Published On: 04/12/2021Categories: Agbiosciences, AgTech, Economic Development, Entrepreneurs

Southwest Indiana Commits to Entrepreneurial Push

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$2.5 million Elevate Ventures’ partnership to boost innovation across region


Elevate Ventures and the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana have entered into a three-year, $2.5 million partnership whose mission is to develop a culture and infrastructure of sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship in the Southwest Indiana region.

Stakeholders and leaders in Southwest Indiana representing a range of interests were involved in the decision to join forces with Elevate Ventures. Official partners include Vectren Corp., Koch Industries, Old National Bank and German American Bank.

“Communities and regions across the country are looking at ways to stimulate as well as capitalize upon entrepreneurial activity. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. Our goal was to partner with the organization or initiative that was best positioned in that space in Indiana, and that organization is Elevate Ventures,” says Greg Wathen, President and CEO of the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana.

The terms of the agreement include a $1.5 million contribution by Elevate Ventures and $1 million from the community. These contributions will support entrepreneurial activities designed to endure beyond the initial term. Initiatives will include investments in local businesses, portfolio services, events for entrepreneurs and investors, marketing support, business coaching, access to professional resources and more. Eric Steele will serve as the region’s dedicated Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Steele has previously held a variety of leadership positions for startup technology companies in industries ranging from telecommunications to e-commerce.

“Decades from now, successful communities will be the ones that made a long-term bet on entrepreneurship and innovation. In Southwest Indiana, we won’t be creating a new culture. Instead, we will be tapping into the natural entrepreneurship and innovation that have been here for decades but have been dormant,” says Chris LaMothe, CEO of Elevate Ventures.

Mark A. Schroeder, Chairman and CEO of German American Bancorp, says that the partnership addresses the two largest hurdles to entrepreneurship in the present environment: the availability of an ecosystem that supports startup and mid-stage companies and, most importantly, access to capital for those companies.

“Many of today’s leading regional businesses were formed in the 1940s and 1950s, during a period where locally owned, entrepreneurially managed companies were prevalent. This presence of other entrepreneurs encouraged others to make the leap to start their own business and also provided a source of counsel for these aspiring entrepreneurs. Additionally, access to capital was more readily available in those times due to less onerous regulatory requirements,” Schroeder says.

Bob Myer is Chairman of the Board of Elevate Ventures and lives near Evansville. The former entrepreneur and current angel investor has been directly involved in helping Elevate Ventures grow and succeed so that it could expand to Southwest Indiana.

“The partnership was developed to accelerate the culture of high-potential, early-stage companies and be a venture capital investing source for appropriate opportunities,” Myer says. “We’re excited to see key business leaders and venture-related organizations come together with not only a vision but also statewide capital and expertise. These are the kinds of assets that can multiply entrepreneurial successes and increase the prosperity of the Southwest region.”

Indiana’s business environment is ranked among the best in the world, yet the state’s entrepreneurship and innovation performance is failing to keep pace. Indiana ranks near the bottom for job creation (44th) and share of total employment (42nd) for firms less than six years old. And the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Index (a leading indicator of new business creation in the United States) lists Indiana as No. 44 out of 50. Region by region, Elevate Ventures is focusing on advancing entrepreneurship and innovation to bridge the wide gap between Indiana’s celebrated business environment and its potential to thrive.

While each regional partnership is tailored to the community’s assets, needs, business base, education ecosystem and other factors, Elevate Ventures’ regional partnerships are all designed to address some common, statewide challenges that are preventing regions from thriving. Those challenges include the following:
• A shortage of regional networks of leaders and entrepreneurs jointly focused on growing entrepreneurship and innovation
• A lack of access to later-stage funding for potential high-growth businesses
• The exit of young talent to other states
• A need for public and private universities to aggressively engage in entrepreneurship and innovation in their communities
• The absence of a bold, well-supported plan around which stakeholders can rally

Elevate Ventures is exploring potential partnerships around Indiana; others have been signed and are in various stages of maturity. In addition to the Southwest Regional Partnership, current partnerships include:
• “Startup South Bend Elkhart” regional partnership (effective April 14, 2016)
• “1804” regional partnership in South Central Indiana (effective Dec. 6, 2016)
• Northeast Indiana regional partnership (effective April 27, 2017)


Source: Elevate Ventures