Talking Technology at Connect & Collaborate Sessions

“Today, every company is a technology company. We know technology is evolving quickly and not just in current businesses, but those that are looking to make their mark in Indiana,” says Brock Hesler, Indiana Chamber director of membership.

“If you don’t evolve, you could be left behind and your business growth might be hindered.”

The Indiana Chamber is once again hosting the Connect & Collaborate series as a thank you to its members and investors. The 2017 focus is technology – how it is permeating Hoosier businesses, and how companies can learn and adapt to new and improved ways of getting things done. Presented by AT&T, the series begins in May and concludes in August.

Consider these examples from the world of agriculture. What if technology could provide an answer to how much moisture is in a stalk of corn or a field of beans? What if farmers could drive tractors from a remote location or control an entire farm from a keyboard?

These scenarios sound futuristic, but are starting to become reality around Indiana. It’s not just the agriculture industry that is heavily impacted by new technologies: advanced manufacturing, logistics and others are already changing dramatically – as are the workforce skills required to staff these industries.

Attendees can hear an update on the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council, and a local business/community leader from each of the 12 Connect & Collaborate locations will comment on how that area or region is utilizing technology. A panel discussion will also allow for audience questions.

The free series – with either breakfast or lunch included (depending on the time of day) – enables companies to hear directly from Indiana Chamber representatives and learn more about membership resources available to them. Several new locations are included in 2017.

“This is a way to thank our members for their investment and support,” Hesler adds, “while also providing information that we think can help them succeed at an even higher level.”

Dates and cities for the Connect & Collaborate series:

May 9, Indianapolis
May 11, Lafayette
May 30, Bloomington and Columbus
June 6, Huntingburg and Evansville
June 8, Muncie and Richmond
June 13, Terre Haute
June 20, South Bend
June 22, Fort Wayne
August 16, Scottsburg

For complete details on locations and to register, go online or call Nick at (317) 264-6885.

Mixed Bag With Tech, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Priorities in Senate Budget

The long-awaited announcement of the Senate initial version of the budget came late
last week. In it, there are several technology-related issues that were either included or dropped from the bill, as well as some funding amounts also reduced from the House version:

  • Transferability of the Venture Capital Tax Credit was deleted. The Chamber would like to see it included to increase the flow of venture capital funds for promising qualified businesses.
  • Funding of the 21 Fund (21st Century Research and Development Fund) remains at $20 million a year. The Chamber prefers $30 million a year.
  • Funding to backstop the initiation of direct flights to Europe was reinstated, although it is $4 million rather than $10 million over the two years. A good start.
  • Funding for the Management Performance Hub (MPH) was reduced to $6 million for two years, which is less than what the House reduced from the Governor’s original amount.
  • Keeps $20 million for the two years for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
  • Removed the Next Level Trust Fund, which would have provided investment guidelines and supervision to direct a portion of the Major Moves Trust Fund to invest in promising Indiana opportunities.
  • It allocates $1 million for the biennium for the Launch Indiana program.

We will work to keep the things we like in the bill and try to restore other items that were reduced or removed as it advances through the Senate and goes to conference committee. The Chamber will continue to educate legislators on these important economic development priorities currently in the bill.

Many Tech, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Priorities Remain in Budget Bill

The House Republicans’ budget priorities were recently announced, as HB 1001 goes from the Governor’s initial budget priorities to more in-depth House consideration. The Chamber was glad to see several technology and innovation priorities in the bill including:

  • Makes the Venture Capital Tax Credit transferrable to people who don’t have Indiana tax liability. It also removes the 2021 expiration date of the tax credit, which helps enhance certainty
  • Several parts of the $1 billion over 10 years for innovation and entrepreneurship plan:
    • It caps the amount of the Next Level Trust Fund that can be invested in Indiana businesses to 50% of that $500 million fund. It still appoints a board of trustees to oversee the investment policy of the fund
    • Has $20 million over the two years for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
    • Due to budget pressure, it reduced the 21st Century Research and Development Fund by $10 million per year to $20 million per year
    • It allocates $1 million for the biennium for the Launch Indiana program

We expect many changes in HB 1001 as it advances through the legislature. The Chamber will continue to educate legislators on these important economic development priorities currently in the bill and why they need to remain.

House Off to Fast Tech Start

A brief update on some tech/innovation legislation at the federal level, courtesy of the Chamber Technology Engagement Center.

Women will play an important role in the 21st century workforce. Congress recognized that this week when it passed the INSPIRE Women Act (H.R. 321) to recruit women into STEM fields and encourage their research and work in technology.

With the HALOS Act (H.R. 79), the House removed an important burden to allow for angel investors to support start-ups – a huge growth sector in our economy.

Thanks to the Modernizing Government Travel Act (H.R. 274), government employees will soon be able to travel smarter and more cost effectively, saving taxpayer money thanks to a bill modernizing work travel.

Lastly, with the Support for Rapid Innovation Act of 2017 (H.R. 239), the Department of Homeland Security is now a few steps closer to being able to utilize the best and brightest within agencies and industries to help combat the ever-growing cyber security threats to both government and business.

Indiana Technology and Innovation Council Moving Forward

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The Indiana Chamber announced the creation of the Technology and Innovation Council earlier this summer. The goal of the group is to leverage the Chamber’s statewide presence and ability to convene leaders and partners so we can enhance the growth of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology in Indiana with forward-thinking public policies and relevant programming.

Below is an update on the main aspects of the program:

Tech Policy Committee
This committee is in the process of working with leaders of various technology and innovation entities to develop the Chamber’s technology and innovation policy agenda. While many of the policies are updating current policies, such as venture capital incentives, new subject areas are being carefully considered. The committee chairman is John McDonald with CloudOne and vice chairman is Bill Soards with AT&T.

After the committee does its work over the next month, the tech policy agenda for the 2017 legislative session will be affirmed by the Chamber board this November. It will be publically announced at our Technology and Innovation Policy Luncheon on Thursday, December 15.

We hope to augment Indiana’s strong business climate with a renewed focus to better meet the needs of innovators, entrepreneurs and technology-oriented enterprises.

Programs and Trends Committee
Work is underway by this committee to think through what additional programming and information can help accelerate the growth of Indiana’s innovation and technology companies. Indiana has many excellent programs going on around the state and we hope to better connect the dots through the work of this committee. The chairman is John Wechsler of Launch Fishers and vice chair is Kristin Marcuccilli of STAR Financial Bank.

Already, the Chamber has enhanced its technology and innovation communication efforts through its BizVoice magazine and with Chamber members and customers through frequent email communications. It has created the web site, Indiana Chamber Tech, to provide relevant and useful information. Other activities being planned include a technology/innovation road show, a series of peer-to-peer lunch events and an innovation summit. The goal is to help better inform stakeholders around the state with useful programming and information relative to our future economy.

A Worthy Read
One of the most interesting white papers on business I have read recently includes this excellent paper from the Kauffman Foundation titled, A Tale of Two Entrepreneurs. It talks about two different types of businesses (we need both) and some important differences in fostering economic growth. I hope you take a few minutes to read it.

Please contact me directly to learn more about the Tech Council or sign up now.

TECH THURSDAY: Innovation ‘Critical Part’ of Kosciusko Brand

k countyEDITOR’S NOTE: BizVoice® has featured technology/innovation stories throughout its 18-year history. Look for these flashbacks each Thursday. Here is a 2015 favorite.

George Robertson wanted to know the answer to a pretty significant question: “Why is a small city in Northern Indiana (Warsaw) the Orthopedic Capital of the World?”

When Robertson came on board five years ago as the first fulltime executive director of the Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation (KEDCo), he began researching but didn’t have to look far to determine the answer.

“You see it in the stories of the companies, DePuy Synthes, Zimmer Biomet and Dane Miller (founder of Biomet). You see a trend of innovation and entrepreneurship. … Why is one of the largest automated material handling companies – CTB Inc. – in Milford? It’s entrepreneurship and innovation. And it just struck me that that was a critical part of our brand,” he emphasizes.

Read the full story online.

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Our first meeting was earlier this month, and was well-attended. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com.

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TECH THURSDAY: First Technology & Innovation Council Meeting a Success

Over 100 Hoosier innovators and leaders joined us for the first ever meeting of the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council Tuesday. Here are some pictures from the gathering, held in the Indiana Chamber Conference Center in Indianapolis, along with a summary and next steps:

pic4Indiana Chamber of Commerce VP Mark Lawrance is leading the Chamber’s efforts in bringing the council together to help Indiana’s tech ecosystem move forward in a unified manner.


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Bill Soards of AT&T addressed the crowd, relaying lessons he learned about entrepreneurship and the tech sector while working in Colorado.


pic3John McDonald of CloudOne led the discussion about policy priorities, sharing captivating stories from his experiences and gaining valuable feedback from those in attendance.


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John Wechsler of Launch Fishers has become one of the state’s go-to mentors and leaders for entrepreneurship.


pic5 The crowd included representatives from Indiana’s K-12 and college education sectors, including Allison Barber of WGU Indiana.


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Ian Steff of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation also addressed the crowd. We’re grateful for the IEDC’s commitment to helping create more high-paying jobs in the Hoosier State via tech and innovation.


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Indiana Business for Responsive Government’s Jeff Brantley discussed the role legislators can play in helping Indiana’s tech sector thrive.

Indy’s WebLink Celebrates 20 Years Serving Chambers, Associations

weblinkIndianapolis-based WebLink celebrated its 20th anniversary this week. The company provides innovative software and technology solutions for associations and chambers of commerce. A release has more:

“This has been quite a ride,” said DJ Muller, founder and president/CEO. “We’ve not only kept up with the speed of technology, we’ve been ahead of it all the way. WebLink is in an excellent position to continue to grow and succeed in the years ahead.”

“Built on innovation and exceptional customer service, WebLink is a seasoned technology company that runs like an entrepreneurial start up,” said Scott Webber, board member. “They’ve always had the ingredients of a burgeoning technology company.”

A brief history
WebLink began as a provider of software specifically designed for chambers of commerce. The company has since expanded to serve all types of associations, including builders and contractors, housing, healthcare, hospitality, trade, and transportation, and today, has clients in 490 cities and four countries.

Its signature association management software, WebLink Connect™, has more than 15,000 users and 10 million profiles. More than 170 new features were released to the software in the last year, which enables clients to manage members, prospects, events, websites, finances, and communications—all in one place. A new online community for users will be launched later this month.

The company also offers a slate of webinars, eBooks and other online resources, training events, and a certification program.

Today, approximately 800 member-based organizations, more than half of which are chambers of commerce, use WebLink’s cloud-based software-as-a-service solution. The company boasts an astonishing year-to-year average customer retention rate of 94 percent and customer satisfaction rating of 95 percent.

A strong tech neighborhood
WebLink is active in a strong and growing neighborhood of technology providers. High-tech software and services employment grew 18 percent in Indianapolis from 2012 to 2014—the eighth-fastest rate among the 30 cities surveyed. Multiple marketing and technology companies, including Salesforce and Appirio, have recently announced relocations or expansions into the area.

“It’s great to be in a hub of innovation,” said Muller. “Being close to and working with other marketing and technology companies keeps us on our toes and always looking ahead.”

Recent growth
The company grew new customer sales by 63 percent in 2014, earning a coveted TechPoint MIRA Award in Tech Sales and Marketing. Last year, WebLink secured $1.54 million of funding to expand into trade and professional association markets and further its position as a premier provider of association management software.

TECH THURSDAY: Scott Dorsey: Business Leader of the Year

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EDITOR’S NOTE: BizVoice® has featured technology/innovation stories throughout its 18-year history. Look for these flashbacks each Thursday. Here is a 2012 favorite.

Speaking with those who’ve risen with the tide of Indianapolis-based e-mail/digital marketing juggernaut ExactTarget, a unique picture is painted of CEO Scott Dorsey’s leadership style.

“One of the things I’ve always found so impressive is that he’s an atypical CEO,” asserts director of product management Joanna Milliken, who holds the distinction of being the company’s first official hire in 2001. “When you think of these hotshot CEOs who are very verbose or demanding, (he’s different because) he’s unassuming and has an amazing balance.

“He’s an incredible risk taker, but he’s not rash. He’s compassionate, but he’s not emotional. He can be both very strategic and knows when to jump in and when to be tactical. That’s a combination you don’t often find.”

Dorsey remembers the company’s humble beginnings, striving to emerge at a precarious time for Internet businesses.

“The Internet bubble had burst; money was not flowing into Internet companies,” he conveys. “We were three entrepreneurs with no software experience. The capital-raising process was really difficult. We went down the friends and family route. It was great, but a little unconventional.”

He adds that building software products with no technical background was a challenge, and the trio was fortunate to find strong developers to help with the early generations of the product.

“We really bootstrapped the company; it was thinly capitalized,” Dorsey offers. “Three of us worked without salaries for nearly the first year we were in business. We were incredibly frugal and watched every dollar very carefully. We didn’t have much to work with. That was a good thing though, because we had to be very sales driven, and built a small product – small enough that we could start to sell it and deliver value in many ways.”

Read the full story online.

Learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com.

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