Last TechPoint Pitch Night of 2023 demonstrates greater focus on helping Hoosier innovators
TechPoint’s latest Pitch Night was sprinkled with applause throughout the four founders’ presentations, but the loudest and longest sustained support came when the launch of the Indiana Founders Network was announced.
More than 30 founders had already signed up to join the Founders Network by Index press time, a good portion of them coming during Pitch Night.
“Indiana’s tech ecosystem thrives when our founders thrive,” said Chelsea Linder, TechPoint’s senior vice president innovation and entrepreneurship, reminding the audience that TechPoint has the most experienced team in the state with access to one of the largest networks of domain experts and individual and institutional investors across the region and county.
The Network is supported by TechPoint and designed to give founders a safe place to network, learn, commiserate and celebrate. It’s open to founders who can support each other, access information and resources necessary to move their businesses forward and build relationships with people facing similar challenges. Targeted sectors include advanced manufacturing and logistics, agbiosciences, life sciences and healthcare, and technology. In addition to peer support, the long-term vision is to also open doors for Indiana founders to TechPoint’s membership, partners and corporate networks, including the Indiana CIO Network.
Participants will have access to a free, 10-day co-working pass at the 16 Tech Innovation District, the Network’s exclusive coworking space provider for Central Indiana. 16 Tech members will have free access to the network. Additional perks include up to 90 percent off the cost of Hub Spot software and other discounts. The Network is open to startup founders, those with an idea but who haven’t yet moved forward with it and those who want to become a co-founder. It is not a space for investors or vendors. It offers connections to other entrepreneurs, access to members-only events, small peer group conversations and meetups, visibility through a membership directory, discounts to other ecosystem events and services, eligibility to be considered to pitch at TechPoint Pitch Nights and access to education, coaching and mentors via the TechPoint Venture Support platform.
“It takes a lot more than money for founders to become successful. We love to see this kind of support being developed and see it as validation to our model of offering comprehensive services to our clients,” agreed Sara Croft, who recently launched FiveFour Partners, a growth agency focused on early-stage startups. She is also forming a startup-focused investment fund, and expect to launch it in the new year.
“There’s huge demand for trusted partners who can deliver resources to startups at the level and time they need to establish a solid foundation from which to grow,” Croft said.
Pitch Night – which attracted a record audience of nearly 60 people – was open to vendors as well as angel investors, representatives of venture capital funds and others invested in Indiana’s startup ecosystem. It offered a bit of the support the Founders Network will offer staring in January 2024. Founders from Vital View, Factory Framework, Soloist and ArcticTX found a highly supportive audience with some offering advice and encouragement on the spot.
“Pitch Night is a really great opportunity for founders to find investors, sure, but it’s also a networking opportunity where they can find mentors, vendors and even ideas for how to refine their companies and their pitches,” said Roger Shuman, TechPoint’s director of venture engagement.
Tamre Mullins, director of operations at the 2023 Mira Awards Service Provider of the Year Glassboard, and Nathan Hiscock, director of growth for cloud service provider Sela, were making connections for potential clients.
“We’re here because we support entrepreneurs and we like to see up and coming innovators,” Mullins said.
Hiscock summed the event up in one word: “Opportunity.”
Founders had about eight minutes to describe their innovations and pitch the audience on why they were deserving of support from the crowd of investors and support service representatives.
Vital View’s CEO Ray Fraser was first up. He and his cofounder identified an opportunity to help congestive heart failure (CHF) patients avoid repeat hospitalizations due to fluid overload. Fifty percent of the 900,000 CHF patients annually admitted to the hospital for treatment end up back in the hospital due to fluid retention, Fraser said. Those hospital visits come with an average cost of $15,000, he said. Vital Views offers a sensor that when slipped under patients’ mattress pads collects and sends data to the cloud that monitors fluid levels and alerts the patient when levels approach a danger zone so the fluid can be addressed before hospitalization is needed.
Nearly 300 million people are affected by the situation, and that’s just in the cardiac niche of medical care, Fraser, whose companies currently owns nine patents on its product with more pending, said identifying the addressable market at $40 billion.
Factory Framework is focused on helping small and medium manufacturers understand the state of their operations and predict equipment failure before it happens to reduce productivity loss and down time. CEO Brian McClain says his software will “alert the right people at the right time.”
Parker Busick pitched the Soloist app, which offers musicians an app that lets them escape solo practice to find people across the world to jam with.
“Ninety percent of people who start to learn an instrument do that alone,” Busick said, adding that the No. 1 reason people cite for giving up learning to play an instrument is because they’re always playing alone.
Soloist enables musicians to record music and then share it in “loops” via an app on a phone. It’s a vast improvement on a loop pedal, a device that guitarists have used for decades to add accompaniment to their play.
Busick admitted his ask was modest, but said he is happy to keep his focus narrow, a decision that was applauded by at least one person in the crowd.
“Stay in your niche,” came the advice.
“Yes. There are riches in the niches,” Busick said, but repeatedly mentioned that he and his team are “good capitalists,” not really in it for the money. He said he offers users a free trial of everything the app offers before requiring them to subscribe.
ArticRx’s Stuart Lowry and Shane Bivens ended the pitch fest with their device, which can keep products cold for 21 days without electricity or batteries. The pod, the size of an American standard dishwasher, can store any item, but the company is focused first on providing a way for vaccines to safely reach areas of the world without reliable electric infrastructure.
“We want to save lives,” Lowry said.
The pair plans to start field testing and roll out product in the first quarter of 2024. Production will begin in the U.S.
TechPoint Pitch Nights have traditionally been an invitation-only gatherings. This one, though, was the first to have direct input from Linder, who joined TechPoint in July.
Open to anyone with an interest in hearing the innovators’ presentations, audience members ranged from college students to one of the state’s newest fund developers and seasoned entrepreneurs. Linder said she was pleased with the makeup of the audience and the lively give-and-take before, during and after the pitch presentations.
“Founders need feedback just as much as they need financing and a good team,” she said. “Events like this help them build confidence and see gaps they need to fill. We’re really looking forward to bringing more opportunities to founders next year.”
Adam Andres, a business finance major at Marian University and a member of its Entrepreneurship Club, attended the sessions as a way to get more involved in the state’s entrepreneurial community.
“We are always looking to make connections and find ways to make a positive impact on the community,” Andres said. “Everyone I met was very helpful and seemed excited to help me get more involved. During the presentations people were intently listening and curiously asking questions. There was a very positive vibe of ambitious people wanting to help one another succeed in their entrepreneurial endeavors. I was left with a great impression from my first time at a Tech Point Pitch Night.”
TechPoint, along with its presenting sponsor, Ice Miller LLP, will offer four additional opportunities in 2024 for founders to make their pitch to similar audiences. Watch the TechPoint Community Calendar for details and registration.
“We’re really excited about next year as we roll out, refine and expand our support of Indiana’s innovation ecosystem,” Linder said.
Stay abreast of TechPoint’s programming for Hoosier entrepreneurs here.