Is Jones a political football?

November 26, 2007
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Carmel tech entrepreneur Scott Jones is finding himself in the middle of a political debate he didnâ??t ask for and doesnâ??t want.

The spokeswoman for the Indiana Democratic Party is questioning whether Jones needed the $4 million in grants that two of his businesses received this fall from the state 21st Century Research & Technology Fund.

As IBJ reporter Peter Schnitzler wrote in this weekendâ??s paper, the spokeswoman, Jennifer Wagner, also is asking if Jones received the grants in exchange for his support of Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. Jones, youâ??ll remember, hosted a fund-raiser at his mansion in October that generated more than $1 million for Danielsâ?? re-election war chest.

Jones calls the insinuation of quid pro quo â??ridiculous,â?? saying Wagner might just as well have asked if he has beaten his wife lately. And the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which oversees the 21st Century Fund, insists plenty of reviews and firewalls are in place to ensure the grants go only to deserving companies.

All of this raises plenty of points. Hereâ??s one: Given his ties to Daniels, should Jones have been treated differently than other entrepreneurs who apply for the grants?
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  • One has to ask how someone could develop what could be considered a low class search engine and receive such a huge grant from the state. Everyone should take a look at chacha.com and decide for themselves if this site does even one tenth of what Google does. I don't think it comes close. Did Jones rush to get something on the street just to get in line for the funds? There are plenty of local software development firms that could have used even a tenth of that money.
  • Jones is smart enough to know that this looks a little fishy. Perhaps he shouldn't have been so vocal about the recent Fundraiser, knowing that the application for a Grant was pending. How is this so different from a bid for a State contract being granted right after a highly touted Fundraiser? Given the Governor's constant harping on the questionale ethics of the previous Administration, I'd say this at least appears to rise to the level of hypocrisy. Scott & The Gov. should not be surprised by any fuss.
  • I've had frequent contact with the people who administer the 21st Century fund. The process is rigorous (there are outside reviewers of proposals) and the integrity of the individuals involved is unimpeachable. I honestly believe that this process cannot be gamed.
  • Favors abound in the world of big dollars. Anything can be made to look transparent if you throw money at the right people. Take it from an average Joe... one of the have-nots if you will, that money always seems to stay in the same circles, the same people and their buddies and famiiles always have it and throw it around like it's candy. Is even more sad of a remark about our society when there are thousands of people even right here in Indy, who might be able to live a comfortable life on just 1/10 of the money these big boys throw around and would call chump change. :(
  • Let me see if I have this correct? How many millions for a search engine that claims its differentiator is people doing the search. I have been rejected twice by the 21 fund and they always say our technology is not world changing and revolutionary. It is certainly much more advanced, scalable and world changing than a business model built around people as its differentiator.

    It certainly begs the question in my mind how someone could receive $2 million for something like Cha Cha (which I have no issues with the business model) and I got rejected twice. We have revenues, big customers, 50 high average wage people, profiability and are proven and want to use technology to drive future scalability.

    When comparing our rejections and comments back to what others have done it is very clear there are outside factors. I know what they are in my case. I have no idea what they are in this case.
  • The more questionable of the two grants would be the $2 million to a company that is developing a robotic lawn mower for golf courses. Doesn't seem likely that company is likely to add much to the Indiana economy. Perhaps it would be interesting to see how much of Scott's own funds have been invested in either of these two companies. It would also be interesting to see where his $150 million in personal wealth is invested--can it be a conjecture as to what he feels the street value is of ChaCha and Precise Path? Also--can he point to what 'successful' businesses he has personally developed, or is this also just 'his' valuation? The fact that the fund --of which he was once a board member--has invested 10% of its total investments with his companies makes it appear less than 'arms' length'. The point of the fund was to spread this around to many small entrepreneurs and not just to a handful of well-connected individuals. Thanks to all for calling attention to this issue--perhaps we will see an answer that has not been vetted by the 'public relations' team surrounding Jones.
  • It will be interesting to see how long this human assisted search engine will last when all of these human assistants get their 1099 after the first year.
  • Politics as usual folks. Have fun Scott. :) Best call them lawyers.

    Oh - and Ballard is not part of the Republican machine either? :lol: Well, he is NOW!

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