This article was originally posted and written by, Jonathon Rose, Denver Business Journal
Collaboration is in Colorado’s DNA, Jake Rishavy likes to say.
Rishavy, 39, is vice president of innovation for the Denver South Economic Development Partnership. He’s built a career connecting health startups to big-name hospitals, insurers and foundations through Prime Health.
It’s not a contradiction, Rishavy says, that cooperation remains a driving force in a state settled by fiercely independent Americans.
“If you look at what was going on 150 years ago here, people were coming out here with that same pioneer spirit,” said Rishavy. “And in order to survive in that environment you had to be able to rely on community and work together. It’s logical that that same ethos or philosophy would apply today.”
Rishavy is leveraging that pioneering attitude in the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance — a public-private-academic partnership with 12 cities in the state. The University of Colorado, Arrow Electronics and the Colorado Technology Association will all be involved in the collaborative platform that aims to share best practices among the cities as they tackle transportation, affordable housing, energy conservation and public health. He says that, to the best of his knowledge, it’s the first partnership of its kind in the nation.
Business leaders in Colorado are eager to collaborate, said Rishavy, but don’t have the time or means to build the necessary infrastructure. His economic development work allows him to see larger patterns and design custom-suited programs.
“It must be someone’s day job,” Rishavy said. “I’m extremely blessed that it’s my day job to do just that.”
After moving to Denver from Minnesota in 2001 and running his own successful company, Rishavy felt the desire to do something more civic-minded. He asked himself how he could apply his entrepreneurial and communications experience to something that would benefit the community as a whole.
“That really led me to economic development,” Rishavy said. “For me that’s the perfect blend of those two passions.”
CAREER & WORKPLACE
After a stint at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, he met Denver South EDP president and CEO Mike Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald wanted to focus on entrepreneurship, but wasn’t sure of the best approach. Together they drafted the details of a new position that would look at best practices in supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in the community.
As Rishavy tells it, he had only been at Denver South EDP for two or three days when Fitzgerald stopped by his desk and dropped off a 200-page in-house study of the health care industry.
“Basically, Mike said to me, ‘Hey we’ve done this great piece of research work…We know there’s an entrepreneurial bent to this…Try to find a way that our organization can utilize this information to benefit the business community here,’” said Rishavy. “And that kicked off this really amazing experience in forming this group Prime Health.”
Prime Health’s annual Digital Health Challenge is now in its fourth year, and will culminate with a “Shark Tank” style competition on Oct. 19 in which six innovative health startups will pitch in front of nearly 1,000 people, including big health care system payers and providers. Competitors include Boulder-based Hippo Health, which promises a new approach to on-demand healthcare, and New York’s Yosi, a cloud-based platform that aims to do away with paper patient registration and check-in. The winners will share a portion of $150,000 to fund their pilot programs.
Whether it’s disrupting health care through Prime Health or reexamining transportation and housing through the Smart Cities Alliance, Rishavy’s cooperative vision is fostering change in the state.
“We basically tried to leverage that collaborative DNA that exists in Colorado,” said Rishavy. “And apply it to try and solve some of these big, complex systemic challenges.”
Title: Vice President of Innovation
Company: Denver South Economic Development Partnership
Location: Douglas County
Industry: Economic Development
Education: Mass Communications, Journalism, 2001, St. Cloud State University
Favorite thing to do outside of work: Fly fishing. Both my wife and I worked as river guides around the time we met, but with a 20-month-old girl we don’t fish as much as we used to!