• Kelly Schwedland | NWIndiana Startup Weekend


    In the last segment, we spoke with Kelly Schwedland about his business background and why he sees Indiana as a fertile location to begin a business. Here we cover one of the projects he is backing to help spread the innovative fire the embodies the entrepreneurial spirit.With Startup Weekend NWIndiana (April 25th-27th) drawing nearer each day, Kelly Schwedland is preparing to put this area on the map. Continue reading to get his thoughts on the events and his involvement in the local entrepreneurial community.


    What are the goals of Startup Weekend NWIndiana?


    Kelly: “Our goal for Startup Weekend is really to partner with some of the local universities to help engage students who have entrepreneurial interests and engage them on how to take your idea and convert it into a business.


    My goal is to see how I can bring more of those dollars out of Indianapolis and get them invested into companies here in northwest Indiana”


    How do all of these separate projects intermingle?


    Kelly: “Startup Front is to engage the entrepreneurial community.  We have done some meetups through that.  This was to help us engage the developers. This helped us coral all of the entrepreneurs to one place.


    Startup Weekend is actually a national movement.  It is a national movement to help people vent their idea before they start their own company.  Things like this are being run in thousands of cities all over the world.  It is a single weekend event.  We participated in the Cincinnati Startup Weekend in spring so that we could see how it was run so we could host one.  We were fortunate enough to be on a team withthe 14 year old who ended up winning the whole thing.  


    It was a really great learning experience for us.  We saw the mistakes that some people were making and we saw the metrics that one needs to focus on to win.


    Elevate Ventures is supportive of all these things, but it is unique because of its resources.  First and foremost is that it has the dollars that help startups grow.  We also work with companies and tell them what they need to do in order to get funded.”


    Thoughts on Development

    Northwest Indiana has the Universities and now it could soon have a booming start up scene.  With these pieces in place northern Indiana could be the next hotbed for innovative companies in the region.  Look at how both Indianapolis and Chicago have evolved over the past 15 years, this may very well be next for northern Indiana.  It won’t be an easy process though.  The startup scene will have to have the dedication of a lot of individuals in order to become a thriving community.  I believe what northwest Indiana has right now is some good groundwork.  

    Right now is an exciting time in northwest Indiana though.  This is the beginning of everything right now.  The start of a startup community.  The ideas happening now can take shape and change a whole region for a long time.  These ideas don’t necessarily have to be the next Google or something huge.  Kelly mentioned in the interview that we need to look for innovation in everything.  This could simply be the changing of a way a process is performed or the just the way we think about things in everyday life.  I believe that this area is ripe with opportunities for both.


    Kelly also provides provides valuable resources for startups on a variety of topics. They can be found by following thislink. Additionally, Mr. Schwedland is working to develop an accelerator program in Valparaiso, with a launch date scheduled for the end of summer.

  • Kickstarter: Local going global

    Kickstarter has always seemed to be a crowd-funding platform that looks out for the small local artists. Recently they helped bolster that reputation by announcing that they will not seek IPO and instead will become designated as a public benefit corporation. This designation cements their place as a company that aims to benefit society instead of focusing only on increasing profits. 

    Kickstarter’s designation as a public benefit corporation is not surprising when you look at how they protect their artists and investors. They limit the risk for both parties by implementing an “All or nothing” approach. Either you raise all the funds needed, or you get nothing. This aspect keeps funders from sinking money into impossible to complete projects. Completing a project on Kickstarter is far from simple. Grindhouse Cafe in Griffith used the platform for a food truck project and Valparaiso local Adam Farster recently used Kickstarter to raise funds for the publication of his own comic book called Humalien. Farster stated, “The real challenge is setting up rewards and letting the campaign play out”. With Kickstarter limiting campaigns to 60 days, the closing days can be very stressful if the final goal isn’t met yet.

    One of the most effective ways for Kickstarter campaigns to garner support is on social media. Adam also leveraged social media heavily in the Humalien campaign. “Most of my backers came from friends of friends that shared my Kickstarter out. Towards the end you see more people jumping on board”, he added. And that makes sense. Not many people are out there browsing Kickstarter for something to buy, but almost everyone is checking social media pretty frequently.

    The social aspect of Kickstarter allows artists and creatives to tap into some of their closest stakeholders: friends and followers in news feeds. And these friends and family can have a huge impact on whether a project attains its funding goal. One share from a local friend can quickly give a project a global reach.

  • SB 101: Economic Unrest?

    The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of Indiana was recently signed into law by Governor Pence. We all know what it is. It has scrutinized and discussed before it was even signed, but what does it mean for Indiana startups and businesses? A number of companies have said they will stop unnecessary travel to Indiana and pull investments from the state because of the RFRA.

    For companies that are considering moving their operations out of Indiana, they don’t have to look far for viable locations. Especially here in Northwest Indiana. Newly elected Illinois Governor Rauner has been quoted as saying he would like to “try and rip the economic guts out of Indiana”. But Illinois and Indiana’s rivalry is nothing new. Indiana’s ‘Stillannoyed’ campaign is barely even a year old now.

    But now the question is: Will businesses begin to relocate?

    I highly doubt that it will be the sole reason for a business moving out of Indiana.

    Indiana should be crafting bills that give businesses reasons to stay and attracting new ones to the state.

    Where I think this could really hurt is when it comes to investments from outside of the state. The black eye that Indiana got from the recent news cycle following the signing of the RFRA was brutal. There was backlash from global companies like Apple and Salesforce. When a company is thinking about investing in Indiana, the recent negative news headlines will unfortunately come to mind. Companies will be asking why they would want to invest in a state that is perceived to be behind the times.

    Instead of introducing and passing bills that create disconnects with segments of the population, Governor Pence should be doing more to make everyone feel welcomed in the Hoosier state. Because if it doesn't welcome everyone, states that border Indiana will definitely point that out and welcome them with open arms. Especially when it comes to businesses and investments.

  • Tech Foundry | Moving Beyond the Lab

    Northwest Indiana Tech Foundry Valparaiso

    Online startups are so common in today’s digital age that more likely fail than succeed. But with the right aid in development and finding investors—and, of course, some money—talented, hardworking professionals can get a good idea off the ground.

    Those are the individuals Kelly Schwedland looked when he established the Tech Foundry, a Valparaiso-based accelerator program that wrapped up this week.

    Schwedland is an entrepreneur who’s worked in the development of many startup companies, some of which grew into great successes. His company Elevate Ventures seeks out promising Indiana startups to connect them with investment and experienced business minds from across the state. The overall goal, according to the Tech Foundry website, is to help establish thriving Indiana companies.

    Kelly Schwedland Tech Foundry
    Kelly Schwedland

    "Today was validating because a lot of the people who had been mentors along the way that had seen the companies two or three months ago. They were surprised that they were the same companies, to see how far they had come," Schwedland remarked regarding the first cohort to move through the program.

    Tech Foundry, the work of a partnership between Elevate Ventures with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, intended to do just that. The program chose six companies for to mentor over a 13-week course, which ended today after beginning in August.

    The six companies cover an array of different service areas. Such as Adjunct Professor Link, which seeks to help qualified educators find teaching positions, and Ananse Health team, who are dedicated to the area of healthcare and caregiving. Additionally, there are start-ups focused on protecting the electronic devices of young school children, one with the aim of helping businesses and non-profits connect and raise money and, finally, a project focused on developing high-altitude balloons, which are used in various areas of research.

    Over the course of the program, all six companies were provided with mentors and investors to find the best way to develop a corporate structure. They were also provided with working space in Valparaiso in a mentoring environment, and most importantly, received some $15k in capital needed to take their first steps.

    Ginny Angert Tech Foundry Ananse Health
    Ginny Angert of Ananse Health

    "The Tech Foundry has been great, Elevate Ventures sponsored this opportunity", said Ginny Angert of Ananse Health, "We had the opportunity to meet with a bunch of different groups. To really have that synergism was exciting. Honestly, one of the best things this was the mentors. They brought in a lot of business and real life experience, and gave us some really great ideas about how to build our product."

    Ron Pulliam, also of Ananse Health, added the "I think one of the large benefits of being in the foundry, which corresponds to our next steps, is that the people we met with were able to tell us how to maneuver our companies to a point that we need to be in order to attract new investment."

    The next steps for these developing companies is move beyond the confines of the program and establish revenue traction in the marketplace.