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Elevate Ventures, regional partnership unveil 3-year deal

October 2, 2017

Four years after launching Elevate Ventures, officials on Monday unveiled what they described as a bigger, better version of the program that offers money and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Elevate Northeast Indiana, as it’s called now, is a three-year partnership between Elevate Ventures and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

Elevate Ventures contributed $1.5 million to the effort, which was announced in a news conference in the lobby of the 1st Source Building. The Regional Partnership raised $1 million more from various local donors.

John Sampson, the Regional Partnership’s president and CEO, said officials learned lessons from the first contract, which lasted from January 2013 to January 2016.

This time, he said, local business leaders will be more engaged because they will be in charge.

A regional board will oversee investment and be chaired by Marilyn Moran-Townsend, CEO and founder of CVC Communications.

Sampson said the previous effort’s advisory board received input from local entrepreneurs and potential investors but was led by Elevate Ventures staff. Communication was an issue at times, he added.

Moran-Townsend brings experienced leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit to the post, he said. She knows what businesses need to get off the ground.

Elevate Northeast Indiana will offer startups more than money. It will provide access to professional resources, business coaching, marketing support and other assistance.

Elevate Ventures defines its mission as creating “sustainable cultures and infrastructure” to support entrepreneurs.

Chris LaMothe, Elevate Ventures’ CEO, hopes his Indianapolis-based organization can keep a spotlight on the state’s startups. That, combined with local leadership, could be the formula for success.

“I’m very encouraged with this partnership,” he said.

Even before extending and expanding the program, Elevate Ventures racked up some wins in its first three years of working with northeast Indiana’s entrepreneurs.

Robert Clark, the program’s entrepreneur-in-residence, provided almost $1 million in services to 51 firms. That assistance increased their revenue by $21 million, or 17 percent, according to a report Clark prepared.

According to his calculations, the program generated $43 million in total economic impact.

Sampson wants aspiring entrepreneurs tinkering in their basements and garages to find out what the program can offer. They don’t have to be in a local co-working space, such as the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, to receive help from Elevate Northeast Indiana, he said.

Moran-Townsend is excited about the prospects of reviving the region’s innovation history, saying in a statement that “we are about to be a hotbed of entrepreneurial success once again.”

Indiana is generally considered business friendly, as compared to other states, because of its tax rates and regulatory environment.

But the state’s efforts to encourage and grow new businesses have historically lagged behind. The respected Kauffman Entrepreneurial Index ranks Indiana 44th of the 50 states.

Among Indiana’s challenges are lack of access to capital, a shortage of regional entrepreneurship networks and the loss of young talented workers to other states.

Elevate Ventures is addressing those shortfalls by creating partnerships — similar to its agreement with the Regional Partnership — in regions throughout the state.

Sampson wants to support startups from the faintest glimmer of an idea through rousing success. And he wants to create an atmosphere where it’s OK to fail and try again, because data show that most startups don’t make it.

“We want to make sure,” he said, “that entrepreneurs can find the help they need and when they need it.”