Kissinger speaks out about Indiana's 'passion' problem

September 28, 2010
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If Indiana had more people like Bill Cook and Scott Jones, the state would have more, and better, entrepreneurial businesses, says one of the state’s older serial entrepreneurs in the area of the life sciences.

The remark from Pete Kissinger, who co-founded Bioanalytical Systems in West Lafayette in 1974 and now is involved in one way or another with several startups, is obvious, you say. Cook’s namesake medical device company in Bloomington has flourished and never seems to stop innovating. Jones, who made a ton of money with voice mail technology, is still involved in tech, with his Carmel-based Cha Cha search engine being the most visible.

But listen to Kissinger closer. He isn’t saying the state needs great business owners. He’s saying some of the state’s greatest businesses are the way they are because of their owners’ passion. And Kissinger says Indiana’s problem with modest levels of entrepreneurships traces to lack of passion.

Cook not only likes gizmos that improve the human body, but he also puts a lot of energy into a pet pastime of historic preservation. He was the money behind the stabilization of West Baden Springs Hotel in French Lick, and he’s the money behind the ongoing restoration of the former church in downtown Indianapolis that will serve as the headquarters of Indiana Landmarks.

Jones hasn’t just made money off technology; he also happens to relish it. Remember that Jones is the one who organized a team of locals to enter a military’s technology competition to develop vehicles driven by robots. The Jeep crashed at the competition in California, but a company that’s making robotic-controlled lawnmowers spun out of the knowledge.

Entrepreneurship, or the lack thereof, has been studied and analyzed to death in Indiana, Kissinger contends. And there isn’t a great deal to show for it.

“It is serial entrepreneurs who keep reinvesting that make the difference,” he says. “The academic sector kicks things off and helps keep it going, but it is private enterprise that creates new businesses in numbers.”

Indiana had lots of passionate entrepreneurs around the turn of the last century and then the zeal waned. The state was part of a sprawling Silicon Valley of its day as the industrial Midwest set about transforming the way we get around. But, as Kissinger sees it, “we got fat, lazy” and stuck with making recreational vehicles and other products of the industrial era. “Thus innovation capital went elsewhere.”

Do you agree with Kissinger that a lack of passion is the problem beneath the state’s struggle to stay prosperous? If not, what’s the problem?

  • simple: risk
    Indiana's brain drain is directly connected to it's brightest and most imaginitive being told that they can't do what they want to here. There is also a great fear that introducing something new will fail even if just an idea. Indiana welcomes establishments and doesn't create them anymore.
  • Acceptance
    I used to travel the country years ago. One thing that struck me was the acceptance of new innovative ideas in places like California; they are willing to give you a chance to try an idea out and see if it has merit. In the conservative Midwest new ideas are more likely to be scoffed at and not readily accepted. The time line for payoff is short - new ideas must pay off quickly or are tossed aside. Investor is right on
  • Conservative "Wait and See" Hurts in Hospitals too
    I have worked for three start-up companies, in medical device sales - and each time, I spent most(85%+)of my time OUTSIDE of Indiana (Hospitals), selling to Hospitals in Texas and other Midwestern states, rather than Indiana - over the past 20 years.
    We DO NEED to be MORE aggressive and OPEN MINDED in trying out and accepting new ideas to explore - instead of taking a "wait and see" approach! Just saying ...
  • ?
    I'm down to finishing my last contract and accepted no more. We've arranged things so I can work as I see fit.

    I can assure anyone it will happen - if not here, somewhere else. This means I'm determined it's going to happen here. I'm surprised there isn't much press about someone else saying anything about it.

    I don't have the desire to fill out a balance sheet with "... 8x10 glossy photographs with a paragraph on the back ..." (There used to be one of these things in Marion). I'd rather hammer out some of the loose ends before mixing, let alone pouring the concrete.

    I can trump a beer & napkin meeting: go to one of the Bravo! establishments. They have cloth tablecloths...wait for it: they put 3.5' x 3.5' pieces of butcher paper on top. When you run out of room, they're more than happy to supply more. Clear off the table, roll up the paper, and you can hit the road with something better than a soggy, smudged diagram, nearly impossible to read. It's a lot easier to scan & share it. The waitstaff in many eateries get happy when they are told, "I'm going to rent this table, so don't worry" and deliver.

    I'm a big fan of Jim Collins. See pages 41-42 of "Good to Great". In Indiana, "getting the right people on the bus" means, "five years of this programming language, three of this software/technology, four years of this, that, or the other thing, blah-blah-blah.

    *choke* *cough* *sputter*

    and they wonder why people in Indiana are thought to need a clue-by-four betwixt the eyes.

    If you'd like to discuss passion, you know how to reach me. I'll see what I can do to have good material and not waste anyone's time. (including anyone you manage to drag along or who makes use of the address above. I've already answered some of the more difficult problems as well as 5+ revenue streams.

    I might even buy the first round.



    I've found a novel method for shoestring seeding, so I'm not necessarily looking for a
  • work @ will
    I think the biggest problem is employees have no say to improve. Most places are turning into a 3rd world company and treating their employees with no ethics or respect. You are hired with the work at will in Indiana which basically means you can be considered dog meat. And if you have any ideas you have signed your inovations over to the copy so why try!
  • Every so often...
    ... an itch must be scratched.

    If an employer won't do it (or produce a way to do it, it's time to ...

    I don't know what "old timer" is. I'm 48 and have been doing this since I was 17, thanks to computer & math courses at IU and BSU.

    If an employer won't scratch the itch...

    I've said nothing is beneath me ... I've done all of these things: I'll go when the remainder of the group goes in at weird hours - I'll be there for morale, and work on my stuff if there's nothing they can offload. I'll sit down and learn what they're doing and offer to help. Give me a broom, food runs across town, run cars during the Winter so they won't freeze over ... whatever is ethical or legal, I'll do whatever it takes to get the horse over the finish line ... if they can't handle a blank check like this and it's not scratching the itch, I'd consider it to be an endorsement ...



    I guess passion counts for nothing ... I've received no messages


    ... but it's not stopping me.


    For anyone still reading, here's info about the next "Startup Weekend" in November:

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  1. A couple of issues need some clarification especially since my name was on the list. I am not sure how this information was obtained and from where. For me, the amount was incorrect to begin with and the money does not come to me personally. I am guessing that the names listed are the Principal Investigators (individual responsible for the conduct of the trail) for the different pharmaceutical trials and not the entity which receives the checks. In my case, I participate in Phase II and Phase III trials which are required for new drug development. Your article should differentiate the amount of money received for consulting, for speaking fees, and for conduct of a clinical trial for new drug development. The lumping of all of these categories may give the reader a false impression of physicians just trying to get rich. The Sunshine Law may help to differentiate these categories in the future. The public should be aware that the Clinical Trial Industry could be a real economic driver for Indiana since these revenues supports jobs and new job creation. Nationally, this account for 10-20 billion which our State is missing out on to a large degree. Yes, new drug and technology development has gotten most of the attention (e.g. CTSI, BioCrossroads, etc.) However, serious money is being left on the table by not participating in the clinical trials to get those new drugs and medical devices on the market!!!! I guess that this is not sexy enough for academia.

  2. The address given for the Goldfish Swim Club is the Ace Hardware, is it closing?

  3. Out of state management and ownership. If Kite controlled it, everything would be leased. Of course, due to the roundabout, there is limited access to the south side of 116th now also. Just have to go down to the light.

  4. Hey smudge, You're opposed to arresting people for minor crimes? Sounds great! We should only focus on murders and such, right? Let's stand around and wait until someone shoots someone before we act. Whatever we do, we should never question anyone, frisk anyone, or arrest anyone unless they are actively engaged in shooting or stabbing. Very sound!

  5. You guys are being really rude to gays in the comments. (Not all of you, I presume). You need to stop it. Gays have just as much of a right to marry as straight people do. It's not fair how you guys are denying them equal rights. They're acting more human than you'll ever be. We obviously haven't matured since the bible was last updated. Hate the sin, not the sinner. You've all committed a sin at least once in your life. You've lied, you've stolen, etc. (Those are just possibilities). We should have a planet for people that support gay rights and a planet for people that don't. Then, gay people could get married without you bigots interfering with their love life. How would you feel if straights couldn't get married? How would you feel if teenagers were afraid to come out to their parents as straight? If straight people got hate everywhere they went? If straight people were afraid to go out in public, because they feared being judged? It's never going to happen at the rate society is going. You haven't seen the side of me where I act obscene. You're glad my inner demon hasn't been released. I would, but oh no, my comment would be removed because of my very strong emotions about this subject. I love gays, and love how they show their affection for each other. I just ADORE how a state is going to give same-sex couples a marriage license, then changes their mind. (I was obviously being sarcastic there). I just LOVE how society thinks gays are an abomination to our society. You're caring about marriage between two men or two women. That's a small thing. Just grow up, and let them marry. Let them live their lives. You can't make them change their sexuality. You can't make them change their lifestyle. In my opinion, gays are more than welcome to marry. Please, grow up and realize that people should be allowed to marry, even if it's same-sex marriage. You guys are saying that "the bible said gay marriage is wrong." Well, guess what else is wrong? Read Matthew:7 and you'll find out. (I am in no way breaking that. I am saying a fact). I'm stating that gays have just as much of a right to marry as straights do. (: