News helps employers minimize workforce biases

By News No Comments helps employers minimize workforce biases

| Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

June 12, 2020

Given recent events dominating national news, Jack Patton offered an extremely timely presentation when the first five founders to complete the local version of the gBETA business development program met June 9 to celebrate the occasion.

Jack Patton, CEO and founder of

They had started the six-week program together late in April and concluded it by showing off pitches they honed to attract investment in their startups. The event took place virtually as a COVID-19 adjustment.

Patton is CEO of, which helps human resources professionals and their employers minimize biases and resulting inequities.

The software-as-a-service platform it developed to accomplish that manages unconscious biases to improve patient satisfaction and outcomes and hospital profitability. But it also could prove useful for other types of employers, such as “law, health insurance, education, retail, banking and municipalities, specifically first responders,” he said in the presentation.

He could not have known when he started going through the gBETA program that tens of thousands of protesters would be clamoring in the streets for justice every night since May 25, when Minnesotan George Floyd died while begging police to allow him to breathe.

“Bias is pervasive, and every person has bias,” Anne Marie Labenberg, the company’s chief equity officer, said in an email after the pitch celebration.

“The recent demonstrations have greatly increased awareness of the effects of unconscious bias on others, specifically related to law enforcement, but also in the everyday lives of minoritized people,” she said.

“This focus on bias brings it to the forefront of the public’s view as a root cause of many inequities for minorities, especially black people of color in the United States.”

STRE.ME uses a proprietary unconscious bias curriculum and goal setting platform, which Labenberg said is rapidly deployable.

Because the curriculum is tailored to address the specific biases of individual employees, it helps them to identify, address, and manage bias in the future, she said.

“You cannot eliminate all bias, but STRE.ME’s system holds individuals accountable to manage their biases, make better decisions, and, in turn, reduce the bias and inequity that exists in all professions.”

Patton did not reference during his presentation the growing movement demanding immediate solutions to unfair treatment, violence and other problems that grow out of racial bias.

But, “cohort members and gBETA staff have noted and said that they are keenly aware of the intersection of the national conversation on bias and the timeliness of our launch,” Labenberg said afterward.

“This is the culmination of nearly 25 years of research between Jack Patton and I, so this has been a long time in the making for us,” she said.

“We are just grateful to have a small part in a solution that is ready to help when businesses and individuals are ready to heal and find new ways to move forward for a better community, country, and world today and in the future.”

U.S. hospitals and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spend about $270 billion each year on premature deaths and avoidable health costs as a result of biases and inequities, Patton said during his presentation.

“As an example, black patients are 51% more likely to die in the ER (emergency room) than insured white patients as a result of these biases and inequities,” he said.

“Beyond the impact of any one person, this is important because hospital executives must always find ways to increase their reimbursements, which are driven by measures like patient satisfaction scores and outcomes, all while costs are expected to increase 5.5% year-over-year through 2027,” he said.

Fort Wayne Magazine People of the Year

By News No Comments

Fort Wayne Magazine People of the Year


December 7, 2019

he last cover of 2019 for Fort Wayne Magazine features People of the Year. Ten people have been selected to represent the People of the Year.

Fort Wayne Magazine says these people are only givers, meaning they only give time, ideas, and experience. They give their 110%.

Fort Wayne Magazine says they’re a diverse group, “Who through their service to others, have made significant contributions to the arts, education, social services, business and civic engagement.”

On the cover of the December issue is Aaron Robles of Founders Spark. He is featured alongside nonprofit leaders, husband and wife duos, and a school superintendent.

Fort Wayne Magazine says they take about 15 to 17 people and narrowed it down to this list. This is the 2nd year the magazine as put together People of the Year.

Aaron Robles on the cover of Fort Wayne Magazine’s People of the Year issue in 2019.

Pick up an issue of Fort Wayne Magazine at over a dozen area businesses, including Kroger, or click here.

New App Turns Physical Locations Into Sonic Environments

By News No Comments

New App Turns Physical Locations Into Sonic Environments


October 30, 2019

Fort Wayne musician Kurt Roembke has added another dimension to his technological skill set and his composing capabilities with the development of a free mobile app that turns physical locations into sonic environments to explore.

All that a virtual explorer needs to enjoy Roembke’s new SoundWalk is a smart phone, headset and walking shoes.

It’s called SoundWalk, and in essence, that is what the explorer can expect to enjoy as they make their way around town.

The first site chosen to represent in this manner was the Little Turtle Memorial at Lawton Place, in Fort Wayne.

Earlier this week, WBOI’s Julia Meek got Roembke off of the trail and into the studio to talk about his emerging world of spatial audio and explain how the project evolved as well as how the system works.

Manufacturing Accelerator Launches in Northeast Indiana

By News No Comments

Manufacturing Accelerator Launches in Northeast Indiana

| Inside Indiana Business

October 24, 2019

A manufacturing accelerator has launched in Fort Wayne following a six-month pilot period. The Workbench – Fort Wayne, located at the SEED Enterprise Center in the Allen County city, aims to lower the barrier for people to turn their ideas into real businesses.

The Workbench – Fort Wayne, founded by Jon Rehwaldt, opened this month.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jon Rehwaldt says the idea for the accelerator stemmed from a need for more support for advanced manufacturing, particularly small manufacturing operations, to make the sector more robust in northeast Indiana.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Rehwaldt said The Workbench supports startups wherever they are in the process.

“A lot of people have ideas but they have no idea where to start, even if they’re experienced in manufacturing and worked in manufacturing for their whole lives; the idea of taking that concept they have in their head can be a daunting one, especially when you start to talk about intellectual property and how to do prototyping. Where do you get that done? What does it look like? How much does it cost?” said Rehwaldt. “So we will take anybody at any point during that process and help them figure out where they are and where they need to go next.”

Rehwaldt says the accelerator can provide prototyping, design and production services, which can help startups avoid some of the large costs associated with such services. The program worked with two companies during its pilot phase from April to October, which has led to positive early feedback.

“Because we’ve already seen some traction with the companies we’ve already helped to start the process, I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm around (the accelerator) and the impact could be large. I mean, accelerators are one of the best ways to get new startups going and we really hope that we can have a significant impact in our region, especially with the kind of manufacturing expertise that we already have here.”

Rehwaldt says it is rare to have an accelerator like The Workbench be privately funded, however the program continues to look for new partners to further its growth.

“We want to widen our impact. We really want to focus on northeast Indiana. We have some really, really awesome manufacturing centers in northeast Indiana who are doing amazing and innovative work and so we want to be able to support those industries and bring more people into those industries, so we’re perfectly willing to partner with organizations that share that mission and want to have a big impact in our region.”

The Workbench has set what Rehwaldt calls an ambitious goal of getting 20 companies off the ground during its first year of operation. Additionally, the accelerator looks to help 10 of those companies bring a product to market.

Rehwaldt says The Workbench will also launch an accelerator curriculum, called The Factorium, in 2020 to help more companies get an idea of what kinds of skill sets and resources they need in order to go to production.

You can learn more about The Workbench – Fort Wayne by clicking here.

Q&A with Wesley Gensch: The young inventor bringing convenient, fast recovery to injured athletes

By News No Comments

Q&A with Wesley Gensch: The young inventor bringing convenient, fast recovery to injured athletes

| Input Fort Wayne

September 25, 2019

Necessity is the mother of invention says the popular proverb. When college athlete, Richard Wesley Gensch, severely injured his elbow, he knew applying cold and compression were the most effective therapies for recovery.

Richard Wesley Gensch is the inventor and founder behind CoolCorp Inc. based in Warsaw.

Icing reduces pain and inflammation of tissue, while compression increases healing blood flow to the injured area.

But icing required focused time throughout each day and did not include compression. So Gensch combined his sports management and business majors at Grace College to invent a way to deliver both therapies at the same time without interfering with his schedule.

Richard Wesley Gensch

Today, Gensch’s mobile icing and compression products for his company CoolCorp Inc. bring healing to athletic injury trauma and post-operative patients in northeast Indiana and beyond.

Based in Kosciusko County, home to the Orthopedic Capital of the World®, CoolCorp’s cutting-edge designs include built-in safety features, and personalized air compression for a 360-degree cryotherapy application to the impaired area.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Gensch to learn more about the invention of his innovative cryotherapy compression devices and how they are gaining popularity with physicians and patients alike.


IFW: You were a student at Grace College when you came up with the idea for CoolCorp. Tell us more about your background.

WG: I grew up in the Pierceton/Warsaw area and ended up playing baseball at Grace College. Grace College offers a three-year undergraduate program or a four-year dual undergrad and master’s program. Since I was eligible to play collegiate baseball for four years, I decided to try the dual four-year program as an athlete. I double majored in business and sport management, and then received my Master’s in Business Administration, as well.

My junior year of college, in Spring of 2015, I suffered a severe elbow injury (subluxation of the ulnar nerve). To avoid surgery and continue to play at a high level, I had to ice five to six times a day to stay competitive. The truth was, this ended any chance I had of playing baseball at a higher level.

My identity up to this point had been wrapped up in being a baseball player. Now that was taken away, and I wasn’t sure what was next. My faith in Jesus really allowed me to see a light at the end of the tunnel and gave my injury a purpose. Now, I had the opportunity to focus on helping other people and providing them with a product that could help their recovery.

IFW: What was the catalyst that got you thinking that you could improve on the traditional methods of icing injuries and recoveries?

WG: The traditional method of using a bag of ice didn’t give me the compression I needed. The process was a nuisance due to the leaky ice bag. It made it hard for me to keep up with my daily schedule of going to class and hanging out with friends.

I tried a couple of products on the market, but nothing seemed to fulfill the desired need of compression and icing from a mobile perspective. So, I went out and acquired some materials to build my own prototype, which I used during the season after games and practices.

During my senior year in 2016, I suffered a shoulder injury due to the increased workload from the lack of a healthy elbow. One of my teammates at the time, suffered a deep bone contusion from getting hit by a line drive. A physician told him he would most likely be out of action for six weeks. My teammate asked to use my product and iced as often as he could. Just three weeks later, he was back and pitching in game!

My brother also suffered a major knee tear (ACL MCL and meniscus) and asked if I could build a product for him from a post-surgical perspective. He showed great signs of improvement and still uses his product today.

CoolCorp Inc. creates projects to ease the icing process and add pressure.

IFW: How did you move from idea to entrepreneur?

WG: Grace College hosted their annual business plan competition in 2016. I thought, as a senior majoring in business and having a successful and useful product, I had a good chance at winning.

Being fortunate enough to win the competition, I used the prize money to start the patent process and file for incorporation. With a growing number of teammates and people becoming familiar with my prototype and asking for products, this quickly began to shift into how I could manufacturer these products and take them to market.

IFW: What are the unique characteristics of your products?

WG: The biggest reason people ask for the CoolCorp product is because it actually works, isn’t expensive, and is convenient. People can use this to aid their recovery process while still participating in their regular routines.

I created a product out of personal need and feel—not out of lab with a bunch of ideas on how to make it comfortable. Our devices use personalized air compression that allow each customer to decide how much pressure they want to apply. Additionally, our products have 360-degree coverage that gives the entire area the help that it needs. And lastly, our products allow us to ice for optimum recovery, without having to give up the daily schedule.

With this design, I can ice in the car, while I’m walking, or while I’m at work. Our design makes it to where there are no tubes attached (pun intended).

IFW: How has the medical field received the CoolCorp products so far? What do your clients like best about CoolCorp?

WG: So far, everyone we’ve talked to in the medical field thinks our products are a great idea and would solve an important need. We really focus on how CoolCorp’s products can provide better outcomes and increased convenience—all at a lower cost.

I’m working with several physical therapy offices and hospital systems to see how CoolCorp’s products can be better implemented into their care. A few local health systems currently use our products and are happy with their experience. Physicians are starting see benefits as patients are icing more often and rate our products 9.7 out of 10 stars on customer reviews.

IFW: As an inventor, what was the research and development like process for you?

WG: Starting out with research and development, we came up with a sleeve and wrap version of our product that we used in our Beta Test, featuring many Grace College athletes. We then collected our data and made a couple manufacturing changes in our processes that allowed us to give our customers the best experience possible.

We’ve continued innovating our products while keeping our customer experience level at the forefront. I worked with Dr. Jeffrey Hartzell from Parkview Hospital on developing a shoulder model that would cover all major surgeries in that area. His expertise in the R&D process made our shoulder model the success that it is.

IFW: What advice would you give others who want to bring their ideas to market?

WG: I’ve had the pleasure to work with so many great organizations and people who focus on helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to reality. SCORE, the Fortitude Fund, KEDCo, AcceLINX, and Hentz Manufacturing all have been a huge part to CoolCorp’s success.

I would encourage anyone who has an idea that could lead to a business to reach out to some of these organizations. They are great people and have great resources that can help.

IFW: How has developing a business impacted you personally?

WG: I’ve often heard people say developing and running a business makes you lose a lot of sleep and sacrifice a lot of your time. Both of these are true, but my experience is that you get out exactly what you put in.

All your time and effort reflect on you and goes towards helping people and providing them with better goods or service. Personally, I have really grown in my relationship with Christ and CoolCorp has helped me realize the purpose God has for my life.

IFW: The Warsaw area around Grace College is known as the Orthopedic Capital of the World®. What are the benefits and challenges of innovating for the ortho industry?

WG: There are many challenges when innovating in the orthopedic industry. There are so many regulations and guidelines that have to be followed that it makes implementing a new product or idea take a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, in CoolCorp’s case, there is a lot of clinical data that supports cryo-compression and correlates with our product, allowing us to move forward in several areas.

Another challenge comes from the financial side of orthopedics. When I started out with some winnings from the business plan competition, I had a friend from the orthopedic industry tell me, “Hold tight. That kind of money gets dropped here every day.”

I think some of the greatest benefits of the orthopedic industry are the connections that are developed among the people and corporations. Even though these companies are extremely competitive, the relationships people have carry on outside of work and allow connections to be made if you can know the right people.

IFW: Are there advantages to being headquartered in Kosciusko County?

WG: Kosciusko County has been a great place to start a business. KEDCo has been phenomenal as far as reaching out and connecting with CoolCorp. The people around the area are awesome and, more often than not, are willing to help you get connected with whoever they can reach out to.

There is obviously a lot of upside being in the Orthopedic Capital of the World®, and not being far from Fort Wayne helps a lot, too.

IFW: What are your plans for CoolCorp’s future?

WG: There’s so much innovation happening at CoolCorp Inc. My goal is to have specific product designs launched for every major type of orthopedic surgery.

We are currently working on a Back/Spine model along with a specific ankle model to follow. I would love to see CoolCorp products being used for athletic recovery on TV someday.

Having a multimillion-dollar athlete using a regular bag of ice and an ACE wrap after an injury makes me shake my head every time.

IFW: When you are not working at CoolCorp, what do you do to rest and refresh?

WG: My faith, prayer life, and personal devotions keep me recharged and ready to face new challenges life might bring forward. I still love to play baseball when I can and always enjoy spending time with friends and family. There is a purpose to all the work CoolCorp is doing. Hearing stories of people recovering faster from injuries gives me the push to keep going.

IFW: If someone wants to check out CoolCorp’s products, where can they find additional information?

WG: For more information about CoolCorp and to order CoolCorp products, visit our website at There you’ll find pictures of our products, and news about health, wellness, and recovery.

You can also find CoolCorp Inc. on:




Fort Wayne Start Up Week

By News No Comments

Fort Wayne Start Up Week

| WPTA 21

October 4, 2019

Jack Patton from is one of the speakers for Fort Wayne Start Up Week, an opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn and celebrate accomplishments.

Jack Patton discusses his new product launch and participation as a speaker during Fort Wayne Startup Week 2019.

Business to watch: This female-owned company is using technology to save interior designers time

By News No Comments

Business to watch: This female-owned company is using technology to save interior designers time

| Input Fort Wayne

July 17, 2019

s the saying goes, time is money, and that saying especially rings true in an office environment. One female entrepreneur is helping interior designers save time on everyday tasks with the help of a newly released app, Sample Snap.

Melissa Hall (left) and peers at the 2017 Launch Women Pitch Competition

You could say the concept behind Sample Snap is 20 years in the making. Melissa Hall, currently the co-founder of Bona Vita Architecture and the brains behind the app, has been in the architecture design field for more than two decades. In that time, her experience as an interior designer exposed her to the inefficiencies that plague firms of all sizes all over the globe.

Tasks like ordering samples of fabric, carpet, and other materials from sample books in a library can be cumbersome and resource-intensive.

So Sample Snap is disrupting the status quo by helping designers easily order samples, as well as store ideas and preferences within the app.

Drawing on her personal experience and feedback from industry peers across the country via a survey, Hall was able to quantify the potential savings in both time and money for app users. She collected 120 survey responses and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive—97 percent of designers said they would use the app.

“Based on the feedback from the survey, I learned designers estimate it takes them 5-7 minutes to order just one sample,” she says. “I took the average billable rate, which is $145 an hour and figured out that is more than $16 of billable time to order just one sample! The app reduces that from 5-7 minutes to about 30 seconds.”

This savings really adds up because for each project designers take on, they order dozens of samples to create multiple color palettes. The app is also a great tool for firm owners because designers can save time on projects, making the firm more profitable.

Speaking of money, the business model is to have manufacturers—the customer—underwrite the cost of the app so that it’s free for designers to use. According to Hall, manufacturers compete with one another to get interior designers to specify their products. If they can make it more attractive for designers to work with them, they’ve carved out a point of difference.

In other words, Sample Snap is a marketing advantage for manufacturers, and Hall is using that to her advantage.

She didn’t come to that conclusion right away, however. It was thanks to a business competition and later a mentor and advisor at The NIIC that she determined exactly how to monetize the concept. After competing in the Launch Women Pitch competition in the fall of 2017, she was connected with The NIIC’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Mike Fritsch for coaching. He helped her develop a financial model and determine that commission-based was the way to go to accommodate manufacturers of all sizes.

Based on his recommendation, she plans to charge per sample ordered—so the higher volume company naturally pays more because they have more orders. Those companies will also benefit from a form of business intelligence.

“For example, when designers save products to their ‘Love It’ Box, the manufacturers can buy that data from Sample Snap to see who loves the product,” she explains. “So maybe in three months, when that product is actually available for ordering, they can push out customized, targeted marketing to the designer about that specific product as a reminder that they loved it at the trade show recently.”

Speaking of trade shows, having a presence at one, in particular, was a milestone for the business. Held every June at The Mart in Chicago since 1969, NeoCon serves as the commercial design industry’s launch pad for innovation, offering ideas and introductions that shape the built environment today and into the future.

Hall had identified NeoCon as the ideal place to launch her app because of its high-profile nature. While she didn’t have any manufacturers on board at the time of the convention, she says she still reaped benefits in the form of awareness.

“I used the opportunity to spread the word out about it,” she says. “I did a pretty aggressive social media campaign with multiple posts each day of the event and the weekend leading up to the event and sent a series of emails to my target customers’ presidents and VPs of marketing.”

It’s no secret she’s hungry to bring the app to market, and she’s in good company with her entrepreneurial pursuits.

According to data cited in Forbes, women-owned firms have grown at a rate 1.5 times greater than other small businesses over the last 15 years. Sample Snap is one of these businesses on the move.

Career path: 3r Interactive developing audiobook production

By News No Comments

Career path: 3r Interactive developing audiobook production

| KPC News

December 14th, 2018

How would you describe 3r Interactive, LLC?

3r Interactive is an independent game development studio and user experience/user interface research and design firm in Fort Wayne that helps businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs work toward market dominance.

Jay Johns, Founder, CEO | 3r Interactive LLC

How did your entrepreneurial journey bring you to what you are doing with 3r Interactive?

In 2009, I was a co-founder of a company named Moonlite Games LLC. Our main goal was game creation, but we attempted to earn money by creating business apps. At the time, Chipotle was the only business-oriented mobile application experience.

I founded 3r Interactive LLC in 2012. Through 3r Interactive LLC we have created video games on mobile devices, and MacOS. Along with games, we have created a variety of mobile applications as in-house projects or as contract work. Websites, traditional books, and audiobooks are the remaining types of projects I have been a part of creating.

What can you share about your latest project?

I want to build a sound booth for audiobook and podcast creation. I have been creating or helping people develop audiobooks and podcasts since 2015. Thus far, all of the audio recordings for them have been done in different rooms, based on availability, at the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center.

Because of the inconsistency in room location and office noise, the quality of the audiobooks has suffered. We tend to need multiple recording sessions to fix issues with slamming doors, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or construction noise.

The other alternative is to schedule booth time at studios such as Sweetwater Sound. With the studio rental fee at $100 an hour, we will have significant production costs given the fact that the current book series we are recording has an average listening time of 10.5 hours. To record one book would be at least $1,000.

The goal is to make a sound studio, so we can always have the same microphone location and more importantly ambient sound reduction. With these improvements, our audiobooks will have the better quality, which improves sales.

Additionally, lowering the production costs will allow us to produce more projects at a time. I have been creating audio projects since 2015, but it has been a year since we have seriously focused on getting our own booth.

Tell us about anyone you have been working with in the development of the audiobook production business.

I am partnered with an author of a book series who is interested in converting it into audiobooks. Additionally, I have put together a small team of narrators, which will be available to create audiobooks.

I have not had any specific advisors for the creation of audiobooks, but from a 3r Interactive business perspective, I have been advised by Mike Fritsch, John Richards, and Steve Franks.

How will you use the $1,000 Fortitude Fund grant you received for the project?

We would purchase soundproofing materials and better-quality microphones for the sound booth’s creation.

How do you see yourself fitting into the Fortitude Fund community of entrepreneurs, and how could it benefit you?

I heard about the Fortitude Fund community and grants through the social media notifications of the Atrium and through a presentation at 1 Million Cups by Steve Franks.

I am interested in the community aspect of the Fortitude Fund as a believer in the saying, “A high tide raises all the ships.” I think that when the community as a whole does better, then everyone wins.

I have been an entrepreneur for nine years. With experience comes a lot of advice, mainly advice based on my mistakes. I could be a sounding board/resource for new entrepreneurs, particularly for game design and audiobook creation.

The community could help connect me with other local audiobook creators and authors.

Groups announced startup help plans

By News No Comments

Groups announced startup help plans

| KPC News

December 28th, 2018

Attention to entrepreneurship increased in 2018 as organizations announced new plans to help with that in the Fort Wayne area, and competition with other cities for early-stage investment intensified.

The competition was among the topics addressed in a mid-July investor panel discussion Fortitude Fund held at Parkview Hospital’s Mirro Center. Panelists included Victor Gutwein, managing director of M25; Aaron Gillam, senior vice president of 50 South Capital; Nick Arnett, 1517 Fund community manager, and Robert Clark, Elevate Ventures entrepreneur-in-residence.

M25, a Chicago micro venture capital fund, had ranked in 2017 what it considered the Midwest’s best entrepreneurial ecosystems and shared the results, which showed Fort Wayne coming in 29th out of 52 cities based on 40 criteria measuring startup activity, access to resources, and economics and demographics.

Cities received overall entrepreneurial ecosystem rankings as well as rankings for each of the three major evaluation categories contributing to their overall ranking. M25 uses annual ranking to prioritize where it spends its time looking for tech startup investment opportunities.


When M25 redid the ranking this year well after the Fortitude Fund event, Fort Wayne’s startup activity position had improved by six places, but its resource access position had worsened by three places and its position for economics and demographics had worsened by nine places.


Fort Wayne’s 2018 overall rank slipped by one place from last year, to 30th.


“Dropping by one point overall to me is pretty much staying the same; that’s hardly any change at all,” said Steve Franks, the entrepreneurship coach and Fortitude Fund program manager who moderated the panel discussion touching on the 2017 ranking.


“Not really much changed here, and I would assume other communities grew more rapidly than we did,” he said in a recent phone interview. “What I’d like to point out that I think is really important is our startup community grew and some of our other things changed.”


Of the 52 Midwest cities in M25’s 2018 overall ranking, 26 saw their positions improve and 18 saw their positions worsen.


“It would be nice if we jumped by a number of places, but my analysis is simple. It says just wait, we’re going to do that, we’re having a rebuilding year,” Franks said.


“Just about every one of the major players in the entrepreneurship community is working on plans now that will provide results in two to three years,” he said.


For example, “we approved funding for Electric Works and that’s going to make a major impact, but we won’t see that showing up in these numbers for a year and a half to two years, but we’ve moved the needle forward in that respect,” he said.


The Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board unanimously approved $45 million in bonds Nov. 6 for redeveloping the former General Electric campus in downtown Fort Wayne.


An additional $10 million has been allocated from the city’s Legacy Fund, $3.5 million each from both city and county income taxes, and $3 million in loans from the CIB and the county for remediation efforts.


Paul Singh came away from an October tour of the Electric Works site with a great impression of the project and said so during a Startup Week event presented as a fireside chat with Eric Doden on entrepreneurship, investment and economic development.

Doden is CEO of Greater Fort Wayne. Singh was making a Tech Tour stop in the city for Startup Week as part of the traveling he does across the country in his Airstream looking for excellent investment opportunities between the coasts. His LinkedIn page refers to him as chief hustler for the Results Junkies investment group.


Travis Sheridan, president of Venture Café Global Institute, also shared favorable impressions of the Electric Works project during an August visit to Fort Wayne.


Organizations announcing new plans to help business startups in the region included Elevate Northeast Indiana, Elevate Ventures, Ambassador Enterprises, Founders Spark, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, and Start Fort Wayne.

Making connections with other entrepreneurs can be a force multiplier for entrepreneurial activity and Elevate Northeast Indiana began building a community for that in the region with a $1,000 grant program it announced in May, for which it set aside $200,000 and planned to award 50 grants this year.


The program also provides access to business coaching and mentorship, and the prestige that comes with selection for a grant can help them attract additional investment.


In October, a couple of northeast Indiana entrepreneurs who had received Fortitude Fund grants became the first recipients of a new Elevate Ventures Community Ideation Fund investment, which invests $5,000 to $20,000 in emerging companies.


The statewide Community Ideation Fund has designated up to $200,000 for business startup investment over three years in each of its four partnership regions.

The investment is intended to help an entrepreneur “hit a certain milestone, so they have to tell us what the funds are going to be used for,” Robert Clark, entrepreneur-in-residence for Elevate Ventures said at the time. “The next round would be a seed round of from $100,000 to $500,000.”


For rounds where Elevate Ventures participates beyond the Community Ideation Fund investment, “normally we get other co-investors to come in,” Clark said.


Earlier this year Ambassador Enterprises established Ocean NEI in Fort Wayne as a partner of Cincinnati-based Ocean Inc. to bring the region access to its programs, which were designed to transform the business and spiritual lives of entrepreneurs.


Some of the independent, nonprofit group’s programming was developed by entrepreneurs from Cincinnati’s Crossroads Church. Ocean NEI said it has a mission of encouraging, educating and engaging aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in the region.


Through monthly community events, focused workshops and a nine-week business training program scheduled for 2019, it hopes to offer area entrepreneurs the chance to build community with like-minded small business owners.


This year saw the expansion of Founders Spark as it morphed from its beginnings last year as an entrepreneurship community building program of Start Fort Wayne.


Aaron Robles created Founders Spark with the nonprofit’s encouragement in response to a Techstars analysis of the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, which said it needed more community-building activities.


A Founders Spark Origins event takes place on the third Wednesday of every month. The events schedule for Start Fort Wayne’s Atrium co-working space says Origins introduces new and aspiring entrepreneurs to the startup community.


Founders Spark has a goal of providing education, mentorship, peers and resources, it says, to cultivate aspirations, increase opportunities to succeed, and help grow entrepreneurship and small business in the community.


The Origins events are free to attend, but the more-structured Build workshops Robles started as an expansion of Founders Spark this year charge admission.


Groups of 15 to 20 entrepreneurs attending the workshops come away with new business skills they can put to use the next day, he said.


Founders Spark recently won a $2,000 grant from the Oakland, Calif.-based Youth Business USA entrepreneurial support nonprofit group, which operates as,


The most recently announced effort to help technology business startups at the Innovation Center related to a $750,000 Economic Development Administration grant for an Indiana Connected Health IoT Lab/Network.


Researchers will be able to use the facility to expand the capabilities of existing companies and to start new businesses leveraging health internet of things technology.


The Innovation Center became the nation’s only technology park last summer with a program boasting the latest version of the flagship 9001 quality management systems standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization.


The NIIC program previously had ISO 9001:2008 registration and the center received confirmation June 26 that the registration had been upgraded to ISO 9001:2015, which the standards group said evolved to something less prescriptive and more performance-focused by combining a process approach with risk-based thinking.


The Innovation Center announced in the spring it had agreed to start providing business coaching and advice in downtown Fort Wayne through a partnership with the Allen County Public Library.


It been offering business coaching for almost 20 years at its 3201 Stellhorn Road location. Its plans to collaborate with the entrepreneurial support activities of the ACPL network – beginning with its main library at 900 Library Plaza – were announced March 19.


The center had four business coaches who were scheduled to offer services from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to noon Thursdays, starting in April in a conference room of the downtown library’s Business, Science and Technology department.


Traditions that celebrate values contribute to a region’s culture, and after six months of planning, fundraising and getting the word out, Start Fort Wayne brought the city the first of what it hopes will be an annual event developed for that purpose.


Startup Week Fort Wayne was a five-day, entrepreneur-led event created by Techstars, a Boulder, Colo.-based global network that helps entrepreneurs succeed.


The organization helps communities plan their own version of the event without charging a fee or collecting related data because it wants to see entrepreneurism accessible and ubiquitous and considers Startup Week a great way to do that, according to its website.


The free October event was designed to showcase and build on an entrepreneurial culture with gatherings, presentations and activities, and the Startup Week playbook Techstars offers said all those efforts should focus on making a community a better place to start something.

Angola startup gets first grant from Investment Fund

By News No Comments

Angola startup gets first grant from Investment Fund

| Business Weekly

October 23rd, 2018

Representatives of Blaire Biomedical, Angola, attended a ceremony Oct. 19 to receive the first-ever grant provided by the Angola Investment Fund.

Blaire, which emerged out of Trine University, is a start-up company working to develop a hand-held device that performs multiple blood tests in real time when connected to a smart phone.

City officials awarded Blaire half of a $12,500 grant from the Angola Investment Fund, which was created to help local start-up companies and entrepreneurs. The other half of the grant will be awarded in six months. Until this point, Angola Investment Fund had only made loans to emerging companies.

“It’s truly invaluable what you’re doing for the up and coming entrepreneurs,” said Melanie G. Watson, Ph.D., a Trine professor and CEO and founder of the company.

Blaire’s device is currently in the research and development stage. Watson said she’s working with a Colorado company, one of few of its type in the country, on a possible partnership to advance the device’s abilities.

Distribution would be through representatives on each coast, but the company will remain headquartered in Angola, she said.

The device prototype is now in its eighth iteration, following more than five years of research and development, with significant research support coming from Trine University students. The project has been the basis of senior design projects over the past four years.

“Trine University is proud to support Dr. Watson and Blaire Biomedical in their groundbreaking and potentially life-changing research and product development. This effort not only provides Trine University students hands-on, practical experience at the forefront of innovation, it gives them the opportunity to improve the quality of life for many around the world seeking to manage chronic medical conditions,” said Earl Brooks II, Trine president.

Trine student groups have developed methods of separating blood into components for the various medical tests, designed a case than can fit on an iPhone, developed a blood testing cartridge and developed an application to allows results to be read on the phone.

Watson developed the concept for the device after having to travel great distances to have medical tests for her daughter.

“The device is desperately needed,” she said.

It could be used in a multitude of applications and would provide immediate results without having to travel to a hospital or lab environment. For some patients, this not only cuts down on time, but it eliminates the possibility of contracting illness from a hospital environment.

The device is likened to a glucose monitor used by people with diabetes, but with a much broader spectrum. Glucose monitors have a very specific use while the Blaire product would sample for a wide variety of blood characteristics.

Blaire Biomedical has also received grants this year from elevate northeast Fortitude Fund and Elevate Ventures. Watson said the Angola Investment Fund grant will help pay for the company’s design engineering intern, Madison Howard, a Trine student.

The money is allowing Blaire to put together a design team to advance development of the product, which Watson said will be convenient and at a low cost to patients.

“We are excited to present this check to Melanie,” Angola Mayor Dick Hickman said. “We’re really excited about this.”