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August 2020

Need a prototype of your product? This Fort Wayne venture is helping others get started

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Need a prototype of your product? This Fort Wayne venture is helping others get started

| Input Fort Wayne

August 19, 2020

For generations, Fort Wayne has been known as a hub for manufacturing in the U.S., but there hasn’t always been an accessible way for would-be entrepreneurs to prototype their products here.

In 2019, Jon Rehwaldt launched The Workbench on the city’s Southeast side.

In 2019, Jon Rehwaldt launched The Workbench on the city’s Southeast side to do just that.

For generations, Fort Wayne has been known as a hub for manufacturing in the U.S., but there hasn’t always been an accessible way for would-be entrepreneurs to prototype their products here.

In 2019, Jon Rehwaldt launched The Workbench on the city’s Southeast side to do just that.

As a resource to design and prototype physical products for manufacturing, The Workbench provides up-and-coming business owners with the space, equipment, and services they need to turn their ideas into 3D realities. It focuses on digital design and fabrication, prototyping, and computerized production.

But The Workbench’s mission isn’t the only thing significant about this rising company. It’s also located on Fort Wayne’s Southeast side at 1830 Wayne Trace in the SEED Enterprise Center, which Rehwaldt believes brings new opportunities to an often-underserved part of town.

“The Southeast feels like downtown did in 2009,” Rehwaldt says. “It’s hard to explain, but there is tremendous energy here, waiting to transform this part of the community.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Fort Wayne in March 2020, The Workbench has stayed busy, too. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, it joined other Fort Wayne-area makers and tinkerers in fighting the spread of COVID-19 by making face masks and face shields for healthcare workers and first responders.

“While we started out using one 3D printer and sewing machine to do the same work, it became clear that our time was better spent consulting with people who were designing items to aid health systems worldwide,” Rehwaldt says.

After regional manufacturers took over the mask and shield production, The Workbench pivoted to supplementary assistance that included designing and reviewing components for teams around the world, pressure analysis, and compiling results for use by teams designing emergency ventilators and PPE. (The Open Source Medical Supplies organization has compiled and made available research and analysis information on their Facebook page: OpenSourceMedical Supplies.)

“One of the best things that we contributed to was a database of mask filter materials and their compliance to standards,” Rehwaldt says. “Wearing a mask helps contain the spread of COVID-19, and the data on that is conclusive. Everyone should be wearing masks in public.”

Most of the Workbench’s clients are from the healthcare industry, which follows national trends for startups, according to Rehwaldt. Going against the grain, he also noted that his company primarily works with women.

“They see a problem, are ready to solve it, and want to work hard on building something,” he says.

Since the company focuses on manufacturing, their clients make physical goods. Motorsports is a niche The Workbench wants to cater to, but they’ll need new equipment to compete.

In 2007, Rehwaldt moved to Fort Wayne to teach and coach at Concordia Lutheran High School. He still scratches that teaching itch as an instructor for the SEED’s Build Institute Fort Wayne program, which helps rookie entrepreneurs turn ideas into business plans and establish connections in the city.

“That first few weeks of figuring out how to make a business work is such a great journey,” Rehwaldt says. “It’s been awesome to be involved with so many businesses getting their start in Fort Wayne.”

For more information about The Workbench, visit their website at

Elevate Ventures Releases 1H 2020 Indiana Venture Report

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Elevate Ventures Releases 1H 2020 Indiana Venture Report

August 14, 2020

Venture capital investment in Indiana companies was higher in the first half of 2020 than in the first half of 2019 despite the COVID-19 pandemic and global recession, according to a report from Elevate Ventures.

The number of deals increased 74%, to 92 deals, over the 53 deals in the first six months of 2019. Strong pre-seed deal count (<$500,000 rounds) was largely driven by the number of investments made through the Elevate Ventures Nexus Pitch Competition. Seed through later-stage deal counts ($500,000-$10 million+ rounds) remain on par with 1H 2019 activities.

Indiana investment overcame not only the pandemic and recession but also venture capital market uncertainties experienced nationwide in Q2 2020. Only Illinois showed a greater increase among Great Lakes states.

The 1H 2020 Indiana Venture Report provides a mid-year assessment of venture investment activity in Indiana. While the majority of venture capital activity in the state focuses on technology, the report includes all sectors. New to the report this year is a national and regional analysis on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on venture investment.

Other findings from the report include:

  • The majority of VC investors saw deal flow on par with 2019 and anticipate similar results for the remainder of 2020.
  • Despite strong deal count, deal size and investment in Indiana lagged behind other states.
  • The first half of 2020 has already surpassed mid-year activity in many prior years.
  • If current momentum continues, Indiana could exceed 2019 activity in 2020.
  • Deals valued under $500,000 made up nearly 60% of all activity.

Elevate Ventures CEO Chris LaMothe sees the activity as an indication of growth, innovation and new jobs.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected venture ecosystems locally and nationally, we’re pleased to see such a strong start to 2020,” said LaMothe. “However, in order to keep up this momentum, we all need to work together to prioritize entrepreneurship and high-growth businesses across the state, which provide a critical pillar to building successful communities.”

The primary source of investment information used in the 1H 2020 Indiana Venture Report was PitchBook Data Inc. in conjunction with Elevate Ventures’ proprietary deal information and deal data submitted by our co-investment partners. Data was also collected from BioCrossroadsgener8torTechPoint, the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Economic AnalysisTax FoundationCrunchbase Inc., the Missouri Economic Research and Information CenterCollision from HomeIndustry Ventures and Sandalphon Capital.

Click to read the full Elevate Ventures 1H 2020 Indiana Venture Report.

Fortitude Fund announces cohort

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Fortitude Fund announces cohort

| Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

August 14, 2020

Fortitude Fund announced its latest cohort earlier this month of four founders receiving $1,000 grants and mentorship connections.

New members of the fund’s entrepreneurial community from its Cohort 22 include Amanda Klingenberger of Linden SquareCullen Bryant of Premier SignsStephanie Rogers of Set The Table and Ryan Srogi of Simple Sorte.

Ryan Srogi of SimpleSortie, one of the grantees from Fortitude Fund’s Cohort 22.

The fund is on a mission to establish a radically charged entrepreneurial culture in northeast Indiana by identifying early entrepreneurs, surrounding them with a community of kindred spirits, connecting them with mentors who can share what they have learned about starting a business, and providing funding support.

The fund started in May 2018 with a goal of awarding 50 $1,000 grants within a year to “big, bold builders and doers,” it said. It awarded more than 100 of the grants in that time frame.

Elevate honors Moran-Townsend

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Elevate honors Moran-Townsend

| Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

August 14, 2020

Elevate Northeast Indiana congratulated on its Facebook page last month Marilyn Moran-Townsend for receiving its 2019 Community Champion of the Year honor.

Moran-Townsend’s vision “has created a culture of innovation that will provide businesses in the region with a strong foundation moving forward,” the organization said in a Facebook post.

Moran-Townsend became the first chair of Elevate Northeast Indiana in 2017 and was succeeded in that position last October by Dr. Michael Mirro, a key investor in early-stage and startup companies in Indiana.

Mirro said her efforts were critical to building a deeper entrepreneurial culture for the region and making it top of mind.

Marilyn Moran-Townsend

“Our economy is dependent on a very vibrant entrepreneurial community,” he said in an announcement around the time of the change.

“We need to do everything we can to cultivate that activity and continue to build off of our entrepreneurial culture. We have a lot of support organizations in the region that are helping and Elevate needs to be fuel for all the activities.”

A few weeks after Mirro became its chair, Dan Meek joined Elevate Ventures as northeast Indiana’s entrepreneur-in-residence.

“Dan has experience on all sides of entrepreneurship, not only in coaching startups but also being part of a startup himself,” Mirro said. “A lot of his experience has been in commercialization and medical device startups so it’s natural for him to be here helping entrepreneurs that are in that space.”

In addition to running his consulting practice, Seneca Business Ventures, Meek had served as bioscience commercialization director and venture development vice president for Rev1 Ventures.

At Rev1 he was involved in creating investment funds at OhioHealth and Nationwide Children’s Hospital and he led investments in companies spun out from those institutions and from Ohio State University.

While he has specific medical device industry experience, Mirro said Meek’s background has prepared him to help entrepreneurs across many industries.

In addition to medical devices and life sciences, Elevate Northeast Indiana planned to develop entrepreneurship with resources and mentoring in the region’s key industrial clusters of data science, advanced manufacturing and insurance, he said.

Indiana Startups Secure Funding in Second Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competitions

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Indiana Startups Secure Funding in Second Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competitions

April 20, 2020

Sixteen startup businesses from around Indiana have been awarded a total of $680,000 in pre-seed and seed funding by Elevate Ventures to spur growth.

Elevate Nexus pitch competition at University of Notre Dame’s Innovation Park

The 16 were chosen from 58 finalists that competed Feb. 25-27 in the second regional Elevate Nexus Pitch Competitions, which were held at Innovation Park at the University of Notre DameFlagship Enterprise Center at Anderson University and Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington.

The competition was established to invest in early-stage Indiana startups with an emphasis on those taking advantage of support resources from higher education institutions in the state. Each company had 10 minutes to pitch to a judging panel in northern, central or southern Indiana.

Regional winners and affiliated higher-education institutions, if applicable, include:

Northern Indiana

  • Pre-Seed ($20,000 investment)
    • Allervent; Upland; Taylor University
    • Rabbit Tractors; Cedar Lake; Purdue University
    • Lumen Bio; South Bend; University of Notre Dame
  • Seed ($80,000 investment)
    • Blaire Biomedical; Angola; Trine University
    • CODEinCLASS; South Bend; University of Notre Dame

Central Indiana

  • Pre-Seed ($20,000 investment)
    • Gen3Bio; West Lafayette; Purdue University
    • Multiscale Integrated Technology Solutions; Indianapolis; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
    • Probari; Indianapolis; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
    • TBB Quality Solutions d/b/a Documentor; Indianapolis
  • Seed ($80,000 investment)
    • BestQuote; Zionsville; Purdue University
    • Spirrow Therapeutics; West Lafayette; Purdue University

Southern Indiana

  • Pre-Seed ($20,000 investment)
    • Endless Eyewear; Evansville; Purdue University
    • My Gaming Career d/b/a Gamerized; Jasper; Ivy Tech Community College
    • Nature Greens; Indianapolis; University of Southern Indiana
  • Seed ($80,000 investment)
    • The Learning Alliance; Bloomington; Indiana University-Bloomington
    • Sintact Medical Systems; Bloomington; Purdue University

In addition to receiving funding, each company is considered an Elevate Ventures’ portfolio business and gains access to Elevate’s network of advisors and resources.

Each company also earns the opportunity to pitch during the statewide competition where an additional $320,000 will be awarded. The statewide competition will be held virtually on May 19.

NIIC Provides Virtual Resource for Businesses

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NIIC Provides Virtual Resource for Businesses

| Inside INdiana Business

April 14, 2020

The chief executive officer of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center in Fort Wayne says innovation is often times born out of crisis. The NIIC recently launched a virtual resource center designed to support the entrepreneurial community in Indiana during the COVID-19 pandemic. Karl LaPan says there will be a new normal for businesses, particularly small businesses and entrepreneurs, once the crisis passes.

Click here to watch how the NIIC is providing virtual resources for businesses

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, LaPan said the pandemic has created a “significant amount of trauma” for businesses.

“With some of these new programs that have come out on economic injury and payment protection, they barely scratch the surface of the profound need that businesses have,” said LaPan. “A number of studies have shown that, just in the payment protection program, there’s almost a trillion dollar need and there’s only about a third of that amount funded in the stimulus bill. So I think for a lot of companies, the funding to get to a safer landing place is a huge issue.”

LaPan says the current situation creates a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and innovators to recharge, reset and retool. He says many companies are looking at businesses that they would never have considered before.

“I think it’s important that we pay attention to emotional well-being and self care for entrepreneurs, that we recognize that there will be a new normal; we’re not going to just go back to the way things were. And there’s also a real need to kind of reimagine the businesses in light of maybe some different ways that we’ll be working in the future.”

The NIIC is an entrepreneurial support organization and its virtual resource center provides services such as virtual training and workshops, economic and funding resources, and startup resources.

The organization is also providing free access of its new NIIC Navigator Academy for the next 12 months. The NIIC says any company, organization or micro-entrepreneur in Indiana can use the service to “support their efforts to reset and reimagine their business and to assist them in activating their business.”

You can find more information on the NIIC Navigator Academy by clicking here.