Mira Awards Celebrate Tech Sector’s Progress During Economic Turmoil
by Mark Hill

Last month, more than 600 of Indiana’s technology executives, opinion leaders and policymakers, educators and economic developers gathered at the annual TechPoint Mira Awards gala in downtown Indianapolis to celebrate more Hoosier high-tech success stories. 

For more than a decade, the Mira Awards have recognized the companies, institutions and individuals who make up Indiana’s thriving technology community. This year’s winners provide ample optimism about our future as a high-tech economy:

They show that technological innovation is a catalyst for growth in every industry, not just IT. The Mira Innovation of the Year award winner is OrthoX, a life sciences company that’s developed an exceptionally strong material to anchor artificial joints to bones (Indiana firms account for more than a third of global orthopedic device sales). In Indiana’s largest industry, manufacturing, new technologies are also bringing new opportunities – the advanced manufacturing Mira award went to EnerDel, the fast-growing maker of high-tech batteries for electric vehicles.

Exact Target is a repeat winner in the Information Technology Mira category, continuing to lead the way as Central Indiana establishes itself as a hub for online marketing. Along with Exact Target, our region is called home by companies like Aprimo, Compendium Blogware, 5 Buckets, Lights Out Intelligence, Market Path, Cantaloupe, Delivera and Formstack. These firms are taking advantage of a titanic market shift that has seen the traditional media sector lose 32% of its market value from 2003 to 2008 while new media (online content and services) gained 102%.

Our Mira winners provide a cross-section of our most innovative companies in areas that represent promising market opportunities. It’s important that we celebrate their success. But the message behind this year’s Miras goes beyond a (well-deserved) pat on the back for the winners. The bigger picture is that that the state’s tech sector continued to grow and build momentum even during the tough times.

This year, TechPoint attracted a record number of Mira nominations. The previous high-water mark was set last year, and before that in 2008. Even during the worst of the national recession, this program generated steadily more and more interest and enthusiasm.

Less anecdotally, the latest Cyberstates report from the TechAmerica Foundation shows that Indiana continued to add tech jobs during the downturn, even as the rest of the private sector was making cuts. 

Investors are also betting on Indiana’s high-tech entrepreneurs. Last year was the worst year for venture capital nationally in more than a decade. But in Indiana, we grew our total venture investment by nearly 70% over 2008 – and 2008 beat 2007 by 40%. I’m proud that the HALO Capital Group managed by TechPoint has added nearly $14 million in seed capital since 2008 to help further this trend. 

Indiana’s technology sector has weathered the economic storms, and seems to have emerged stronger than ever. A recent Kauffman Foundation study that found that more than half of the companies on today’s Fortune 500 list were launched during an economic recession or severe bear market. This bodes well for the Mira winners of the last few years, and for our technology industry as a whole – as the economy continues to recover, tech companies will be leading the way.

TechPoint is working to help keep the momentum going. From improving connectivity in the tech community, improving access to capital and entrepreneurial expertise, and fighting for pro-growth policies at the Statehouse, we’re committed to creating a climate that produces even more success stories like those feted at Saturday’s Mira gala. Learn more about TechPoint’s efforts and the Mira Awards program (including a full roster of 2010 winners) at www.TechPoint.org.

Mark Hill is Managing Partner of Collina Ventures and chairman of TechPoint. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership.