Fifty Indiana tech startups will get a discount on hiring talented young professionals as Xterns next summer thanks to a $300,000 investment from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) into TechPoint’s signature career development program. 

The Xtern program, which is entering its tenth year, has primarily seen company participation from established employers. Startups – which could one day grow into local or global giants – often don’t have the budget or structure to focus on attracting talent in a robust way like the Xtern program does. 

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers sees TechPoint’s Xtern Startup Assistance Program as a smart expansion of IEDC’s workforce training efforts, which traditionally target adult workers in need of learning new skills to adapt to evolving technology and to help Hoosier businesses thrive.  

“Indiana is in a global competition for talent, and TechPoint’s Xtern program is a proven, highly popular and effective way to generate much of the talent we need,” Chambers said. “This is a solid investment in growing our own talent to meet the demands of the future as we continue to recruit new economic development in established sectors as well as new ones like microchip and battery innovation.” 

Investment provides startups opportunities

An examination of existing Xtern programming showed that in the 2022 Xtern class, only 17 of the 139 students were employed by startup companies. Examples of the innovative Indiana startups that may qualify for the new program include Afterschool HQ (Fishers), Alleo (Carmel), Encamp (Indianapolis), Folia (Bloomington), GroWiser (Avon), LeagueJoe (Broad Ripple),  M2N | Minority Moves Network (Indianapolis),  ModicusPrime (LaPorte), NavigateMaternity (Fort Wayne), Qualifi (Indianapolis), RxLightning (New Albany) and XR Technologies (Indianapolis.) 

“These companies, and many others, are pushing the envelope into new and exciting areas that will enable Indiana to showcase its innovative spirit and abilities,” said TechPoint President and CEO Ting Gootee. “To get there, they’ll need as much smart, fresh talent as they can get, and this should be a great help to them.” 

Gootee said the assistance program is part of the organization’s examination of how best to continue its mission of helping Hoosier tech and tech-driven companies access all the resources they need to succeed.  

NEXT Studios Managing Entrepreneur John McDonald helps Hoosier entrepreneurs develop their ideas, launch startups and take their products to market. He said the Xtern startup initiative should be well received by Indiana’s tech community.  

“Entrepreneurs are deep on ideas but usually short on the talented people they need to get their innovations to market,” he said. “We’ll definitely be spreading the word throughout our network to match up companies with the Xterns. It’s a great short-term help for the startups but also a great way to grow even more entrepreneurs.” 

Chelsea Linder, a Partner at gener8tor which runs accelerators for startups across Indiana, appreciated that the Startup Assistance Program focus is statewide. “Indiana is full of smart and eager entrepreneurs, and it’s great to see TechPoint and the IEDC reaching outside central Indiana to offer this really valuable help,” she said. 

Entrepreneur Shawn Smith, who founded to help people more easily join team sports leagues and recently decided to focus on it as a full-time business, agreed with McDonald. 

“Hiring as a bootstrapped startup is always the ultimate chicken and the egg – do you hire in order to drive revenue, or do you need revenue before you hire?  This sort of program can genuinely help get us over that hiring anxiety hurdle and could make a huge difference for a lot of startups in Indiana, like ourselves,” he said. 

Talent programs like Xtern help address talent challenges

The TechPoint staff has spent much of 2022 looking at how best Indiana can overcome the global talent challenge, which it has described as a perfect storm of a large number of retirees, fewer workers to replace them and increased demand for tech workers. Part of the solution is the creation of new pathways to great jobs and a collaborative effort to grow Indiana’s tech workforce by 41,000 workers by 2030 across the board in startup, scale-up and enterprise level Hoosier companies.  

The Xtern program does more than give college students a well-paid, 10-week-long summer internship. They also receive – at no cost to them – housing, professional development, civic engagement opportunities and social networking designed to help them see Indiana as a place to begin and grow their careers. Survey data consistently shows that about 25 percent of the Xterns enter the program likely to live and work in Indiana after college. Ten weeks later, more than 70 percent of them say they’re likely to stay in Indiana, and more than half of the Xtern alumni start their careers in Indiana. 

Companies that employ Xterns are charged $4,000 per student to offset the wrap-around experience costs. Startup companies, some with bootstrapped funding, operate on much leaner budgets and may not be able to justify the upfront cost of hosting an Xtern. Under the agreement, IEDC will match 50 percent of the costs for 50 Xterns who would be available exclusively to Indiana-headquartered startups that: 

  • Have been in business no more than 10 years, with preference give to those in operation for 5 years or less 
  • Have 25 or fewer employees, with preference given to those with fewer than 10 employees 
  • Are focused on creating innovative solutions that will help Indiana thrive in the Digital Age in sectors like agriculture, education, life sciences and advanced manufacturing. 

Alleo Chief Operating Officer Megan Van Zutphen said she’s definitely interested in participating in Xtern again. 

“Last year, we had two Xterns, who we would have hired on the spot if they hadn’t had to return to school,” she said. “Fortunately, they agreed to work part-time during their senior year. I hadn’t actually planned to hire two, but I was really impressed with the caliber of the talent during the interview process. We’re grateful for the IEDC support as we scale.” 

M2N has already submitted its application for an Xtern. 

“The learning opportunities available for young professionals in the startup environment are valuable for individuals with an interest in entrepreneurship,” said CEO Eric Stanley. “Dedicated to building an inclusive workforce to ensure corporate dollars impact systemic changes and increase opportunities for underestimated communities, M2N would be honored to welcome an Xtern and provide opportunities to make meaningful contributions.” 

Dr. Kevin Berkopes, CEO and founder of XR Technologies, said ““positioning talent to gain workplace skills and directly applicable technology skillsets is imperative for the future. Our work as partners in the direction of this programming is to provide this opportunity, but also make way through legislation and partnerships to ensure that the Xtern not only gets exposure to skill sets, but also gets college credit for the experience and work.”

Since 2014, TechPoint’s Xtern program has connected more than 1,300 college students with summer internship positions with 150 employers in the Indiana tech ecosystem. The recruitment pipeline attracts applications annually from more than 2,000 college students from more than 200 universities across the country.  

Chambers said the idea to work with the Xtern program came from an intern working with the IEDC after researching many different potential solutions to the challenge of keeping talent in Indiana. 

Taking part in the Xtern program

Interested startup companies

Hoosier startups interested in hiring an Xtern should visit the Xtern Startup Assistance site, and opt-in by Friday, October 14, in order to participate in Xtern Fall Finalist Day. Finalist Day will take place on Friday, November 18, in partnership with the Orr Fellowship‘s finalist day.  

Interested students

The Xtern program has a world of opportunity for college students, helping them secure full-time internships in Indiana’s growing tech ecosystem.