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.

Breaking Down the Women in Tech Numbers

Increasing diversity in technology remains an ongoing goal. A global 2018 Women in Tech Index provides some interesting numbers and perspective:

The study focuses on 41 countries in the European Union and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). It compares the proportion of female employees, gender wage gap and opportunities for women in the IT field, among other criteria.  

“McKinsey found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality.  As tech recruitment specialists, we are often confronted with the gender imbalances of the industry,” says Emma Tracey, co-founder at Honeypot (a leading technology career platform). “With the proportion of female tech workers remaining under 30% across the board, we hope that this study will enrich the conversation concerning equality in this industry and inspire more women to seek out opportunities in tech.”

  • Portugal, the United States and Latvia offer the best opportunities for women in tech, with an industry gender pay gap around 6-7% less than the overall average wage gap in each country.
  • The United States offers the highest wages to women working in tech, at $86,608 per annum, followed by Ireland ($60,558) and Switzerland ($59,029).
  • At 30%, Bulgaria has the highest percentage of women working in tech, followed by Australia with 28% and Romania at 26%. The U.S. is at 24.6%.
  • Lithuania has the highest percentage of overall female workforce, at 51.17%, one of only two (alongside Latvia at 50.25%) countries in the index that have a higher percentage of women than men in their workforce. Turkey has the smallest percentage of female workforce, at 31.55%.
  • Latvia has the highest percentage of women legislators, senior officials and managers at 44.4%, while South Korea has the least with 10.7%.
  • Sweden has the highest percentage of women in parliament positions, at 44.5%, while Japan has the least, at 9.9%.
  • Finland has the highest percentage of women in ministerial positions at 62.5%. Notably, France is the only country with 50% of its ministerial cabinet made up of women. Hungary and the Slovak Republic both have zero women in ministerial positions.
  • Luxembourg has the highest overall wage for women, at $59,191 per annum. Bulgaria has the lowest, at $12,278.
  • The United States has the most women working in the tech industry, at just under 1.5 million. Malta has the least, with 800 women working in tech.
  • The United States offers the highest wage both overall in tech and for women in tech, at $98,265 and $86,608 respectively. Mexico offers the lowest wages in tech, both overall and for women, at $19,492 and $15,456 respectively.

Social Connection at What Cost?

It’s been fun, guys.

Digging our heads into the sand and enjoying our social media. Happily sharing gifs, memes, videos, photos with one another, connecting with friends (or frenemies) from high school and posting political opinions that will change exactly no one’s mind.

On some level, we probably all knew that Facebook was tracking our every “like” and “share” online. And yet, the reality of that fact has come crashing down on us over the past few weeks as privacy scandals at Facebook are making headlines.

Understandably, there’s a #DeleteFacebook campaign ongoing. And yet, I haven’t deleted my Facebook account, with no plans to do so. What about you?

While I’m not planning to leave Facebook, I have identified recently with a scene from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” where privacy-conscious Ron Swanson is alerted that web site cookies exist and that Google Maps has a photo of his house:

(He’s throwing his computer in the dumpster, FYI.)

But that’s not a solution. Maybe for some it is, but not for me and probably many others working in today’s world, who need to utilize and understand technology and social connection.

However, we can – and should – all do a better job of understanding just what we’re agreeing to when downloading new apps and sharing on social media. Instead of an “ignorance is bliss” outlook, take a thorough look through your privacy settings and advertising settings and be very specific about what information you want to share with each platform or app.

If you are interested in downloading the full archive of what data Facebook contains about you, this article from Inc. includes an easy five-step process:

How to Get Your Data

In typical Facebook fashion, it’s easy to get this data, but only if you know exactly where to look. That’s what I’m here for.

  1. Click this link. You’re looking for facebook.com/settings. If for some strange reason that doesn’t work, on desktop, you want to click the little upside-down triangle in the upper right-hand corner, then drop down and click “Settings.”
  2. Click where it says “Download Archive.” You will likely have to reenter your password. Facebook will need about 10 or 15 minutes to compile your data and will send you a link via email to get your information.
  3. Check your email spam folder; the message Facebook sent me wasn’t readily visible in my inbox. The subject should read “Your Facebook download is ready.” Click the link in your email and you’ll be sent back to Facebook again–and probably have to enter your password once more. (This is a good thing; there’s a lot of personal information in the files they’re sending you.)
  4. Click the “Download Archive” button on this second screen, and you’ll download a .zip file that should be called: “facebook-YOURUSERNAME.zip.” Extract the files by clicking on the .zip file in most cases, and you’ll wind up with a series of folders. There should be a file called simply “index.html.”
  5. Click on that, and the archive should open in your browser.

I’m going to download my Facebook data – mainly to see what it contains and how accurate some of it is. I joined Facebook when I was a sophomore in college, back in 2005. So, I’ll have 13 years of data to comb through and I’m assuming it’s going to be as embarrassing as when I read back through my diary from junior high.

Indiana Chamber Comments on SaaS Tax Clarity Bill Signed Into Law Today

Bill Waltz, Indiana Chamber of Commerce vice president of taxation and public finance, comments on Senate Bill 257 being signed into law, providing clarity on the tax exempt status for software-as-a-service (SaaS) transactions:

“Since last summer, the Indiana Chamber has been leading the charge to see this clarification become law, with language originating in our tech policy committee. Our advocacy team and several members of the committee met with all the interested parties to build momentum and consensus. We put a lot of work into the effort because the stakes were high. The state’s significant momentum as an attractive place for innovative and entrepreneurial companies was in jeopardy without a sensible solution.

“And this policy is important not just for tech companies, but for those who do business with them. The new law is straightforward on what transactions are exempt. Having clarity around that will help grow Indiana’s software development economy, as well as prevent onerous taxation of other necessary business expenses throughout the business community.

“We thank Governor Holcomb for his leadership and legislators for listening to our members and taking this important step forward to further demonstrate Indiana’s technology commitment. The state is now in a very favorable position to reap very real economic benefits and attract more and more of the software-as-a-service industry.”

Sen. Travis Holdman, author of SB 257 (left) and the Chamber’s Bill Waltz 

Victory! Software-as-a-Service Bill Set to Become Law

This week, the Senate unanimously approved the House changes to Senate Bill 257 (Sales Tax on Software). This bill began as a top Indiana Chamber goal; it was embraced by the administration and made a priority of the Governor, the Senate got it introduced and rolling, then the House took good legislation and made it even better.

The Senate concurrence vote means the bill is on its way to Gov. Holcomb and there will be SaaS (software as a service) tax clarity in Indiana!

This is exactly what the Indiana Chamber has been working toward since last summer and it is good news for the SaaS industry. Senate Bill 257 is a straightforward piece of legislation that can reap very real economic benefits for the state. We thank legislators for listening to our members and taking this important step forward to demonstrate Indiana’s commitment to embracing the growth of the SaaS industry. The legislation puts Indiana in a very favorable position to attract more and more of this burgeoning business to our state.

Tech Talk: MPH, IoT Hack and Coding Events on Tap

One of the initial successes of the Indiana Chamber’s tech policy committee was securing funding for the state’s Management Performance Hub (MPH) during the 2017 legislative session.

MPH is an integrated system that links government agency data and allows for data-driven analytics and research. Efforts thus far have yielded a variety of results and the potential is promising.

Data Day 2018 (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on March 6 in the north atrium of the Statehouse) is an opportunity to learn where innovation is happening and to share ideas for future projects.

Public safety is the theme of the April 20-21 AT&T IoT Civic Hackathon. Bill Soards reports more than $15,000 in prizes will be awarded, nearly 200 attendees are already registered, 10 speakers (including the commissioner of the Boston Police Department during the 2013 marathon bombing) are confirmed and momentum continues to build for the third annual event.

From the AT&T folks: Hang out with us as we hack and build IoT apps and projects, get fed, compete for prizes across different categories and, most importantly, meet new people and scout for teammates to work on new or current projects. Bring your laptop, skills and ideas for 24 hours of learning, coding and hacking.

The new IoT lab in Fishers will be the primary location, with additional activities at Launch Fishers.

Indy.Code() is one of many new entries into the Indiana technology conference scene. Full-day workshops and more than 100 breakout sessions are included (April 16-18 at the Indiana Convention Center), along with a keynote address by Indianapolis education technology entrepreneur Nick Birch (Eleven Fifty Academy and PropelUp).

IoT

 

Technology on Tap at Safety Conference, March 12-14

Technology has advanced in the workplace and not only from the standpoint of evolving the products or processes used in specific industries. Advanced technology has also entered the world of workplace safety.

An emphasis on technology in safety is one of the educational tracks at this year’s Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo.

For example, one of the sessions focuses on the impact of virtual reality on safety training. The use of virtual reality in the workplace can allow workers to practice their skills, while lowering costs and increasing revenue. It also displays a commitment to worker safety.

Several other technology-focused sessions include effective safety management, management safety principles and solutions, updates in education and consulting skills, and INSafe/safety fundamentals.

The conference is less than two weeks away, but there is still time to register. Sending two or more people allows for a 20% discount using promo code “Group20” at checkout.

For a complete list of educational tracks and schedule of events, visit www.INsafetyconf.com.

The 2018 Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo is presented by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Central Indiana Chapter of American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), in partnership with INSafe and the Coalition for Construction Safety. Gibson is the conference sponsor.

SaaS Bill Even Better After Amendments

Senate Bill 257 (Sales Tax on Software) took a very positive turn this week when it was amended by the House Ways and Means Committee. After hearing considerable testimony from members of the Chamber’s Technology and Innovation Policy Committee in a hearing last week, it appears the message was received! That message: It would be beneficial to the software industry to provide simple clarity regarding the exempt status of software as a service (SaaS).

The Ways and Means Committee amendment deleted a good amount of language that we were concerned could raise new questions and run counter to the objective of reducing uncertainty about software transactions.

These changes make clear that it is only in the case where prewritten software is delivered electronically (downloaded) that the transaction is considered a retail sale subject to sales tax. And when someone buys the right to remotely access software, the transaction is not taxed. Through these positive amendments, the bill now more directly serves the objective of clarifying that SaaS transactions – those involving the use of software to essentially provide a service – are excluded from taxation.

The Indiana Chamber has been making the case for the need to eliminate the previously existing ambiguous language and convincing legislators that a clear, simple, straightforward piece of legislation can reap very real economic benefits. Our efforts are reflected in this much streamlined version of SB 257. We thank the Ways and Means Committee for listening to our members and taking this important step forward to demonstrate the Legislature’s commitment to embracing the growth of the SaaS industry in Indiana. The revised bill puts Indiana in a very favorable position to attract more and more of this burgeoning industry to our state.

Tech Talk: Staking Their Claim to Be Among the ‘Best’

Technology organizations have traditionally fared well in the annual Best Places to Work (BPTW) in Indiana program, including taking top honors several times in its 12-year history.

In recent years, the number of technology companies making the list has significantly increased. Two reasons, both fairly obvious: Tech is continually becoming a bigger part of our state’s economy and more businesses in this sector are entering the program to gain the valuable feedback that all participants receive.

The 2018 BPTW list was unveiled earlier this week. Twenty-six of the 125 honorees self-identified as being in the tech industry; a few others chose consulting or related fields, but do most of their work in the tech/innovation areas.

Two of the BPTW Hall of Fame organizations (making the list at least eight years of the now 13 years of the program) are Salesforce (ExactTarget in the early days) and Software Engineering Professionals.

But, as noted earlier, the last few years have seen the addition of so many tech start-ups or national companies establishing a strong Indiana presence. The Indiana Chamber’s BizVoice® magazine featured four BPTW newcomers in 2017. Among the first-time winners in 2018: Brite Systems, Carbonite, ClearObject, Clinical Architecture, ESCO Communications, Greenlight Guru, Kronos, OrthoPediatrics, Perficient, Sigstr and Springbuk.

Here’s the 2018 list, in alphabetical order, for the four employer size categories. The celebration, and release of the final rankings, takes place on May 3 at the Indiana Convention Center. BizVoice will have the details about the outstanding workplace cultures at all the winners in its May-June issue.

Congratulations to all the winners. Learn more about the program and prepare to enter for 2019.

Tech Talk: Making Progress at the Statehouse

An Indiana General Assembly analysis at the midway point of the session is always a bit tricky. We can tell you the current status of legislation, but with the caution that more negotiations, compromises and refinements are on the way.

Clarifying the tax status of software as a service (SaaS) is among the high-priority items. Bill Waltz, our tax policy expert, shares this insightful update:

Bill Waltz

As is often the case, the House and the Senate each have their own ideas on how best to address big issues. That is the current circumstance regarding the taxability of software utilized as the means of providing a service. Obtaining greater clarity on this subject is a priority of the Chamber and the Governor.

Senate Bill 257 embodies the efforts of the administration to clarify tax law in this arena. It was largely formulated by the Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Office of Management and Budget to serve as guidance for what is taxable and what is not. The bill is basically a codification of recent DOR rulings interpreting and applying its own information bulletin, which outlines a complicated set of factors and tests. The legislation is focused on what constitutes a retail transaction (sale) of a tangible good.

Essentially, the position of DOR is to tax the sale of prewritten off-the-shelf type software, including such software even if it is downloaded or accessed over the internet. But if it is customized software or software utilized in connection with what is primarily a service to a customer, it is omitted from the new statute and deemed not taxable.

The determinations in gray areas will remain fact sensitive, but the language is intended to make it clearer that software services are not taxable. The statutory provisions should operate to make people in the SaaS industry more comfortable in concluding that they do not need to collect sales tax, unless they are engaged in a transaction that falls squarely into the retail product sale category as set out in the legislation.

On the other hand, HB 1316 takes a different approach. It uses similar language as is in SB 257 but adds several unique twists to the picture. First, it creates a new lesser rate for prewritten off-the-shelf type of software – with the apparent objective of identifying and monitoring the tax revenues associated with these transactions. It excludes transactions where the software is acquired by a business to perform its core business purpose. This business-to-business exemption component is of course a very positive thing and should be embraced. Finally, it looks to the long term potential of sales involving software as the industry continues to expand, plus creates a trigger reducing the standard sales tax rate for when total collections exceed $250 million (a threshold so high that it is hardly foreseeable in the near future.)

Perhaps it makes the most sense to combine the good pieces of these competing bills to produce the best end result. The Chamber sees much merit in doing all that is possible to clarify the state of the law regarding SaaS as is addressed in the Senate bill. This is needed and would be a positive step. But while unique aspects of the House bill present some real concerns, it also includes the most solid of tax principles – don’t tax business inputs. Exempting business-to-business transactions would prove a terrific encouragement to the SaaS industry to conduct their businesses in Indiana.

In the second half of the session, the Chamber will be leading the charge to resolve the SaaS clarification issue to the fullest extent possible.

A variety of other tech policy priorities are still in play. Here is a brief summary.