13 tech leaders answer ‘why you should move to or expand in Indiana’
TechPoint, Indiana’s nonprofit tech accelerator, asked 13 Hoosier tech leaders one question: “Why should a startup or scale-up launch or grow in Indiana?”
It should surprise no one that the Hoosier state is chock-full of tech leaders at startups, scale-ups and fortune 500 companies. It was difficult to choose just this baker’s dozen as there’s been a ton of activity this year throughout Indiana, which posted a record year of investment in tech as it prepares to lead the next wave of tech development in the U.S.
Further, a new analysis from Zillow identifies the US cities that are ripe for tech sector growth with the Midwest and South leading the way, including Indianapolis which was ranked fourth among The cities set to challenge Silicon Valley, Seattle for tech growth.
The following entrepreneurs and leaders represent just a sliver of the pros who’ve made a significant step forward this year with tech companies that range from global tech-enabled corporations to fast-growing startups and scale-ups.
Chok Ooi, CEO at Kenzie Academy
The online and in-person college alternative technology training organization raised $100 million this year and will expand nationwide in 2020.
“We chose to launch Kenzie Academy in Indy because of access to high quality and affordable talent compared to Silicon Valley. Also with our mission of training and building a new talent pipeline for the American Heartland, Indy is strategically located and close to our target markets, with direct flights or short drives, and easy access to most tech hubs around the country. The state government in collaboration with the local tech ecosystem and stakeholders such as Tech Point, Powderkeg etc… provide very strong support system for companies to launch and thrive in Indy.”
Megan Glover, CEO at 120WaterAudit
The cloud-based water SaaS platform, raised $7 million this year, which is the largest amount raised for a woman-led tech company in Indiana.
“Indiana has been an incredible place to start and scale my tech company. First, the access to incredible tech talent rivals the most competitive venture markets. This is largely due to the quality of higher education institutions throughout the state. Another contributing factor are the successful tech entrepreneurs such as Aprimo, ExactTarget, Interactive Intelligence, and many others that have had massive exits and paved the way for a thriving tech ecosystem that actively supports the start and scaling of new tech companies.
“Second, the cost and quality of living is absolutely beneficial and cash efficient for starting and scaling companies. For example, if I were to build my company on one of the coasts I would likely need to raise twice the capital to operate my business to achieve performance milestones. Finally, we have a very supportive ecosystem for growing economic development within the tech sector. From the state level, to the local and peer level, there is a mutual appreciation for the industry and want to drive more innovation, jobs and success stories from the ecosystem.”
John McDonald, CEO at ClearObject
His 70 employee- iOT integration company was acquired in January and is expected to double staff by 2022; triple digit annual revenue growth.
“The climate for starting up businesses in Indiana is really great — organizations like TechPoint, BioCrossroads, Launch Fishers and Elevate Ventures are all examples of the kinds of resources and teams we have that help us compete with other states for talent and growing startups. Not to mention, we have a phenomenal cost of living and a centralized location that makes most of the country accessible by a direct flight or car ride. Groups like the Indiana Technology and Innovation Association also work in conjunction with government leaders to develop meaningful legislation that can jumpstart start-ups and scale-ups in the future.”
Sherry Aaholm, VP and CIO at Cummins
The Fortune 500 company employs 1,500 tech-skilled works among its global workforce and was TechPoint’s 2019 Mira Large Enterprise of the Year award winner.
“The tech community in Indiana is consistently growing and evolving, and Indianapolis is making a name for itself. Indiana has talent in software engineering, artificial intelligence, and IoT, and major universities such as Purdue, IUPUI, and Indiana University are investing in these spaces to ensure companies have top talent available to them.
“Large companies, like Cummins, are working with tech startups to help build technology solutions that may be outside of their core but are critical for their businesses to solve new problems or expand into new markets. Indianapolis is a warm, welcoming, business friendly and affordable place to start or scale up a tech business. With tech incubators and accelerators throughout the city, local and state officials committed to creating a business-friendly climate benefitting technology start-ups and scale-ups alike, and a technology community that truly works together, there’s a reason Indianapolis is a breeding ground for technological innovation.”
Eric Christopher, CEO at Zylo
The SaaS management team invented a service to help companies discover, manage, measure and optimize their enterprise-wide cloud investments and is using a $35.2 million in venture capital raise to rapidly grow.
“You can build great companies here. The ExactTarget acquisition proved it’s possible to build a $2 billion market cap company in Indianapolis. You don’t have to go to San Francisco. Add to that we’ve got some of the best companies in the country, some of the best universities for talent, and a very friendly climate for business investments – what you see is a dynamic community that’s continuously creating innovative startups and growth.”
Andy Medley, Co-Founder & CEO at PERQ
The marketing technology company closed on a $6 million Series A funding round in 2019.
“It might not be the obvious answer, but I believe the tech community in Indianapolis has a lot of pride in what we do and it’s a HUGE advantage. This pride drives a hunger and desire to continue proving ourselves as a great tech hub. The Indianapolis tech community knows what we have here and the momentum we are creating. However, we at times feel a little slighted or disrespected by other tech hubs across the U.S. despite our ongoing accomplishments. The ‘chip on your shoulder’ feeling breeds motivation and a relentless drive among all of us here.
“This drive shows itself across the city in the form of community support as we all go through the challenges of growing a business. This support in Indianapolis is not normal in other cities and something I personally don’t take for granted. As a result, two degrees of separation doesn’t exist here. Instead, I know I am only one person away from getting connected to the best talent for advice or recruitment suggestions. I honestly can’t say if I have ever been told ‘no’ on getting advice, aid, or direction from experienced leaders here. As they say, ‘it takes a village’ and Indy certainly lives and breathes this motto as we all work together to make each other and our city better.”
The online retailer that operated profitably since its launch in 2005 was acquired by FGX International in 2018.
“As a co-founder of an e-commerce startup, I found Indianapolis to be a fantastic place to start and grow a business. I love our central location, vibrant city culture, and affordable cost of living, but the thing I enjoyed most about building a business in Indy is the strong sense of community. The overall tech and startup climate is supportive, helpful, and very much engaged with one another and we have a multitude of smaller communities that serve a specific segment of our startup scene, but work together with fellow organizations to create a stronger overall culture.
“Attend any Powderkeg event and you’ll see local startups pitching with seasoned business leaders serving as judges and local companies and organizations sponsoring the event. Or browse through The Startup Ladies upcoming educational sessions for entrepreneur or investor members and you’ll see local industry experts and fellow founders offering up advice from personal experience. This is a very giving community and there is a vibrant support group for female entrepreneurs. A community that is quick to celebrate wins, lend a helping hand, and make a connection.”
Ian Taylor, CTO at SIMBAChain
The block chain as a service business won Techpoint’s 2019 Mira Product of the Year and landed multiple, major contracts with the US military in the past two years.
“Indiana has a unique mix of resources that help encourage, develop and scale out startups. It has incredibly strong universities, including Purdue, IU and University of Notre Dame, with startup incubators that help advise, fund and connect startups to VCs and companies. There are also statewide resources, such as the Indianapolis Business Journal and MIRA awards, which encourage talented startups and provide the much needed outreach they need to help them grow. Collectively, such resources provide a solid foundation to help foster an appetite for propelling innovative business ideas.”
The 2018 TechPoint Mira Rising Star award winner landed a $750,000 grant to help her and her team develop their pollination measurement technology.
“Indy is a great hub for tech innovation. We moved here to be among companies at our stage and beyond, because having peer companies nearby is a key element of building a successful start-up. Because of this ecosystem, Indy has a broad talent pool of folks interested in working for tech companies.”
Casey Gauss, CEO at Viral Launch
The Amazon reseller plans to hire 250 employees by the end of 2021 and expects to have a second consecutive year of triple-digit revenue growth.
“There are a few reasons why one should launch a startup in Indy: 1. The people – talent is abundant in Indianapolis, you can’t beat the people here. Salaries and competition are not as fierce as in some of the larger more common markets. 2. The infrastructure here in the tech community is great & supportive. It’s a lot easier to get connected with some of the most successful in the city because it’s a much tighter feel. Because it’s small you also have the opportunity to help shape the future of the tech community here. 3. The cost of living is drastically better than other tech hot spots. Plus there are plenty of co-working spots and coffee spots. Indianapolis has been the city that has allowed me to start a company that I am proud of.”
Paroon Chadha, CEO at Passageways
The collaboration software maker is making great use of a $5 million funding round in 2018, has doubled in size in less than a year, and expects to surpass $100 million in revenue within five years.
“There are only a few places where you can add talent at scale. When we grew fast, Passageways benefitted from the great resident talent and several out-of-towners we attracted to indy for the affordable cost of living and the incredible quality of life. Indy has a great culture with top notch restaurants and entertainment and continues to attract talent from major cities who want more bang for their buck. You no longer need to be in Silicon Valley or NYC to find great talent, and above all you will see the difference in the midwestern values.”
Bill Oesterle, CEO at TMap
The founder of Angie’s List in 2018 launched a tech-based staffing firm focused on filling Indiana’s talent gap. TMap has doubled its team, signed client partnerships with nearly 100 large and small companies and seven universities.
“The best thing about Indiana — and there are a lot of great things about Indiana — but the best thing about Indiana –is that you don’t have to alread “be someone” to become successful here. If you have an idea to solve a problem and the determination to create a solution for it, people will back you. There is a good nucleus of successful entrepreneurs who now provide funding and support for the next generation of companies.”
Stephanie Sponsel, operations director at netlogx
CEO Audrey Taylor was named an Indiana Commission for Women Torchbearer in 2019.
“Our midwestern culture has bred a sense of cooperation instead of competition. Business owners who have been widely successful are always looking for ways to mentor other businesses, and there are businesses at every stage in Indy. Mentorship is ingrained in our fabric, and you can always find someone who is willing to share advice, information, or a connection to help further your mission. We believe that there is enough business to go around, and when one of us succeeds, we all succeed.
The second reason indianapolis is one of the best places to start a scale-up or start-up is, practically, affordability. You can afford to start a business here without a lot of capital. You can afford to scale a business, and we have great options for financing, whether that be banks, investors, CDFIs, etc. Plus, the cost of living is attractive to employees, giving you more flexibility with benefits and other initiatives you’d like to invest in.
The third reason Indianapolis is a great place to start or scale a business is because we believe in what we’re doing – and other people do, too. When you’re starting a business in a huge city like LA, San Francisco, New York, you already feel like the world is against you and you have to be your support system. Instead of “oh, that’s cool”, Hoosiers say, “Yes! We’re behind you.””