Our communications VP Tom Schuman penned this blog back in February about SmartFile's technology bake-off contest. If you dig innovation — and would like to see more of it in Indiana — you'll be on board with this. The winners were announced last week, and congrats to IUPUI students Ani Chan and Manpreet Singh for their honors.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so simultaneously shocked and happy in my life,” said Chan. “Aside from being able to hold one of those ridiculously huge checks like a lottery winner, the best part of the competition was the validation that comes from building something from start to finish. Sometimes as a college student, it’s easy for your projects to go unnoticed, so it’s nice to receive feedback and interest from likeminded people and successful business leaders.”
Indiana college students were challenged to develop an open source application that interacts with the newly released SmartFile API over a period of 50 days. To help teams finish development, SmartFile hosted a 24-hour “Bake-Off-A-Thon” a week prior to submission to help finalize development. Registered students accepted the challenge to showcase their talents, but only nine qualified for the finals. Five of Indianapolis’ top business thinkers listened to five-minute pitches from the finalists before then scoring each “app” electronically in the following five categories: Innovation, Utility, Use of SmartFile Platform, Design and User Experience.
The top four teams re-pitched their applications to the Bake-Off party audience who then voted electronically before “Team Octodog” was crowned champion. Purdue University students, Eric Lovelace and Levi Miller, from team "Winnovation” were awarded second place and received $5,000 for their mobile-app “SmartBox.” Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students, Erik Sanders and AJ Piergiovanni, from team "Dangling Pointers” were awarded third place and received $2,000 for their web-app “ReciCopy.”
John Hurley, SmartFile’s President and Co-Founder, said the judges were impressed with the caliber of work, which made choosing the winners difficult. “But Team Octodog amazed everyone with an impressive and functional application with the right combination of entrepreneurial spark, innovation, real-world viability and skillful development.”
SmartFile’s Bake-Off was not only created to inspire and facilitate engagement between this next generation of programmers, but also to help develop the ecosystem for SmartFile’s new “platform” initiative. During the ceremony, Hurley announced that “the online file platform” from SmartFile would now be FREE for developers who sign up for a beta account. Offering unlimited transfer and 100GB of storage space allows SmartFile to cater to the underserved development community. An official announcement for the online file platform initiative will be made in the coming week.
Indianapolis has seen many changes in the past decade. But as old, beloved structures are torn down to make way for new ones, People for Urban Progress (PUP) believes that material need not be wasted. PUP drew attention from citizens and media alike for reusing the RCA Dome rooftop and fabric from Super Bowl promotions, and is now garnering recognition for repurposing seats from the old Bush Stadium. I sat down with PUP Development Innovator Amy Crook to discuss the non-profit organization — which considers itself a "do-tank" – and how it's working to change the capital city.
Chamber: Tell me about PUP. When and why did it start?
Amy: It was founded by Michael Bricker, our chief innovator, and his business partner in 2008. At the time, there was talk of imploding the RCA Dome and they had a natural curiosity about what would happen to that "white stuff" on the roof. They wondered, "Can it be used for something else?" They learned more about what could be done with it. So they salvaged it, and the plan at the time was to make 1,000 bags out of it and other products – wallets, clutches, messenger bags. They raised $70,000 in selling these goods. Half of that went to designers who made the products, and we partnered with RecycleForce … and then the rest of the money went toward projects. Through that project, we put up two shade structures in the community in partnership with Indianapolis Fabrications and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
Do any other major cities have similar organizations?
Not that are a not-for-profit model that we’re aware of. … We’re going through a strategic planning process right now, so we are looking at places like Goodwill and TOMS Shoes – and locally, you could say that we have a similar model as Freewheelin', which allows kids to work on repairing bikes, and when they work so many hours, they actually get a bike. The bikes they work on are purchased by the community to raise money for the organization.
How many people work here?
Jessica Bricker, our product designer, is closest to full-time, and she is Michael’s twin sister. Michael works 8-10 months for PUP, but he’s also a production designer for film projects and may be called away for a month or two. I work for PUP three days a week and also do freelance marketing on the side. All of our designers are contracted. There are five of them and they all have full-time jobs.
How are you funded? Do you work with government or via grants?
We’ve been predominantly funded by the sale of products. But this strategic planning is (supported by) the first official grant that we’ve gotten from the Lilly Endowment to help us go through the process. We’ve applied for other grants to help us with material processing. A lot of people are coming to us for these large-scale projects like we’ve already taken on, such as salvaging 13 acres of RCA Dome material, five miles of Super Bowl fabric and 9,000 Bush Stadium seats. There’s this space in the middle that you can’t take to the recycling center, but you can’t put in the landfill either, so we just want to be able to restructure to be able to say “yes” to accepting more materials and trust that we can get them back in the community in a unique way.
Is the city paying you to place some of these Bush Stadium seats at bus stops?
It’s a partnership with IndyGo. IndyGo has a budget per seat amenity, and we’re raising sponsorship dollars for the other half. During the Seat Salvage Phase of the project, we had raised $10,000 from (four) funders to help us get more seats out with the tight deadline: Lumina Foundation, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Eskenazi Health and a private funder.
What’s the greatest challenge facing Indy right now that you’re working to solve, big picture-wise?
Our mission is promoting public transit, environment and design, and based on our research and conversations in the community and with community leaders, urban design and aesthetics have come out of that – an educational effort about what is good design. Michael is also co-chair of the Indy Rezone steering committee.
Transit is also important, of course. Since 2008, we’ve been working on getting a car sharing program started. And then there’s an environmental component – just being good stewards to the earth. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is going to be replacing their seats in June, and this has been the first project where people really think of us and contact us in advance to create a plan. Whereas with the dome and other projects, we found out late and then had to figure it out. But now people are talking with us to come up with plans, so they don’t have to scrap this stuff or throw it in a landfill.
Tell us about this Make 5X5 contest you just held.
The 5X5 Indianapolis arts and innovation came out of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). The first one was hosted by Big Car, and we hosted the second one. The next one will be IndyHub. (CICF) came to us and gave us a budget to throw an event based on a theme, and we asked for five organizations to present a five-minute pitch on five slides, and the winner would get $10,000. So our theme was “Making.”
(The winner was the Cool Bus, which will serve as a literary center for children.)
What are some challenges in keeping an organization like this going, in accomplishing your goals?
We’re moving forward and there are some capacity issues, and if we had more people involved or more financial resources, we’d be able to get this stuff out in the community more quickly. But there is progress being made and we’ll be able to have a bigger impact.
Our strategic plan is called “Doing Things.” We took a risk and started this thing and we’re still here and making it happen; let’s take the next steps and create something other people can replicate. We’re keeping an eye on Minneapolis and Atlanta, where they have Teflon-coated fiberglass as their stadium rooftops. We don’t necessarily want to acquire that material, but we know what you can do with it so we want to have a seat at the table and help them find ways to use it in the community and process that material.
You support the mass transit initiative in Indianapolis. Why is that important?
All the articles I’ve been reading now about millenials and Gen Y, we aren’t all going to be homeowners and two-car families. Our salaries aren’t as grand, and our stability in our positions is different. But you’d be surprised, this generation is one of the smartest generations and they are spending within their means. They’re not buying fancy cars; they’d rather cut back and invest in their art, or having children – and invest in that versus things. A strong transit system would help foster that way of living. If you’re having children and you need two cars, and you don’t have a supplemental transit option, you’ll lose people and they’ll go somewhere where they don’t need a car. Our generation travels and experiences other cities, so when you see another city where travel is more efficient, you think about that.
For myself, in my first couple of jobs I was driving 45 minutes to work and back. Now I have a 1.5-mile walk to work. Once you try that, you don’t go back.
You think this type of organization would succeed in any other cities in Indiana?
We were just talking about Bloomington today and its new transit center, wondering how we could get some PUP seats there. While our mission statement is directly for Indianapolis, we’d like to see mini-PUPs, or people can come to us for a resource and we may have experience to help you do something in your community. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full-time thing. We started with everyone doing this on the side. If there are seats being removed from a stadium or banners that need to be recycled, you can do that and we could consult about how to re-use those materials.
Over 120 members and supporters of Indy Connect Now are pushing Indiana legislators — via a letter – to support the mass transit bill to enhance connectivity in Central Indiana — a sentiment held by many businesses and organizations across the state. The letter reads as follows:
As community leaders in central Indiana, we strongly encourage the Indiana General Assembly to pass substantive transit legislation before it adjourns in order to give our community the ability to make its own decisions about investing in a regional transit system.
The Indianapolis Region will not continue to grow and prosper unless we make strategic investments in our community, including in a robust regional transit system. Study after study has recognized the need for building such a system in our region. Cities all across America have realized the benefits from investing in good transit systems, and our inability to make that investment puts us at a competitive disadvantage.
The issue has been studied long enough. Following the release of the last legislative study report on this issue in December 2008, a Task Force of public and private sector partners proposed a transit system that most effectively meets the needs of our community. For the past four years, that proposal has been refined with input from thousands of residents, advice from the best planning experts in the country, and best practices from cities around the country.
The time has come to let the voters decide whether they want to invest in this proposed system. All we ask is that the General Assembly gives us the same flexibility to use local funds that it previously gave to 15 other counties and to let us present the question to voters, similar to what is now required for school capital projects. With support that is trending upward, it is time to allow voters to determine whether or not our communities will be competitive and meet transportation needs in the next decade and beyond.
If this legislation passes now, it will allow us to have a robust discussion for the next eighteen months about the wisdom of making this investment. Residents will then be able to make an informed decision about funding an expanded regional transit system. It is imperative that the General Assembly act now to provide this opportunity to the residents of central Indiana.
Among the reasons that Indianapolis was honored as the Indiana Chamber's 2012 Community of the Year was innovative economic development projects. One of those initiatives, turning the former Bush Stadium into a 138-unit apartment complex, is believed to be the first of its kind and earned some national attention in this Governing magazine story.
Bush Stadium — like many professional sports venues across the country — posed a problem for the community: What do you do with a stadium when a team leaves? (That topic was the subject of a 2011 Governing feature). Baseball stadiums are purpose-built, so they don't offer easy solutions for re-use. Yet they have sentimental and historic value that make demolition a sensitive topic.
Bush Stadium found its savior in John Watson, the principal of Core Redevelopment — which specializes in reusing historic buildings.
Indiana Landmarks, a nonprofit that works to preserve and rehabilitate historic properties, had previously included the stadium on its list of endangered buildings. Marsh Davis, president of the nonprofit, joined Watson in pitching the city on the project, which ultimately contributed funding to the undertaking.
Cox calls the project a “three-dimensional puzzle.” About 85 percent of the building’s volume was torn out, so essentially a new structure was created in the shape of a stadium while maintaining the original wall. “Our company motto is, don’t fight the building,” Cox says.
The developers did retain some especially intriguing parts of the facility. The former owner’s office – complete with a fireplace and restored hardwood floors – is being incorporated into a one of the apartments. The baseball diamond – once made of dirt – will be made of colored concrete and surrounded by grass. “If you’re in a unit looking down,” Cox says, “it still looks like a baseball field.” The effect makes the the apartments feel like luxury boxes.
Despite the high-profile status of the project, rents aren’t particular expensive: a large 1,600 square-foot studio goes for around $1,300 per month, and a smaller 580 square-foot, one-bedroom costs about $599 (the company’s already leased 35 units).
Davis says there was a risk that the stadium would be demolished, given that the area was poised for development and years had gone by without a viable method of re-use being identified.
“There are purists who would like to see it remain as a ballpark,” Davis says. “The city studied it every which way. There was no economically feasible way. There were no takers. So the alternative is: Do you scrap it, do you save a token wall, or do you do something creative?”
The project cost around $13 million, with the city picking up $3.5 million of the tab. Those funds were generated by the city's downtown tax incremental financing district, though the stadium falls outside its boundaries. Another $1.8 million for the project came from the state.
Deron Kintner, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, says the Stadium Lofts complex is part of a larger effort the city has taken to redevelop the area as a hub for the life sciences industry, given its proximity to a university, a medical school, and hospitals. The city kicked in its funding since leaders thought it was important to preserve the historic building and believes Stadium Lofts would help bring momentum to the development of the community.
Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar sat down with Inside INdiana Business recently to discuss the most pressing topics in the state legislature as the end of session nears. See the video on IIB:
A bill that would create a tax district to fund upgrades at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues to make its way through the legislature. Some lawmakers want to add guarantees that would protect state funds if the facility would be sold. In this week's INside the Statehouse segment, Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar says he's "cautiously optimistic" the legislation will pass.
Our partners at Network Indiana/WIBC report a proposed amendment to the bill calls for the speedway to receive a portion of the money the horse racing industry now receives as a loan, rather than forming a tax district. The chance would also give an additional $5 million to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. for other motorsports industry efforts.
Brinegar says the Indiana House and Senate are not too far apart on a two-year state budget. He believes the final product will look closest to the Senate's proposal, which passed through committee last week. That plan includes a smaller individual income tax cut than the 10 percent proposed by Governor Mike Pence and an increase in K-12 funding by more than $330 million. Pence has called the proposal "a good start."
Differences also remain on education issues. The Senate has passed a bill that would halt the implementation of Common Core standards. House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning (R-91) has refused to hear the bill because he believes the standards should move forward.
As many of you know, the Indiana Chamber supports Indiana's mass transit bill (HB 1011). Here are some upcoming events that will help educate the public and rally support for the measure. If interested, you should attend:
Sometimes it’s best not to imitate what you see on TV and the Internet (great advice, I know), especially when it comes to fashion choices for the workplace.
Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is well-known for promoting his social media juggernaut while sporting hoodies or dark grey t-shirts. And those young technology creators in the new Samsung commercials are dressed down in jeans and t-shirts while discussing their “Unicorn Apocalypse” phone application.
While Facebook has been wildly successful and those creative geniuses look like they are having a blast deciding whether or not the unicorn zombies should have glitter in their manes (I couldn’t even make this stuff up if I wanted to) – it’s best not to expect a relaxed atmosphere when interviewing for IT jobs.
In fact, a recent survey from Robert Half Technology says IT professionals seeking a new job in Indianapolis should interview in a suit if they expect to be taken seriously. Almost half of Indianapolis chief information officers (49%, over the national average of 46%) cited a formal business suit as the appropriate interview attire.
If you don’t have a suit, khakis and a collared shirt were preferred with 34% of respondents; tailored separates were then preferred by 14% of the CIOs interviewed nationally. Only 4% of CIOs expected anyone to show up wearing jeans and a polo shirt.
Of course, the point is to let your skills and experience shine – so don’t overdo or try to be ironic by showing up in a tuxedo with tails or ball gown, either.
The Indiana Service Challenge began last week. See if your organization can take part in this contest to benefit Hoosier non-profits. A release has more:
… in the words of Former NBA star Clark Kellogg, “Let’s serve it up Indiana.” Former NBA star Kellogg is vice president for player relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment and is a spokesperson for this years’ Service Challenge.
In 2012, the Indiana Service Challenge gave away $100,000 to local charities. Now in its second year, the stakes have been raised. The Challenge has been expanded so companies statewide have the opportunity to participate and $200,000 in prize money is up for grabs.
Companies With A Mission (CWAM), the organization behind the Challenge, will award the prize money to multiple 501(c)(3) charities throughout Indiana. Volunteer teams from the same workplace will serve their charity of choice while having a chance to win prize money for them as well.
“We were truly moved by the overwhelming response we received to the Challenge in 2012,” said Mitch Davis, executive director of CWAM. “The heart of service in Indiana is undeniable and we’re excited to expand the Challenge statewide. This is a great opportunity to get involved in your local community while building teamwork and increasing morale at the same time.”
To enter the Challenge, teams of co-workers identify a deserving charity and conduct a community service project benefitting that organization. Then, the teams enter the challenge on-line and upload a two-minute video or digital photo slide show of their service day between now and May 10th.
A panel of judges will then select the winning entries. Judging is based on how the charity was serviced, how the company team sees serving the charity going forward, and how the charity would utilize the prize money if that team is a winner. Once the panel of judges selects the winners, those teams will be announced at an awards celebration in the beginning of June.
The $200,000 will be distributed among the award-winning teams to the charities served. The genesis of the Service Project Challenge was inspired by Indianapolis-based DEFENDER Direct, which organized an internal Service Challenge with its co-workers in 2011.
"Let’s change the water cooler conversation in our offices and workplace! When we go serve as coworkers, we understand each other better and our team performs better," said DEFENDER founder and chief missions officer David P. Lindsey.
For additional information on the 2013 Indiana Service Challenge and how to get involved, visit www.cwamservicechallenge.com or call 317-426-6353.
Gregg Keesling may have dropped out of Earlham College at 19 years of age, but he soon gained a worldly education by landing in Jamaica. He then spent over two decades in the midst of civil unrest as the Caribbean nation fought for its identity in a changing world. With his adopted country at a tipping point in 1980, he saw the election of Ronald Reagan back home help to bring capitalism to the island.
He notes that he himself converted from a "hippie" to a capitalist, and began working on developing a hotel — and then public projects like helping eradicate polio from the country and working with the European Union to install a sewer system in the area, which ultimately helped gentrify the area around the hotel. His participation in Rotarian work eventually brought him back to Indianapolis, where he founded RecycleForce in 2003.
Not only does RecycleForce work to help the environment by providing an array of waste disposal services, but the 501(c)(3)'s staff is mostly made up of men and women who have spent time in Indiana's corrections system. Keesling is focused on helping them re-enter society by finding gainful employment.
"These (ex-offenders) are some of the best people on earth," he contends. "They’ve been tagged as if they’re not. Someone once said 'the arc of history bends toward justice' – and it’s hard to be openly racist anymore, like when I grew up in the 1970s … but you can certainly use the same sentiments and feelings and call the person an 'ex-offender.' And you can get away with it, and say 'I don’t want those criminals in my neighborhood. They should all be locked up.' But these are human beings with inherent worth; they’re fathers, brothers, uncles and they deserve a role in our world."
Keesling asserts that the liability employers are currently burdened with is the most significant barrier to employment for former prisoners.
"If a guy is doing a great job and a company wants to hire him directly (after using a staffing company), the liability would keep them from doing it … if companies want to reduce their liability insurance, they screen out ex-offenders."
He points to a study recently conducted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) indicating 70% of employers in Marion County have some type of barrier against hiring an ex-offender.
"Many will hire them, but you have to be out of prison for five or seven years," Keesling qualifies. "So the question is: What do you do for those years? How do you eat? You can’t get food stamps. You can’t get public housing. You can’t get any help and seven out of 10 employers won’t hire you. There are 135,000 to 150,000 felons and high misdemeanors in Marion County, according to the UC Berkeley Center for Employment Law."
He believes a solution could start at the Statehouse.
"If there’s one thing the Legislature could do, it would be smart tort reform around what is a negligent hire," Keesling offers. "If a guy committed a robbery, he can still drive a truck. Now I wouldn’t want to put a (recovering) drunk in a truck, or a sex offender in daycare, but there has to be some logical ways to get them in the workforce."
Keesling harkens back to his memories of Jamaica about the dangers and violence that ensue when a large percentage of the population is not employable — and the desperation that leads people to commit crimes in order to eat.
Yet success stories are evident at RecycleForce, which currently employs 128 workers, with 22 others in management.
"I'm thankful for my job at RecycleForce," explains Robby Wiker, a truck driver for the company. "Without the help or training they gave me, I don't know where I'd be or what I'd be doing. They provided great training to me and it was without cost to me. I'm also a forklift operator and am trained in many warehouse operations — and I'm a permanent employee there."
The company is also now the sixth largest recycler in the state.
"It proves they can work. That’s the biggest myth – that these guys don’t want to work," Keesling reinforces. "I think it’s the most important issue of our time – that nobody seems to care about."
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.