Indy’s tech ecosystem is admired, aspired to by St. Louis leaders

Sometimes it takes a view from outside of our own community to remind us just how far we've come — to take a moment and acknowledge the enormity of Indy's tech sector successes over the past few years.

Last week I received a call from a reporter at the St. Louis Dispatch in Missouri. He wanted to learn more about the history and significant growth of the tech sector in Indianapolis. He also wanted to know how we did what we did because a St. Louis investor told him "St. Louis' technology sector can hope to be like Indianapolis when it grows up." That's high praise when other U.S. cities are looking to Indianapolis — not Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas — but looking to Indianapolis as a model for future tech growth.

The article highlights a well-organized community, tech-friendly public policy and sticking with a long-term strategy as factors leading to Indy's present success. “It’s been 12 to 20 years in the making,” says Mike Langellier, CEO of TechPoint. “Just like a tree, you have to build out the root system and then it flowers into something more grand and significant. That flowering has been happening in the last five or so years.”
  

Click on the image above to view "a work in progress" version of Indy's tech sector root system.

Local tech insiders Doug Rammel and Keith Sims took a swing at documenting the Indy tech sector root system a little more than a year ago. Keith says the root system map needs work (it hasn't been updated in over a year, at least), but it is a good starting point that visually tells the story of the original software firms and other tech companies that developed extraordinary talent and created tremendous wealth that was reinvested in the Indianapolis community. EDITOR'S NOTE: Interested in picking up where Keith left off and helping TechPoint research and update the tech sector root system map? Let us know.

There is also a great article from 2011 by Chris O'Malley from the Indianapolis Business Journal that chronicles "Tech's Big Bang" 17 years ago when IBM acquired Software Artistry, and the events — both serendipitous and strategic — that followed.

Here is an excert from the St. Louis Dispatch article:

St. Louis' tech sector can hope to be like Indianapolis when it grows up

St. Louis’ dozens of young technology firms remain long on promise but short on tangible measures of success. Still, a city has to have dreams, and part of St. Louis’ civic vision is that those young firms will mature into dynamic creators of wealth and jobs. With luck, maybe such a payoff is only a couple of years away.

What might that success look like? Forget any overhyped talk about becoming the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. We’re not likely to replicate Austin, Texas, either.

Realistically, Brian Matthews thinks, St. Louis’ technology sector can hope to be like Indianapolis when it grows up.

Indy doesn't often get mentioned as a technology hub, but its software firms have become leaders in the specialized field of sales-force automation. They've become major employers, and a few have been sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.

“What Indy looks like is multiple exits with a lot of people making a lot of money and redeploying that money back into the economy by starting a lot more companies,” says Matthews, a founding partner of Cultivation Capital in St. Louis.

Cultivation recently made its first investment in Indianapolis, in a software company called SalesVue. The Indiana capital may not have more people investing in startup companies than St. Louis, Matthews said, but its investors are definitely writing bigger checks.  CONTINUE READING

What's your reaction to cities like St. Louis looking at Indianapolis as a model for their own future tech sector growth? Can what happened here be replicated elsewhere or is Indy's success unique to our geography and talent? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joshua Hall is editor of techpoint.org. He writes about Indiana tech companies, jobs, people & events. @joshua2349