Fort Wayne Startup Focused on Managing Biases Receives Funding

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Fort Wayne, Ind. – STRE.ME, a startup focused on reducing the effects of biases within the workplace, today announced that it has raised $270,000 in a pre-seed round led by Techstars and Elevate Ventures with participation from several angel investors.

STRE.ME was launched in 2018 to help organizations simplify the business growth process and improve decision-making. Based on the results of customer discovery research conducted since its launch, STRE.ME pivoted to its current platform of helping business leaders reduce the effects of implicit bias. It is available as a web application that provides personalized and confidential insights for managing biases.

“Backed by peer-reviewed research and documented results, STRE.ME is now positioned to accelerate growth and customer acquisition in our target market while reaching into markets with regulatory drivers for which our platform and mode of delivery is the first of its kind,” said Anne Marie Labenberg, co-founder and chief equity officer. “We are able to meet these industries with progressive technology to change not only the health and outcomes of the organization but that of employees and customers as well.”

“STRE.ME makes it easy for leaders to deliver awareness and accountability to their organizations,” said Dan Meek, Elevate Ventures entrepreneur-in-residence serving Elevate Northeast Indiana. “I’m excited about the level of engagement corporations are experiencing using STRE.ME’s cloud-based solutions.”

The funding will allow STRE.ME to concentrate on onboarding key customers and pave the way for another round of funding to accelerate its sales model.

“As business leaders, we understand how important employee engagement and team dynamics are to building healthy organizations, especially when implicit biases silently influence the way we make decisions, behave, and communicate,” said co-founder and CEO Jack Patton. “Closing this round of funding helps fulfill our mission of creating cultures of awareness and accountability.”

STRE.ME was a recipient of the Community Ideation Fund from Elevate Ventures in 2019. The company participated in the Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator Powered by Techstars in 2021.

Elevate Nexus Grants $200K to Four Higher Education Institutions

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August 11, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug 11, 2021) – Elevate Ventures today awarded $50,000 grants to Ball State UniversityIndiana Institute of Technology (Indiana Tech)Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine and the University of Evansville to support entrepreneurship programming and curriculum. The funding, which is channeled through the Elevate Nexus program, is now in its third and final year. It is designed to strengthen bonds among higher education institutions, community partners and entrepreneurs.

IUPUI, Purdue University, Trine University and the University of Notre Dame received grants in 2019; last year the winners were Butler University, Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington, Taylor University and the University of Indianapolis.

“With the support of the Elevate Nexus Higher Education Grant Program, Indiana Tech is excited to help engineering entrepreneurs foster new business ideas, create technology-related innovations, conduct market analysis, and launch commercialized products or licensed patents,” said Ying Shang, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences at Indiana Tech. “Indiana Tech is pleased to be part of the community efforts in making changes in Indiana economical ecosystems into a technology-inspired community.”

Proposals submitted by the universities call for varied approaches:

  • Ball State University: Develop an elective cross-disciplinary course connecting Computer Science and Entrepreneurship & Innovation majors, enabling student-led ventures to move from ideation into prototyping and end user-testing.
  • Indiana Institute of Technology (Fort Wayne): Expand entrepreneurial programs and initiatives through the Center for Creative Collaboration (C3), a multidisciplinary entrepreneurship center with focus on connecting business clients with the university.
  • IU School of Medicine (Indianapolis): Launch a web-based innovation platform to evaluate student and clinician business ideas.
  • University of Evansville: Create MakerspACE, a three-pronged entrepreneurial program providing access to innovation for K-16 students.

Elevate Nexus Higher Education Grants are made possible through a partnership with the U.S. Economic Development Administration. A total of $600,000 has been awarded. The funding enables higher education institutions to launch and improve programming to support growth of Indiana startups.

“In the last three years, we have seen some exceptional proposals—all of which foster entrepreneurship and innovation across the campus and in the communities they serve,” said Landon Young, executive director of the Elevate Nexus program. “We are seeing the successful execution of programs, the building of cross-campus ecosystems, and high-potential companies starting and growing. I look forward to the future success these universities see from the programming they were able to launch and expand.”

Former head of Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, current South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership leader recognized

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Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekley

August 12, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — John Sampson, former CEO and president of Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, has been recognized by Elevate Ventures, Indiana’s venture development partner and investment firm, for his help to the group in the Northeast Indiana region.

Sampson received the regional champion recognition as part of the 2020 Elevate Awards, held at Elevate Ventures’ fourth annual Kinetic Conference. He retired in March this year.

John Sampson, former CEO and president of Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership

In 2020, Elevate chose a regional champion from each partnership region. These individuals go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure growth of entrepreneurship and innovation in their region, according to a news release.

In 2020 Sampson was instrumental in renewing Elevate Northeast Indiana partnership and assisting in efforts to raise $1 million in funding, according to the announcement.

Other regional champions of 2020 include Regina Emberton, president and CEO of South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership for the North-Central region.

“Emberton is the glue holding the Startup South Bend-Elkhart region together with her involvement in various initiatives and committees powering entrepreneurship growth in the region,” according to the announcement.

The awards and winners in the region include:

2020 Region of the Year: Elevate Northeast Indiana

Elevate Northeast generated the highest count and dollar value of Elevate Ventures deals (21 Fund and Indiana Angel Network Fund) from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020.

Elevate Northeast Indiana, a partnership between Elevate Ventures and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, supports entrepreneurs through initiatives including investments, marketing support, business coaching and access to professional resources.

Regional Business of 2020: Nanovis of Columbia City

This award recognizes a business in an Elevate regional partnership region that exhibits current and future positive impact in the community. Each region nominated companies in their respective geographical areas for Elevate’s consideration.

Nanovis is an orthopedic company with multiple technology platforms that aim to drive better outcomes for patients, surgeons and the health care system. Nanovis is product innovative in the spine and orthopedic markets, and has built an excellent go-to market team and has been strategic and effective in managing its resources.

In other Elevate Ventures news:

Elevate Ventures announced Aug. 12 the full launch of the Innovation Voucher Program, providing Indiana startups access to funding for more innovation-driven research and product development capabilities.

The Indiana Voucher Program was initially established in 2019 by legislation and administered primarily by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC). Elevate Ventures’ partnership with IEDC on the program will focus on Indiana-based startups with demonstrated business needs and continued high-growth potential. Startups may be eligible for up to $50,000 in services from qualified Indiana higher education institutions and authorized nonprofit research providers to support research and development, product development, and commercialization.

“Elevate Ventures has a track record of supporting Indiana-based startups through both programmatic engagements and pre-seed, seed and early-stage grant or investment funds,” said Ting Gootee, Elevate Ventures chief investment officer, in a news release. “We are excited to have this particular program in our management portfolio and look forward to leveraging it toward the highest impact on our entrepreneurship community.”

The program will be open to applications a few times a year. The current application is open through Sept. 17. For full eligibility details, go to

To apply for Innovation Voucher Program funding, go to

Startup Financing Lifts Aviation Firm

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August 3, 2021

Warsaw, Ind.  — SimpleSortie, a startup firm with ambitions to connect air travelers to private aircraft operators, has received a $20,000 investment from the Elevate Ventures Community Ideation Fund.

SimpleSortie will enable consumers to book flights with private aircraft operators at lower cost and greater convenience. Improving transparency and squeezing out inefficiencies can enable operators to offer flights at increased margins and reduced expenses to travelers.

The company will use the funds to create a sellable product, expand its research and marketing efforts, and prepare for future investment.

Dan Meek, Elevate Ventures entrepreneur-in-residence serving Elevate Northeast Indiana, said, “SimpleSortie wants to change the way we see private aviation through more choices and better logistics. The company is bringing a better customer experience through its simple to use platform.”

Founder Ryan Srogi noticed room for improvement earlier in his career when he flew as a corporate pilot. Now he aims to scale his insights.

“The Community Ideation Fund is a key first step to SimpleSortie’s growth,” Srogi said. “It validates the concept and provides runway for initial stages.”

Federal Match Program for Indiana Business Expanded

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July 27, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS – Elevate Ventures today announced the expansion of its Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) matching program, giving Indiana companies more access to early-stage funding.

Elevate, which manages the SBIR/STTR program in partnership with the Indiana Economic Development Corp., now supports Phase II matching in addition to its longtime support for Phase I.

The SBIR/STTR program is designed to address federal needs for research and development (R&D), as well as to drive technological innovation. The funding is available through 11 federal agencies.

Phase I is used to establish feasibility and potential for R&D efforts and to evaluate company performance and is matched 50% by Elevate.

Further support can be sought through Phase II, which is used to continue the R&D initiated in Phase I. As of July 2021, Elevate will match up to $75,000 per Phase II award and $150,000 per company. Unlike Phase I matching, which comes in the form of a grant, the Phase II match is a standard convertible note.

“The SBIR/STTR program is one of the largest sources of funding for innovation-driven companies at their earliest stage of development,” said Ting Gootee, chief investment officer at Elevate Ventures. “This additional support provides another edge for Indiana companies to compete nationally.”

For fiscal year 2020-2021, 25 companies received $1.3 million in funding from Indiana’s SBIR/STTR matching program, in addition to nearly $6 million in federal Phase I grants. These companies are:

  • Advanced Science and Automation Corp., Indianapolis
  • Akanocure Pharmaceuticals Inc., West Lafayette
  • BDYWR LLC, West Lafayette
  • Consensus Networks LLC, South Bend
  • Continuity Pharma LLC, West Lafayette
  • Engine Research Associates Inc., Fort Wayne
  • Eperture LLC, Columbus
  • Flightprofiler LLC, Newton
  • Grannus Therapeutics LLC, Indianapolis
  • Health Smart Technologies Inc., Zionsville
  • Heliponix LLC, Evansville
  • infoSentience, Bloomington
  • Miftek Corporation, West Lafayette
  • Multiscale Integrated Technology Solutions LLC, Carmel
  • Next Offset Solutions, Inc., West Lafayette
  • Ocella, Inc. (d/b/a Ateios), Newberry
  • Pierce Aerospace LLC, Carmel
  • RightFit Analytics Inc., West Lafayette
  • Spirrow Therapeutics LLC, West Lafayette
  • Star Voltaic LLC, Indianapolis
  • Terran Robotics, Bloomington
  • Trek10 Inc., South Bend
  • Valgotech LLC, Indianapolis
  • Vasculonics Inc., Indianapolis
  • Vennli Inc., South Bend

To apply for Phase I or Phase II matching dollars, support letters or assistance, please click here.

SBA and Millennium Challenge Corporation Announce Strategic Collaboration to Advance Emerging Technologies from Small Businesses

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May 21, 2021

The U.S. Small Business Administration and The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding today to advance emerging technologies and innovations developed through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs.


The SBA/MCC partnership will identify, pilot, and scale innovative technologies to address country-specific needs in sectors such as renewable energy, agriculture and irrigation, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene.  It will also help U.S. small business innovators gain access to international markets.

“This agreement continues the incredible collaboration between our two agencies as we support small businesses that are discovering innovative technologies to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.  By combining our focus on renewable energy, climate, and the environment, we’re demonstrating American leadership and commitment to sustainable economic development,” said SBA Director of Innovation John Williams.

“Our collaboration with the U.S. Small Business Administration will allow MCC partner countries to more easily access proven, cutting edge technologies to solve some of their most pressing development challenges,” said MCC’s Vice President of the Department of Compact Operations Fatema Z. Sumar. “We are pleased to be joining with other U.S. government agencies to maximize our joint impact, while also providing opportunities to scale private sector involvement in MCC’s blended finance work.”

The SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation coordinates the SBIR/STTR programs across the participating federal agencies, now totaling over $4 billion a year in R&D awards for small businesses.  Through this role, the SBA has contributed to the creation of MCC’s new Innovation and Technology Program (ITP), providing private sector technology solutions for developmental impact and commercialization with MCC programs and partner countries.

In November 2020, the SBA and MCC hosted a virtual roundtable that focused on technologies in the water, agriculture, and irrigation sectors. Occurring jointly with the signing of the MOU, the SBA and MCC convened a second virtual roundtable to bring together agencies and program managers from the climate resiliency and energy sectors to discuss innovations that may align and create opportunities in MCC partner countries.

Learn more about MCC here.

About the SBIR and STTR Programs

The SBIR/STTR programs represent the nation’s largest source of early stage research and development funding for small businesses. The programs are administered by the SBA in collaboration with 11 federal agencies that collectively supported more than $4 billion a year in federal research and development funding.

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start and grow their businesses. It delivers services to people through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit

Startup to Expand Portfolio of Medical Instruments

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| Inside Indiana Business

July 1, 2021

Warsaw-based RAZOR Medical Instruments Inc. has raised over $2 million in a Series A round of funding. Investors included Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures and several angel investors.

The company says Elevate’s investment was made through its Smart and Advanced Manufacturing Fund

RAZOR Medical Instruments Logo

“Attracting RAZOR Medical Instruments to Indiana is a big win for the state,” said Dan Meek, Elevate Ventures entrepreneur-in-residence serving Elevate Northeast Indiana. “The company’s single-use surgical instruments offer confidence to patients and healthcare providers in the battle against contracting infection from orthopedic surgery.”

RAZOR, which was launched in 2016, develops single-use instruments that it says increases efficiencies, reduces overall cost and reduces risk of surgical site infections associated with orthopedic joint replacement surgery.

RAZOR says its products allow ASCs to increase surgical capacity by eliminating the need to clean and sterilize reusable instruments.

“Our Series A funding will allow us to introduce the RAZOR Single-Use Acetabular Reamer System into the U.S. market,” said RAZOR founder and President Bruce Khalili. “We’re excited to proceed with our plans towards completing the development of equally innovative single-use instruments in building out our portfolio.”

Earlier this year, the company relocated its headquarters from New Hampshire to Warsaw.

RAZOR says it will use the funding to expand the launch of the Single-Use Acetabular Reamers. The company is also developing a portfolio of single-use joint replacement instruments for the hip, knee and shoulder.

Startup Offering Software for Writing Projects Secures Funding

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Elevate Ventures

May 25, 2021

 Slice, a startup offering cloud-based software for writers and writing teams, today announced a $20,000 investment from Elevate Ventures through Elevate’s Community Ideation Fund.

Slice was founded in 2019 by CEO Joe Bellavance. While starting a freelance writing service, Bellavance searched for software tools to help him serve clients. Realizing the tools he needed did not exist, Bellavance decided to build them himself.

Whether you write for work, school, or fun, Slice makes writing projects easy by streamlining your workflow.

Slice’s software can be used to manage multiple types of writing projects including reports, proposals, class essays, blog posts, scholarly articles, and novels. Within the platform, users can work individually or with a team to collect content, notes, and other files in one place. Users can collaborate in real-time by editing and managing workflow.

“Slice seeks to transform the way we author, edit, source and organize original content,” said Dan Meek, Elevate Ventures entrepreneur-in-residence serving Elevate Northeast Indiana, a partnership focused on startups in northeast Indiana. “This investment will assist the company with early adoption and technology enhancements.”

Bellavance said the funding from Elevate will allow Slice to improve the user experience, gain additional customers, and share the software with more people.

“Over two billion people rely on a workflow that’s forty years old. Both of those numbers are staggering, and we have an opportunity to help a lot of people,” Bellavance said. “Funding is life to a startup, and we’re very grateful for Elevate’s investment that will enable us to grow.”

Elevate’s Community Ideation Fund is made possible through its partnership with Elevate Northeast Indiana. The Community Ideation Fund is available through the state’s 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which is overseen by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and promotes economic growth and innovation-driven public-private partnerships in Indiana.

ELEVATE PERSPECTIVE: Searching for Entrepreneurial Best Practices in Midsized Cities

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| Elevate Ventures

May 13, 2021

In 2020 I set out to find if any midsized U.S. cities had discovered the “secret sauce” of building successful, innovation-driven startups and entrepreneurial communities.

The first step was to find metrics to identify which cities have truly achieved outsized results. Nowadays, every city has its own flavor of coworking/incubator/accelerator, so it was necessary to cut through the marketing to find cities that were actually producing more venture-backed startups.

My first thought was to look at the total venture dollars raise averaged over a three-year period (2017-2019). While total dollars raised appeared to be a good indicator of success, the metric was extremely vulnerable to outliers. A single $100 million raise could push a city to the top of the list. Subsequently, I shifted my focus toward measuring the total number of venture-backed deals over the same three-year period, which was less affected by individual deals.

As anticipated, the top metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) were also some of the most populated (San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, etc.), and a quick correlation calculation validated that population was indeed correlated with venture dollars invested. However, venture dollars per person/population were much less correlated, meaning that while larger cities had more venture investment because they had more people, the larger population did not appear to produce significantly outsized results due to any sort of population or talent multiplier effect.

Eric Steele, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Southwest Indiana

I defined “midsized” cities as those with an MSA of less than 500,000 (the smallest MSA was 56,000) AND those within a combined statistical area (CSA) of less than 1 million. Trenton, N.J., for example, has an MSA of 367,000 but it is also in the New York City CSA of over 22.5 million, so it was not included. Additionally, for comparison purposes, I eliminated cities with a designated tier one or tier two research university. While I did not dig into the exact statistical significance of this, it was clear that these research universities provided an advantage, as every one of the top 10 mid-sized cities had one of these institutions. So, for the purpose of finding best practices that could be replicated in my home market of Evansville, Ind., I eliminated these cities.

Below are the top five midsized cities:

  • Bend, Ore. MSA, 9.3 deals
  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif. MSA, 9.0 deals
  • Asheville, N.C. MSA, 8.7 deals
  • Anchorage, Alaska MSA, 7.7 deals
  • Evansville, Ind.-Ky. MSA, 4.3 deals

While Bend, Ore., and San Luis Obispo, Calif., were clear leaders, the difference between No. 6 (four deals/year) and No. 16 (three deals/year) was only one deal per year. Therefore, an exceptionally good or bad year could significantly affect the rankings.

Additionally, in several cities the presence of angel and venture investment did not necessarily reflect a strong, innovation-driven economy. For example, the majority of deals completed in Asheville, N.C., were centered around angel groups investing in restaurants and tourism, while Anchorage, Alaska, was heavy in natural resource harvesting (oil, timber, etc.).

As a final step, I reached out to companies in Bend and San Luis Obispo to hear what resources they identified or have used to help them along the way. Ultimately, I reached out to 13 companies, each of which had raised over $2 million. To my dismay, there were no resources or organizations providing that secret sauce (at least none identified by the startups I spoke with), only a combination of standard entrepreneurial services such as coworking, networking and educational content.

Ultimately, I was unable to identify any specific program(s) that altered the course of these cities. However, there are numerous possibilities not included in this analysis (culture, talent, etc.) that may have played a role in the success of these communities.

While I love to see that Evansville is ranked fifth, I am hard-pressed to claim that it has found the secret sauce. Perhaps the  sauce is not a singular program but multiple incubators, accelerators and support organizations addressing problems collectively and helping entrepreneurs from all angles. Or perhaps it is a cultural and/or talent movement built over years upon past successes?

Whatever it is, it gives me encouragement to know we are moving in the right direction.

Disclaimer: Please note that I do not claim to be a statistician. My conclusions, while interesting for directional inferences and discussions, most likely have implicit biases based on Evansville being my anchor and comparative city. Also, the conclusions are only as good as the data I was able to attain and that which was provided to Pitchbook. While I attempted to utilize the most complete data, even in my home MSA I noticed several deals that were not included or incorrectly categorized in the Pitchbook database.

Entrepreneurship Initiative Announces New Board Members

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April 30, 2021

Elevate Northeast Indiana, a recently renewed partnership between Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership that promotes entrepreneurship, has added new members to the board who bring experience in startup commercialization and business development.

​​“Northeast Indiana is fortunate to have a partner like Elevate Ventures to bring new opportunities to startups through mentoring, investments and partnerships,” said Charlotte Gabet, director of Parkview Health’s Innovation program and Advanced Simulation Lab. “Between my experience in the startup world and my time at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation, I plan to bring those skills and that knowledge to bear on behalf of startups in northeast Indiana.”

Tony Armstrong, one of eight new Elevate Northeast Indiana board members

The three-year partnership includes new funders and a refocus on the core mission of assisting, mentoring and funding high-growth, high-potential northeast Indiana companies.

The new board members include:

  • Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. d/b/a IU Ventures. Armstrong, an Indiana native, has cultivated economic growth in Indiana.
  • Jason Blume, executive director of Innovation One at Trine University. Blume is a northeast Indiana native and has an extensive knowledge of lean manufacturing principles, product development, problem solving, quality systems and customer service.
  • Sarah Earls, chief financial officer of Ruoff Home Mortgage. Earls has over 10 years of experience in the financial institutions industry and is active in the Fort Wayne community.
  • Charlotte Gabet, director of Parkview Health’s Innovation program and Advanced Simulation Lab. Gabet has a background in developing teams and supporting startup growth.
  • Brandon Noll, director of business development for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. Noll has a strong background in sales and business development and is passionate about northeast Indiana and the region’s rural communities.
  • Eric Ottinger, executive vice president and chief commercial banking officer of Lake City Bank. Ottinger graduated in 1992 from Ball State University, where he majored in Entrepreneurship, and from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in 1999 with an MBA.
  • Lisa Peckham, director of soft project management at Medical Informatics Engineering. Peckham has more than 20 years of experience in healthcare and discovering innovative ways to use technology to create business value.
  • Rick Poinsatte, vice president of business development and treasurer at Steel Dynamics. Poinsatte holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Notre Dame and has worked in domestic and international finance.

To find the complete list of board members, visit Elevate Northeast Indiana.

“I’m really excited to be joining the board at a pivotal time in the growth of northeast Indiana,” said Armstrong. “I am anxious to help get Indiana University more closely connected to this work. We can make northeast Indiana an attractive destination for entrepreneurs leaving the coasts with Elevate’s programs.”

A five-member executive committee of the board will be formed to vet Community Ideation Fund opportunities.

Throughout the next three years the board will designate up to $500,000 to entrepreneurship initiatives throughout northeast Indiana, including the Eleven Fifty Academy partnership. An event will be held in May to explore the initiative further.

Entrepreneurs looking for assistance in northeast Indiana can visit the Elevate Northeast Indiana website.