from Citigroup, where she was co-founder and chief operating officer of Citi Fintech.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third, the 13th largest bank in the country, has invested heavily in technology to bring new solutions to its customers in Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending and Wealth & Asset Management. The bank recently introduced MomentumTM, a mobile app that allows Fifth Third customers to round up their debit card purchases and apply the round-ups to their student loan balances.

We asked Melissa why Fifth Third created Momentum and how it is leveraging technology on behalf of its customers.

How you are doing things differently at Fifth Third?

We all know how technology is changing customer expectations and their behavior. We live our lives in micromoments. You accomplish with a few taps or swipes on your phone in a matter of seconds in the elevator ride what used to take hours and hours of calls or running errands, getting yourself to different places. Customers’ expectations now are for companies to come to them where they’re living their day-to-day lives, not for them to need to come to us. While that’s incredibly important, and technology is changing our expectations about that, it is not by itself delivering the experience that people need.

At Fifth Third, we know we have to take that technology and harness it and deliver differentiated solutions to our customers so they can accomplish what they need in their banking and get on with the rest of their lives. We also believe that customers aren’t comparing us with others just in the financial services industry; they are comparing us to their last best experience.

How is technology built into the bank’s history?

What’s great is that fintech has been part of our DNA for a long time at Fifth Third – after all, financial technology is the backbone of all financial-services firms. In the ’70s, we invented the first network ATM system called Jeanie®. That evolved to Midwest Payments that we took public in 2012. You know that company today as Vantiv, which recently was acquired by Worldpay – making them the second-largest card processor in the world. So we’ve been very active in the fintech space for a while.

Now we prioritize mobile-first solutions because we know our consumers are on the go, and we’ve seen fantastic growth in the way people are using the mobile channel. On the mobile front, we’ve had more than a 40 percent increase in log-ins over the last year. That is driven primarily by our execution of more biometric log-in possibilities – using touch ID and now face ID.

Why did Fifth Third decide to create something that helps college grads pay off their college debt faster?

We try to be disciplined at the Bank to make our strategy always start with the customer. A little over a year ago, we began an extensive effort to build a body of research on millennials. Fifth Third surveyed more than 3,000 millennials and interviewed more than 100 young adults in six markets across the globe to understand better what they need in general in life – their hopes and dreams, their challenges and opportunities. We wanted to learn more, not with a solution in mind or a banking product, but to understand this generation better.

We also wanted to bust some myths about this generation. You’ll often hear that they don’t have money and that’s why they are still living with their parents. But what we’re finding is there is a lot of affluence and even first-time home buyers in their ranks. We also hear a lot about how this generation has much more debt than previous generations. But we’re finding this isn’t true. Baby boomers and Generation Xers had debt for their homes – tangible goods – at this age. We’re finding millennials with that same amount of debt, but for their college education, so intangible goods. It’s a different investment.

And we found that it is this type of debt which makes moving forward feel difficult. Student loan debt is now more than $1.3 trillion, with the average college graduate’s debt at $37,000.

Tell us about the Momentum app.

With student-loan debt as one of the biggest burdens that the millennial generation faces, we found that if we could bake a chance to do better in paying that loan debt off into their daily lives, we could get engagement and involvement from them.

So we created Momentum as a stand-alone app. It allows our checking customers to swipe a debit card, round up, and we will directly pay down their student loan. They register their student loan with us, and we directly pay it down. We’ve had more than 40,000 downloads, and we’re on track to help our customers who use Momentum to pay off more than $1 million in student loan debt over a 12-month period. And we’ve made this free.

What makes this an even more innovative solution is that you can sign up for Momentum even if you don’t have a student loan – you can round up to pay toward someone else’s loan such as your niece or nephew’s loan. It’s an easy and effective way you can support education or make a gift to a family member.

What have you heard from customers?

The feedback has been amazing. We’ve had customers who are ahead a month on loan payments and some who have told us they love the fun badges called #Wins that Fifth Third sends them as they sign up, use the app and make payments. We’ve also heard more of what customers want.

We built this as an MVP, or minimally viable product, to get it out there for our customers to start using and to give us feedback. We can use that to build a roadmap of what we want to improve on and add. We’ve heard from some customers who really love the app that they want the option to add more than just a $1, but to add a few bucks when they can. We’ve also heard from customers that it would be great to add this feature to home loans or car loans. We’re only a few months into Momentum, but we think it’s something we’ll explore.

We also heard about something special you did for some of your users.

This is one of my favorite things: Last fall on Giving Tuesday, we wanted to thank a few of our newest Momentum customers for using our app. So we surprised three lucky Momentum users and paid each of them $37,000 that they could use toward their student loans. It was so great to see their surprise and gratitude and how their lives changed the morning we delivered the checks. One woman, a mom of a 2-year-old, said that she and her husband will start a 529 plan for their daughter now with that money that would have had to go to her student loan. It’s really great to see how we can change lives.

From the CBTS blog archive: Read 5 ways that Network as a Service can help the financial sector.

CBTS helps governments use telehealth technology

Businesswoman showing laptop to doctor in hospital Telehealth and telemedicine aren’t new concepts, but emerging technologies and robust networks mean they can be implemented more easily and effectively.

However, there are still challenges to adoption and effective deployment, especially for government-supported initiatives. Key hurdles include budget constraints, siloed IT departments, and organizational structures that traditionally haven’t had to work together. To solve these problems, governments at all levels, in collaboration with community organizations, are turning to their technology partners.

Tim Lonsway, Regional Director at CBTS, works with many state and regional governments to adopt telehealth and telemedicine technologies. Adoption is growing, but there are still growing pains.

What is the state of telehealth today, and what’s driving it compared with a decade ago?

There’s private healthcare, but there are also hooks all over the place with education, higher education, and then, of course, government activity, because governments have hospitals. They do healthcare activities and health services. There are other opportunities such as addiction services and corrections facilities care for individuals, and even out into rural K-12 schools, where it’s hard to get nurses.

There are federal or state requirements that require a certain amount of capabilities to service the constituents of a given community. It’s exemplified by the fact that the federal government is funding certain programs to implement telehealth solutions into those rural areas to provide some additional help, or even in urban deserts where it’s difficult to attract and maintain a workforce.

What are some of the newer technologies that are helping deliver on these mandates?

It can be as simple as a laptop with a camera, a microphone, and an internet connection. But you still need the software and the software packages behind the scenes. You must document changes because ultimately there are compliance rules. Hospitals do a lot of collaboration and sharing of information, and they leverage a lot for training.

It’s really the ability to use, store, and share anything over a distance. You’re taking your entire hospital capabilities and putting them in the palm of your hand with mobile devices, laptops, and tablets.

Are there still technological challenges given the bandwidth available to remote communities, or do we have all the pieces?

The pieces are there. It’s the distribution of the capabilities that is always going to be a challenge, and the consistencies of the deployments. There are other technologies that may suck away bandwidth from those mission-critical life-saving activities. And then it’s the deployment of the individual technologies. Do the applications feed back properly into the various systems? Did you deploy the technology properly so it’s sustainable and supportable?

And you go into some of these smaller areas with these great ideas, like with K-12s, where you’re putting big kinds of multiple video box, all-in-one monitor, speaker, camera, keyboard, into a school, and the technology just sits there. And then, of course, there’s the quality of the individual implementations once you get out to remote and rural areas.

What are the key challenges for governments looking to support telehealth aside from budget constraints?

The biggest challenge is multiple governments or entities or agencies. Better end user services are different than mental health and addictive services, for example. It’s different than youth corrections facilities or adult corrections facilities. You not only have administrators and policy makers at the top, but your technologists within each of those silos. They all have different challenges and they create their own organizations. There’s lots of overlap. But those are starting to consolidate. It’s about the money, but it’s also about the inefficiencies of how the money gets allocated and distributed to deploy technology.

How are governments looking to technology partners like CBTS to solve these challenges?

The trend away from doing individual siloed work has really been going on for about 10 years, and has gotten a lot of traction over the last five or six years. The IT partner comes in and says, “We’ll take those basic infrastructure services off your plate. We’ll worry about compliance and adoption and availability, security vulnerabilities, bandwidth constraints, computing constraints, resource management, all that stuff. You can focus on the business of treating cases or educating students or whatever it is you might be doing.”

That’s really where the partnerships come together. They help governments focus further upstream and break down those silos.

How beneficial are emerging technologies and “as-a-Service” models for deploying them?

In these environments, they may or may not have an enterprise network. Plain internet connections aren’t secure or robust enough to handle the traffic. The ability to leverage software-defined networks to prioritize the traffic and create what looks like an enterprise network meshes it all together and creates the right environment.

Network-as-a-Service or compute-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service, SD-WAN, even wireless LAN-as-a-service enables organizations to basically create line items on their monthly invoice at a consumption level. You can predict it, you can plan for it, you can budget it. Those types of services are tremendous for government. The adoption of partnerships are there and they’re continuing to expand and grow.