We Hoosiers are polite and hospitable. It’s something we can be proud of that generates $5.2 billion in tourism and convention business and drives 80,000+ jobs, many of which are right here in Indianapolis. But somewhere along the way we took our profitable congeniality trait to include timidity and risk aversion—qualities that are not required to call oneself polite or hospitable, but have nonetheless weighed down our startup culture for too long.
On July 16, when High Alpha announced it had raised more than $100 million to fund new enterprise software startups in Indianapolis and the Midwest, one word kept flashing in front of me: BOLD.
Doing something for the first time is bold. Doing something unexpected is bold. Doing something no one else can do is bold. And doing all of these things at once with a single announcement is boldly unprecedented. There’s nothing timid about it and there’s certainly a great deal of risk involved, but it doesn’t make High Alpha’s four founders any less polite and hospitable than I know them to be.
To be fair, High Alpha isn’t the end-all, be-all of boldness. They don’t have the market cornered and there is plenty of opportunity for the entrepreneurs and business leaders of Indianapolis to demonstrate how bold they too can be. In fact, this idea of writing about being bold is something that has been building interview by interview these past few months.
Bold moves and statements are there in my interviews with visionaries like Josh Owens of SupplyKick, Stephanie Cox of Lumavate, Jason Beutler of EduSource, Angie and Randy Stocklin of One Click, and David DeRam of Greenlight Guru. Each is pursuing something big that’s never been done before and that arguably few others (or no one else) could do from the unexpected locations we share—Indianapolis, Central Indiana and the Midwest.
It’s not just the private sector either. Our city and state governments have made some bold moves lately. You can see it in the $250 million Next Level Indiana Fund of funds that is already investing in higher-risk asset classes like venture capital, and in the collaborative public-private effort to convince Amazon that Indiana is the best choice for their HQ2 project.
I think what strikes me as different about the High Alpha announcement is not just that it’s the largest fund of its kind in Indiana, and one of the largest in the Midwest, or even that it’s tripling down on their original investment that helped launch 11 businesses in three years. No, what I find bold about the $85 million High Alpha Capital II fund and the $16.5 million High Alpha Studio II is that they don’t doubt their continued success, and they have about 75 individuals and venture capital sources nationwide willing to bet on them as well.
Most notably, San Francisco-based Emergence Capital and Boulder, Colo.-based Foundry Group invested in High Alpha Studio II. Emergence Capital Founder and General Partner Gordon Ritter and Foundry Group Partner Brad Feld have both joined High Alpha’s six-person board with co-founders Kristian Andersen, Scott Dorsey, Mike Fitzgerald and Eric Tobias.
It’s hard to argue with a track record that includes this year’s “Best of Tech” Investor of the Year Mira Award and the $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget by Salesforce, but it’s more than that. It’s the potential in High Alpha portfolio companies Doxly, Lessonly, Sigstr and Zylo, as well as the already acquired ClearScholar (Civitas Learning) and Octiv (Conga). There’s also a lot of interest in what High Alpha is doing with tech leader Robin Fleming and a yet-to-be-named manufacturing giant. A High Alpha spokesman confirmed that the venture studio will be aggressively pursuing more opportunities to partner with established industry leaders to solve big problems with software.
So what does all of this mean and why is being bold something that matters?
First and foremost, it’s important to point out that what High Alpha has done is so much more than raising money. What they have achieved is a vote of confidence in themselves, of course, but it’s bigger than that. It’s a vote of confidence in the Midwest—and specifically in Indianapolis and Indiana—that some of the most valuable players in tech believe our community has the talent and resources to be home to the next big thing.
“The talent and community here in Indianapolis are also critical differentiators to what has made Indianapolis so successful,” said Blake Koriath, CFO at High Alpha. “Talent is always one of the most important investments for any young startup, and our talent pool in Indianapolis is only growing. In addition to all of the world-class universities and colleges in and around Indiana, we are seeing more and more people who have gone elsewhere early in their career and gained important experience returning to Indy with those skills because they want to raise a family here. There’s also a real sense of community in the tech ecosystem in Indianapolis. We all want to see each other succeed and are supportive of one another.”
And whether connected to High Alpha or completely independent of the high-profile venture studio and fund, there is great benefit to the entire community of having 75 venture funding sources, some of them brand new, with a personal stake in our future success. In part, because of the boldness of the people at High Alpha, more venture capital than ever before is readily available and more venture capital sources have their eyes on Indianapolis and the Midwest.
“One major evolution we’ve seen over the past four years has been the increased attention Indianapolis is getting from investors outside the Midwest,” Koriath said. “Investors from all over the US are becoming increasingly interested in startups in the Midwest and Indianapolis. I’m getting calls or emails on a weekly basis from funds outside Indy who want to learn more about what’s going on in Indianapolis tech, get connected to the right people, and come visit to see it for themselves. Both investors and founders are looking at the Midwest and Indianapolis as a place to invest, found companies, or grow successful businesses because of the lower cost of living and capital efficiency here in Indy. We believe this will only continue and will be a major driver for future growth in Midwest funding.”
Discover more about Mira Award-winning High Alpha.