Charu Ramanathan, 43
Charu Ramanathan knows the electrocardiogram ups and downs of entrepreneurship in Cleveland. As a Case Western Reserve University graduate student, she helped develop technology that creates a 3-D map of the heart. After raising more than $33 million in venture funding, Ramanathan sold CardioInsight to medical device giant Medtronic in 2015 for $93 million. Considered a pioneer in the burgeoning biotechnology field, Ramanathan serves as Medtronic’s business unit leader in cardiac mapping.
In the middle part of my Ph.D. at Case Western, I really started to feel that the technology had a lot of potential — that it could evolve into a clinical tool.
But follow-up funding was challenging. Things have changed, but at the time we faced a real conservative funding situation here. We pitched investors in the Menlo Park, [California], region and the Boston region. Although a lot of people expressed interest in the technology, they didn’t want to invest in companies that were not in their backyard. Meanwhile, in Cleveland the local funds were not giving us any specific attention because we were based here. It was frustrating.
But I never felt like things were going to fall apart. The acquisition by Medtronic was truly a validation of our vision. [Today] we have a Medtronic facility in Independence. I hope it puts Cleveland on the map.
These days, I speak at a lot of conferences. Always, from the podium, I share that I am a mother. I don’t want people to feel like they have to choose between having a career and having a family.
Talent and capital are still open questions in Cleveland. There’s a lot of early stage support to get you out of the starting gate. But for sustained capital — does Cleveland have what it takes? I just don’t know. We’re still talking about this region as having a people problem. We think: Hey we need critical mass.
But if you look at Silicon Valley, people are not staying at a company for more than 22 months. Gone are the days you work 25 years in one job. Let’s accept the fact that entrepreneurial types are not going to last for more than two years in a company. Why don’t we structure a package for high-performing potential talent to come in and contribute to our region for two years, and accept that they will move on after that? — as told to Rebecca Meiser