The 11th Venture Club of Indiana Innovation Showcase is less than a week away, and organizers are promising this year’s event is going to be bigger and better than ever.
The showcase will be held in conjunction with the inaugural Next Level Fund Summit, hosted by 50 South Capital, the administrator of the Next Level Fund, the state’s venture capital program.
Both events are Aug. 22 at The Center, The Heritage Group’s expansive event space off of Interstate 465 and 71st Street on the city’s northwest side.
“I do want to stress while we share the same date and venue, the Next Level Fund Summit is a standalone event,” said Aaron Gillum, senior vice president at 50 South Capital and president of the Venture Club of Indiana. “At the same time, 50 South is heavily involved in the efforts of the Venture Club and thus The Innovation Showcase.
“The purpose of the summit is to highlight our work to date, introduce our fund managers and what they’re working on, introduce portfolio companies, and ultimately, by exposing more people to the Next Level Fund, expand our list of VCs,” Gillum added. “We have invited venture firms from across the country to attend.”
The Indiana General Assembly announced the Next Level Fund in 2017, using money generated years before by the lease of the Indiana Toll Road. The fund officially kicked off in March 2018. The Next Level Fund aims to invest $250 million over five years to encourage venture capital and philanthropic organizations to invest in Indiana’s innovation community. 50 South Capital manages the fund with oversight by the Governor’s Office and an investment board.
While most of the money is placed with venture capital firms, the Next Level Fund can also make direct investments in companies alongside VCs involved with the fund. The Next Level Fund currently has five groups in its venture capital portfolio: Allos Ventures, High Alpha, the Foundry Group, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and Techstars SportsTech.
The Next Level Fund Summit kicks off at 8 a.m. and runs until 11 a.m. There is no cost to attend. Gillum said RSVPs have been strong to date and he expects about 240 venture capitalists to attend. Angel investors also are welcome.
“We’ve extended a special invitation to all investors—anyone who writes checks,” Gillum said. “Indiana is blessed to have a thriving angel investing community and groups like VisionTech Angels, Elevate Ventures, and several other up-and-coming angel groups throughout the state that play a critical role in funding early stage companies. We want [angel investors] at the summit connecting with the VCs, the investment board and me. We want to grow our investment community. We’re all in this together. The general public is also invited to the summit.”
The Innovation Showcase follows the Summit and runs into the evening.
The Innovation Showcase includes the state’s largest pitch event, with 20 companies vying for prize money this year. Five of those companies—AfterSchool HQ, Atlas Energy, Away Zones, Pinpoint Pharma and Plan Forward—are from Indianapolis.
The companies pitching at this year’s Innovation Showcase had to compete locally in the Road to the Showcase competition—a six-month, nine-city tour hosted by Venture Club representatives—for the chance to pitch. Event organizers said the quality of the startups pitching at this year’s showcase has never been higher.
“The quality and diversity of the startups this year should erase the myth of Indiana being flyover country,” Gillum said. “Some of the investable companies presenting at the Showcase are SIMBA Chain, a blockchain-as-a-service company that won Techpoint’s Mira Award for New Tech Product of the Year in 2019; Adranos, a Purdue-affiliated startup that manufactures and licenses its custom rocket fuel formulations; Atlas Energy, which has repurposed NASA technology from the 1960s for today’s oil and gas industry; and Afterschool HQ, a company that connects families and their kids to after-school activities and lays the foundation for future success.”
Gillum says every corner of Indiana will be represented in the pitch competition with startups from Evansville, Fort Wayne, the Lafayette area, Muncie, New Albany, South Bend and Terre Haute as well as Indianapolis ready to hit the stage.
Gillum is hopeful summit attendees will stay for the Innovation Showcase.
“I am personally encouraging everyone who attends the Next Level Fund Summit to stay and attend the Venture Club of Indiana’s Innovation Showcase,” he said. “It’s such a natural segue from what Indiana is doing as a state to increase the number of VCs firms and ramp up later stage investment, to the excitement of the pitch competition with 20 of Indiana’s most investable companies. Anyone with a stake in Indiana’s innovation and entrepreneurship community should attend both events.”
Last year’s Innovation Showcase was rescheduled until late October when a companion event was cancelled just a month before the original date. Last year’s Innovation Showcase was going to be held in conjunction with INX, an entrepreneurial tech conference that had been set for mid-September, before it was scuttled by its organizer InXInnovate LTD