After finance stints in New York City, London and San Francisco, Todd Schwarzinger has come back to Copley, Ohio.
The draw, he likes to say, is dog food.
After a few years of San Francisco’s sky-high cost of living, he and his wife, Stephanie, had been considering a move; the one hurdle was that her job managing a dog food brand had made her happier than any position she’d ever had.
About a week following one of those conversations, though, Stephanie’s company decided to consolidate some of its operations—including hers—and put them in its corporate headquarters. All of a sudden, the obstacle to relocation had become a welcome catalyst: Her company was Smucker’s, and its home is Orville—just a half hour’s drive south of Todd’s hometown.
“We now live like five minutes from my high school,” Schwarzinger said. “It’s crazy.”
But while Schwarzinger can occasionally feel like he’s attending a high school reunion when running errands at local stores, his professional focus remains informed by investment work with Morgan Stanley in London and New York—and then with early-stage health care startups in Silicon Valley.
“I started to realize that I had a passion for early-stage startups and helping the ecosystem around entrepreneurship and fostering innovation,” he said of the shift in emphasis during his time in the Bay area.
Named the interim executive director of the university’s Veale Institute for Entrepreneurship, Schwarzinger is applying some of those lessons here.
“Ideas are critical,” he explains. “I’ve already started to meet and identify some folks who are honestly world class in what they’re doing.”
While Schwarzinger brings fresh perspective regarding innovation across the university, he also benefits from collaboration with two academic colleagues with their own entrepreneurship experiences and expertise. Michael Goldberg, an associate professor of design and innovation at the Weatherhead School of Management, is serving as interim faculty advisor for entrepreneurship support programs; Scott Shane, the A. Malachi Mixon Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies and a professor of economics, is serving as interim faculty advisor for external entrepreneurship.
“I’ve been impressed with the people that I’ve met here: driven, excited to tackle big problems,” Schwarzinger said. “There’s tons of opportunity here if we can continue to grow around what we’re already doing.”
Get to know Schwarzinger better in this week’s five questions.
1. What’s next on your reading list?
I try to read every day to keep up with what’s going on. But in terms of books, I’ve got a couple here. One is Deep Learning for the Life Sciences and basically, that’s a book around machine learning and artificial intelligence and the support of the health care space. It’s written by an investor who’s been really active in the space and it’s sort of a primer on how we can leverage those new innovative technologies in addressing big problems in health care.
Then, somebody gave me Beyond the Fence, which is the Case Western Reserve history. The rich history here is pretty amazing. There have been some tremendous innovations historically here and as a result, we have some amazingly successful alumni out there as well, so I think there’s an opportunity to tap into some of that heritage and leverage that.
2. Do you consider yourself an early bird or a night owl?
I like to be at my desk by 7 [a.m.] most days because nobody can bother me for the first hour or so, which is nice. So probably an early bird.
3. What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I climbed the highest peak in Europe. That’s one thing I was proud of. Mount Elbrus in Russia. That was a mental and physical challenge.
4. What do you think is the most beautiful spot in Cleveland?
I think what we’ve got here with Wade Lagoon near the art museum is pretty awesome. That’s gorgeous. My wife, who had never really been to Cleveland before, was like “Wow, this is pretty amazing.”
And then there are some views on the lake that are pretty cool, too. There’s some beautiful stuff here.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
So far, again, it’s the people. That, to me, has been the driver for my career for the most part: who I try to surround myself with. And I just think the people here have been awesome.