Monthly Archives

April 2021

Indiana Entrepreneurs Graduate From Startup Training Program

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April 23, 2021

Elevate Ventures today announced that over 125 participants graduated on April 16 from the spring cohort of Elevate Origins, a program that helps entrepreneurs as they start and grow their business. Participants came from all over the state including students from the following universities: Butler UniversityFranklin CollegeIndiana TechIndiana UniversityPurdue UniversityPurdue University NorthwestTaylor Universitythe University of Evansvillethe University of Notre Dame, and the University of Saint Francis.

“We were encouraged by not only the record number of applicants from across the state but also the quality of startups represented in both the Pre-Seed and Seed categories,” said Landon Young, executive director of university initiatives and entrepreneur-in-residence at Elevate Ventures. “From software to pharmaceutical, to advanced manufacturing, the diversity of startups shows the breadth and depth of Indiana’s startup ecosystem.”

Elevate Origins Pre-Seed and Seed programs provide virtual group learning, one-on-one coaching, and live pitch practice to startups. The Pre-Seed program is for aspiring entrepreneurs and startups that have not yet generated revenue, while the Seed program is reserved for revenue-generating startups and life science companies that have completed pre-clinical trials. Both programs help participants develop investor-ready pitch decks and executive summaries appropriate for their business stage.

“The Elevate Origins program helped me break down many of the troubling questions new entrepreneurs may face, and effectively refine my executive summary and pitch deck,” said Eddie Davis, co-founder of Anytime Sports. “To anyone interested in Origins, I would say it is well worth the application. The training and access to high-quality information, paired with live pitch practice, has pushed me to become a better founder.”

“Elevate Origins helped us clearly define our value proposition and express to potential investors our novel technology,” said Jim Donahue co-founder and CEO of ReproHealth Technologies. “As a team, we learned a lot about ourselves and encourage other startups to consider Elevate Origins. It really helps.”

Since the program launched in 2019, over 300 entrepreneurs have graduated from Elevate Origins, 45 of which have gone on to receive a total of $1.1 million in funding from Elevate Ventures. Some have also won Elevate Nexus Pitch Competitions.

Applications for the spring 2021 Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competitions are open through today, April 23. Finalists will be selected on April 27 and invited to compete virtually on the following dates:

  • Northern Region: May 18
  • Central Region: May 19
  • Southern Region: May 20

Elevate Nexus Pitch Competitions are organized into Pre-Seed and Seed classes. Each region will be eligible for three pre-seed ($20,000 investment) and two seed ($80,000 investment) winners.

Details and eligibility requirements can be found here. To apply, go to and select Elevate Nexus Pre-Seed and Seed Awards from the topic dropdown. The April 23 deadline is at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

GUEST PERSPECTIVE: Federal Support for Technology-Based Businesses

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| Elevate Advisor

April 8, 2021

The federal SBIR/STTR (Small Business Innovation Research; Small Business Technology Transfer) programs enable businesses to expand their technological efforts. While the programs can be competitive, they offer business development tools that are highly desirable and well worth the time required to develop a convincing Phase I proposal. In fact, the SBIR/STTR programs are the largest source of early-stage technology financing in the United States. On top of this, Elevate Ventures helps with polishing the content of your proposal and supplements the resulting Phase I award. Using state dollars, Elevate matches 50% of up to three SBIR/STTR Phase I Awards ($150,000 maximum match) per recipient.

So, why bother applying for SBIR/STTR grants? Developing a Phase I SBIR proposal takes serious thought about your technology/intellectual property and the logic behind its planned development, competitive advantage, and market – which can be a pain.  But this is what you need to do anyway! The formal organization of the SBIR proposal helps you structure your thinking about the relationships among these crucial business development elements. Creating a coherent argument addressed to national experts in both technology and business development will help you better frame your company vision for the broader investment community. And, winning an SBIR/STTR award from a federal agency brings with it much more than non-dilutive funding to move your ideas forward. The award is an important validation by a national review body of your ideas and business goals. In sum, the mental discipline of creating the proposal, the financial support (with significantly more future support implied by the Phase II process) the award provides, and the implicit validation of your vision are all important and necessary elements of growing your business.

The central focus of the Phase I proposal is a technical plan that validates your ideas and provides a solid basis for your Phase II development plan leading to Phase III, commercialization, and market entry. Phase I awards are generally between  $150,000 to $250,000 and Phase II is generally substantially more. In addition, the federal agencies backing your idea often offer financial incentives for external support during Phase II.

Now, let’s discuss timing. The federal SBIR/STTR review process is not fast and typically takes up to six or seven months after you submit your proposal. A number of things occur in those months; your proposal is assigned to an expert review group,   your proposal is given to group members, time is set aside for reading and writing a review critique, and finally, the review group is brought together to discuss the current proposal cohort and rank their quality. Often, companies complain about this ‘time lag’, but the time passes quickly, and you are not actively involved once you submit your proposal to the agency. It would be nice to have the funds in one month, but patience is often well rewarded.

Whether you win an award or not, the SBIR/STTR submission process strengthens you and your company. The process requires time management, strategic thought, direct business application planning, and patience. The agencies provide written feedback which is generally useful as you continue to craft your pitch and develop your business plan.

Elevate Northeast Indiana Focuses on Continued Growth

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| Inside INdiana Business

March 31, 2021

A consortium of organizations that works on boosting entrepreneurship in northeast Indiana says it will continue its collective efforts for at least three more years. Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership have announced a renewal of Elevate Northeast Indiana, which launched in April 2017.

The partners seek out opportunities for local high-growth, high-potential businesses, portfolio services, and events for entrepreneurs and investors.

“We are excited to continue the great work of Elevate Northeast Indiana with the continuation of the partnership between the Regional Partnership and Elevate Ventures,” said Dr. Michael Mirro, Elevate Northeast Indiana board chair. “Our corporate investors are integral and truly catalyze the growth and success of the northeast Indiana communities by investing in our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Elevate Northeast says it will expand its partnership with Eleven Fifty Academy, a non-profit coding academy, by offering training of new cybersecurity and programming talent.
The organization says since the partnership launched, 16 transactions have been completed through various Elevate programs totaling $3.7 million. Companies receiving the investments currently employ approximately 125 people.
“I believe this partnership is crucial for Northeast Indiana to be a leader in our state as we focus on innovation and entrepreneurship as a key driver of high-skill, high-wage jobs, building new headquarters and attracting and keeping our talent,” said Chris LaMothe, Elevate Ventures chief executive officer.
The partnership says it has received commitments totaling over $800,000 in its goal to raise $1 million. Elevate Northeast says several funders renewed their commitments and the initiative garnered support from new donors as well.
Current funders include:
  • Ancora
  • Fort Wayne Metals
  • Huntington University
  • IU Health
  • IU Ventures
  • Lake City Bank
  • Micropulse
  • MIE (Medical Informatics Engineering)
  • Mirro Family Foundation
  • Olive B. Cole Foundation
  • Parkview Health
  • Ruoff Mortgage
  • Steel Dynamics Inc.
  • Sweetwater Sound

ELEVATE PERSPECTIVE: 10 Considerations When Building Relationships With Investors

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| EIR, Elevate Northeast Indiana

March 11, 2021

As you advance your startup, relationship building is critical, especially with investors. Depending on several factors, an investor could be there from the very beginning stages of your company all the way through an “exit”. While the relationship with your investors may change over time, their support and advice could help guide you through some of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make for your company.

So, how do you go about growing those initial relationships? How do you ensure that you don’t give an investor reasons to dismiss your opportunity?  Your company? Your pitch? Below are 10 considerations that will help you build investor relationships, and also prepare you for questions and discussion points investors may ask of you.

  1. First Impressions: Realize that the first five minutes are extremely important. Each investor is different, but most want to figure out the investment opportunity quickly. If you are pitching an investor, make sure it is easy to understand your business, its value proposition, market traction to-date, and the investment opportunity. Professionalism and business acumen are very important.
  2. Relationship Building: Build relationships with investors through regular communications by providing written updates each month on the status and growth of your business. This will build trust with the investor and show the progress of the company. Most importantly it shows how seriously you take milestones and goals. It is best to have a consistent format for your update and can be written and delivered via email.
  3. Coachability: Be responsive to questions and suggestions by investors. Investors know what information they need to make a decision, so make sure you provide it to them in a reasonable amount of time. If an investor suggests you talk to someone, make sure you do it and communicate back how the meeting went with some key takeaways. This will show the investor that you’re coachable and willing to seek outside advice and help.  Remember you are trying to build a long-term relationship that is mutually beneficial to your company and the investment firm.
  4. Value Proposition: Spend a lot of time on your value proposition and how your product/solution truly meets a market need. Investors want to see that you are solving real problems with real solutions. Quantify your problem statement by expressing how many people have the problem you are aiming to solve. Be honest with yourself and make sure you know if you have an incremental improvement to an existing product or a revolutionary new approach. Investors will be asking themselves the same question as they evaluate your opportunity.
  5. Social Platforms: Don’t post stuff on social media or on public forums that will hurt your chances of being seriously considered for investment by an investor. Enough said here.
  6. Product vs Company: Truly assess if you have developed a product versus a company. Some products are better to license early on to larger companies with existing product portfolios. This is why financial and business acumen are so important because some products just don’t lend themselves to building out an entire company. Sometimes the economics don’t work out either due to scale, margins, intellectual property, industry, or distribution challenges. In those instances, it’s best to try and monetize your solution via licensing or technology sale. Make sure you’ve thought through this before you approach an investor for investment.
  7. Investment Terms: Make sure the amount of capital being raised and the investment terms match up with the investment firm’s thesis. If the investor only invests in priced Series A and B rounds with preferred stock, don’t offer common stock (unless you can justify it!). If an investor only invests in SaaS or technology companies, don’t pitch your life science or manufacturing opportunity to them. Ensure you are asking for the right amount, make it clear how the investment advances your company by explaining the milestones and goals you plan to hit, and know the runway the investment will provide (in months).
  8. Investment Vehicles: Learn the investment vehicles so you don’t come off as clueless. Know the basic differences between SAFE notes, convertible debtKISSes, and a preferred stock Series raise to ensure you understand how each vehicle impacts your ownership and the ownership of the investor. There are plenty of resources on these topics, but one can use the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) website, the Angel Capital Association (ACA) website, various books on startup financing, etc. to understand the differences.
  9. Team: Do you have a team and is it a team with applicable and complementary skills to grow a company at the stage that you are in? Teams generally illustrate your ability to attract talent to a competitive business opportunity. Your team’s experience can show an investor how viable your product is and instills validation that the product/solution is needed. Building and incentivizing a team can also signal that you are willing to give up equity for investment.
  10. Financials: Provide them in the format that an investor asks for and get help from professionals if numbers aren’t your thing. Please note, if numbers aren’t your thing, it’s best to start the process of making it your thing. Financial fluency is necessary for your business to be successful and as the company grows, understanding how numbers are impacted will ultimately enable you to make better decisions.

If you’re new to entrepreneurship, work with a CPA that understands startup financing to get you started properly.  I cannot emphasize this point enough, as strong financial records and financial projections are a critical piece to investors’ assessments, and ultimately investment decisions.

Finally, it’s highly recommended to study common business terms and know where the business is headed using these terms. Common examples include:

  1. Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR): is income that a business can count on receiving every single month
  2. Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR): refers to the monetary value of a subscription-based company’s subscriber base or the yearly value of a single subscription
  3. Run Rate: The run rate refers to the financial performance of a company based on using current financial information as a predictor of future performance.
  4. Cost of Customer Acquisition (CAC): Customer Acquisition Cost is the cost of winning a customer to purchase a product/service.
  5. Gross Margin: often expressed as a percentage and represents the percent of total sales revenue that a company keeps after subtracting the cost of producing its goods or services
  6. Lifetime Value (LTV): an estimate of the average revenue that a customer will generate throughout their lifespan as a customer

In general, most investors will be honest with you if there is absolutely no interest on their part to invest in your business. The common reason is that your business just doesn’t fit their fund’s investment thesis. But beyond this, the highlights and suggestions above can and sometimes do turn a relationship into an investment.

Warsaw Startup Secures Funding to Advance Prototype

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| Elevate Ventures

February 26, 2021

Eclipse Orthopaedics, a startup focused on improving orthopaedic surgical procedures, today announced it has closed on a seed round of $400,000 led by Elevate Ventures with participation from First Leaf Capital.

“Eclipse offers innovation to the trauma market that doesn’t change the surgical workflow, which is a big deal,” said Dan Meek, Elevate Ventures’ entrepreneur-in-residence serving Elevate Northeast Indiana, a partnership supporting startups. “This funding will help accelerate product development for FDA clearance and enable them to reach the next milestone.”

Eclipse technology helps surgeons perform distal locking, a procedure that involves placing a rod to improve healing of a fractured bone. The radiographic targeting attachment is a freehand device giving surgeons better visibility to drill pilot holes. The device will improve accuracy, reduce operating time and minimize exposure to radiation.

Eclipse Orthopaedics was launched in 2015 by CEO and President David Rich. The company received a SBIR/STTR Phase I grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2018 with state matching dollars from Elevate Ventures. The grant enabled Eclipse to build a prototype which has been tested by orthopedic surgeons.

Along with this current round of funding, Rich plans to pursue a SBIR/STTR Phase II grant to build another prototype for further testing and to work toward regulatory approval.

“This investment will allow us to improve our design and make critical tests that will demonstrate the value to our surgeon customers. As a first-time entrepreneur, I did not know how to navigate the world of seed-stage investment,” said Rich. “Elevate showed me how to get it done. With Elevate and First Leaf Capital on board, we can focus on developing the product.”

First Leaf Capital is an investment firm located in Champaign, Illinois.

“Since getting to know David I am confident he has the relevant expertise, the connections to industry, and the personal character to succeed in this venture,” said Mark Aardsma, managing partner at First Leaf Capital. “I love that his creative innovation is grounded in practical application—starting with making one surgical procedure simpler and safer. I’m excited that Elevate and First Leaf Capital have partnered with David to move Eclipse forward.”

In 2019, Eclipse Orthopaedics graduated from the Elevate Origins program and received investment from the Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competition.

‘Orthopedic Capital’ Attracts New Equipment Firm

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| Inside INdiana Business

February 16, 2021

A New Hampshire medical equipment developer says it will invest $3.4 million to relocate its headquarters to Warsaw to take advantage of the numerous orthopedic companies already based there.

RAZOR Medical Instruments Inc. says it plans to create up to 63 new jobs in the “Orthopedic Capital of the World” over the next three years.

The instrumentation and technology company markets single-use instruments to the orthopedic joint replacement industry.

RAZOR has leased office space at the OrthoWorx office, a nonprofit that supports the orthopedic industry in Kosciusko County, as it explores a more permanent location.
“The concentration of resources in the medical device field in northeastern Indiana is impressive,” said Bruce Khalili, president of RAZOR. “Being in Warsaw is a strategic move for RAZOR as it permits us to leverage the availability of technical talent and manufacturing expertise in the field of medical devices.”
Khalili says RAZOR began working with AcceLINX, a Warsaw-based health business accelerator launched by OrthoWorx, to help bring its products to market.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Razor Medical up to $1 million in conditional tax credits and training grants based on the company’s job creation plans.


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| Hypepotamus

January 25, 2021

Atlanta has been at the epicenter of the civil and human rights movement for decades. That made it the perfect place to launch Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator, powered by Techstars.

Led by Barry Givens, the program just announced its 2nd cohort. The ten selected startups come from across the country and include founders working to change how people use technology to interact with government, law enforcement, and ultimately address ongoing social justice issues.

Barry givens, lead for the Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator program.

Givens told Hypepotamus that the program received hundreds of applications, including many from seasoned founders. “The fact that these companies continue to go unsupported and underfunded truly points to the inequities in the innovation economy.  We have a lot of faith in this class and hope this will spark a trend to continue to support this vertical,” he said.

Notable Southeast-based startups selected include: 
  • Alabama-based Acclinate: Hypepotamus featured the biopharma startup as it opened a Birmingham office and launched its Now Included platform to help diversify clinical trials.
  • Atlanta-based Empowrd: Hypepotamus covered Empowrd back in 2019. The team works to streamline how voters could connect with elected officials.
  • Atlanta-based Legal Equalizer: A platform to share legal information and alerts loved ones in real-time during law enforcement encounters.
  • Minwo (Virginia): Connects venture capital firms and incubators with minority and women-owned businesses to accelerate their growth and close the wealth gap.
Other startups selected for the cohort include: 
  • Co:census (New York City): Enhances equity in social surveys intended to assess community needs for people of color and/or with limited English proficiency.
  • COMMUNITYx (Los Angeles): Founded by Chloe Cheyenne helps users connect and mobilize around common causes.
  • Govrn (San Francisco): Makes politics simple, transparent, and effective for people who want democracy to be more trustworthy.
  • JusticeText (Irvine, California): Helps public defenders to analyze critical video and audio data by enabling users to upload body camera footage, interrogation videos, courtroom proceedings and jail calls.
  • STRE.ME (Indiana): Creates unique educational experiences for individuals to learn how to manage their biases in a safe, convenient, and confidential manner.
  • Unpacking: Builds culturally competent teams through an online learning platform that navigates historical context, real-world scenarios, and interactive gaming.

This builds on the momentum from the program’s first cohort. Given told Hypepotamus that three companies (with a fourth on the way) raised funds in the first 12 months.  “We believe this class will follow that trajectory,” added Givens.

We asked Givens what lessons Techstars Social Impact will bring into the future of the program after going through the first cohort. He said: “Resiliency – we saw how our first founders had to pivot during COVID and they were remarkable. When you break down the barriers to resources and networks, impact founders and underrepresented founders will thrive as well as any other demographic or vertical.”

Congrats to all those founders selected! We can’t wait to hear about your progress throughout the program.

Renewed Entrepreneurship Initiative Attracts New Funders

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Elevate Ventures

March 31, 2021

Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures and Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership today announced a three-year renewal of Elevate Northeast Indiana.

Elevate Northeast Indiana launched in April 2017 with $2.5 million raised as a partnership between Elevate Ventures and the Regional Partnership to boost entrepreneurship and innovation across the 11-county region.

Initiatives within the partnership include investments in local high-growth, high-potential businesses, portfolio services, events for entrepreneurs and investors, business coaching, access to professional resources and more. Since the partnership launched, 16 transactions have been completed through various Elevate programs totaling $3.7 million. Companies receiving the investments currently employ approximately 125 people.

“We are excited to continue the great work of Elevate Northeast Indiana with the continuation of the partnership between the Regional Partnership and Elevate Ventures,” said Dr. Michael Mirro, Elevate Northeast Indiana board chair. “Our corporate investors are integral and truly catalyze the growth and success of the northeast Indiana communities by investing in our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Elevate Northeast Indiana plans to continue carrying out its core mission by focusing on high-growth, high-potential businesses. Also, the previously announced partnership between Elevate Northeast Indiana and Eleven Fifty Academy, a non-profit coding academy, will continue to expand across the region and support the local business community by training new cybersecurity and programming talent.

“I believe this partnership is crucial for Northeast Indiana to be a leader in our state as we focus on innovation and entrepreneurship as a key driver of high-skill, high-wage jobs, building new headquarters and attracting and keeping our talent,” said Chris LaMothe, CEO of Elevate Ventures.

Thus far the partnership has received commitments totaling over $800,000; fundraising continues with the goal of reaching $1 million. Several funders renewed their commitments and the initiative garnered support from new donors as well.

Current funders include:

“Ruoff Mortgage is proud to partner with Elevate Ventures in helping the organization further its mission of fueling innovation and supporting entrepreneurship in Indiana,” said Ruoff Chief Financial Officer Sarah Earls. “As a growing company led by entrepreneur Mark Music, we know firsthand the positive impact the growth of young companies can have on our community through job creation that retains and brings talented individuals to our state.”

“Lake City Bank is committed to the economic growth and vitality of Northeast Indiana and we are pleased to continue our long relationship with the Elevate Ventures team,” said David Findlay, president and CEO of Lake City Bank. “Lake City Bank and Elevate Ventures share a vision of the future for our region, and it is built upon a foundation of entrepreneurial aspirations in our communities. We’re excited to partner with Elevate and look forward to bringing together to build on our shared confidence in the future of the region.”

Click here to apply for Elevate Ventures’ investment and advisory services.