Look at Indiana Entrepreneurship Offers Mixed Signals

Cam Carter, our VP of small business and economic development, talks with Tom Schuman about the state of entrepreneurship in Indiana.

For more on recent developments on this topic, see these articles from the latest BizVoice magazine:

Lt. Governors Skillman, Ellspermann Find Great Value in Crane NSWC

Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center (in Crane, Indiana) has a reputation as "the best kept secret" in Indiana when it comes to innovation and public/private partnerships that are changing what is possible in America. For a full story on how Crane is enhancing the state's entrepreneurship culture, keep an eye out for our July/August edition of BizVoice magazine. Our creative director and I were fortunate to receive a tour of the base and the Westgate @ Crane Technology Park to learn about what's happening there — all that isn't classified, of course. But it appears we aren't the only ones who are impressed. Two of Indiana's most esteemed legislators also have some kind words about the base:

Becky Skillman did admirable work as Indiana's Lt. Gov. during Mitch Daniels' popular administration. After leaving office, she landed back in her home region of Southern Indiana, and is leading Radius Indiana. Additionally, our current Lt. Gov, Sue Ellspermann, also offered remarks on how vital Crane is for Hoosier innovation. See below.

Becky Skillman, President/CEO, Radius Indiana
Radius Indiana serves as a catalyst to help support and promote the use of civili military innovation through technology transfer and entrepreneurship. We work with our network of partners, including Westgate @ Crane, the ISBDC (Indiana Small Business Development Center), and many others to help start-up companies connect to resources they need in order to promote entrepreneurial success and economic growth within our 8-county region and beyond. With the low-cost, business-friendly environment that exists in Indiana, we are perfectly positioned and ready for growth within the defense industry.


Sue Ellspermann, Lt. Gov.
In the past I have enjoyed working with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane to increase the capture of intellectual property and the potential tech transfer opportunities available by identifying an external non-military application and potential market.

Our administration’s vision for Indiana includes focusing on economic development within Indiana's defense sector. One of the goals of the Indiana Office of Defense Development is to leverage the incredible assets at Crane and our federal research labs, including identifying high-potential technologies and developing strategies to successfully commercialize them. There is growing interaction and collaboration between the private sector and our major universities to bring technological innovations developed at Crane to market, to bolster the economy and create more high-tech, high-wage jobs in Indiana.

Start-up Founder Laments Simple “For-Profit” Approach

Start-up cofounder Rand Fishkin has an interesting post on his blog about how simple "for-profit" thinking may not be optimal if the view is just short-term. I'd argue some start-ups aren't profit-focused enough sometimes, but his general outlook is worth noting and he makes some valid points about the nature of doing business today.

Apple as a whole may be worth more, but Google’s trendline, particularly the past 6 months, is far more favorable. Fred’s assertion is that this stems from investors’ sophisticated understanding that Google controls so much of the data, software, and ecosystem around computing. Google’s mission isn’t to make as much money as possible, certainly not in the short term anyway. Google is aiming for total domination of their (ever-expanding) areas of focus. Revenue and profits are merely a helpful side-effect of these efforts.

Later in the week, courtesy of Dan Ariely, I watched this video about Hancock Bank’s remarkable $1.4Billion growth following Hurricane Katrina (it’s worth watching all the way through, but if you don’t have 6 full minutes, start at the 3:44 mark).

The mission of making money isn’t just boring and stale. It’s hard to get excited about. It’s hard to get behind. It’s hard to build a fan-base around. It’s hard to hire for. It’s hard to scale. And it’s hard to stick with something through the muck of despair and failure that inevitably occur if you’re not pursuing something bigger than yourselves – bigger than money.

I don’t mean to suggest that those who relentlessly pursue wealth at the cost of all else don’t occassionally succeed. But I would argue that most businesses that have changed the world in the technology age have been pursuing a mission beyond the financial.

Top Companies Rank Top Goals

Two of the many Indiana Chamber programs/initiatives that we are proud of are the Best Places to Work in Indiana program and our Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan.

We combined the two in a strictly unscientific survey, asking the Best Places applicants to prioritize five of the Indiana Vision 2025 goals. There are no right or wrong answers, of course, but it's interesting to see how these top organizations rank some of the strategies that will help move our state forward.

The five goals and the average rank (1 being most important, 5 least important):

  • Develop entrepreneurship and aggressively promote business start-ups through education, networking, investment and financial support: 2.3
  • Diversify Indiana's energy mix with an emphasis on clean coal, nuclear power and renewables: 4.2
  • Enact comprehensive local government refrom at the state and local levels to increase efficiency and effctiveness in delivery of services: 3.4
  • Increase to 90% the proportion of Indiana students who graduate from high school ready for college and/or career training: 2.1
  • Increase to 60% the proportion of Indiana residents with high quality postsecondary credentials: 3.0

Work is ongoing on all the Indiana Vision 2025 goals. The 2013 Best Places to Work program will culminate with the May 2 awards dinner. Rankings will be revealed at that event and BizVoice magazine will profile the 100 winners.

Hoosier Entrepreneurs Earn Invitation to White House as Startup Climate Warms

Indiana's strong business climate and favorable cost of living is making the Hoosier state a popular place for startup businesses. As this blog and BizVoice feature about DeveloperTown convey, Silicon Valley doesn't have much on the budding ideas and energy emanating from the heartland — especially in Central Indiana. Tuesday, five Indiana entrepreneurs are meeting with White House staff in Washington, D.C. about how to make Indiana's startup climate even better. Below is an excerpt from a press release, as well as background on Indiana's representatives as written by Kevin Hitchen of Localstake.

Startup leaders from across the country will convene in Washington, D.C. on February 5th to meet with administration officials to discuss the importance of fostering vibrant startup communities throughout the U.S. These Startup America Region Champions will also unveil their regions’ plans to push their startup ecosystems to the next level. Representatives from the Small Business Administration, Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Commerce will take part in the meeting. 
 
Participating regions include: Startup Arizona, Startup Colorado, Startup DC, Startup Indiana, Startup Iowa, Startup Maryland, Startup North Carolina, Startup Nebraska, Startup Tennessee, Startup Texas and Startup Virginia. This meeting will be preceded by the Kauffman Foundation’s State of Entrepreneurship luncheon and followed by a reception hosted by Startup DC at the brand new D.C. startup hub 1776.

Indiana's representation includes:

  • Michael Coffey, who raised $2.5 in 60 days in 2010 and started a niche marketing company, moved from Napa Valley to Indianapolis because he is so impressed with Indiana's startup scene. In 2012, he became partner at DeveloperTown.
  • Kevin Hitchen is one of the founders of Localstake, a new investment marketplace that allows individuals to invest in local private businesses.  Localstake recently registered as a broker-dealer with the SEC and FINRA, so it can offer private business investing before the JOBS Act is implemented.
  • Matt Hunckler is the founder of Verge, a 2,000-member platform for software entrepreneurs in the Midwest. He leads startup efforts at Social Reactor, a premium social engagement platform based in Carmel.
  • Michael Langellier is the new CEO of TechPoint, Indiana’s technology growth initiative. He cofounded MyJibe, which he sold to MoneyDesktop in November 2011.
  • Dustin Sapp is president and co-founder of TinderBox, the third company he has helped start in Indianapolis. He has been recognized locally and regionally for efforts in entrepreneurship.

Economic Energy? Look to Local Leadership

I read a recent post from the CEO of Gallup, who provided a good reminder that, like politics, ultimate business success is often locally driven. Yes, policies from Washington and state capitals make a big difference — but so does leadership in communities and companies.

A few highlights from Jim Clifton:

Throughout this year’s long election season, I was often asked: “Who will be better for jobs and the economy, President Obama or Governor Romney?” My reply most surely disappointed partisans from both sides: The president of the United States doesn’t make as much difference in terms of creating economic energy as you’d think, according to Gallup data.

In fact, if the president mattered that much, why is it that cities and states have such extreme variation in their local GDP and job growth? Shouldn’t they all go up or down together with each president?

Instead, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn., are booming, while Albany, N.Y., and Stockton, Calif., are failing. Texas is prospering while California is almost surely going broke. Austin’s jobless rate is around 5%, while the unemployment rate in Stockton is above 13%.

The difference, in my view, is that Austin has deeply caring, highly engaged business, political, and philanthropic leaders with principles, policies, beliefs, and values about human nature that work. They understand how to build a thriving, growing economy — one that welcomes business and entrepreneurship. Albany has the opposite, as I see it: Leaders with principles, policies, values, and beliefs that discourage business and entrepreneurship, if not outright scaring them away.

Cities across the country with great leadership are filled with booming startup companies, and those cities have thriving economies that create authentic, organically grown good jobs. These cities are saving America, while the others are letting the country down.

Great city leadership has never been so needed. Nationally, business startups are currently growing at under 400,000 annually. If this rate doesn’t double soon, in my view, absolutely nothing will fix our current nightmare of joblessness.

Of course good policy for small businesses is better than bad policy, but in my opinion, the estimated 10,000 business, political, and philanthropic leaders of all shapes and sizes who drive the performance of America’s top 100 cities are the most important people in our country right now. 

Lemonade Day Teaches Entrepreneurship to Indiana Kids

On May 19, many Indiana youngsters will experience the joys — and challenges — of entrepreneurship during Lemonade Day. Founded in 2009, the experience is combined with lessons about starting your own business, and was founded by native Hoosier and Houston entrepreneur Michael Holthouse. Hoosier entrepreneur Scott Jones — founder of ChaCha, among other endeavors — has launched the program locally.

The Lemonade Day web site has the details about registration, as well as a blog about the program. On the site, Jones relays why the concept is so important to him:

I had many start-up businesses as a kid, including lemonade stands with flavored frozen lemonade popsicles, putt-putt courses in my yard, haunted houses in my basement and garage, yard-work businesses, selling seeds and crafts door-to-door, and many other ideas.  I was constantly trying to figure out the “next big thing” (for my little neighborhood) even then! When I went off to college, I put a personal ad in the back of a popular hobbyist magazine that read: “poor starving student without pride or money seeking handouts, including computers, electronics, books, etc.” which triggered people to send, literally, busloads of equipment.  I turned all of this “free stuff” into a self-learning environment in my basement, which taught me much of what I later leveraged in my robotics and technology studies and businesses. 



At 25, I co-founded my first company, Boston Technology.  As a result, I obtained patents for technologies that now enable telephone companies worldwide to offer voice mail on a massive scale to over 2 billion people. Boston Technology merged with Comverse Technology, Inc., in 1998 for $843 million. I also founded Internet-based music service company Gracenote, which sold to Sony in 2008 for $260 million.

Many entrepreneurs talk about their early childhood entrepreneurial experiences when the “light bulb” went off – the moment when they knew they could control their own destinies. It was that way for me and I wanted kids to have that “light bulb” moment, so I created two foundations: The Scott A. Jones Foundation and the Think Forward Foundation, which launched Lemonade Day in Indianapolis in 2010 with over 7,400 kids signing up.

…What do I love about being an entrepreneur? I can attack fun and interesting problems that can improve how people do things, not just here, but around the world.

The program is administered by the Think Forward Foundation. You can learn more about why it started Lemonade Day here.

10 Keys to Entrepreneurial Success

Jay Goltz of The New York Times offers 10 reasons for entrepreneurial success. If you’re thinking of starting a business, or just want to separate your small business from the competition, these thoughts might help you:

  1. Look for opportunities to do something better than just about everyone else.
  2. Accept risk as a necessary evil. It makes for much less competition.
  3. Act responsibly to customers, employees and vendors.
  4. Goals aren’t enough. You need a plan. You need to execute the plan.
  5. You need to fix the plan as you go. Learn from your mistakes. Most people don’t.
  6. Do not reinvent the wheel. Learn from others — join a business group.
  7. Make sure the math works. I know plenty of people who work hard and follow their passion but the math doesn’t work. If the math doesn’t work, neither does the business.
  8. Make sure that every employee understands and works toward the mission.
  9. There are going to difficult times and you need to be resilient; whining is a waste of time.
  10. There will be sacrifices. Work to find a balance so that you don’t become a financially successful loser. It’s not about the income, it’s about the outcome.

Make Money Money, Take Money Money

Are you young and rich? ("Sort of" and "No.") Would you like to be?

While I personally subscribe to the "Mo Money, Mo Problems" general life philosophy, I respect that there are many out there who want to have a lot of money. And we here at the Chamber certainly want American and Hoosier businesses to have a lot of it, as well. So here are some tips from the "young and rich" on growing your business acumen, from the web site, Under30CEO.com. (Note: These tips are just about the "rich" part, nothing about reversing the aging process, unfortunately.)

Lessons:
1. Think big, start small. “Before you achieve that first $1 million, you have to get your first dollar.” Phillip Di Bella started a coffee business in 2002, selling coffee to cafes. He would roast his own coffee in a machine that he rented and would then pack it and deliver it himself, doing the books for the business on his girlfriends computer.

Sometimes people can have a romantic idea of what it is to be an entrepreneur, usually these ideals are shattered rather quickly when they realise that it’s not all glamour in the beginning.

Having said that, it can pay off. Phillip Di Bella is now worth $47 million and is still dedicated to delivering a quality product to his loyal customers. “My promise to them, and it’s a very simple principle I’ve kept, is that I’ll do for my customers what others are not prepared to.”

2. Never too young. Trent Davis started his company NetBox when he was 22. This was his third business, after his first two businesses had failed. Learning from the first two businesses, Davis went into NetBox with what he calls a “one foot on the brake approach.”

Now 32, David has built NetBox into a formidable company with annual sales of $30 million and 20 staff. Having started the business at 22, he remembers the sacrifices he had to make in order to get started early. “It was two-and-a-half years before I was taking home a proper wage, which is quite a long time to be living like a university student when you’re not at university anymore.”

3. Be willing to rough it (in the beginning). Peter Mavridis, the founder and Managing Director of a Melbourne IT Services company, S Central is turning over $80 million every year and has a personal net worth of $62 million at the age of 37. Last year when Mavridis was listed in the Young Rich List, his personal wealth was $100m but has come back this year due to the financial climate of the last 12 months.

However, in the beginning Mavridis wasn’t talking millions. He remembers the first office he and his girlfriend leased in Melbourne, “It was one of those offices where you were scared to take the lift, so you’d take the stairs.” Mavridis now owes a lot of his success to the fact that he didn’t spend the money he didn’t have, in the early days.

Note II: Please disregard that the money stack held by the gentleman in today’s stock photo is comprised mostly of $5 bills. Just pretend he symbolizes prosperity. Thanks in advance.

UPDATE: Here’s Part II of the "young and rich" article series.

Innovations that Never Quite Got Off the Ground

One thing we can all agree on: entrepreneurship and innovation are the backbones of a thriving society. But in order for success to be achieved, trial and error must always take place. The Huffington Post provides a look at some inventions that never quite took off. See them here.

My favorite is probably the Sun Pod:

Thankfully this 80′s prototype never caught on. In theory it was for those seeking peace and quiet on the beach, but in practice it would basically be a human oven.