The Techstars accelerator program has arrived in Indianapolis in a big way with the announcements of two newly created accelerators. Companies from the U.S. and abroad will soon relocate to Indy and take part in the program, forming new partnerships and unlocking new knowledge from the Indy tech ecosystem. As these companies begin immersing themselves in Indy, the city will also be making a strong case for keeping these companies here, leveraging networks, entrepreneurs and a community eager to grow.
Techstars brings record of success to Indy
Based in Boulder, Colo., Techstars is a mentorship-driven accelerator program, targeting early-stage ventures the organization can scale up. These ventures are brought into one of 46 accelerator locations around the world–some focused on specific tech subsets like sports tech–and gain access to capital and mentorship through an expansive network of entrepreneurs. Since 2006, Techstars alumni have found success in the marketplace after participation, with the full portfolio of about 1,400 companies sporting a $16 billion market cap.
The latest entrant to their accelerator ecosystem is the Techstars SportsTech Accelerator Powered by Indy. This program focuses on companies producing sports tech innovation in fields like fan participation, ticketing, merchandising, and athlete performance management. The three-year commitment by Techstars will see 10 companies a year relocate to Indianapolis for a three month program. Applications will open in December 2018, inviting companies both in and outside of Indiana to apply, and the first class will begin in May 2019. “Indiana’s emerging tech industry and our great sports reputation have combined to attract this terrific opportunity for sports entrepreneurs,” Gov. Eric J. Holcomb said in a media release. “I’m proud that we are putting the Next Level Fund to use in such an innovative way.”
While we are unable to confirm the number of dollars invested on behalf of the Next Level Fund into Techstars, the fund is serving as a founding partner, joining other prominent founding partners Indiana Sports Corp, NCAA and Pacers Sports & Entertainment in addition to supporting partners the Indianapolis Colts, Verizon IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. These partners, representatives of various sports tech needs, exemplify the type of community that Techstars seeks.
“Techstars believes that entrepreneurs can build good businesses and create jobs anywhere,” said Amy Smith, VP of Corporate Engagement at Techstars. “You don’t need to live on a coast to build great businesses, and we are really excited to partner with Indy because you have all the ingredients: access to capital, a great community and lots of really engaged corporations.”
This is the second Techstars accelerator joining Indy in as many weeks, as the Heritage Group has partnered with the organization to focus on material sciences and infrastructure startups. The Heritage Group, which also recently announced their $50 million per year HG Ventures VC arm, will house the companies participating in the Heritage Group Accelerator in The Center, their innovation hub. A carefully nurtured tech ecosystem and entrepreneurial community were important in realizing this opportunity with Techstars. “We view the ecosystem of the Indianapolis community, the entrepreneurial folks who have shown great success and support, our governor — there are many elements in Indianapolis right now that make this the right time to launch this new initiative,” said the Heritage Group president Amy Schumacher on Inside INdiana Business.
Other Indiana-based organizations are also moving into the Techstars sphere of influence. Fishers-based BLASTmedia was recently named a partner with Techstars Chicago, wherein BLASTmedia will contribute their expertise, bringing their national perspective and Indiana roots to early-stage companies breaking into the public relations space. Techstars will also be hosting a Startup Weekend on Ball State University’s campus this October, which is an idea development and pitching workshop. By deepening its roots within the Indy community, Techstars is displaying the value they see in an Indy investment; the present and future of the city are too bright to ignore.
Indy’s unique ecosystem will help companies stay
While the benefits for Techstars are clear, what does all this mean for the participating companies that will soon relocate to Indy? A question swirling around these new accelerators is what it takes to keep these relocating businesses here in Indy. Indiana Sports Corp president Ryan Vaughn said in The Indy Star that history shows that Indy has a great chance of keeping these kinds of new businesses, and that the networks these Techstars companies gain in Indy will prove invaluable in their future growth.
Indeed, that seems to be the case. In an informal data review published in 2014, Techstars examined their database of participating companies and self-reported that 62 percent of companies who completed a Techstars program remained in their host city. What may not be included are other opportunities companies use to engage with their hosts, such as setting up a second office or hosting a convention–a specialty of Indianapolis. Companies can also engage with their mentors and continue sharing knowledge once the program ends, all of which Indy is ready to facilitate for incoming companies.
But what will it take to keep these companies’ headquarters here? On Inside INdiana Business, Gerry Dick talked with Scott Dorsey about this point concerning the SportsTech Accelerator. “I believe it’s very promising, and what we’ll do in Indy is roll out the red carpet for an incredible experience for these entrepreneurs, through meeting all these mentors and getting them plugged into the sports and tech ecosystem, and connecting them to the phenomenal universities throughout the state,” said Scott, who played an instrumental role in bringing Techstars to Indy. “I’m pretty optimistic companies will stay and build hopefully big companies in the future.”
Truly, Indy does have all the requirements that Techstars is seeking: access to capital, an engaged community and strong corporate and government partnerships. Those who immerse themselves in Indy tech often quickly develop networks and find reasons to stay here, as participants in our Xtern program have seen. During Xtern, rising college juniors and seniors spend three months–much like Techstars companies will–working for a local tech firm and engaging with mentors and experienced talent. During this time, a vast majority of students discover Indy’s presence as a tech hub and social outlet and find a firmer interest in staying here post-graduation.
Does this mean that companies will 100 percent engage in the Indy tech ecosystem after their time in Techstars? No, but at the bare minimum, they’ll complete their program with new networks, fresh knowledge, and an experience in a city that’s been shown to change the minds of those who spend time here. That’s quite the return for their investment.
Discover more about the tech community in Indy and throughout the state.