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Elevate Fund Invests $17,500 in Northeast Indiana Company

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Elevate Fund Invests $17,500 in Northeast Indiana Company

September 24, 2019

Elevate Ventures today announced an investment from the Community Ideation Fund into STRE.ME in Northeast Indiana. STRE.ME is an early-stage startup that helps organizations simplify their business growth process, as well as allow small-business owners to overcome temporary plateaus in their long-term growth.

STRE.ME’s SaaS platform improves patient satisfaction, outcomes, and hospital profitability by tackling the $270B spent annually in healthcare on premature deaths and avoidable health costs which result from biases and inequities.

“We have to be intentional about the companies who receive investment from this fund. STRE.ME will use the funds to prove their market and we are excited to provide support to companies with ideas that have the potential to be high-growth,” said Mike Mirro, Elevate Northeast Indiana Investment Committee member.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only about half of all new businesses survive five years or longer. After serving in several leadership positions for over a decade, STRE.ME’s CEO, Jack Patton, launched the company in November 2018 as a “result of seeing so many organizations compromise their potential by simply failing to plan and use strategy to grow.”

STRE.ME allows users to set business goals, track and visualize daily progress, set up nurturing messages, and invite accountability partners to participate. STRE.ME uses a progressive web app, which can be used in both desktop and mobile versions.

Patton says that “STRE.ME makes the growth process more manageable, actionable, and measurable, and helps these leaders improve their decision-making process. On an individual level, especially through the mobile app, this shifts the user’s mindset from scarcity to abundance wherein pursuing the future becomes more clear and structured with higher confidence to persist.”

STRE.ME will launch a beta version of its mobile app and is looking for testers. This study is being conducted in conjunction with the Organizational Leadership Department at Purdue Fort Wayne as part of the Purdue Technical Assistance Program (TAP). Findings will be used for product development purposes and to help others progress with purpose. Beta test registration is available at https://stre.me/beta-test.

“It is an honor to get investment from Elevate Ventures’ Community Ideation Fund. This funding will enable STRE.ME to develop mobile technology and acquire early adopters. What is more, it is encouraging to validate the market need, especially for small businesses bursting with potential, locally and beyond,” said Patton.

Under the Community Ideation Fund, each partnership region has access to up to $200,000 over the next three years through the state’s 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which is overseen by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and promotes economic growth and innovation-driven public-private partnerships in Indiana.

Pre-accelerator Launched for Indiana Startups

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Pre-accelerator Launched for Indiana Startups

September 18, 2019

Elevate Ventures today introduced a new pre-accelerator program that has been created to prepare aspiring entrepreneurs within higher-education institutions and the communities they serve to launch Indiana startups.

The program, called Elevate Origins, will use online classes and on-site gatherings to teach entrepreneurs to expand their ideas into a business model ready for investors, a 10-slide pitch deck and an executive summary.

Elevate Origins is a program of Elevate Ventures designed to help entrepreneurs prepare for the Elevate Nexus pitch competitions, where startups compete for pre-seed and seed investments.

“Colleges, universities and communities can be the pillars of innovation and entrepreneurial success in the future,” said Elevate Ventures CEO Chris LaMothe. “Elevate Ventures is determined to be the catalyst for this transformation. We are delighted to partner with gener8tor to provide the support and mechanism to launch this grand effort.”

Elevate Origins was developed and will be administered by gener8tor, a Wisconsin-founded platform of accelerators that includes gBETA in Indiana. After completing the Elevate Origins training, alumni have access to a suite of resources and opportunities such as ongoing office hours, introductions to mentors and investors upon hitting certain milestones, automatic interviews for the intensive, seven-week gBETA program, and the opportunity to pitch at an Elevate Nexus pitch competition.

“I’m excited to partner with Elevate Ventures to prepare even more startups to participate in an accelerator like gBETA, take future investment and grow their companies in Indiana,” said gBETA Indy Manager Chelsea Linder. “This program will be a great way for universities to support their entrepreneurial students and community members who haven’t previously had access to resources such as ours.”

Companies can participate in Elevate Origins at no cost as a result of funding from the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund and a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The 21 Fund is administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and managed by Elevate Ventures.

“As a state, we’re committed to cultivating an entrepreneurial ecosystem that gives Hoosier entrepreneurs the tools and resources they need to foster innovative ideas and transform them into successful, growing companies,” said Elaine Bedel, president of the IEDC. “Under this new program, homegrown startups will have increased access to mentors who can help enhance their business models and pitch decks, as well as the opportunity to gain early customer traction and compete for capital investment through Elevate Nexus and gBETA Indiana.”

Entrepreneurs who are eligible for Elevate Origins will have a business idea that is national or global in scope, could exceed $500 million in annual revenue, and is based on an innovation and has a potential competitive advantage.

Elevate Origins will be offered at least once per quarter. The deadline for the first series is Oct. 1. Entrepreneurs can apply at www.elevateventures.com/apply.

Elevate Ventures’ startup investments at pivotal point

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Elevate Ventures’ startup investments at pivotal point

| Indianapolis Business Journal

July 19, 2019

After nine years of managing the state’s investments in startups, the not-for-profit Elevate Ventures has had some wins, but more losses—as measured by the number of companies that paid back at least as much as they took in.

Overall, Elevate has plowed $17.6 million into 51 companies that reached the exit stage—the time a firm sells, buys out early investors, or even closes.

Through July 16, Elevate had received back more than it invested in just 19 of those companies. In total, it has recouped $20.6 million, which represents a return of 17%.

That doesn’t worry Elevate’s leaders, though, who say the group’s mission goes beyond capturing a high return. They point to a half dozen other metrics that they say show the benefits created from their investments, including the number of jobs created and amount of private investment leveraged.

“It’s a challenge because we’re walking this fine line between encouraging entrepreneurism and doing our economic development mission, but we also have the mission of return,” Elevate Ventures CEO Chris LaMothe said. “So, we want to make sure we’re making thoughtful investments for the taxpayers.”

In 2010, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. delegated management of the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund—which was designed to directly invest in startups—to Elevate Ventures. State and industry officials believed that would be a good way to provide entrepreneurs with the support and resources needed to help startups grow and be successful.

Since then, Elevate has made 508 investments totaling $91.4 million. That money has flowed into 313 companies, with 262 of those remaining in the organization’s portfolio.

Bedel

IEDC President Elaine Bedel said state officials know there’s always a risk that a startup Elevate invests in on behalf of taxpayers won’t survive.

“We can’t say we’ve had successes across the board,” Bedel said. “But if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?”

Leaders in the tech community have raised concerns for years that Indiana is lacking venture capital dollars. In 2018, a total of $112.2 billion in venture capital was invested in U.S. startups, but only 0.22%, or $253 million, of that came to Indiana.

Elevate Ventures is a big fish in that small pond.

In 2018, Elevate participated in more than 67% of all the fundraising rounds for Indiana startups, making it the most active VC firm in the state.

And the number of positive exits realized by Elevate has been growing, albeit slowly. In 2017, Elevate had three positive exits; that increased to four in 2018, although the overall return that year was a 55% loss due to 11 negative or neutral exits.

So far this year, Elevate has already matched last year’s record high of four positive exits and, despite six neutral or negative exits this year, has seen an overall return rate of 17%.

None of that data accounts for any estimated increases in the value of investments. Elevate only records positive returns when a company successfully exits, rather than counting estimated gains while a company is still in its portfolio. LaMothe said that’s because value is uncertain until a company is sold.

But he expects the number of positive exits to start increasing, given that many companies in Elevate’s portfolio have been operating for years, so they’re more likely to be acquired.

“We’re early in our return metrics,” LaMothe said. “You would expect the very, very early-stage companies that we’re investing in typically to begin reaping or harvesting some of those investments in the seventh through the ninth year, and we’re just right there.”

 

Moving past controversy

The state created the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund in 1999 to invest in innovation and entrepreneurship.

LaMothe

The IEDC was charged with managing the fund, which initially awarded grants that did not give the state equity in the companies.

But that arrangement changed in 2010 under then-Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration, which wanted to provide startups with more venture capital opportunities and create a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“What we found was that a lot of businesses, a lot of investors and a lot of entrepreneurs weren’t excited about using state or federal money because there were so many strings attached to it,” LaMothe said.

Enter Elevate Ventures, a not-for-profit founded in 2010 by Howard Bates that operates independently from state government, even though its sole purpose is acting as a venture capital firm for the IEDC to help create that support system for startups in the technology, medical, manufacturing and agriculture industries.

In 2018, the contract with Elevate cost the IEDC $4.2 million.

Shortly after the partnership formed, Elevate ran into conflict-of-interest problems.

In 2012, it invested almost $500,000 in Indianapolis-based marketing software developer Smarter Remarketer, of which Bates was CEO while still serving as chairman of Elevate.

See the breakdown of the IEDC/Elevate relationship

A federal audit concluded that Elevate “intentionally misused” public dollars by making the investment because then-Elevate CEO Stephen Hourigan was aware of Bates’ controlling interest in the company, now known as SmarterHQ.

Hourigan and Bates both left their roles with Elevate as a result of the controversy.

Bedel said the state’s relationship with Elevate now “is really good.”

“None of those individuals are still active with the Elevate Ventures we’re working with,” Bedel said. “I think it’s much different now.”

LaMothe, who became CEO in 2015 after Hourigan left, said no one on staff or on Elevate’s board is allowed to invest in any company the firm works with, and advisers assigned to represent Elevate on boards of startups are also not allowed to invest in those companies. Advisers are allowed to invest in other companies they are not working with on behalf of Elevate.

“We watch that very, very carefully,” LaMothe said.

Elevate’s contract with the IEDC expires at the end of the year, but officials say they are in the process of negotiating a new one.

 

What’s enough?

McDonald

The 21st Century Research and Technology Fund includes multiple funds designed for startups at different development stages and risk levels. Those funds include the 21 Fund direct investments, Angel Fund, High Potential Startup Fund, Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund, Fund of Funds, Community Ideation Fund and a matching fund for companies that receive support through the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

Elevate now oversees investments made from all those funds.

The state appropriates $30 million every year to the 21st Century Fund, but only part is invested in Indiana startups. In 2018, for example, Elevate made 94 investments totaling $12.6 million.

The rest of the fund is invested in public-private partnerships, typically involving universities and industries trying to conduct research or develop a new technology.

For example, the state last year used $3 million from the 21 Fund to leverage $54 million in federal and private funds for microelectronics research at Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame.

And the amount directed toward each initiative—investing in startups versus supporting public-private partnerships—is a moving target.

Bedel said the state does not mandate the amounts each year but stays in regular contact with Elevate to make sure everyone knows current spending levels.

Hicks

“We’re not forcing them to invest in any companies,” Bedel said. “We want good investments.”

LaMothe said Elevate could always use more money to make investments.

“But I do know that the IEDC is very thoughtful and judicious about how they try to meet the demands that they have,” he said.

Most of the $91 million Elevate has invested since 2010—$51.5 million—has come through the 21 Fund direct investment program, which is targeted at companies far enough along in development that they can show a product or service has merit in the market.

Those investments are typically Elevate’s highest, ranging from $100,000 to $2 million, because they are considered less risky.

 

Winners and losers

Some of the companies Elevate has invested in have had high-profile accomplishments, including Fishers-based ClearObject, which has seen significant growth for years and was acquired by two out-of-state private-equity firms this year.

ClearObject CEO John McDonald said the company (originally CloudOne), would “have been dead” without Elevate’s investments, which totaled $3 million from 2012 to 2016. Almost all the money came from the 21 Fund.

“It was absolutely exactly the right thing at exactly the right time,” McDonald said.

But others, like Fishers-based SteadyServ Technologies LLC, haven’t been so successful.

Powers

Elevate invested $1.5 million in SteadyServ, a beer-service technology firm that gained national attention with a draft-beer management and inventory system called iKeg, through its Angel Fund and 21 Fund direct investments in 2013 and 2014. But the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February and a judge approved the company’s sale in June to the biggest creditor after no other bids were made.

Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, said he’d be more concerned if Elevate didn’t have any failures.

“If they’re being that cautious,” Hicks said, “then they’re not needed, because banks would make those investments.”

LaMothe said Elevate has a “very deliberate process” for its investment decisions.

That process starts with startups’ pitch to staff and experts known as entrepreneurs in residence. Candidates then go through several rounds of vetting by various committees. For investments made through the 21 Fund direct investments program, an IEDC committee has to sign off on the proposal, too.

LaMothe estimated that, for every company approved for investment, Elevate says no to 13 or 14.

Nearly all the funds require the recipient to raise a matching amount—and oftentimes the outside investments exceed Elevate’s contribution. Since 2010, outside investors have contributed $633 million to funding rounds Elevate has participated in.

Measuring success

After nine years, officials at IEDC and Elevate Ventures say the partnership and the resulting investments have been successful.

But how do they measure that? Is it the return on investment? Number of jobs created? Amount of outside investment leveraged?

All of the above.

That’s because, unlike many venture capital firms, the state’s goals are not all about direct returns. The IEDC has also charged Elevate with building entrepreneurism and innovation by coaching and mentoring startups.

Reasen

“The goal of this is to cause there to be more technology firms and research and development in Indiana,” Hicks said. “The goal of this isn’t for it to make money for the state in the short run.”

Elevate helps startups in several ways—by hosting events throughout the state to connect entrepreneurs, stakeholders and investors; by assigning an adviser to the board of the startups it invests in; and by connecting companies with one of the organization’s entrepreneurs in residence to help them navigate roadblocks.

Since 2010, the more than 300 companies Elevate has invested in employ nearly 2,500 individuals with average salaries of more than $64,000.

Startup leaders say Elevate’s support has a significant impact and is unlike the money from venture capital firms.

“They’re way more beneficial to have involved with your company than someone just concerned about money,” McDonald said.

Plus, if a company can say Elevate Ventures backs it, that can help attract other investors.

“One of the more subtle but important things they do is, they provide confidence to other follow-on investors,” McDonald said. “That kind of endorsement is really, really beneficial.”

Brian Powers, founder and CEO of Indianapolis-based PactSafe, said Elevate was its first institutional investor and is still the only local one, so its programming and expertise have been especially helpful. PactSafe received nearly $500,000 from Elevate’s Angel Fund from 2014 to 2018.

“Without Elevate’s continued partnership, PactSafe would not be where it is today,” Powers said.

 

Money does matter

Elevate officials are passionate about the economic development mission, but they don’t deny that they want a return on investment.

In fact, both Elevate and the IEDC say they want the 21st Century fund to someday reap enough in returns to support new investments without annual appropriations from the state.

“We’re not there yet,” Bedel said. “But hopefully someday we will be.”

The returns have fluctuated over the years, as it all depends on when a company has an exit, which can happen in several ways­—a bigger company could acquire the startup, another venture capital fund could buy out other investors like Elevate, the company leaders could buy back ownership shares, the company could go public, or it could go out of business.

In 2012, Elevate saw a 91% loss on its exits, but that flipped to a 91% gain the next year.

So, it could be a while before the fund becomes self-sustaining. LaMothe said it will first need some $100 million in returns. “Some people would say it’s less than that, some people would say it’s more than that.”

Hicks said he doesn’t think it’s feasible—or smart, for that matter—to make the fund self-sustaining because that would put too much emphasis on earning profits rather than building the entrepreneurial ecosystem and innovation.

“That differs from the goal of generating commercialization of research that wants to have a home in Indiana,” he said.

LaMothe said Elevate’s work has had an impact to date, but he’s still worried about Indiana’s future.

“We’re still so far behind in our entrepreneurship,” he said. “Indiana has got to pivot to innovation and entrepreneurship in a big way.”

Tech leaders say one way to fuel that is attracting more venture capital dollars, not necessarily by increasing appropriations to the 21st Century Fund, but rather by attracting new VC firms.

McDonald, who is part of the tech industry’s trade group known as the Indiana Technology and Innovation Association, said Elevate Ventures is “one of the very few pathways” for startups to get funding, so, if they get turned down, it “could almost be the end of the road. … We continue to not have enough pathways.”

But an increase in the 21st Century Fund could help, he added. “We’re on rounding errors in the state budget as opposed to major funding initiatives.”

Rod Reasen, CEO of Springbuk, which received $2.8 million from the 21 Fund direct investments program from 2015 to 2018, described Elevate as “a good bridge” and a “fantastic partner.” But he said the state still desperately needs more funding options for investments of $5 million and above.

“But,” he said, “that’s not an Elevate problem.”

Elevate Nexus continues pitch competitions

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Elevate Nexus continues pitch competitions

| Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

January 31, 2020

Entrepreneurs in the region had until Feb. 3 to apply for participation in the second Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competitions.

Elevate Ventures planned to select finalists Feb. 4 in order to invite them to participate in their region’s version of the business plan pitch competition.

The Northern Region’s version was scheduled for Feb. 25 at Innovation Park at Notre Dame, 1400 E. Angela Blvd. in South Bend.

Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures started the Elevate Nexus program last year to help colleges and universities in the state that did not already have them to initiate the investment pitch competitions.

The first of Elevate’s regional pitch competitions leading to a statewide competition took place last October.

Of 75 applicants, 67 finalists were invited to compete in that contest, which provided the entrepreneurs 10 minutes each to convince a panel of regional judges their companies would be the most likely to provide the best returns on seed and pre-seed investments.

The competition awarded pre-seed investments of $20,000 each to nine businesses and seed investments of $80,000 each to six businesses, including Pierceton-based CoolCorp Inc. and Warsaw-based Eclipse Orthopaedics.

In addition to the funding, competition winners became Elevate portfolio companies and gained access to its network of advisers and resources, the announcement said.

The winners also were invited to pitch to judges in a similar, statewide competition with $40,000 pre-seed and $100,000 seed investments. That event will take place April 14 as part of Elevate’s annual Kinetic conference.

More information on the second Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competitions, including details and eligibility requirements, is available at https://www.elevateventures.com/entrepreneurs/investment-funding/elevate-nexus-pitch-competitions/.

Regional founders see equity investment near $10.5 million

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Regional founders see equity investment near $10.5 million

| Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

January 8, 2020

Hard work and patience paid off during 2019 for several northeast Indiana entrepreneurs, both in recognition and funding for their blossoming businesses.

Elevate Ventures Pitch Competition

Close to $10.5 million in equity investment went to half a dozen companies coming into their own in northeast Indiana. And half of those businesses had received entrepreneurial support organization help from the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center.

“Despite a challenging early-stage capital access environment in the Midwest, we are thrilled that outside investors saw the unique value propositions and market opportunities for significant investments in Allied, BioPoly and Stre.me,” Karl LaPan, the NIIC’s president and CEO, said in an email.

“Clearly, it shows that compelling ideas with solid management teams and well-defined market niches can over-achieve their outside investment goals.”

The most recent entrepreneurial achievements were announced Dec. 19 by Elevate Ventures, a statewide nonprofit investment and entrepreneurship development and advocacy group, which manages the Indiana Angel Network Fund and the Indiana Seed Fund.

Of 75 applicants, 67 finalists were invited to compete in Elevate’s Nexus Region Pitch Competitions in October, which provided the entrepreneurs 10 minutes each to convince a panel of regional judges their companies would be the most likely to provide the best returns on seed and pre-seed investments.

The competition awarded pre-seed investments of $20,000 each to nine businesses and seed investments of $80,000 each to six businesses, including Pierceton-based CoolCorp Inc. and Warsaw-based Eclipse Orthopaedics.

In addition to the funding, competition winners became Elevate portfolio companies and gained access to its network of advisers and resources, the announcement said.

The winners also were invited to pitch to judges in a similar, statewide competition with $40,000 pre-seed and $100,000 seed investments. That event will take place April 14 as part of Elevate’s annual Kinetic conference.

The website of Eclipse Orthopaedics boasts the business founded a little more than five years ago has “solved one of the biggest technical challenges in orthopaedic trauma – locating and drilling pilot holes for intramedullary nails.”

Because they have to drill pilot holes through bone and locking holes in the nail while it is hidden from view, surgeons have been using fluoroscopic C-Arm machines for guidance, which can lengthen surgery times and increase blood loss and radiation exposure as well as the risk or extremity malrotation or fracture.

Eclipse has been developing a Radiographic Targeting Attachment fluoroscopic targeting device, which its president, David Rich, described in a 2018 government grant filing as a “safer way to locate distal holes….

“The RTA combines a small X-ray source and a drill attachment that when paired with the imager and drill will become a fluoroscopically guided drill that locates and drills holes in one operation,” the filing for the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grant programs said.

CoolCorp is a cryotherapy products S-corporation founded in 2016 by Wesley Gensch, who learned a lot about cryotherapy through personal experience as an injured pitcher on a baseball team at Grace College in Winona Lake.

The CoolCorp lineup includes products that have cooling gelpacks capable of wrapping all the way around an injured limb, with personalized air compression. Its systems also have a stay-cool, moisture-wicking inner fabric to minimize the mess typically associated with icing therapy for injury recovery.

The products can be ordered via the company’s website at www.coolcorpinc.com/collections/all, which shows them ranging in price from about $30 to about $150.

The company outsources parts production to a Fort Wayne manufacturer and handles product pre-assembly, inspection and shipping in addition to sales.

CoolCorp already has a highly sustainable profit margin doing builds of 100 and expects to see its cost-per-unit drop 10% to 20% as its volume increases tenfold and more.

The day before Elevate announced the $80,000 investments in CoolCorp and Eclipse, BioPoly, LLC. said it had fully subscribed its latest private equity financing round of $2 million by $890,000.

Funds from the private equity offering “will be used to bring products to the U.S. market as well as launch product line extension for products currently approved for sale in Europe,” BioPoly said in the announcement.

The company has developed a unique BioPoly implant resurfacing material – a patented combination of hyaluronic acid (the Bio) and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (the Poly).

“The material behaves like a synthetic cartilage, allowing the implants to replace the damaged cartilage of a patient’s joint rather than the entire joint. The minimally invasive surgical procedure enables patients to quickly return to active, pain-free lifestyles,” the announcement said.

“In addition to resurfacing, the BioPoly material also has application in total joint reconstruction as a bearing component. Testing has revealed that BioPoly wear properties are superior to current orthopedic materials and could result in longer lasting total joints for patients.”

The combined equity investment of $3.1 million going to BioPoly, CoolCorp and Eclipse during the second half of 2019 adds to more than $7.4 million in equity investment attracted during the first half of the year by three companies founded in Fort Wayne.

Allied Payment Network, 3BG Supply Co. and the Northeast Indiana Commercialization Consortium doing business as Stre.me attracted a combined $7.4 million in equity investment during the first half.

Allied and Stre.me are operating out of the NIIC at 3201 Stellhorn Road in Fort Wayne and BioPoly operated out of the center for years before moving to its own building at 7136 Gettysburg Pike in Fort Wayne, where it is ISO 13485 certified.

The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based venture capital firm, Plymouth Growth Partners, invested in Allied and 3BG. Elevate invested $17,500 in STRE.ME on June 13 and also invested in 3BG.

Founded by Jack Patton, Stre.me helps users set business goals then track and visualize their daily progress, invite accountability partner participation in the tracking, and set up nurturing messages. It provides this help through a progressive web app, which can be used in mobile as well as desktop versions.

Plymouth invested $4 million in Allied, which established itself as a leading innovator in the financial services industry by being the first to market with a photo bill pay product it calls PicturePay.

PicturePay automatically pulls all the information needed to pay a bill from a picture taken of it with a smartphone, and then processes the payment with the user’s authorization via touch command.

The app includes options that allow users to specify an amount and a date for payment of a photographed bill. For bills that are paid in the same amount on the same date each month, there is an option that can use information from the photo to set up an automatic monthly payment.

And the app can be used to make a deposit into an account by shooting a picture of a check.

At the time of the investment early last year, Ralph Marcuccilli, the former chief information officer at Star Financial Bank who struck out on his own to start Allied in 2010, had added half a dozen products to its offerings since launching PicturePay, and built its customer base to about 250 banks and credit unions.

Fort Wayne-based 3BG Supply Co. attracted $3.4 million in equity investment from Plymouth and Elevate, according to Crunchbase, which did not say how much each invested.

3BG, a technology-enabled distribution business, referred to the Series A round investment led by Plymouth in an April announcement of its planned relocation to The Landing on Columbia Street from Berry Street.

Blaire Biomedical to compete at state level

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Blaire Biomedical to compete at state level

| Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

May 1, 2020

In addition to seed funding of $80,000, receiving top honors for northern Indiana in the Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competitions earned Blaire Biomedical the right to compete for an additional $100,000.

Out of 58 finalists, Elevate Ventures awarded pre-seed funding of $20,000 to 10 startups and seed funding of $80,000 to six startups, for a combined investment of $680,000 through the regionals.

It plans to award an additional $320,000 through a statewide competition, which has been scheduled for May 19.

“The competition will be live-streamed via Zoom,” said Erica Schweyer, Elevate’s vice president of marketing and communications, in an email.

Madison Howard (research assistant) and Melanie Watson (founder, CTO) of Blaire Biomedical working on a portable blood-testing device.

“The $320,000 will be awarded to five companies. Two companies will receive $100K investments and three companies will receive $40K investments.”

Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures is a statewide nonprofit investment and entrepreneurship development and advocacy group that manages the Indiana Angel Network Fund and the Indiana Seed Fund.

It started the Elevate Nexus program last year to help colleges and universities in the state to initiate investment pitch competitions if they did not already have such contests.

The first of Elevate’s Nexus Regional Pitch Competitions leading to a statewide competition took place last October.

Of 75 applicants, 67 finalists were invited to compete in that contest, which provided the entrepreneurs 10 minutes each to convince a panel of regional judges that their companies would be the most likely to provide the best returns on seed and pre-seed investments.

Pierceton-based CoolCorp Inc. and Warsaw-based Eclipse Orthopaedics were among last year’s regional winners.

Pitch competition programs by organizations such as Elevate Ventures have become more important to the entrepreneurial community as employers across the country have curtailed business to comply with state-imposed COVID-19 restrictions.

The resulting recession has made it more difficult for startups to attract funding from investment groups.

“There is no question that friends and family dollars and angel investors have significantly slowed because of the performance of the public markets,” Chris LaMothe, Elevate’s CEO, said in an email.

“Venture and private equity have shifted their focus to predominately fostering existing portfolio companies to make sure they have the resources they need. There has been a slowdown in investment from private sources,” he said.

“The impact for Elevate Ventures is that because we are a co-investment fund, our investment is slowing. It’s more difficult for entrepreneurs to raise money in today’s environment.”

Elevate does regional pitch competitions twice a year, in February and October. February’s took place in Innovation Park at the University of Notre Dame, in Flagship Enterprise Center at Anderson University and on the Bloomington campus of Ivy Tech Community College.

The other seed funding winner for northern Indiana was South Bend-based CODEinCLASS. The other pre-seed funding winners for the region were Upland-based Allervent, Cedar Lake-based Rabbit Tractors and South Bend-based Lumen Bio.

Cities in 4 Northeast Indiana Counties Listed as Top Micropolitans in Site Selection Magazine

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Business Climate Lands Northeast Indiana Cities on National List

| Input Fort Wayne

June 8, 2020

Investment. New jobs. New construction. That’s what experts measure as they rank the country’s top micropolitans. In 2020, cities in four Northeast Indiana counties made Site Selection Magazine’s annual list. Click here to read Site Selection Magazine’s list (starting on page 108) or click here for an image of the list.

Decatur in Adams County, Huntington in Huntington County, Warsaw in Kosciusko County and Angola in Steuben County were named by Site Selection Magazine in its list of the top micropolitans in the country.

Micropolitan statistical areas, or “micros,” are odd animals, wrote Site Selection Magazine reporter Gary Daughters.

“A micropolitan is a core-based statistical area, in this case a county, whose name derives from it core city of 10,000 to 50,000 residents,” he wrote.

In Northeast Indiana, this designation is an example of the region’s strong competitive business climate. That’s why many Northeast Indiana counties are consistently on the list.

To celebrate this national recognition during National Economic Development Week, we reached out to the economic development leaders in these counties to get their reaction.

Decatur in Adams County

Colton Bickel, executive director for Adams County Economic Development, said Adams County has been experiencing strong momentum and growth, which helped land the county on this nationally-recognized list.

“The Adams County EDC is both humbled and honored to see the City of Decatur be included in Site Selection Magazine’s list of top micropolitans. This designation provides validity to our economic development efforts as we continue to make the City of Decatur a premier location to conduct business. We believe this reinforces what we already know⁠—the City of Decatur’s business environment and quality of life provides tremendous value and puts the community on the map,” said Bickel.

Huntington in Huntington County

For Mark Wickersham, executive director for the Huntington County Economic Development Corporation, he said this is the fifth time in his tenure in Huntington that Site Selection Magazine has recognized its economic development efforts as among the top 100 micropolitan communities in the U.S.

“We’ve all heard that economic development efforts are like a ‘team sport.’ It’s very encouraging to learn that a major publication recognizes our team’s accomplishments. In Huntington County, 2019 was a record year for both capital investment and the number of overall projects in our industrial community in Huntington County. Our community leadership has done a fantastic job positioning us for future success,” said Wickersham.

Warsaw in Kosciusko County

Alan Tio, CEO of the Kosciusko Economic Development Corp., said that since moving into the area a few years ago, he has come to appreciate that Warsaw and Kosciusko County are clearly a unique place to live, learn and earn.

“Warsaw is building on a 100-year legacy as the Orthopedic Capital with city leaders continuing to invest in local amenities that attract people from around the world who contribute to a still-thriving orthopedic industry. We appreciate this recognition of our business and community accomplishments and continue to compete as a destination for talent that can enjoy our lake lifestyle, our amenities, and career opportunities,” said Tio.

Angola in Steuben County

Isaac Lee, executive director of the Steuben County Economic Development Corporation, said Angola has been in the top 10 in this list for the last three years.

“Steuben County EDC is truly excited for Angola and Steuben County that again we have been placed as one of the top micropolitans in the U.S. This is somewhat of a benchmark for us as it ranks hundreds of micropolitans based on investment, new jobs or new construction. This is a direct result of the community and the businesses working together to grow and prosper,” said Lee.

There are 542 micropolitans identified by the White House Office of Management and Budget. In 2017, 8.4% of the U.S. population lived in these micros. Click here to read the full edition of Site Selection Magazine. 

To learn more about the region’s local economic development offices, visit the website. If you have questions about our business development efforts, please contact Senior Vice President of Economic Development and Chief Operating Officer Chad Ruston.

State Launches Fund to Fuel Smart and Advanced Manufacturing Startups

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Investments focused to drive startup innovation in one of Indiana’s key vertical markets

June 2, 2020

Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced this past Friday that the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), in partnership with Elevate Ventures, will launch a $3 million fund focused on smart and advanced manufacturing in Indiana.

Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb. Image credit: AP

Managed by Elevate Ventures, an Indianapolis-based venture development organization, the Smart & Advanced Manufacturing Focus Fund (SAM Fund) will provide investment, entrepreneurial support resources, and thought leadership to manufacturers and manufacturing entrepreneurs seeking to grow new ideas within the manufacturing industry. Elevate Ventures Entrepreneur-in-Residence Mark Gramelspacher said the fund will focus on creating a stronger core economy around manufacturing, and manufacturing innovation to build upon Indiana’s leading position in the world.

Smart manufacturing includes technologies such as 3D printing, data analytics, and augmented reality/virtual reality, while advanced manufacturing uses cutting-edge technology and processes to gain competitive advantages in the market in areas such as safety, quality, productivity and cost. Gramelspacher said many firms in these industries, whether they are startup entrepreneurs or deliberator corporate spin-offs, have new ideas that could improve their position and garner the establishment of near-industry leaders with a platform like the SAM Fund to help bring them forward.

The SAM Fund will help identify and encourage manufacturing entrepreneurs, as well as existing Indiana manufacturers with IP-to-commercialization opportunities to bring those technologies into the marketplace.

“Indiana has very deep manufacturing roots and many firms doing business in our state are recognized globally for their expertise. We’re in a remarkable location in the U.S. and now more than ever, there is a significant opportunity to rethink the supply chain and support a new way of building products in the United States,” said Gramelspacher. “Indiana intends to continue leadership in this area of the economy.”

With initial investments of up to $500,000, the SAM Fund can lead or co-invest in larger financing rounds, which are designed to bring more robust support to help startups with product/market fit, product development, generate sustained early revenue, and attract larger investments, while also stimulating local job growth and creating a return to the investment.

“Indiana has long been known as a manufacturing powerhouse, making safe, reliable and innovative products that help power our world,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger. “With the launch of the SAM Fund, Indiana is poised to build on this reputation, leveraging our thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem to increase the state’s competitiveness in smart manufacturing. Together with our venture development partners at Elevate Ventures, we’re excited to work together with Hoosier manufacturers and startups alike to accelerate their economic recovery and propel long-term advancements and growth in the industry.”

Manufacturing accounts for 27.8% of the total output of Indiana and employs 17.4% of the workforce with over 542,000 jobs. The SAM Fund will build upon this key vertical market by encouraging the launch of smart and advanced manufacturing startups as well as spin-out technologies from Indiana manufacturers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically and rapidly disrupted supply chains globally,” said Chris LaMothe, CEO at Elevate Ventures. “Our state is uniquely positioned to lead the development and growth of smart and advanced manufacturing education, training, innovation and expansion.”

Companies interested in learning more are encouraged to contact Elevate Ventures.

Elevate Ventures Honors Five Statewide Winners

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Elevate Ventures Honors Five Statewide Winners

June 30, 2020

Elevate Ventures has announced the winners of the 2019 Elevate Awards. The five categories and winners are:

  1. 2019 Region of the Year: Startup South Bend-Elkhart

The winner of this award had the highest number of Elevate Ventures deals (21 Fund and Indiana Angel Network Fund only) per capita from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019.

The Startup South Bend-Elkhart partnership nurtures entrepreneurs and emerging and existing businesses into high-performing companies in north-central Indiana. The region saw significant success with five deals in 2019.

  1. 2019 Community Champion of the Year: Marilyn Moran-Townsend, Fort Wayne

This award recognizes an Elevate Ventures regional board member who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to support their region’s entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives.

Leadership by CVC Communications CEO Marilyn Moran-Townsend in the northeast Indiana region has been paramount in making entrepreneurship a priority in the region. Her vision has created a culture of innovation that will provide businesses with a strong foundation moving forward.

Marilyn Moran-Townsend, CEO and co-founder of CVC Communications and regional board member at Elevate Ventures

  1. Largest Financing Round of 2019: Springbuk

The winner of this award is the company that closed the largest funding round in 2019 in which Elevate Ventures participated.

Springbuk began in 2009 by seeking to understand how employers were addressing rising healthcare costs and unhealthy workforces. Elevate started working with Springbuk in 2014 and the company publicly launched its software in 2015. Springbuk has a history of record deals, including a $20 million round of funding in 2018 and a $17 million round of funding in 2019.

  1. 2019 Regional Business of the Year: 3BG Supply

This award recognizes an Indiana business that exhibits current and future positive impact on the community. Each region nominated companies in their respective geographical areas, and Elevate Ventures ultimately chose the winner based on key data points such as annual revenue growth and new hires.

Located in Fort Wayne, 3BG Supply enables customers to browse and order power transmission parts from multiple manufacturers in a matter of seconds. The company joined the Elevate Ventures portfolio in 2017.

  1. 2019 Exit of the Year: Doxly

The last award honors the company that was able to reach the exit milestone. The exit of the year is based on investment return metrics, primarily annualized internal rate of return.

Launched in 2016, Doxly is a legal transaction platform that allows teams to securely collaborate, manage, and accelerate every stage of the deal process. Within just three years, in August 2019, the Indianapolis-based company was acquired by Litera Microsystems, of Chicago.

This year, the awards were presented virtually due to the Kinetic conference cancellation in response to COVID-19. Acceptance speeches from the individual representatives will be published on the Elevate Ventures’ Twitter page @ElevateIN starting at 2 p.m.

Angola startup gets first grant from Investment Fund

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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.”