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.

A Stroll Through DeveloperTown…

Meet Michael Coffey. He’s a new partner at DeveloperTown — a tech-focused incubator/accelerator hybrid in Indianapolis’ Broad Ripple district. He was hired recently to help organize the company’s operations, and is working to bring to life some of America’s next big ideas. (I met with him today in preparation for a BizVoice magazine article I’m writing on DeveloperTown for the September/October edition.)

But Coffey isn’t a native of Indiana. In fact, he hadn’t spent much time here at all before leaving his Napa Valley, California home — and business he started — behind and relocating his family to help ignite the fire of innovation here — a fire that gets bolder and brighter each year. He pointed to Indianapolis’ cost of living, state and local support for small businesses and family-friendly atmosphere as the reasons for his move.

But I’ll spare you the long version of this encouraging story, and just use this as a tease for the article.

However, I wanted to highlight one of his quotes that resonated with me — largely because I’m so proud of our work with the Best Places to Work in Indiana rankings. My myriad discussions and interviews with these companies over the years have all contained one overarching theme: employees matter. And according to Coffey, they matter more than just about anything.

One of the concepts we push on companies is getting organizations to understand that their number one customer is their employees. The secondary customer is the one who’s paying you money. But if you take care of your primary customer, your secondary customer will always be taken care of… If every organization actually understood that, there would be more emphasis on the actual values and mission of the company.

As Indiana becomes a hotbed of innovation with each passing year, it becomes more apparent that innovation is about a lot more than just technology. It’s about approach. It’s about philosophy. It’s about thinking differently. 

Coffey also mentioned on several different occasions how he hopes to help communicate to local residents and developers that they don’t need to live in California or Boston to be happy or feel successful.

"You actually live in a cool place," he asserts. "And the people here are genuinely kind and want to help you."

Knowing someone like Coffey can happily relocate from scenic wine country because of the possibilities in our state is inspiring — and I’m especially eager to see how DeveloperTown helps our many brilliant-minded thinkers succeed. To see if it can help your start-up or existing company, just reach out.