Former IU official decides to go solo: Mark Long's consulting firm will assist entrepreneurs and innovative startups

June 30, 2008

Indiana University's former economic development chief, Mark Long, shepherded dozens of scientists and entrepreneurs as they started businesses. Now he's launched one of his own.

This month, Long formed the consultancy Long Performance Advisors Inc. Based in Greenwood, it's a platform for him to share his expertise in business formation and incubation. Long plans to help startups patent their intellectual property, write their business plans, and sharpen their proposals for federal money.

In short, all the things he used to do for IU.

"I'm glad I stayed here," he said. "There were a lot of opportunities to go different places. But this was the right thing to do, and I'm glad I did it."

Long was CEO of the Indiana University Emerging Technologies Corp. until he unexpectedly stepped down in March. Local high-tech leaders were shocked and disappointed. Long had led the school's efforts to transfer laboratory research from the bench to the market since early 2002. In that time, he spearheaded development of IU's 62,500-square-foot business incubator on Indianapolis' Central Canal downtown.

"I think he's done a really, really good job with the [incubator]. He literally took a concept and an idea and put it on the map," David Becker, CEO of First Internet Bank of Indiana, said in March. "He's helped an awful lot of companies get off the ground."

In the months since, IU hasn't revealed its new plans for economic development, or named Long's permanent replacement. Meanwhile, Long fielded offers to lead business-incubation programs at Florida State and Georgia Tech universities. He said he also considered jobs with big hightech firms in California and Texas.

But ultimately, he decided, Indiana was home. That's in no small part because Long's daughter soon will make him a grandparent. But Long said he also felt there is still "work to do" in local entrepreneurship. His goal is to help promising startups achieve instant short-term results by giving the advice they need to meet key early milestones, such as locating reasonably priced laboratory space.

Long plans to charge about $200 per hour for his counsel, although he said his rates can be negotiated at a fixed price for jobs with a defined duration. Startups won't be paying just for Long's advice. They'll also be buying access to his extensive network of experts in everything from legal affairs and accounting to federal grantmaking and regulatory approval.

Even though Long no longer leads IU's economic development, he hasn't broken all ties with the university. In fact, he's signed on to teach a class in entrepreneurship at the Kelley School of Business for the 2008-2009 academic year. It's an expansion of his previous role as an occasional guest lecturer in the school.

Long said he hopes to take his students beyond their textbooks.

"When they leave the class, I want them to understand the real world of business. Primarily, business is dealing with people. It's not dealing with products or situations. It's dealing with people," he said. "And also, you can have a good time."

The local economic development community is thrilled Long has chosen to stay here. Lee Lewellen, senior vice president of community and regional development for Greenfield-based Thomas P. Miller and Associates, expects to partner with him on projects in the days to come.

"The challenge that Indiana has is trying to attract experienced entrepreneurial talent and entrepreneurial support. The degree to which we are not losing that expertise and are able to deploy it a little more widely is to our advantage," he said. "It's a win for us that we didn't lose another to the brain drain."
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