Mira banquet honors excellence in Hoosier high tech: TechPoint awards often precede market success

TechPoint’s Mira Awards, which were to be handed out May 19, celebrate excellence in Hoosier innovation. The annual awards banquet also serves as a pretty good bellwether of who’s poised for a big payday.

For example, TechPoint honored Indianapolis-based medical device-maker Suros Surgical Systems Inc. with a Mira award three years before Massachusettsbased Hologic Inc. acquired Suros for $240 million in April.

In 2003, TechPoint also recognized Carmel-based banking software-maker Baker-Hill. California-based Experian bought Baker-Hill last August for an undisclosed sum. Carmel-based online test platform Performance Assessment Network Inc. was a Mira runner-up last year. St. Louis-based TALX Corp. acquired PAN in April for $75 million.

“[Our judges have] picked some winners,” said TechPoint CEO Cam Carter. “If they were at the horse track, they’d be having a pretty good day.”

TechPoint’s Mira recipients this year are a mix of familiar names, such as Plainfield-based cell phone distributor Brightpoint Inc., which took the Mira for transportation, distribution and logistics, as well as up-and-comers like Indianapolis-based TriMedx, a medical-equipment management firm that won the Mira for health and life sciences.

David Doyle, president of Indianapolisbased technology incubator Inception LLC and one of the Mira judges, said Brightpoint’s spectacular rebound from its nearcollapse in 2002 set the company apart from the rest of Indiana’s logistics sector.

“Brightpoint is kind of like the phoenix rising from the ashes,” Doyle said.

TriMedx has been flying “under the radar screen,” according to Mira judge Mike Fitzgerald, principal of Indianapolis-based life sciences consultancy Fitzgerald Associates, despite employing about 140 people.

Fitzgerald was particularly impressed with TriMedx’s potential to expand beyond Indiana’s borders.

“As much focus as there’s been [locally] on the health and life sciences, only a few of the judges had even heard of this business,” he said. “But this one was pretty easy to get excited about as you learned more about their customers and plans.”

Indianapolis-based e-mail marketing software-maker ExactTarget Inc. won the Mira award in the information technology category. Mira judge Don Aquilano, managing director of Carmel-based venture capital firm Gazelle TechVentures, lauded ExactTarget’s ability to maintain its rapid expansion.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “They started off with no competitive advantage. And they have turned flawless execution into a competitive barrier.”

Although the name Mira has come to signify excellence in Indiana high-tech, winning one is no guarantee of success.

Take the obstacles facing Lafayettebased startup company QuadraSpec Inc., which is attempting to create a single medical device that can perform up to 1,000 simultaneous medical diagnostic tests. QuadraSpec earned the Mira for Innovation of the Year.

Aquilano was taken with QuadraSpec’s upside.

But Doyle pointed out it’s still far too soon to tell whether QuadraSpec will match the success of other Mira winners, like Suros.

“They’ve done a great job selling the sizzle, selling the concept of the technology. Now they’ve got to deliver and show the technology can do what they say it can,” Doyle said. “And that’s not an easy thing to do.”

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