Commissioners table accelerator funding
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent April 2, 2014 10:03AM
Updated: May 5, 2014 7:53AM
VALPARAISO — The Porter County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday took under advisement a decision to put $200,000 over three years for Tech Foundry, a kick-off for new entrepreneurs.
Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said he hoped to have an answer at commissioners’ April 15 meeting.
“Our problem, of course, is funding,” he said, asking if the county could stretch its portion of the costs over four years.
Kelly Schwedland, entrepreneur-in-residence for Elevate Ventures, said he thought that could be done.
Tech Foundry will be located in Valparaiso and could be up and running by the summer, Schwedland said. Elevate Ventures also will seek $200,000 over three years from the Regional Development Authority, and the Valparaiso Economic Development Commission will put in another $180,000 over that time frame, contingent on the rest of the funding coming.
Once $1 million in local funds can be established over three years — Schwedland said other contributors so far include NIPSCO and 1st Source Bank — the Indiana Economic Development Corp. will throw in another $2 million.
“The genesis of this started around economic development around entrepreneurship,” Schwedland said, adding similar programs are in the Silicone Valley and Chicago, which saw 250 startups last year. Companies coming out of the Chicago program include Groupon; SpotHero, for finding a parking space; and GrubHub, for ordering delivery and takeout food online.
The only other business accelerator in Indiana is in New Albany, which provides support to five startups twice a year, he said.
“Unlike an incubator, it’s not an office space,” he said, adding that, instead, entrepreneurs get 90 days to work with mentors and validate their business model, so it’s ready to present to venture capitalists and other potential backers for seed money.
The initial program here would be for 10 entrepreneurs, with each receiving $15,000 to get their plan going.
“It’s an opportunity to validate their ideas and bring individuals together” to launch new businesses, Schwedland said.
Tech Foundry will bring jobs and economic development back to Porter County, Evans said.
“It fits into the commissioners’ model for helping other communities,” Evans said, noting Valparaiso’s participation.