Indiana’s tech efforts on national radar

Perhaps overlooked in the news that a half-dozen members of Indiana’s tech community were called to a White House summit on startups last month was just how exclusive the invite list was.

“Indiana was one of just 11 states invited” to the Startup America summit, said Mike Langellier, CEO of the Indianapolis-based TechPoint initiative.

Sure, you’d expect states such as California and Massachusetts, but it’s notable that the beltway folks singled out Indiana for an audience with such officials as the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Patent Office, and the U.S. chief technology officer.

Langellier Langellier

The Startup America Partnership had surveyed what’s been happening in the tech startup world in all 50 states. Its chairman, Scott Case, a former Priceline executive, paid many a visit here to learn more about Indiana’s tech base.

“They created a short list of states that showed particular promise of momentum, and Indiana was one of them,” Langellier said.

It says a lot about how far Indiana has come since tech was identified as an economic development focus here more than 20 years ago. Former Mayor Steve Goldsmith’s “high tech” task force, created in the mid-1990s, brought more than a few chuckles for its seemingly unattainable goals.

One of the key takeaways for Langellier from the White House visit was that central Indiana’s infrastructure for developing tech firms is more advanced than in peer states.

Beyond TechPoint are groups like Verge, a Broad Ripple-based entity that helps cultivate upstart firms, and business accelerator organizations such as DeveloperTown.

The area also has made progress in attracting venture capital and crowd-funding sources such as Localstake, Langellier said.

Another trend that buoyed the Indiana crowd at the White House event was talk of venture firms broadening their investment focus from social media upstarts to tech companies offering business-to-business software.

“That’s our forte,” Langellier said, noting the presence here of such companies as e-mail marketing firm ExactTarget and call center software developer Interactive Intelligence.

One eye-opening tidbit at the summit came from Small Business Administration officials, spouting statistics that show a stark geographical disparity in venture capital funding for early-stage companies seeking $1 million to $4 million.

Over the past four years, only 6 percent of venture money has gone to this segment—and 70 percent of that to firms in California, Massachusetts and New York.

The SBA’s answer is a $1 billion early-stage innovation fund that will match private-capital amounts that upstarts raise.

The metro region turns out to be a powerful player in startups. The Kauffman Foundation said among “unexpected locations for innovative, high-growth companies,” Indianapolis ranks sixth-highest in the concentration of such firms.

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