Tech Talk: Entrepreneurial Ages and the Latest Investment Numbers

What is the age of the average entrepreneur? A few very public examples on the extreme might skew public opinion, but the research shows experience is prized over youth – no offense, of course, to the young entrepreneurs making a difference every day.

Here’s a brief summary from the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI):

Age is a predictor of entrepreneurial success – and not in the ways that many might expect – according to a new National Bureau of Economic Research article. While the venture capital community and the media sensationalize young entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, the authors of Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship – Pierre Azoulay, J. Daniel Kim, Benjamin Jones and Javier Miranda – find that older entrepreneurs have more success.

In their analysis of multiple administrative datasets, the authors discover that the average founder age of a technology start-up with more than one employee is nearly 42 years old, the average founder age of the highest growth technology start-ups is 45 years old and the average founder age of technology start-ups with successful exits is nearly 47 years old.

With similar findings across a variety of industries, geographies and other subcategories, the authors suggest that the coverage of the millennial tech-entrepreneur has been overblown. Moving forward, these conclusions may prompt changes in how the economic development community designs and implements programs supporting entrepreneurship.

SSTI also has a brief recap of the first-quarter venture capital report, in which Elevate Ventures earns a mention.

PitchBook and NVCA released the 2018 Q1 Venture Monitor this week, and the data show that 2017’s trends toward fewer, larger deals are only accelerating into the new year. First financings are over $5 million for the first time since Q3 of 2006, and the average angel and seed deals are at their largest sizes in at least a decade – largely due to investments under $1 million now accounting for just 39 percent of disclosed deals.

Publicly-supported investors are leading the way in 2018 investments, according to the report, with Innovation Works (13), Elevate Ventures (11) and TEDCO (4) noted for angel/seed investments and Ben Franklin Technology Partners (7) and Connecticut Innovations (6) on the list for most active early stage investors.

The report also indicates that while several notable IPOs have brought renewed attention to exits, the number of exits in 2018 is on pace to be slower than in 2017. Finally, the report’s data on funds closing in 2018 show that fundraising — particularly for funds over $50 million — is also occurring at a slower pace than in 2017.

Vietnam Memorial Wall Replica Coming to Indiana

Residents in three Indiana towns will have the opportunity this year to see a scaled replica of the Vietnam Memorial through the Wall That Heals, a traveling educational and memorial experience.

The first 2018 Indiana stop, Salem on May 17-20, is sponsored by the Washington County Community Foundation. Executive director Judy Johnson offers that of over 100 communities nationally that applied to host the Wall That Heals, only 39 were selected.

The Wall That Heals will also have Indiana stops in Milan on September 6-8 and Middletown on September 27-30.

Of the various events that will be scheduled around the wall’s stop in Salem, Johnson says retired Lieutenant General Michael S. Tucker will be the guest speaker during the organization’s opening ceremony.

The Wall That Heals is a three-quarter size replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and is 375 feet long and 7.5 feet high at the tallest point. All names on the original memorial are included and visitors can do name rubbings on the replica.

The Washington County Community Foundation offers more on the organization’s web site:

Hosting The Wall That Heals provides a community with a multi-day experience of reflection that includes an educational experience for local schools and organizations on the history of the Vietnam era and The Wall.

The exhibit includes The Wall replica and a mobile Education Center that comprises digital displays of photos of service members whose names are on The Wall; letters and memorabilia left at The Wall by visitors; a map of Vietnam; and a chronological overview of the Vietnam War.

The exhibits tell the story of the Vietnam War, The Wall, and the era surrounding the conflict, and are designed to place American experiences in Vietnam in an historical and cultural context.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most visited memorials in our nation’s capital, with more than 5.6 million visitors each year. However, many Americans have not been able to visit what has become known to many as “The Wall.” The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF), the organization that built The Wall in 1982, wants to provide all veterans, their family members, and the general public across America an opportunity to visit the memorial.

“Taking The Wall That Heals on the road gives thousands more veterans and their family members an opportunity to see The Wall and honor those who have served and sacrificed so much,” said Jim Knotts, president and CEO of VVMF. “It helps veterans from all of America’s conflicts to find healing and a powerful connection through their common military experiences.”

More than 200,000 people visited The Wall That Heals in 2016. Since its debut in 1996, the exhibit has been on display in nearly 500 U.S. communities, as well as internationally during an April 1999 tour of the Four Provinces of Ireland, and a visit to Canada in 2005.

VVMF coordinates local stops of The Wall That Heals and the accompanying mobile Education Center. The current schedule and more information can be found at:  www.thewallthatheals.org.

What Do You Know About GDPR?

I recently attended a lecture by a former FBI special agent on the topic of cybersecurity. Sounds cool, right? (It was!)

I’ve been paying close attention to the topic that is now top of mind for many since last summer, when I wrote this story for BizVoice® on fraud and cybersecurity issues, including what businesses should be doing to help prevent potential cyberattacks.

While I sat in a small room with 20 or so people who seemed genuinely surprised by much of what the former agent was saying, not much of it came as news to me (and I’m not bragging – I just went through my shocked phase last year when researching my story). But one thing I’d never heard before was something known as GDPR, an acronym for General Data Protection Regulation.

GDPR was passed in the European Union (EU) and takes effect in late May. It expands the rights of individuals under the regulation with regard to data privacy and places new burdens on companies or businesses that handle private data. And you might be thinking, “I’m in Indiana, not the EU.” And that’s true, this regulation primarily impacts users in the EU. But it also impacts any businesses or organizations that operate in the EU.

Indianapolis-based DemandJump recently posted a blog focusing on GDPR and how it impacts companies here in the United States, with links and a video to help others learn more about the potential impact:

From an internet user standpoint, this policy only affects those people located within the jurisdiction of the EU. However, companies that do business in the EU – regardless of where they are located – must also abide by the same rules, which has left many in the global technology industry reeling to meet these strict privacy standards by the May 25th deadline.

The GDPR is one of the first major legislative acts of its kind, but it certainly won’t be the last. The question is not whether the United States and others will pass a similar bill, but when.

At DemandJump, we have always believed in and respected the privacy of internet users, and we hold ourselves accountable for individuals’ rights to privacy and security. We also understand there is some sensitivity around data right now, and, well … we love data.

The truth is, data can be an amazing asset when used and handled responsibly, helping to automate, expand, speed up, and generally improve the world we live in. But those improvements should not come at the risk of individuals’ privacy.

Luckily for everyone, they don’t need to.

What is Data Privacy?

Check out this video from our very own Brad Wilson, Director of Engineering and Data Protection Officer at DemandJump about data privacy and GDPR.

In the context of GDPR – and the broader discussion about data privacy – the main goal is to put control over personal data back into the hands of individuals. This means that if any individual does not want to be recognized or known by a data consumer, they have the ability to instruct any system to “forget me”. This would trigger a string of technical actions which would anonymize their information, making it very difficult for any person, business or technology system to identify that person individually.

Fundamentally, this movement is not so much about restricting the usage of personal data as it is about giving control back to individuals. It’s about companies being open and transparent about what personal data they have on individuals, and about the way they handle that data.

For 10+ years there has been a lot of fuzziness and disparate regulation around data privacy and transparency. The EU is saying “no more”, and it’s highly likely that other regulatory bodies will follow suit.

Cybersecurity and data privacy experts will come together for the Indiana Chamber’s inaugural Cybersecurity Conference (in partnership with the Indiana attorney general’s office) on May 1-2. There’s still time to register for the two-day conference held in downtown Indianapolis, with focuses on responding to litigation following a data breach, vendor management, lessons from the defense industry and much more.

Walorski Shares Feedback From Hoosier Businesses Impacted by Tariffs at Ways and Means Hearing

Last week, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) shared feedback from Hoosier businesses affected by steel and aluminum tariffs at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the impact of tariffs on the U.S. economy and jobs.

“Historic tax cuts and regulatory reforms have revived America’s economy, but I am constantly hearing from businesses in northern Indiana that steel and aluminum tariffs are driving up costs and making it more difficult for them to grow and create jobs,” Walorski said after the hearing.

“The administration has taken steps to narrow these tariffs to better target unfair trade, but more must be done to protect businesses and jobs here at home. I will continue listening to Hoosier manufacturers, farmers and workers, and making sure their voices are heard so we can keep our economic momentum going.”

Video of Walorski sharing local businesses’ feedback at the hearing:

She read the following quotes from Hoosier job creators in a wide range of industries:

• (We’ve seen) a 50% increase (in the price of steel), mostly since the tariffs were announced. Additionally, there is a shortage of steel. We are furloughing the production line in (one facility) today and will probably have to furlough some of the guys in (our main facility) later in the week due to lack of availability of material. We have raised prices to our customers but because (our product is) a low margin item – the combination of the increase and the lack of availability is affecting sales.”

• “We cannot switch to a U.S. source, and it would take 1 to 2 years for us to get approval from our customers if there was a U.S. source. We will continue to import steel and will pay the duties. So far we have incurred about $15,000 in tariff costs with a potential of another $240,000 based upon the orders we have already booked with (our) Japanese steel supplier. We are moving forward with our exclusion requests; so far the cost has been close to 100 hours to complete these exemption forms along with some legal costs for review and advice.”

• “We have rolling shortages of steel and we are on allocation (from our supplier in Utah) … Prices had already gone up 25% and 30% respectively (on aluminum and steel) because of speculation. Now we are seeing a trend past 30-35% each. Of course, I am livid.”

• “We observed steel prices starting to move up in early 2017 on just the talk of potential steel tariffs and a sharp escalation in steel prices in the last 3 months as the tariffs started to become a reality. This has resulted in a 15% to 29% increase in the cost of our steel. To put this in perspective, our increase in steel cost is larger than the entire cost of providing health insurance to our workforce.”

• “We are the sole manufacturer left in the United States that manufactures this type of product. Our competitors import all or most of their finished product from either Mexico, China, Vietnam, etc., therefore avoiding any impact of this tariff…The bottom line is this, if you raise our steel and aluminum prices, our prices will have to increase in order to cover the cost. Our foreign competitors will not be affected. … We currently purchase all our steel and aluminum from domestic sources.”

• “We are in the process of trying to build a 147,000-square-foot warehouse. (The company building the warehouse) gets their steel from Canada, a country exempted from the steel tariff. However, we are unable to get a firm quote even out of Canada, because prices are beginning to rise there with so much demand shifted to Canada. It is not on hold – we have to build it – so we are at the mercy of a volatile market.”

• “When purchasing raw materials, we give preference to domestic steel mills wherever possible. We enjoy long, outstanding relationships with many domestic mills. We want them to thrive. … The actual dynamics of the entire metalworking market have evolved in the last 40 years. … In some cases, we find that domestic mills cannot meet the quality standards required by our customers; or they cannot meet the quality standards at a competitive cost. In those cases, we will buy foreign material. … Why put a tariff on these items?”

Much at Stake in U.S. Supreme Court Online Sales Tax Case

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments in South Dakota v. Wayfair. Wayfair Inc., Overstock.com and another online retailer challenged a South Dakota law that calls for them to collect South Dakota’s sales tax on their sales to South Dakota residents, even though the companies have no physical operations or physical presence in the state.

The online retailers’ position is supported by precedent. Over 50 years ago in National Bellas Hess Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Illinois (1967), SCOTUS found, based on Commerce Clause protections, that Illinois could not require an out-of-state business to collect its sales tax unless the business had a “physical presence” in Illinois.
This “physical presence” test was affirmed in Quill v. North Dakota (1992) when the Court ruled that North Dakota could not require a mail order company to collect its sales tax, again citing the requirement as an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. But the Court’s opinion seemed to acknowledge that different circumstances could yield different results.

And much has changed since 1992. Most notably, the internet was only in its infancy then and online retailers were unheard of. The application of Quill to a transaction and industry that barely existed when the opinion was issued has generated growing debate over the last 10 to 15 years. Pressure to overturn Quill has steadily grown as internet sales swallow up a larger market share each year, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers see their profits decline, states see their revenues decline and the “burden” associated with collecting the taxes has been steadily lessened by technological advances.

Congress has the authority to legislatively overturn Quill but countervailing political forces have impeded it from remedying the situation. Consequently, states have legislated an array of their own remedies, in the form of imaginative and constitutionally suspect laws. As part of a concerted effort across the country, advocates for overturning Quill began a campaign designed to present a new basis for testing the Quill holding.

It encouraged states to impose laws they knew would be challenged, in order to get a fresh case before the Supreme Court and give them the opportunity to argue Quill’s legal obsolescence. The laws would purport to establish legal nexus based on the level of sales that online businesses conduct in their state. This concept is referred to as “economic nexus”.

In comes South Dakota – the first state to pass legislation imposing the collection requirement based on a defined economic nexus. If an online seller has more than $100,000 in sales or more than 200 separate sales to South Dakota residents, then that retailer must collect the sales tax in those transactions. The South Dakota law served as the model as a few other states passed nearly identical legislation, including Indiana (in 2017). South Dakota fast-tracked the litigation and here we are with a potential landmark case before SCOTUS.

Will Quill be overturned? It seems very possible. First, the Court took the case which could be interpreted as a recognition that the issue needs to be revisited. Second, three justices have questioned the application of the Quill case. And many stakeholders have presented legal arguments to support and encourage the Court to reach an updated result. Forty amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs have been filed since the Court decided to hear the case in January.

These include briefs filed on behalf of: various retail business associations, 41 states collectively, the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, four U.S. Senators (two Republicans, two Democrats) and the Solicitor General of the United States.

Numerous other organizations filed briefs, including: the Multistate Tax Commission, Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board and Tax Foundation. One was filed on behalf of “professors of tax law and economics at universities across the United States”. All these can be viewed here. Some taxpayer advocates argued against giving states the authority to require collection. But a majority favor overturning Quill. Typical is the argument of the Solicitor General, stating in its brief:

“In light of internet retailers’ pervasive and continuous virtual presence in the states where their web sites are accessible, the states have ample authority to require those retailers to collect state sales taxes owed by their customers. Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992), should not be read to bar that result, both because the Quill Court did not and could not anticipate the development of modern e-commerce and because Quill’s analysis was deeply flawed.”

The Tax Foundation, whose brief does not directly support either party, made some important points. It recognizes that the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause prohibits states from unduly burdening or unfairly taxing interstate commerce. But it also recognizes that the current hodge-podge of state laws is untenable. The Tax Foundation maintains that the South Dakota law is constitutional because it minimizes the burden on commerce by adhering to uniform and standard administration. Its brief sums it up saying:

“The Court’s guidance is needed before the states subject interstate commerce to death by a thousand cuts. (And it asks that) the Court reverse the decision of the Court below and uphold the South Dakota statute, but also resolve an almost universal lack of clarity about the proper scope of state sales taxation of out-of-state entities.”

The outcome of this case, 50 years in the making, will have a significant impact on many people. States and local governments care about this case because there is around $20 billion of state tax revenues at stake. (Estimates range from $13 billion to $26 billion and the number will only get larger as time goes by.) Indiana’s share would probably be in the $200 million range, so the state’s budget makers care.

Brick-and mortar retail businesses in Indiana care because they must compete with online retailers and having to charge their customers the 7% Indiana sales tax puts them at a price disadvantage to the online sellers who don’t collect it. Indiana businesses that sell online to customers in other states care because they must comply with the expanding spectrum of varying state laws. Taxpayers should care because they are legally already obligated to pay use tax on their online purchase, whether they presently do or not, and because dwindling/unrealized revenues can spur tax increases elsewhere.

SCOTUS hearings are not broadcast. However, a recording of the oral argument will be made available the Friday following the hearing.

The Court’s decision will be made sometime before the end of June when its current term expires.

Share Your ‘Best Places’ Story

If you’ve ever been stuck in a terrible working environment, you know a good one when you find it. The difference could not be more obvious – not only how the employer treats employees, but how happy co-workers are to be working together to accomplish a singular mission.

Since the Indiana Chamber of Commerce hosts the Best Places to Work in Indiana program, we are obviously not putting ourselves in the race to be named one of the top workplaces in the state. We love shining the light on the companies that are true difference-makers in their industries; those that are innovating and making Indiana a better place for not only the products or services they provide, but for their employees to live, work and play.

Each year we highlight many of the companies on the Best Places list in BizVoice magazine. Through interviews and interactions with employers and employees, one of the themes that is evident is the personal connections happening at these companies. Employees are more than just a number. More than just a workforce.

To shine the spotlight even brighter, we’re going to be sharing some of our personal stories with you over the next three weeks as we gear up for the Best Places to Work in Indiana celebration on the evening of May 3. (You can go ahead and reserve tables or tickets here.)

And we want you to share your stories with us and with our followers on social media. If you’re interested in sharing why your workplace is special to you, please take a short video of yourself, tag us @IndianaChamber and use the hashtag #BPTWIN in your posts. We’ll retweet and share those so others can see what makes your company a great place to work.

As an example, here’s my story about why I’ve been proud to work at the Indiana Chamber for the last seven years.

Keep an eye out for more and we can’t wait to hear from you!

Don’t forget to register for the Best Places to Work in Indiana event on May 3. Find more information at www.indianachamber.com/specialevents

Getting to Know: Marci Price

The Indiana Chamber Foundation has been making a difference for Indiana employers and beyond for more than 30 years. In addition to the Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 initiative, the Foundation’s studies, surveys and programs provide the information and resources to enhance the state’s business and workplace climates.

Marci Price brings her talents and experience to the Foundation as the new executive director. Get to know Marci in this brief Q&A:

Tell us a little about your background.

“I have been a development professional for the past 15 years, focusing on individual, corporate and foundation philanthropy for regional and national organizations. After earning my master’s degree in nonprofit management from IUPUI, I lived in Chicago for several years.

“My husband and I then decided to settle down in Indianapolis to be closer to family. I have since fallen in love with Indiana and have built strong relationships with so many incredible people here.”

What was one of your favorite previous jobs and why?

“One of my favorite positions was at Feeding America, where I developed partnerships with private foundations to support national hunger relief efforts. I truly enjoyed dedicating my talents to improve food security for vulnerable populations throughout the country. It’s an area of great passion for me, and I continue that service as a volunteer for Gleaners Food Bank.”

What attracted you to join the Indiana Chamber team to lead the Foundation efforts?

“Having worked for higher education and human services organizations for several years, I have become acutely aware of the role that research plays in informing solutions to broad societal problems, as well as the role that good public policy plays in developing and sustaining those solutions.

“The Indiana Chamber Foundation has a great reputation for securing research that has led to impactful change through Indiana Vision 2025, and I’m excited to dedicate my time and effort in a way that will support continued economic growth for Indiana’s future.”

What’s one of the most important skills in your role?

“One of the keys in my role is the ability to listen and communicate with diverse audiences. The best partnerships are built on trust and a shared vision for what is possible.”

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

“I try to spend as much time as possible with my husband and two young children. I love exercise and do my best thinking on long runs. I also enjoy going out with friends and listening to live music.”

If you could have dinner and conversation with any one person, who would it be and why?

“I would love to have a chance to have dinner with Michelle Obama. She is such a captivating and strong female leader, who leveraged her challenging position to inspire people to action.  It would be a true honor to spend time with and to learn from her.”

Chamber Adds Cybersecurity Conference

People are most familiar with the Indiana Chamber as an advocacy organization. After all, that has been a primary concentration for 96 years.

But business information – in the form of employee training and regulatory compliance publications – has been an important and growing part of the mission for more than a quarter of a century. Many of those offerings have focused on human resources and safety topics, with a more recent emphasis on skill development.

A new addition in 2018 is a partnership with the Indiana attorney general for the inaugural Cybersecurity Conference (May 1-2 at the Indiana Chamber Conference Center). It’s a good sign that the topic is a timely one when the conference expands to a full two days before it even kicks off.

Cybersecurity needs in today’s business world are robust; potential solutions are complex. Business, government and legal viewpoints and conversations will take place.

Among the key topics:

  • Governor Holcomb’s Executive Council on Cybersecurity
  • Cyber threats: The No.1 risk to small businesses
  • Fighting the security battle
  • Responding to litigation and enforcement actions following a data breach
  • The dark web
  • Best practices you can implement now
  • Cyber insurance
  • Legal consideration in the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • How will General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) be enforced?
  • Ransomware: Wire transfer fraud and phishing are hitting Indiana businesses

Check out additional information, the full agenda and sponsorship opportunities. Register to attend here. Our thanks to presenting sponsor Ice Miller and additional sponsors: University of Southern Indiana Romain College of Business, WGU Indiana, Qumulus Solutions, Matrix Integration and Purdue University.

Tech Talk: A great IDEA in South Bend Region

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participated recently in the granddaddy of idea-sharing events – South by Southwest, now more popularly known as SXSW, in Austin, Texas. Later this month, people will come to the South Bend-Elkhart region for a similar-themed showcase in IDEA Week 2018.

The IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame is the lead organizer with a wide variety of partners. Between April 20-29, more than 30 activities (programs and entertainment) will take place. Innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization are the primary themes.

A few of the highlights:

  • National presenters such as Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, Shark Tank’s Daymond John and Tony Award winner Patti LuPone
  • Venture competition, TEDx program and start-up showcase
  • Entertainment in the form of concerts (The Chainsmokers), comedians (Gabriel Iglesias) and more

Various Notre Dame venues, as well as sites throughout the region, will serve as hosts. That is important as regional cooperation has been taken to a new level in recent years.

The mission of IDEA Week 2018 is twofold: Celebrate ongoing/developing successes (Notre Dame, technology park developments, recreational vehicle industry prowess to list just a few) and provide knowledge and inspiration for entrepreneurs, students and others in the community to build the next big thing.

Rich Carlton of Data Realty touched on the momentum in the region during this recent EchoChamber podcast. We’ve shared more than a few business success stories from the area in BizVoice® magazine: sidebar on Ignition Park here and focus on Goshen as 2017 Community of the Year to name two.

Kudos to all involved in developing this first-time event. Telling our story, in northern Indiana and throughout the state, is critical.

Partnership Brings Bikes to Indiana Children

The idiom “it’s just like riding a bike” is meant to imply something is so simple and natural that if you haven’t done it in a while, you should be able to pick it back up with no problem.

But what if you never rode the bike to begin with? And this is not a metaphorical question; many children at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired have not experienced the opportunity of bicycling.

However, a partnership between Regions Bank and Nine13sports has opened up a new world to some children at the school who have never been on a bike.

Thanks to the partnership, “it’s just like riding a bike” means a whole lot more to those students.

Here’s the story from Regions:

Sitting on a bike, the second grader wears a pink outfit and a determined look.

“Riding a bike makes me a brave girl,” Kiarra said. “Here. I’ll show you.”

The bike is stationary, but the feat is unique. It’s not the first time for Kiarra and most of her fellow students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. They were recently introduced to the joy and freedom of pedaling.

The bikes are there thanks to Indianapolis-based Nine13sports, a nonprofit that uses technology to bring bike riding to students across Indiana, giving an exercise outlet to many who’ve never had the opportunity before.

Tom Hanley is the Founder and CEO of Nine13sports. He’s a four-time USA Cycling National Champion. He’s also a survivor. In 2010, Hanley was one of 15 people injured in a horrific commercial vehicle crash, which killed his best friend. Hanley suffered serious injuries, including broken vertebrae and a brain injury ending his career as a competitive cyclist.

Now he shares his love for cycling with students.

“The core value of Nine13sports is that the bicycle is the ultimate equalizer. It allows us to take kids of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and abilities and connect with them in a way that’s on a level playing field,” Hanley said.

In just five years, the Nine13sports phenomenon has exploded. At one point, Nine13 worked with close to 10,000 students at 40 schools in a year. By the end of 2017, the program expanded to 40,000 students at 160 schools.

On this day, Hanley explains how the bikes and a simulator work. “It’s going to put you in the middle of a big video game. So all you have to do is pedal across the screen.”

What does unbridled fun look like? This.

With teachers and other students urging them on, the competition kicks in. While progress toward the finish line is tracked on a screen, students receive updates and encouragement.

“This is the exact same equipment, same program, and same staff we bring in,” Hanley said. “There are only a few minor modifications we’ve had to make, with being more verbal with the students knowing they have different abilities and different levels of eyesight.

Jim Durst, the Superintendent for the school, takes it all in with pride.

“The reality of it is, with the appropriate accommodations and opportunities, our kids can pretty much do anything their sighted counterparts can,” Durst said.

A few feet away, Kim Borges watches in amazement. The Indiana Area Marketing Manager for Regions also works with Nine13sports at other schools. But today is different.

“The message around this program is independence, and about what’s possible,” Borges said. “These kids are absolutely amazing and inspiring. They love the program. They’re excited about the program. They ask each week when we are coming back.”

Hanley is in the middle of it all. He’s sharing his passion and opening a new world to the students. And the realization of it all is emotional.

“Seeing them achieving that, it moves me to tears every time,” Hanley said.

Leslie Carter-Prall, Regions’ Indiana Area President, loves the impact of the program.

“I’m so proud of Regions and our commitment to communities – in particular the ways we can impact lives,” Carter-Prall said. “This is just another example of us doing more.”

Durst sees the same sense of accomplishment.

“We’ve really been blessed with Regions Bank and their willingness to collaborate and make a difference in our school,” Durst said. “I think working and collaborating with Nine13, what we’ve witnessed is the difference it makes for kids. When you see those kids on the bicycle, it really is an equalizer.”