Tech startup Forcura is growing fast, boosted by a thriving healthcare ecosystem in Jacksonville, Florida.
Since 2012, healthcare technology company Forcura has been improving outcomes for patients across the country. Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the company’s innovative care coordination platform helps to streamline documentation, workflows, and communications for more than 700 healthcare providers across 7,000 locations.
Like many groundbreaking companies, Forcura has seen meteoric growth in just its first ten years of business. With an ever-increasing number of employees and growing revenue to match, the company knew it needed a new headquarters that reflected its strong culture and an ambitious vision for the future. Any number of design choices went into the nearly 21,000 square feet of space the company opened in 2021—from the layout of huddle offices to a kitchen designed to encourage collaboration.
Deciding where to build their new offices, however, proved to be an easy choice for Forcura.
“We have employees all over the country, but it’s really important to have a hub and an identity in a region of the country and in a city,” says Annie Erstling, chief strategy officer at Forcura. “Jacksonville is the right place.”
A HUB FOR NEW IDEAS
Fundamental to that formulation, she says, is Jacksonville’s rising status as a national center for healthcare in the United States. In a metro area of nearly 2 million, 1 in 6 jobs is in the healthcare industry, with a skilled workforce of nearly 100,000 people, according to the JaxUSA Partnership.
“There are large national provider organizations and big insurance payers headquartered in Jacksonville,” she says. “Then you’ve got several big tech and smaller tech companies in the area, along with biotech firms and technology companies like Forcura. It’s a very positive, incentive-driven environment motivating businesses to come here.”
That existing life-sciences network was a critical factor for Forcura founder and chief executive officer Craig Mandeville when he chose to launch the company in Jacksonville in 2012. “It was a perfect area to do it,” he says. Even in those early days, he notes, rather than viewing tech startups like Forcura as a threat, those established companies recognized his company’s value, becoming customers and partners.
“The big healthcare institutions have understood that small, early-stage entrepreneurship is the way to build upon an ecosystem in a city like Jacksonville. We’re helping them stay nimble and entrepreneurial in terms of the functionality that we’re bringing to the table,” he says. “Meanwhile, they’ve helped us drive process and build expertise as we scale and grow.”
It’s a collaborative dynamic Mandeville believes is enhanced by strong cooperation from state and city officials, who work in partnership with companies like Forcura, seeking to establish more permanent roots in the community. “We knew our company was taking off, and we wanted to have some level of partnership with the city of Jacksonville and the state,” Mandeville says. “We were able to go through a process where we received tax credits for agreeing to hire a number of employees year over year for the next five years. We’ve already done it in two, which we’re really proud of.”
CITY AS A CULTURE
For successful startups like Forcura, access to a business-friendly climate is only part of the equation. Growth requires talent, and the company has found the talent pipeline in Jacksonville to be consistently strong. Nearly 200,000 students attend the 28 colleges within 100 miles of the city. According to Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership of businesses and government leaders in the state, there are more than 80,000 students enrolled statewide in programs centered around biological and biomedical sciences and computer information sciences and support services. Forcura has developed important relationships with local schools, opening employment avenues to promising young people.
“Ten years ago, we were seeing all of those students leaving. They were going to Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Nashville, and Austin. Today, our pipeline into the major universities has helped us find really, really good young talent,” Mandeville says. “We’ve had a 90% hire rate on our interns.”
The appeal of Jacksonville itself has become a selling point for Forcura. “A lot of our employees who are recent graduates like the city because of the quality of life,” Erstling says. “It’s an area with a great work ethic, but so many ways to have fun, especially outdoors. It’s a city going through a transformation. If you work hard and have a vision, you can make it happen here.”
Mandeville points to the rise of angel investment groups targeting Northeast Florida, the boom in construction and the revival of Jacksonville’s historic districts as signs that the city is transforming in the best way possible.
“So many smart and innovative people are moving to Jacksonville, and that’s only accelerating our mission and vision,” Mandeville says. “Jacksonville is about connecting innovators and entrepreneurs with mentors and investors. We’re connecting those dots, and that’s where the momentum starts taking off. And it’s all happening right now.”