Venture Club’s Innovation Showcase is a go

The 10th annual Venture Club of Indiana Innovation Showcase is on.

The Venture Club hustled to organize the pitch event—now set for Oct. 25—when InXInnovate LTD last month canceled its local INX event. Originally, the Innovation Showcase was going to be held in conjunction with INX, an entrepreneurial tech conference that had been set for Sept. 18-19 before it was scuttled.

The Venture Club will now hold its showcase as a standalone event at The Center, The Heritage Group’s expansive event space off of Interstate 465 and 71st Street on the city’s northwest side. The event kicks off at 12:30 p.m., and organizers hope to have an announcement at this year’s showcase about expanding the event next year.

Venture Club officials said its members went from confused—after the INX event was canceled—to relief after they announced the Innovation Showcase would go on after all.

“The Innovation Showcase is an annual staple a lot of people count on. The whole point of this is to have startups showcase themselves in front of investors, potential customers, and possible human resource talent. If it wasn’t around, it would have been a disturbance to the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Travis Stegemoller, spokesman for the Venture Club of Indiana, told IBJ. 

“We knew this event was important. When the INX event was canceled we heard from a lot of people and they reinforced that. The outpouring in the wake of the INX cancellation really showed us the importance of the event. So we wanted to do everything we could to make sure we held the event this year,” Stegemoller added.

Haley Altman, CEO of Indianapolis-based Doxly, was one of those feeling relief after plans for this year’s Innovation Showcase were announced. 

“Many of the great Indy success stories, from investments to large scale exits, have ties to the Innovation Showcase,” said Altman, whose tech firm operates a platform to manage legal transactions. “Companies receive access to investors, talent and even their next customer. I could not be more excited to see what new story unfolds at this year's Innovation Showcase.”

Stegemoller credited The Heritage Group for providing the space for the event on short notice and other corporate supporters who helped make the event possible this year.

The Heritage Group, a local family-run holding company, has made a concerted effort this year to raise its profile in the local entrepreneurial community with the creation of its New Ventures Group; HG Ventures, a new corporate venture arm that company officials say will invest $50 million in companies locally; and its partnership with worldwide entrepreneurial mentoring network Techstars to launch a local accelerator. 

The Venture Club hosts nine regional pitch competitions statewide throughout the year. Winners of the local competitions come to Indianapolis for Innovation Showcase. 

This year, about 20 companies will make pitches at the event. Each company gets five minutes to make its case.

After the pitches, Ade Olonoh, founder of data management company Formstack, will give the keynote speech in a fireside chat format, and then the winner will be announced. This year’s prize package is still being determined, Stegemoller said, adding that it will include a combination of cash and in-kind services.

Last year, Jeffersonville-based Inscope Medical Solutions took the top prize, earning a $100,000 prize package.

The plan going forward is to keep the Innovation Showcase a standalone event and expand it.

“We’ve been a standalone event for many years. Last year there was a bigger vision to be a part of the INX festival. This year when the [INX] organizer wanted to make it bigger than it was in 2017, we wanted to be part of that, but it didn’t materialize,” Stegemoller said. 

“We’re working on 2019 for some pretty big developments and we hope to have some announcements about that at this year’s event or maybe a little after,” he added. “The plan is to expand it to a two-day event in 2019. That will increase involvement of investors and potential exposure for our participants to those investors.”

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