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?
 

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  • 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.


    phil

    p.s.

    I've found a novel method for shoestring seeding, so I'm not necessarily looking for a handout...now
  • 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 ...

    phil

    p.s.

    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: http://tinyurl.com/2fzbdgm

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