In Focus: The Road to High Tech Success in Appalachia

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Technology and Appalachia are two words people usually don’t put together.  But technology companies in southeast Ohio are finding success despite the obstacles that go with the region. The future is looking bright for new high tech companies with strong support from within the region. The technology created by these locally-based companies could potentially change the world.

Flare Code

One of these companies that could make a big impact in the digital world is Flare Code. Flare Code uses Q-R bar codes as the basis for the technology. The codes can be scanned with smart phones, to access extensive online content for organizations that work with Flare Code.

The company was founded in 2010 by five Ohio University students. They were inspired by an issue of Esquire Magazine, which used a similar technology they have been working with. However, they felt that they could improve upon their idea.

“We started thinking there should be a way for anyone to use this kind of thing and strip all the novelty away from it,” says Nikolas Salontay, Co-Founder of Flare Code.

The company has grown immensely in the last two years. It has collaborated with the Ohio University student newspaper, The Post, and WOUB Television. Their codes are visible throughout the campus of Ohio University.

“We've seen some organic growth. People are starting to recognize what Flare Code is and what we can do,” says Salontay.

Recently, Flare Code was given $265,000 by TechGrowth Ohio. TechGrowth Ohio is a partnership of state and private resources. It provides assistance for start-up companies like Flare Code. It makes investments for all 19 counties in the Appalachian region.

The director of TechGrowth Ohio says the partnership was impressed by Flare Code. “Flare Code was an investable company. They were highly risky but they had a grand idea. If Flare Code succeeds and brings its idea the market it will be a disruptive technology that will change the way the internet functions in daily life,” says John Glazer, Director of TechGrowth Ohio.

Flare Code is launching its product to world this year. The creators believe that their product can make a big impact in the world.

“I passionately believe that augmented reality has huge potential. Every year the bridge between the real world and digital world is shrinking and I think it's going to shrink completely in the next decade,” says Salontay.

The Early Struggles of Diagnostic Hybrids

Another company that is now nearly 30 years down the road to success in the Appalachian region is Diagnostic Hybrids (DHI). The bio-med company started in Athens in 1983 and struggled early on.

“It was a time when we expected to be so much, to so many, faster and it took a long time. It took longer than anybody else would have expected,” says Dave Scholl former President and CEO of Diagnostic Hybrids

After grueling, tough times, DHI eventually found success.  In 2010, the company was acquired by Quidel Corporation and is now a public company.  DHI has helped put the Appalachian region on the bio-med technology map.

“I would say the company Athens region and the Southeast Ohio region in general is not perfect, but it's making tremendous progress because of companies like Diagnostic Hybrids are succeeding in the market place,” says Scholl.

Much like Flare Code, Diagnostic Hybrids started with just handful number of employees. Dave Scholl offers his advice to companies like Flare Code that are trying to succeed.

“If you are not passionate about it and truly believe in what you are doing and that you can have an impact, an internationally worldwide impact, you can’t loose the enthusiasm. There will be more people that will say you’ll fail, than people that will sit there and pat you on the back and say you’ll win,” says Scholl.

Finding New Companies

The Innovation Center on Ohio University’s campus houses start-up technology companies. It is home to Flare Code. The Innovation Center has grown in the last few years. It had only three companies three years ago, but now has 25.

The Innovation Center is trying to find companies that can make a difference. “We want to know that there is growth potential for the company that we are going to see jobs created as a result. And also that we'll see wealth creation that ends up causing more and more business getting started,” says Jennifer Simon, Director of the Innovation Center.