Technology Policy Summit, Other Events on Tap

One sign of the continued growth of Indiana’s technology and innovation sectors is the plethora of meetings, conferences, summits and other events that fill the calendar.

Leading the way is the Indiana Chamber’s second Technology Policy Summit. After a successful year advocating on innovation and entrepreneurship issues at the Statehouse in 2017, the organization’s tech policy committee has identified priorities for the year ahead. Look for summit sessions on data center strategies; autonomous vehicles; Smart Cities, Smart State initiatives and more.

The December 1 event (8:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) will take place at the Conrad in downtown Indianapolis. We’ll share a more in-depth preview in this space in the coming weeks. Learn more and register at https://www.indianachamber.com/event/technology-policy-summit/.

Among the many other programs coming up:

  • Indy IoT 2017: The New Crossroads of IoT features a focus on making things, moving things and growing things. ClearObject is the organizer of the luncheon program on October 25 at 502 East Event Centre in Carmel.
  • The CIS-IEEE EnCon Engineering Conference highlights the cutting edge of technical innovation. The Cyberinfrastructure Building and the Innovation Center on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington will host the November 10-11 sessions.
  • Innovation, entrepreneurs and more will come together for the 2017 Indiana AgbioSciences Innovation Summit. AgriNovus Indiana presents the daylong program on November 29 at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

Again, these are just a few of the many programs focused on advancing technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in Indiana. We encourage you and your team members to take advantage of the opportunities, get involved and benefit from the collective learning.

Tech Talk: Assessing Tech-Based Growth Strategies

High tech job growth

What can state governments do to best facilitate technology-based economic development? New research published in the Journal of Social Science Research suggests it’s the continuity of support more than making the “big splash.” In other words, the steady pace just might win the race.

Kevin Leicht, a University of Illinois professor and study author, says: “You don’t have to necessarily put a huge amount of money into these investments, and most states don’t. But you have to just keep doing it and plugging along and allow for a lot of failure, and in most cases, you’ll get something for it.”

The State Science & Technology Institute offers this summary of the research findings:

For “State Investments in High-Technology Job Growth”, authors Leicht and J. Craig Jenkins of Ohio State University assess two policy frameworks advanced by proponents of technology-based economic development.

A “technopole strategy” seeks to plan and support the growth of high-tech industries in specific locations. The authors suggest that elements of this centralized strategy include high-technology business incubators that provide subsidized R&D space; research parks; subsidized space for high-tech businesses (including seed accelerators); and technology development programs at universities and/or government industry research consortia.

The less centralized “entrepreneurial strategy” seeks to decrease barriers to starting a small business by supporting the development of local networks, entrepreneurs and partnerships. The authors include the following in this framework: public venture capital programs, small business innovation research programs, technology grant and loan programs, and tech transfer efforts.

The authors found Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio exhibited the longest record of accomplishment in supporting high-tech policies. Ultimately, they concluded that entrepreneurial policies promote high-technology job growth in regional contexts where there is considerable high-tech employment already, while two policies – SBIR and technology deployment policies – had direct, additive effects on high-tech job growth regardless of agglomeration and location factors.

Although precise annual expenditure data would give a more exact measure of job creation in cost/benefit terms, the authors estimate that one additional year of commitment to technology deployment policies yields about 1,300 additional high-tech jobs and one additional year of SBIR commitment yielded 1,976 additional jobs.

The findings suggest that entrepreneurial programs tend to work best for rural (low population density) states, where those policies may help states play “catch up.” Conversely, the authors find limited evidence that technopole strategies support high-technology job growth net of other factors, though these policies can be effective when coupled with existing high-technology advantages.

The conclusions generally support this commonly heard refrain: It is oftentimes the small and incremental steps, not the massive recruitment/relocation deals, which spark transformative economic development.

Tech Talk: Getting the Most From Your Marketing Firm

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Walton is CEO of Brand Acceleration, Inc., which focuses on economic development marketing. Jim’s tips, however, can apply to all company-marketing partnerships. Learn more at www.brandaccel.com.

After working in the advertising and marketing industry for several decades, I can tell you that there remains a lot of confusion about what a marketing firm or ad agency does. For many, the notion is that such firms are made up of purple-haired, bearded designer types with tattoos and flip-flops. Admittedly, there are some of those, but today’s successful marketing firms offer much more than just design.

So, how do you select a marketing firm? What skills and characteristics do you look for? Once selected, how do you make the partnership work? Here are a few pointers:

It’s a partnership
The first thing the client (economic developer) needs to remember is that it’s a partnership relationship. Great marketing firms work as part of your marketing team, not just as a vendor who is there to take orders and design stuff. They assume an ownership role in you and your community. They’re in it for the long haul.

Think big picture
Great organizations, including economic development organizations (EDO), have a well-thought-out set of goals, setting forth their vision for the community’s future. From the first day, the EDO should get the new marketing firm involved with the visioning, making them part of the team, and sharing the vision. This is not the time to hold back or to be secretive.

The marketing firm should provide depth and counsel
Have you ever hired a designer to create a new brochure or website, just to find that you spend much of your time teaching him or her about economic development? Maybe you even have to do all the copywriting because the designer doesn’t write.

A great marketing firm should know your industry and your audiences as well, or better, than you. Do they know any site selectors or real estate professionals? Have they ever visited c-suite offices or interviewed corporate executives about their expectations of marketing tools? To save yourself a lot of aggravation, seek out a marketing firm that knows your audiences. They should also demonstrate a deep knowledge of marketing principles. From start-to-finish, the marketing firm should know and be able to communicate your story.

Get them involved early and often
Let’s say your organization wants to target the food industry, and you’re considering ways to reach out to people in that industry. From that very moment, that’s when you should get your marketing firm involved. Rather than simply cranking out a food industry brochure, the marketing firm, working as your partner, will help flesh out important considerations and provide ideas for ways to successfully reach the audience with the right message.

Be open to new ideas
Coming off point number four, you should always be open to new and different ideas. A marketing firm with broad experiences may bring you a suggestion that you never considered. They will also offer suggestions that are more in tune with the big picture (point number two).

Cheaper isn’t necessarily better
We are often asked what our hourly rate is, as if a lower rate means a cheaper final product. It doesn’t. If a vendor has a low hourly rate, there’s probably a good reason for that. Instead, you should look for a firm, fixed price that won’t change unless the scope of work changes. That way, you’ll know how much to budget.

What services do they provide, and which ones do you need?
Some agencies offer a very narrow line of services, like web design. Others offer a much broader list, such as media planning and buying, public relations, video production, workforce attraction marketing, event planning and management, etc. It’s unwise to limit yourself by selecting a firm that is unable to grow with your needs.

Be responsive
Working with a marketing firm does not mean that all the burden is on their shoulders. They’re going to need your input to get work done, especially if the work is on a deadline. You’ll be asked to proofread work and answer numerous questions to be sure it meets your expectations. It’s important to respond right away.

By making your marketing firm a trusted partner in your community economic development marketing effort, you’ll have a much greater likelihood of success. Hire the best, and you’ll experience truly positive results.

Tech Talk: Breaking Down the H-1B Visa Numbers

U.S. employers planned to pay high-skilled foreign workers with H-1B visas a median salary of $80,000 a year in fiscal year 2016, up from about $69,000 a decade earlier, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. This is the first time the U.S. government has made salary information about H-1B applicants publicly available.

The 2016 median salary reported for H-1B visa applicants was higher than the median salary paid to some U.S. workers in similar high-skill occupations. For example, U.S. workers in computer and mathematical occupations had a median salary of $75,036 in fiscal 2016, a slight increase from 2007, when the median salary was $73,979 (adjusted to 2016 dollars), according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on all U.S. workers. The majority (60%) of all H-1B applicants from fiscal 2007 to 2016 were seeking employment in computer and mathematical occupations.

Several bills have been proposed in Congress this year to change the H-1B program, and the Trump administration has said it backs a plan that would reverse decades of U.S. immigration policy by admitting more high-skilled immigrants and fewer low-skilled immigrants.

The USCIS data show that overall demand for H-1B visas has increased sharply over the past decade. The number of total H-1B visa applications filed by employers on behalf of foreign workers increased from 246,126 in fiscal 2009 to 399,349 in 2016, and is on pace to reach a new high in 2017. Overall, U.S. employers filed more than 3.4 million H-1B visa applications from fiscal 2007 through the end of June 2017 (the first nine months of fiscal 2017).

The U.S. government also released H-1B visa salaries that individual employers plan to pay foreign workers, as indicated on applications approved by USCIS (and still subject to State Department review).

The biggest names in technology planned to pay the highest average salary to H-1B visa holders in fiscal 2016. But they also expected to hire fewer workers than other companies, according to data on applications approved by USCIS. Facebook planned to pay an average salary of $140,758 on 1,107 H-1B visa applications (a total that includes both first-time and renewal applications), the highest average salary paid among the 30 companies with the most visa approvals. Apple planned to pay a $138,563 average salary on 1,992 applications, while Google paid a $131,882 average salary on 2,517 applications.

The top prospective employers of foreign workers on H-1B visas provide information technology and other business services. Cognizant Tech Solutions, an IT consulting company based in New Jersey, had 21,459 applications approved in fiscal 2016, the most of any company. The next two top H-1B employers are companies based in India with offices in the U.S.: Infosys (12,780 applications approved) and Tata Consultancy (11,295).

Tech Talk: Federal Tech Team Still in Place

The following is excerpted from NextGov:

An Obama-era technology troubleshooting team has continued under President Donald Trump, maintaining projects some experts suspected would be shuttered in the new administration.

The U.S. Digital Service, a task force of professionals recruited from the private sector, was established to tackle some of the federal government’s highest profile and highest risk technology challenges. Today, it has satellite operations in seven federal agencies, including Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.

The team reports to the Office of Management and Budget and is now part of the American Technology Council, a group of business leaders that President Trump taps for advice on federal problems. The Digital Service (USDS) also works with the White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and is aiming to modernize government technology.

Among the recent USDS priorities, according to its report to Congress:

  • A variety of projects for Veterans Affairs – building and deploying a system to process claims for disability compensation; piloting a tool to allow lawyers and judges to review evidence from those claims; and launching Vets.gov, an online portal consolidating thousands of federal benefit sites for veterans.
  • Collaborating with U.S. Citizenship and Innovation Services to digitize the immigration paperwork processing system.
  • Shoring up the federal purchasing process, including an education program to train contracting officers on buying digital IT services.

The USDS web site notes that in support of its goals, “We recruit top technologists for term-limited tours of duty with the federal government. We hope to encourage a tradition of public service in the technology industry that will support the ongoing improvement of government digital services.”

Bottom line: There’s no doubt that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement when it comes to government and technology. Let’s hope USDS can play a positive role in that mission.

Tech Talk: Don’t Overlook the Importance of Job Titles

Matt MacBeth (left) and Don Inmon are ready to take tech-enabled Edwin the Duck to new territories with their ambitious vision for the Edwin the Duck franchise.

Since I started my first company, Purified Audio, in 1998, I’ve learned a lot, including the importance of small details like job titles. Titles might seem like a minor concern, especially at a one or two-person start-up, but the truth is, getting them right is essential to the foundation of any business … especially now, with the exposure of my current venture, pi lab – and Edwin the Duck.

Giving clear and accurate job titles to both yourself as the business owner and the employees you eventually hire sets the tone for your growth and keeps everyone in their own lane. However, there are also some pitfalls to be avoided. If you’re trying to decide what your title is, or the title of your new hire, here are some points to consider about the message those titles send to both your employees and the outside world.

What’s in a name?

In the broader business community, a job title is one of the first things your peers want to learn about you. The job title sends a message about the level of responsibility someone has and what duties they’re responsible for at the business.

For example, if someone is called a manager of some department, that implies they’re in charge of managing other employees, while a director might be a one-person department making lots of decisions. It’s important to consider the connotations of a job title, not just pick something that sounds official, impressive, or trendy.

Chain of command

The other goal achieved by giving accurate job titles to yourself and employees is to establish the organization’s chain of command early on. Whether you’re making your first, second, third or 10th hire, ask yourself what their specific tasks will be and who they will report to. By defining the role and then establishing the title, you ensure the title is comprehensive and specific to their duties.

Lastly, remember that some job titles are accompanied by salary expectations for qualified candidates. Before putting out a call for applicants, make sure you’ve done the research about comparable positions at your competitor companies and know what you’ll need to offer a talented person.

Don’t just talk the talk

Especially at a start-up, the desire to appear robust and competitive can lead to some serious job title inflation. What many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that the disconnect between yours or an employee’s actual life experiences and the implications of a title can be jarring for prospective clients and partners.

For example, if a client thinks they are meeting with your company’s chief information officer, and they walk into a meeting with a 22-year-old who is fresh out of college with no work experience in IT, that sends a message about your business’ competence and legitimacy. Just because someone is your first hire in a specific department or skill set doesn’t mean they should automatically get the highest-ranking title.

Don’t give people job titles they aren’t qualified for. Just keep it real and genuine, and the titles won’t matter so much, because your success will speak for itself.

Job titles only get more important as a business grows. At first, most people on a team are usually part of sales and generating revenue, but they might take on other duties too as necessary.

With more staff on hand, job titles are essential to delineate who has what duties and who is accountable to whom. Without that organization, your internal team will be less efficient and outsiders like clients will have a hard time understanding how your business functions.


Author: Matt MacBeth is co-founder and CEO of pi lab, creators of Edwin the Duck. MacBeth and partner Don Inmon were the 2016 Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leaders of the Year. See story and video.

Voice Searches Taking Over

A recent report by iProspect offers a glimpse into the trends and opportunities regarding paid search marketing.

Google AdWords data showed strong mobile growth in terms of both impressions and clicks. Volume on desktops and tablets, however, was down, indicating an overall decrease in demand for those devices. Cost per click (CPC) increased across all devices, reaching the highest CPC recorded since this report’s inception in 2014. Mobile CPC saw a particularly significant increase, up 40% year-over-year, further closing the gap on desktop.

Voice search is quickly becoming the search method of choice for many consumers, says the report. Today, 500 million people use a voice search-powered digital assistant of some kind, and half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

This behavioral shift is ushering in a rise in longer, more conversational queries, causing savvy advertisers to refocus their keyword strategy to ensure it includes question-based keywords such as who, what, when, where, why and how, as well as qualifying phrases such as near me.

Indiana Chamber Key to Opening Door for 5G in Indiana

AT&T Indiana President Bill Soards spoke to Inside INdiana Business about the 5G Evolution. Soards has been an integral part of the Indiana Chamber’s Technology & Innovation Council.

You likely saw the big news from AT&T last week touting 5G service coming to central Indiana. What you might not know is that the Indiana Chamber played a significant role in making that important advancement possible.

“Improving digital infrastructure has always been a top priority for the Indiana Chamber,” says Bill Soards, president of AT&T Indiana. “The Chamber’s new Technology and Innovation Council has helped elevate the growing significance of 5G and other emerging technologies in Indiana and played a critical role this year in helping pass Senate Bill 213.”

This legislation clears the way for a shift in Indiana’s mobile broadband connectivity to the next generation of technology and will enable a more rapid rollout in communities across the state. We lobbied hard for Senate Bill 213 in the Indiana General Assembly and will continue to push for important policies that advance innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Indiana.

The Indiana Chamber achieves victories like this by bringing a wide spectrum of voices and perspectives to our elected representatives. You can help our state go further and do it faster by becoming a member of the Indiana Chamber or increasing your investment if you are already on board. Additionally, please consider taking part in our grassroots efforts to educate state leaders about important public policy issues that impact your organization.

Nominations for Indiana Innovation Awards Closing Soon!

Nominations are open for the 2017 Indiana Innovation Awards until the end of July. Any innovation is eligible to be recognized as long as it has been “released” in some form or fashion within the past three years and the team behind the innovation is headquartered (at least partially for interstate/international organizations) in Indiana.

Past winners have included products, services, technologies, processes and initiatives that demonstrate both uniqueness and success.

Awards will be presented at the October 12 Day of Innovation conference in Indianapolis.

Going On the Co-Working Road

The Fish Tank co-working space in Columbus is leading to a variety of business community collaborations.

Business dreams come in many shapes and sizes. A common denominator is having the resources available to help those dreams come true. And the places to make that happen, like the entrepreneurs themselves, are unique in many ways.Business dreams come in many shapes and sizes. A common denominator is having the resources available to help those dreams come true. And the places to make that happen, like the entrepreneurs themselves, are unique in many ways.

The Indiana Chamber’s BizVoice® magazine, in its yearlong series on innovation and entrepreneurship, hits the road in the current issue to learn about the people and places in four communities. They are:

While they vary in size and activity, these and other co-working space share the common bond of bringing people together. I’m confident you will enjoy learning about some of the entrepreneurs who are starting and growing their businesses.

The July-August issue also offers:

  • A continuation of the developing success story at Recovery Force. Three external advisors with varying backgrounds share their insights
  • A guest column that focuses on the green Internet of Things
  • Quick Hits that include a business attraction effort in Anderson; another unique space for entrepreneurs in Wabash; and a successful remote relationship for an ExactTarget alum who didn’t want to leave central Indiana

If you don’t receive each of the six bimonthly issues of BizVoice®, you can subscribe online. If you want to reach an audience of 15,000-plus decision-makers with your products and services, contact Tim Brewer (tbrewer@indianachamber.com) for advertising specials and packages.