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Indiana Venture Center shutting down

November 21, 2008

The Indiana Venture Center, a local not-for-profit that mentors Hoosier entrepreneurs and startup companies, is shutting its doors. President Jim Eifert announced today that it will end operations Dec. 31.

Founded in 2003, the center focused on stimulating high-tech deal flow and connecting entrepreneurial people. Eifert said it helped more than 100 local companies, 40 of which found investors. The center also linked hundreds of university students and faculty members with startups to help with projects. Its offices are on the north side of downtown at 902 North Capitol Ave.

Eifert said the need for services has waned because other groups, such as the TechPoint technology promotion group, BioCrossroads life sciences initiative, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and the angel investors' network HALO Group have emerged during the last five years to serve entrepreneurs.

"The mission of the IVC was always to stimulate and catalyze a supportive environment for Indiana's entrepreneurial community," Eifert said in a statement. "Great progress has been made in this marketplace due to the work of the IVC and other organizations. Indiana has improved significantly as it relates to entrepreneurial 'inputs' such as early stage capital, incubation space, government supported programs, connector organizations, and university entrepreneurship programs."

"What now keeps Indiana from fully realizing the 'outputs' of these efforts is the scarcity of seasoned entrepreneurial talent needed to grow our early stage companies," he continued. "We believe that this need is best addressed by the for-profit sector."

The center originally was managed by Steve Beck and Bruce Kidd. Beck, a long-time local banker, is now Indiana managing director for Chicago-based Geneva Capital Group. Kidd is the Indiana Economic Development Corp.'s director of small business and entrepreneurship.

Eifert, 65, took over the center in 2006 after managing the Terre Haute business incubation program Rose-Hulman Ventures.

Eifert plans to retire next year, although he said he will continue to take on some consulting work from entrepreneurial companies.

The center has three employees, but had 14 at its peak. It originally was financed by a $3.5 million gift from Michael Hatfield, an expatriate Hoosier entrepreneur who made good in Silicon Valley. Hatfield sold his electronics firm Cerent Corp. to Cisco Systems Inc. in 1999 for $7.3 billion.

A native of the northern Indiana town of Middlebury, Hatfield underwrote the center to stimulate Indiana entrepreneurship opportunities that weren't available when he began his career.

Hatfield said in a statement that he was pleased to contribute to the center and to be able to play a role in improving Indiana's entrepreneurial climate.

"In many ways, Indiana has now surpassed California with regard to the conscious creation of a framework to support entrepreneurship," Hatfield said.

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