Tech Talk: Entrepreneurship and the World

While innovators and entrepreneurs often exhibit a required laser focus on their own initiatives, there is a whole wide world of activities taking place. Here are three observations from the Kauffman Foundation after the recent Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC).

When 171 nations gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss the future of entrepreneurship, it showed that entrepreneurship has moved beyond the fringes of economic development planning. Each country was represented by some officials in the highest levels of their respective governments, emphasizing the importance of the role entrepreneurs play in building stronger economies.

We need to remember that many countries aren’t so fortunate. While at GEC, we spoke with two entrepreneurs from Venezuela. They work aggressively to infuse entrepreneurship into their homeland, and they believe entrepreneurship can transform communities. However, they are facing innumerable obstacles with an economy in disarray and a government not supportive of entrepreneurship, currently making Venezuela one of the toughest countries in which to start a business. For these two entrepreneurs, at least, conditions are so challenging, they run their activities from exile.

We in the United States face countless barriers to take an idea and make it an economic reality. However, we should also be thankful that we have the support of our governments – federal, state, and local.

In the U.S., systemic barriers have left women too far behind in starting and growing enterprises. In 2018, women are still half as likely as men to own employer businesses. That’s unacceptable.

In addition to advancing the Kauffman Foundation’s strategies in reducing barriers for women entrepreneurs, we as an organization have been working on being more aware of our own unconscious bias. One thing that was troubling throughout GEC was how representatives from some countries talked about entrepreneurship. To some, they believe entrepreneurship was a male-only venture. It was even more obvious when those same individuals were on more diverse panel discussions and attempted to dominate the conversation by talking over women panelists. It’s something that we all need to be more alert to and speak up on.

Our nation needs to take note. Other countries are approaching the work of supporting entrepreneurship with a passion and zeal. We can no longer take for granted that the U.S. is on the cutting edge of innovation and change. Countries like Estonia, Congo and the Philippines all see entrepreneurship as a pathway to a better future for their communities and nations. They are working aggressively to support entrepreneurs through coordinated strategies that enhance education, training and eliminate barriers to access of capital and the start-up process.

We need to keep moving forward, and quickly, or others will outpace us. We can do it, but we can’t be complacent in our approach. We must act with intentional urgency.

Tech Talk: Who Deserves ‘Dynamic’ Award for 2018?

A good sign of Indiana’s growing innovation and entrepreneurship stature is that it continues to get more difficult to select the winner of the Indiana Chamber’s annual Dynamic Leader of the Year award.

For 29 years, the Chamber has recognized business, government and community excellence. In 2015, the Dynamic Leader honor was added to the mix. The official definition:

This award honors a leader who is working toward achieving goals outlined in the Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan, particularly the Dynamic and Creative Culture driver that focuses on entrepreneurship and new business creation/expansion.

In other words, it’s business success and helping grow the local/regional/state tech and innovation ecosystem.

Here are the first three honorees and their BizVoice magazine stories:

Nominations for the 2018 honor are due no later than June 15. It’s a straightforward process. Details and the online form are available at www.indianachamber.com/annual-awards-dinner/.

The awards dinner, taking place November 13 at the Indiana Convention Center, will feature keynote speaker J.D. Vance. Look for more soon on the author, venture capitalist and Midwest evangelist for business and economic growth. It’s not too early to secure your table or tickets.

Tech Talk: OPT May Be Partial Answer to Talent Needs

Those in the talent attraction business – and who isn’t these days – probably know about the H-1B visa program and the cap challenges that come with it. Less well known in general, but surging in popularity among foreign students, is the Optional Practice Training (OPT) program.

OPT allows foreign graduates to seek temporary work anywhere in the country that is directly related to their field of study. According to the State Science & Technology Institute, foreign STEM graduates participating in OPT grew by 400% from 2008 to 2016. In recent years, OPT approvals outpaced H-1B visas.

The leading regions retaining foreign students graduating from local colleges are New York (85%), Seattle (84%) and Honolulu (83%). The metro areas with the largest share of foreign graduates coming from other metros are San Jose (71%), Kansas City (69%) and Peoria, Illinois (66%).

An in-depth story from the Pew Research Center explains it all. Below are a few excerpts.

More than half (53%) of the foreign graduates approved for employment specialized in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data.

Foreign students obtaining authorization to remain and work in the U.S. after graduation come from all corners of the globe, but the majority of them hold citizenship in Asia. Students from India, China and South Korea made up 57% of all OPT participants between 2004 and 2016.

While both programs give foreign workers temporary employment authorization in the U.S., they are different in a number of ways. For instance, only foreign students on an F-1 visa with a higher education degree from a U.S. college or university are eligible for the OPT program, whereas any foreign worker with a degree that is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher is permitted to apply for the H-1B visa.

Also, unlike the H-1B visa program, which imposes an annual cap of 65,000 visas to private companies sponsoring foreign workers, there is no cap on the number of approvals available under the OPT program; all F-1 visa holders are eligible to apply. Furthermore, foreign students do not require employer sponsorship to apply for OPT, while the H-1B visa program requires employers to directly sponsor the foreign workers they intend to hire.

Tech Talk: Making Their Mark Among the ‘Best’

We shared in late February the growing number of tech and innovation organizations being named among the Best Places to Work in Indiana. While 26 of the 125 winners for 2018 self-identified as being in the tech industry, a true sign of the times is the fact that many others are consultants or service providers in the tech/innovation areas.

At the awards celebration and unveiling of the rankings earlier this month, it was good to hear the names of so many familiar companies (Sharpen and Formstack each placed second in their respective size categories, to name just two; check out the full lists to see many more), as well as quite a few newcomers. The names are familiar due to their business growth and achievements; the Best Places honor signifies strong internal cultures that match and propel the external success.

You can check out the full coverage of all the companies in the current BizVoice® magazine. Some key stories we would suggest:

  • Social media: Discover how four Best Places companies effectively utilize online communications strategies
  • Welcome aboard: A key factor in building a strong workplace culture is doing everything possible to get new team members off to a fast start
  • Getting to Know: Bastian Solutions and Perficient
  • 2018 Newcomer: Kronos
  • Informative infographics: Program results on work-life balance, family-friendly benefits and survey benchmarks

In today’s battle for talent, Best Places to Work recognition can be a differentiator. Can you afford to stay on the sidelines any longer? Learn more about the 2019 program at www.bestplacestoworkIN.com.

Tech Talk: Resources to Keep Your Business on Fast Track

Technology and innovation might be driving growth, but a successful organization can’t ignore several business necessities. The Indiana Chamber offers three valuable partner programs for members, the most recent announced this week and addressing the top challenge – workforce – for many companies no matter their industry.

We encourage Chamber members to take advantage of the following. If your company is not a member, reach out to Brett Hulse at (317) 264-6858 to learn more about all the Chamber benefits.

Achieve Your Degree: This program from Ivy Tech Community College makes the employee education and training process seamless. Chamber members receive a 5% discount on existing or future tuition assistance programs. Deferred payments and direct assistance from Ivy Tech on admission, financial aid, tutoring and more are part of the mix.


ChamberCare Solutions: Health care options in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to meet your needs, including a PEO offering (ChamberCare Business Resources) that allows you to offer competitive benefits with expert assistance from a partner that focuses on that mission each day. This allows you to concentrate on continued business growth.

Staples Business Advantage: It’s not just office supplies, but furniture, print capabilities, promotional products, facility needs and more. A group purchasing programs allows you to save as much as 30% on products you are already using or new items.

Check out other Chamber member benefits!

Tech Talk: Compiling the Equity Crowdfunding Numbers

Many are familiar with crowdfunding, with a version of that – equity crowdfunding – formalized with the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Acts (Jobs Act). Equity crowdfunding is defined as the “process whereby an entrepreneur, start-up or established business raises funds over the internet by offering and selling securities in exchange for an investment (stock, debt, revenue-sharing agreements, etc.) in their company.”

Here are some numbers regarding the progress since this portion of the Jobs Act went into effect in May 2016. For the first 100 equity crowdfunding campaigns:

  • Approximately 33% of companies were mobile app/internet services companies
  • Approximately 12% were consumer gadget companies
  • Approximately 60% were in business one year or less
  • A majority of companies was pre-revenue stage with a valuation of between $1.5 million and $4 million

A separate analysis of year one (May 2016 to May 2017) found:

  • Approximately 88% of filings were made by firms that were five years or younger
  • Approximately one-third of firms were six months or younger when they launched their crowdfunding campaign
  • Nearly 50% of firms were located in California, Florida or Texas
  • A total of 326 companies filed offerings during that span, including 17 businesses that conducted more than one crowdfunding campaign
  • The 326 companies employed a total of 1,574 employees (approximately five employees per firm)

Finally, a January 2018 summary from Crowdfunding Insider reports:

  • As of today, more than $100 million in capital commitments
  • 731 campaigns
  • 100,901 investors
  • Average is $992 per investment (up from $750 when the industry started)
  • Average raise is $360,691 (up from $250,000 when the industry started)
  • Total jobs supported is 3,608
  • It took 410 days for the industry to break $50 million and 209 days (50% less time) for the industry to raise the next $50 million

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.

Tech Talk: Special Locations; Special Outcomes

Yes, we understand technology allows business processes to take place today that were never possible before. Yes, we know that people – no doubt about it – are the most important asset in any organization.

But location still plays a factor. And location is a central theme to two recent EchoChamber conversations. The guests: Rich Carlton of Data Realty in South Bend (where tech is thriving on the site of the former auto manufacturing giant Studebaker) and John Hurley of SmartFile and the Union 525 (the scale-up home in Indianapolis that is becoming the centerpiece of innovation and activity).

A few nuggets from each are below. But we encourage you to check out their full conversations.

Carlton

  • Data Realty family of companies is making 40 million calculations a day on data coming in from around the world
  • Talent from Stanford, MIT, Carnegie-Mellon and more now calling South Bend region home
  • Goals include becoming the first company out of South Bend to be valued at $1 billion
  • “If South Bend was a stock, I’d be buying. We’re in the infancy of what we’re going to be able to do.”

Hurley

  • Celebrating its ninth anniversary – “we’re like a grandfather in tech” – SmartFile manages digital content to meet regulatory and compliance standards for 1,400 organizations in 80 countries
  • Hurley loves the “collisions” at Union 525 where “great risk takers and thinkers are all there creating a lot of energy”
  • He is now receiving near daily communication from venture capitalists looking at Indiana and the Midwest. Union 525 is a part of helping to make that happen
  • The next phases of tech development on the southern edge of Indianapolis’ downtown are being formulated

And be sure to check out this week’s new episode featuring Brian Schroeder of Eskenazi Health. The subject is wellness – utilizing workplace wellness as a business strategy and the idea that we can move from treating chronic disease with a pill to utilizing lifestyle medicine.

Subscribe to the EchoChamber via iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts to be sure not to miss out on future guests from the innovation, business, education and political worlds.

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

 

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.