Can Indy meet the growing need for tech talent? What trends are emerging in the Indianapolis technology community? These questions and more were posed by panel moderator and technology reporter Jared Council at the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Power Breakfast Series on Thursday, March 10.
The expert panel was comprised of Indy’s own entrepreneurs, investors and educators:
- Kristian Andersen – Partner at High Alpha
- Ting Gootee – Chief Investment Officer at Elevate Ventures
- J.J. Thompson – CEO of Rook Security
- Yaw Aning – Co-Founder of Sticksnleaves
- Angel Morales – Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer of SmarterHQ, inc.
- Brad Wheeler – Vice President of Information Technology & CIO at Indiana University
Key discussions from the event centered around venture funding, diversity, the talent pipeline and emerging tech trends.
While Indy might not experience venture funding and growth capital similar to the coasts, our bootstrapped technology community continues to expand.
“We don’t have growth capital here. We don’t see people writing 10, 20 or 30 million checks in Indianapolis. We haven’t reached a venture community yet,” Thompson said, but he doesn’t stop there. His company, Rook Security, was completely bootstrapped, and that is happening in Indianapolis much more than other communities.
“The presence of venture is a lagging indicator of startups. We should focus time and energy on creating a community where entrepreneurs want to live,” Andersen said. Through co-working environments such as Launch Fishers and The Speak Easy to hackathons and startups founded by high school students, Indy’s innovation is growing from the ground up.
72% of event attendees believed that by 2020, tech salaries would grow by more than $10,000 on average. What does this mean for Indy’s ability to offer competitive wages and combat the brain drain?
“If you can spell ‘cyber security’ with either a ‘c’ or an ‘s,’ you can get a job right now. There’s huge demand in the market,” Wheeler said. While Indy’s demand for skilled tech talent continues to grow, the challenge comes on Indy’s ability to attract and retain talent. To echo Kristian, Brad explained “Quality of life really can contain people. We must build inclusive, educative environments to keep people in Indiana.”
While TechPoint’s talent initiatives are key to keeping that pipeline stocked with high quality talent, Indy must continue to foster growth across industries. “Tech talent isn’t just developers and programmers,” Gootee said. “It’s also sales and marketing. From an investor standpoint, we are looking for future entrepreneurial tech leaders.”
There continues to be room for improvement in diversity amongst Indianapolis’ tech community. Hiring for skill and potential is important, but hiring for cultural fit is often overlooked.
“Diversity is a core value of our business. If you want a global audience for your product, your team should reflect that,” Aning said. “Diversity amongst your team can help you create empathy for your customers instead of sympathy. If everyone in your company thinks the same way, and you make the wrong decision, your company blows up. Diversity works.”
What are the emerging trends for tech in Indy and across the U.S.? Panelists offered their glimpse into the future with discussions of sensors, ioT, and data science.
According to Andersen, sensory technology is an important mega trend. “There will be a proliferation of sensors in everything from cereal boxes to steering wheels,” Andersen said. Aning emphasizes this further by predicting an interface-less future. “Human-like interactions with Slackbots and Amazon Echo creates a shift from individual platforms to platforms that evolve.” Instead of consumers downloading hundreds of apps, you can order your Uber ride through Facebook Messenger or Foursquare.
“Data science is a $53.4 billion industry and in 2015, jobs grew by 15 percent. I predict a shortfall of predictive analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Morales said. “That’s my concern relative to the talent pool.”
If you were unable to attend last week’s event, pick up your copy of the Indianapolis Business Journal on March 21 to catch the special technology feature. Follow #IBJTech to review attendee tweets and share your own thoughts on these questions in our comments.