April 29th, 2019

Velocities’ Board Aims for an Entrepreneurial Boom in South Central Indiana

In South Central Indiana, a group of committed, passionate people are the driving force behind Velocities. In December 2018, Elevate Ventures, along with Dimension Mill in Bloomington and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, announced the creation of Velocities, a partnership totaling up to $2.5 million in investment that will fuel entrepreneurship and innovation across South Central Indiana.

A seven-member board of directors stepped up to drive the initiative. Here, five of these leaders share why they are part of Velocities and what their visions are for the region.

 

What does the Velocities partnership mean to you as a leader in South Central Indiana?

Jane Martin, Retired Venture Capitalist: I’m excited about the crossover potential from two very different economies — Bloomington and Columbus. The former is rich in med tech, software, data analytics, cybersecurity, clean tech. Columbus is rich in advanced manufacturing, voice and machine artificial intelligence, analytics and process control. New enterprises at the boundary of these IP clusters will blossom, and existing enterprises in each locale will be enhanced by the cross-pollination effects.

“That we’re one of six regional partnerships signals to the rest of the state that Bloomington and Columbus are emerging startup centers.”

Pat East, Executive Director of Dimension Mill and CEO of Hanapin Marketing: It means so many things: that we have a partnership with a great city like Columbus, where we have differing IP clusters, a wealth of worldwide talent from Cummins and Cook, and supportive governments that allow entrepreneurs to lead; that we have financial support from Elevate Ventures, a huge driver of capital and investment throughout the state. That we’re one of six regional partnerships signals to the rest of the state that Bloomington and Columbus are emerging startup centers.

Cindy Frey, President of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce: The Velocities partnership created an opportunity for us to work across the region, beginning the painstaking work of creating a more innovative, entrepreneurial culture. The partnership marks a new beginning with two very different, but resource-rich communities, building on their assets to launch and scale high-potential companies. In Columbus, our greatest successes are the result of collaboration among willing partners who recognize they have greater impact working together. Likewise, when multiple communities have the same vision, they can have a greater impact working together than working in isolation.

 

What impact do you anticipate the Velocities partnership will have on entrepreneurism and innovation in South Central Indiana?
“Velocities will enable innovators to connect with each other and with the needed investment to take them forward to success.”

Lynn Coyne, President of Bloomington Economic Development Corporation: Velocities will enable innovators to connect with each other and with the needed investment to take them forward to success. When that happens, employment in our region will increase, and our communities will benefit.

J. Martin: In a full-employment economy, we have to grow through companies made up of two to five people who are building clean, high-paying, innovation jobs with benefits that will diversify our local employment picture, and provide employment for the critical 18-34 age group.

Dave Glass, CEO of LHP Engineering Solutions: There are smart people with great ideas in both communities who may need a slight nudge to get over any hurdles that may be holding them back from going after their dream of being an entrepreneur and business owner.

P. East: The impact will be pronounced because of the total support at multiple levels. There are few matching programs as emphatic as Elevate’s, where every 1 dollar raised turns into 2.5 dollars. This allows to hire an EIR [Entrepreneur-in-Residence] to teach our community how to build companies and gives us access to an ideation fund to validate ideas. Plus, there’s reserved capital for early-stage companies.

 

What are your predictions for the state of innovation in South Central Indiana?
“The possibilities are expanded because of the broadened network.”

C. Frey: Innovation occurs when a new idea, product or service is commercialized to create value. Columbus and Bloomington are two of the state’s most innovative communities in Indiana. Together, we can offer more to our innovative, entrepreneurial residents in terms of financial investment, coaching and other kinds of support. Imagine an IU professor working with big data who needs to test an idea in a manufacturing setting like Cummins or Toyota. Imagine a mechanical engineer who has an idea for a medical device, connecting with the subject-matter experts at Cook. The possibilities are expanded because of the broadened network.

D. Glass: Once we get a few people to jump out of their comfort zone and try something new and daring by starting a business, and more people demonstrate success, it will be easier to build momentum for entrepreneurs in each community.

L. Coyne: Innovation in South Central Indiana has been strong, and the Velocities initiative will enable it to realize its potential for strong economic growth.

 

What are your personal hopes for the future of South Central Indiana when thinking about innovators in the area?

D. Glass: My hope is that we can motivate innovators to turn great ideas into sustainable businesses that can grow, prosper, create jobs and have an economic impact to the South Central for years to come.

“This regional partnership will help companies grow faster and with less bruising than I did.”

P. East: I hope that our founders see and feel the support that’s available. When I founded my company, I often had to drive to Indianapolis multiple days a week – and sometimes on the north side for a 6 a.m. meeting – to get access to the resources, mentors, and clients that are available now. This regional partnership will help companies grow faster and with less bruising than I did.

C. Frey: Cummins, our city’s largest employer, was once a startup. One hundred years ago, an inventor named Clessie Cummins gained the support of an investor named William G. Irwin. When a great idea finds funding and support to help scale the company, exciting things can happen. I hope we create dozens, if not hundreds, of companies that have the potential to grow, create jobs and wealth, and, in the process, diversify and enrich our local economies.

L. Coyne: Personally, I am enthusiastic about the prospect of our innovators being able to stay in our communities and support their ideas with local resources.

 

What resources would you recommend for entrepreneurs?

L. Coyne: I would recommend that entrepreneurs connect with their cowork and innovation centers to engage with other entrepreneurs and learn about all of the resources available to help them succeed.

“Don’t be shy about reaching out to someone who might be able to help you.”

C. Frey: Don’t be shy about reaching out to someone who might be able to help you. My experience is that successful entrepreneurs in every community are delighted to spend an hour counseling someone with an exciting new idea. Also, be creative about finding potential customers. One entrepreneur mines LinkedIn, identifies the decision-makers, determines the company’s email configuration and boldly cold-calling them.

D. Glass: The primary resources I have used are reading lots of great business books like Good to Great, Get a Grip, Drive, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions and Crushing It. I have also sought out other business leaders who have accomplished what I have been trying to do and consult with them to learn as the business grows. A great place to find those people are at the Columbus Chamber and Fish Tank as well as Bloomington’s Dimension Mill and, of course, at IU’s Kelly Business School.

J. Martin: A soon-to-be hired EIR will help entrepreneurs groom and grow their businesses, and they can access Elevate’s templates for business plans, PowerPoint presentations and executive summaries. Conferences and events focused on innovation companies.

 

Rick Johnson, Jr., President and CEO of Johnson Ventures Inc., and Chris LaMothe, CEO of Elevate Ventures, also serve on the Velocities board of directors. To learn more, visit velocitiesin.com.

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