The Rise of the Accelerators in Indiana
Over the past few years, I have often talked—some may say bragged—about the explosive growth of the tech ecosystem in Indiana. Most of the time, that commentary is based on the most recent number of investments (and their amounts) by venture capitalists in Indiana tech companies.
In my own defense, it’s not bragging if it’s true. And those investments, encouraged by TechPoint and other economic development and community groups, as well as supportive state policies and incentives, led to a record breaking year in 2021. Strong and consistent capital investment into Indiana tech companies is a sign of a maturing tech ecosystem.
Capital isn’t the only factor contributing to our growth, though. During the past five years, several nationally focused accelerator programs have launched in the Hoosier state. Accelerator programs can vary greatly. Some programs include an investment from the organization while others may offer cash prizes, grants, development resources, promotion and access to mentors. Accelerators and similar programs exist for super early stage companies (e.g. an idea on a napkin) all the way to more established scale-up companies. If you’re looking for help, there’s probably something out there for you. Moreover, the pandemic made many of these programs available to founders and teams without the need to travel.
Below is a list of some of the national accelerators that are making a positive difference. It’s a living list, and meant to be a resource for those who need or want this kind of support. If that’s you, please take a look and take appropriate action. I’m your TechPoint resource to help you navigate through it.
gener8tor of Madison, Wisc., was one the first national accelerators to expand into Indiana with the announcement of the gBETA program in January of 2018. The seven-week accelerator program kicked off in April of the same year and featured five Indiana companies including eventual Mira Award winners Woven and Codelicious. To date, more than 75 Indiana-based companies have participated in gBETA with 42% of those companies having women founders.
The program continues to expand with the addition of gBETA Autonomous Vehicles & Future of Roads (finishing up at the time of this article), gBETA 5G Technology (a cohort dedicated to early-stage Indiana companies with a focus on the landscape of telecommunications and internet connectivity in the U.S), and gBETA Indiana Industry 4.0. You can learn more about gBETA’s accelerator programs and even apply at gener8tor.com/gbeta.
“From day one, the startups and tech ecosystem in Indiana have stood out to the gener8tor team,” said Chelsea Linder, VP of operations for gener8tor. “We continue to see our portfolio of startups in the state outpace others in terms of growth and funding raised. As we continue to expand our programming to new verticals in Indiana, we are looking forward to seeing this trend continue.”
Techstars of Boulder, Colo., was next to expand into Indiana with not one, but two accelerator programs announced for Indianapolis. The Techstars Sports Accelerator Powered by Indy launched in June 2019 with plans to run for three years. Founding Partners included the Next Level Fund/50 South Capital, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, NCAA, and Indiana Sports Corp, with additional support from the Indianapolis Colts, the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The accelerator has gone on to fine-tune 31 sports-related technology companies from all over the world with the city of Indianapolis serving as host. This 13-week accelerator has extended beyond its initial three-year commitment with plans for the next class starting in April of 2022.
“Indianapolis is an incredible sports town along with being an emerging hub for technology so it only makes sense for us to be bringing the top early stage sports tech companies in the world into this environment,” notes Andrew Hippert, senior program manager. “The support we’ve received from our partnerships group has been instrumental in helping our founders scale their businesses and get their products to market. Thrilled to be bringing 13 more companies through our program and playing our part in building this ecosystem.”
The Heritage Group Accelerator
The Heritage Group Accelerator powered by Techstars kicked off in September of 2019. The accelerator consistently represented diverse geographies and industries within the hardtech and deep tech spaces with support from The Heritage Group’s leadership, investment team and represented companies. Several of the 29 participating companies from the past three years went on to make Indiana their home while Ateios, now based in Newberry, Ind., is a 2022 Mira Award nominee for Innovation of the Year.
In 2022, the Heritage Group Accelerator is looking for early-stage hardtech startups focused on heavy construction and materials, environmental services, electrification and specialty chemicals.
“The Heritage Group Accelerator gives founders access to resources who help them think through experiments, design customer discovery processes and even visit plants nearby,” said Nida Ansari, managing director. “We have a mentor network that’s 50 people strong – with more than half coming from across the Heritage Group operating companies. We get to know these founders as people, learn what motivates them, and help them pivot and adjust to changing circumstances, and in 13 weeks we hope to have a cohort of investable companies.”
Applications are open now with plans to operate from August to November. You can learn more and apply at www.f6s.com/2022thgx/apply
FoundersBoost (formerly Startup Boost) of Southern California is one of the latest national programs to make the move to Indiana. This “pre-accelerator” works with early-stage entrepreneurs to prepare them for accelerator programs, seed investment and revenue through a six week part-time program. Applications for the new Indiana program will be opening soon. You can learn more by visiting foundersboost.com/programs/indiana.
The WorkplaceTech Accelerator
Not every accelerator program requires you to temporarily relocate. Recently, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) launched its inaugural workplace technology accelerator program. “The WorkplaceTech Accelerator” is the world’s only HR tech accelerator program backed by a network of more than 300,000 HR and business executive members across 165 countries.
The accelerator program is an inaugural 8-week virtual program that is designed to scale up early-stage, growth driven startups dedicated to elevating HR and solving today’s most pressing workplace challenges. Applications for the 2022 cohort have closed but this accelerator program should be on the radar of any founder in the HR tech space. You can learn more at www.shrmlabs.com/workplace-tech-accelerator/
This list is NOT exhaustive but we’d like it to be. If I missed your tech accelerator program, please let me know. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add your accelerator to this article.
The more support we can give budding Indiana tech entrepreneurs, the better for our ecosystem.