JOHN DAVIES: In pursuit of Innovation-driven companies

2013-12-08T00:00:00Z 2014-02-05T20:03:07Z JOHN DAVIES: In pursuit of Innovation-driven companiesBy John Davies nwitimes.com
December 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

As the national economy turns the corner, and employment levels inch upward, Elevate Ventures is seeking “innovation-driven companies” to stimulate equity investment and jobs in Northwest Indiana.

Typically, these companies create products here, sell them outside of Indiana, and drive economic value back to the state. They include new ideas from prospective manufacturers, health technology companies and IT companies wanting to expand their services on the Internet.

Confirmed by a new study by the Kauffman Foundation, Elevate Ventures is targeting high growth potential companies statewide because they tend to operate nationally or even globally and create high value jobs with salaries upwards of $50,000.

For those of you who have been following this column, you know I have written about Elevate Ventures. Fact is, this Indianapolis-based venture development organization launched by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. has been here since 2012.

What’s new is that Kelly Schwedland is one of two new “Entrepreneurs-in-Residence” here in Northwest Indiana. Since October, he has been working almost full-time in the region. He’s recently joined by Karen Goldner, who also serves as an “entrepreneur-in-residence.”

I caught up with Kelly to discuss Elevate Ventures and its emphasis on high growth potential companies. He had just returned from South Bend, where he had led a “Start Up Weekend” to generate and validate new business ideas. Plans call for this initiative to be rescheduled in Northwest Indiana during 2014.

Here’s what Kelly told me. If early stage companies from the region can validate their ideas with prospective clients, these companies are eligible for equity funding up from $50,000 to $500,000. Moreover, so-called second stage companies, between $750,000 to $25 million in sales, are eligible for a mentoring program called “economic gardening.”

In fact, a total 18 companies from the region have participated in mentoring supplied by experts from the Edward A. Lowe Foundation. As a result, this has increased revenue by $18 million in economic activity. All told, programs have generated more than $35 million in economic benefit to the region so far.

Moreover, Just Food Blends in Chesterton, founded by Society of Innovators Fellow Julie Bombacino, is scheduled for a significant co-investment from Elevate Ventures when she launches her new product in January. She’s the first to qualify for an investment from Elevate Ventures in Northwest Indiana.

Thanks to support from NIPSCO, Elevate Ventures offers these services to help our entrepreneurs. Don Babcock, NIPSCO's director of economic development, said, “Elevate Ventures can launch a new generation of businesses that will build on a legacy of innovation and help restore our economy.”

“Northwest Indiana has talented people with great ideas,” Kelly said. “I want to help develop an ecosystem of high growth companies to push the region forward.”

John Davies is managing director of the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana, which is part of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center of Ivy Tech Northwest. The opinions are the writer's.

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