Fishers launching business incubator

The town of Fishers is making a bid to keep its entrepreneurs close to home, investing $350,000 to develop shared office space for the startup community.

Co-working facility Launch Fishers  is slated to open this fall in what is now vacant space on the ground floor of the Hamilton East Library, located at the northeastern edge of the town’s municipal complex. (Read IBJ's June story on co-working here.)

The 16,000-square-foot space will get a $225,000 overhaul, creating a collaborative atmosphere officials hope will give homegrown entrepreneurs the tools they need to grow high-potential businesses.

“We want to make it easy for people to get started and increase their odds of success,” said John Wechsler, a local tech startup veteran (and Fishers resident) who is consulting on the project.

Wechsler also is a partner at Indianapolis-based tech firm DeveloperTown, which shares a sprawling building south of Broad Ripple with the Speak Easy, a tech-focused venue its co-founder called a “Moose Lodge for geeks.”  

Like the Speak Easy, Launch Fishers will operate as a separate not-for-profit governed by a five-member board: two members of the town council, the town manager and two business leaders.

Fishers also is providing $125,000 in seed money for the first year of operations, said Town Council Member John Weingardt. Revenue will come from donations, sponsorships and user fees.

Members will pay an annual fee for basic services—things like mailboxes and conference room access—with two “upgrades” available on a month-to-month basis. A dedicated desk, for example, will cost $100 a month. A company “enclave” suitable for two or more employees will add another $100 per month.

Launch Fishers also plans to offer educational programming, including some in collaboration with other organizations. Venture Club of Indiana will have its monthly meeting there on Nov. 1, and networking group Verge will use the space Nov. 8.

Weingardt said the Launch Fishers initiative came about as a result of requests from the entrepreneurial community for flexible co-working space. Officials hope nurturing high-potential businesses now will pay big dividends later.

“It’s a shift in economic development strategy,” Wechsler said. “Instead of picking individual winners and losers [to receive financial incentives], we’re investing in the overall ecosystem to allow entrepreneurs to do their thing.”

What do you think: If Fishers builds it, will entrepreneurs come? And if they do, will they stay?

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