Entrepreneur and former political operative focuses on ‘Recovery Deserts’ amid opioid crisis

To some extent, people have been watching David All for more than a dozen years.

After growing up in Upper Arlington and getting his undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University, All ditched his early dream of becoming a prosecutor and got a job at the Statehouse. His political career took off almost immediately.

“I'm 22, up in Ravenna running a congressional campaign,” All said in a recent interview. “All of my colleagues are running state rep races and City Council races, and I'm running a serious congressional race.”

All's candidate, former State Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin, lost to Democrat Tim Ryan, but All had established himself as a golden boy in the Republican party, impressing politicians and lobbyists with his communications acumen and media savvy. Soon he was in D.C. writing speeches for Sen. George Voinovich.

All pioneered the use of blogging and social media in political campaigns, and in 2007 he founded the David All Group, which focused on the intersection of technology and politics. Clients like Newt Gingrich, Marco Rubio and the Heritage Foundation came calling. He opened an office in San Francisco.

All has a firm grasp of his story — so much so, in fact, that he created a line graph of his life with “Leadership Development” on the Y axis and his age on the X axis. All plotted various points in his life, and the white line connecting the dots peaks a little after age 30, but then a red line charts a massive descent under the heading “Crucible.”

“These articles had come out calling me Karl Rove 2.0 and the most evil person on the internet,” he said. “A lot of that stuff started to pile up on me.”

The downward spiral also sprouted from a disagreement over whether the David All Group should work with Syngenta, a Swiss biotech company that produces agricultural herbicides. “I told my business partner there's no way in hell we're ever gonna work with Syngenta,” All said. “We had a partner dispute over it, and eventually it led to the demise of the company. My whole team abandoned me. All my vendors abandoned me. That was the beginning of the darkest moment of my life.”

Around the same time, an app All had launched, Crumbly, also tanked. Then doctors diagnosed him with bipolar disorder. He moved to Chicago briefly to start a company, but that one failed, too. All returned to Columbus defeated and confused.

It's this next phase of All's life and career — the post-crucible section on the graph — that is worth watching. After getting back on his feet doing marketing for CoverMyMeds, All won first place at a Startup Weekend held in Columbus. “That was the first good thing that had happened,” All said.

He then founded Civic Hacks “to create brands that do good things in the world,” All said. The most popular outcome of Civic Hacks was an event called Startup Storytellers, which brings together entrepreneurs and city leaders to tell their stories. All also recently launched OneNineNinety, a communications consultancy, as well as a health-care company, WellHQ, which last year worked with the Neighborhood House, a former social-services center in the King-Lincoln District.

In working with the Neighborhood House, All noticed how difficult it was for people in certain areas to get treatment for opioid addiction, so he reached out to Ohio State's department of geography to help create detailed maps that reveal “Recovery Deserts” within Central Ohio.

“You immediately notice that almost all of the infrastructure is clustered in the center of the county Downtown,” All said. “We showed those maps to the folks at the [Opiate Crisis Summit] that the coroner put on, and it was a light bulb going off. Location was something that no one was paying attention to. ... If we're thinking about the end user, then we should be thinking about access and focusing on location. I think it leads to something like a sober Uber.”

Out of the numerous political campaigns and speeches and startups in his career, All is most excited about the Recovery Deserts project. “I think this could be my greatest gift to the world,” he said.