In 1910, Madam C.J. Walker opened her factory on the near west side of downtown Indianapolis (now the home of Historic Walker Theatre). She would go on to become America’s first self-made female millionaire. To this day, the near westside of downtown Indianapolis remains a vibrant hub of innovation—now anchored by the 16 Tech Innovation District. 

In this episode, we are joined by Emily Krueger, CEO of 16 Tech to talk about the role physical space plays in fostering innovation and community and what the future looks like for the near west side of downtown Indianapolis. 

Emily Krueger is the President and CEO of 16 Tech Innovation District, a 50-acre community in downtown Indianapolis dedicated to world-changing innovation and economic opportunity.

Be sure to check out these great clips from the show:

  • [6:20] Are MBAs necessary for entrepreneurs?
  • ]9:00] Comparisons between politics and entrepreneurship
  • [13:30] Deep dive into what a Chief of Staff does
  • [16:00] What ROI means in the public sector vs private sector
  • [21:25] How universities are working with 16 Tech 
  • [28:10] Science goes farther in Indiana
  • [33:00] 16 Tech sucess stories
  • [43:30] What’s next for 16 Tech

Get IN. is the show focused on the unfolding stories and most extraordinary innovations happening in the heartland today. Get IN. is brought to you by Powderkeg and Elevate Ventures.

In our conversation with Emily, you will learn about:

  • How to weave entrepreneurship into your full-time job
  • The story of Indianapolis’ innovation district
  • Building community with physical spaces

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Episode Transcript

Matt: [00:00:00] From the Crossroads of America in the Hoosier State of Indiana. This is Get IN the podcast focused on the unfolding stories and extraordinary innovations happening right now In the heartland on the show today is Emily Krueger, president and CEO of 16 Tech Innovation District. 

Emily: But the story of 16 Tech is.

Ultimately one about the collaboration that exists in Indianapolis and in Indiana more broadly, and that makes this a place that’s great for entrepreneurship.

Matt: Prior to starting at 16 Tech, Emily was the VP of administration at L D I, one of Indiana’s largest private companies. Prior to that, she worked for former US Senator Richard. Luger in a variety of Capitol Hill and campaign positions. In today’s show, we are going to cover how physical connection can fuel innovation, some of the amazing opportunities for everyone at 16 Tech, how 16 Tech has [00:01:00] impacted its local community, and what’s in the works for the future development of the 16 Tech innovation district.

Emily, we’re so excited to have you on the show today as grateful residents of the 16 Tech Innovation District. Welcome to Get In. Thank you. It’s great to be here. Yeah, we’re really excited to talk all about what’s going on here at 16 Tech. We are recording this in 16 Tech. We have been recording get in every episode right here in 16 Tech.

And I’m eager to hear a little bit more about your backstory, where you grew up, what, how that kind of influenced what you’re doing today. Can you take us back to maybe like your earliest memories of. Innovation, entrepreneurship, and business in your own 

Emily: life? Sure. So I was born in Indianapolis, although I grew up primarily in Pennsylvania.

And my mom’s a social worker by training and my dad’s career has been in marketing and sales for technology companies as tech has evolved over the course of his career. So I find that where I’ve landed today is a pretty interesting intersection of both of my care, my parents’ professional [00:02:00] career paths, and I remember.

One of my dad’s jobs was working for a company that built scanners. And so we got to go to the office and check those out. It took up a whole room. And now I can do on my phone, you know what my, a company that my dad had worked for that’s their product. So do you remember who that was? The company’s name was Scan Graphics.

Scan Graphics? They’re based in Philadelphia. And good title. Yeah, I’ve been very apropo but I think, having seen my dad go through technology bubbles and technology changes and there were at times job losses as a result of that too, I think it gave me some appreciation for the entrepreneurial journey.

And then also watching my mom as a social worker who worked in medical care settings, really instilled in me a desire to do things that benefited people. But combined with this notion of doing things at the cutting edge of technology and entrepreneurship and my careers had a couple chapters to it, as you’ve acknowledged.

I started with my career working on Capitol Hill [00:03:00] and did so as a 23 year old who thought I wanted to change the world and do something international. And after about five years of being on the hill, I looked around and realized all the people whose jobs that I wanted. Were people who were coming up to the hill and they were coming from the private sector.

Interesting. And so for me, that motivated me to go to business school and I got my MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and eventually ended up working for ldi, which is a private company here in Indiana, fourth generation family company. And it’s origins were actually as a manufacturer of, Cardboard boxes.

And the opportunity for LDI existed as postal service and transportation was transitioning from wooden crates. And by the time I joined the company, obviously that was no longer a growth opportunity. The company had sold its initial holding, had invested in distribution businesses, and was effectively going through its third iteration when I joined as the [00:04:00] chief of staff.

And so for me it was a. Super exciting opportunity to be with a company as they were going through a diversification process, so helping to identify acquisition opportunities and be a part of that diligence team, as well as working with the portfolio companies that were of different industries, different sizes, et cetera.

And in many respects, it was like a. MBA finishing school. For me, my, my time with the ldi and it’s a place I could have stayed for a long time and when the opportunity to join 16 Tech presented itself for me, it really combined all of these experiences, it allowed me to get back into a role that was Directly aligned with community benefit, which was something that I had missed from my time in public service, but it allowed me to do something Entrepreneurial 16 Tech is a startup where a nonprofit startup, and I was a second full-time employee hired, and in many respects saw my role as a C O, as like being the co-founder of this organization.

And so it’s [00:05:00] been incredibly rewarding to watch not just our team come to life, but also the physical place come to life. And then for me I get really excited about what we’re doing, not only just to support entrepreneurs, but to lower the barriers to participation in entrepreneurship, which I.

Fundamentally believe in, I’ve inadvertently married my target customer, my customer my, my husband is a serial tech entrepreneur and I have a seven year old stepson who is likely going to be the exact same. And I get really excited about creating those opportunities as well as exposing other people to the types of opportunities that exist.

Through entrepreneurship and so that’s part of what fuels me and some of what I’m eager to dig into today. Oh, us 

Matt: too. I’m curious because it is such a hot topic in the tech, especially in the startup industry. MBAs. I have heard startup founders be like, oh, MBAs, they’re totally useless in a startup environment.

I have heard founders be like, [00:06:00] I just did my first startup and I’m gonna go get my MBA before doing my next one, because I feel like there’s so much I don’t know and missed out on. And so I feel like it can be a polarizing topic. And I’m curious what you learned when you got your mba. Were there a couple of like key lessons that you learned that you’re now applying at 16 Tech?

Emily: Warning, classic MBA answer. It depends. So it was a fabulous experience for me because I was coming from the political arena and I I did the full-time MBA program and I was fully immersed in it, and I had an incredible experience at Kellogg, made wonderful friendships. The social, the networking was just as much a part of what I was seeking at that stage of life as it was the additional professional experiences and skillset.

And but I’ve encouraged a lot of people to look at part-time MBA programs. Because I don’t think there’s any other program that’s as relevant and gives you the opportunities to apply on a daily basis what it is you’re learning in the classroom. And as a non-traditional. Student. That’s what I was considered coming from [00:07:00] the political arena.

Candidly, it was hard because I didn’t have a basis of knowledge oftentimes to apply to my mba. So there’s a part of me that recognizes that my MBA experience was a rather academic experience and a part of me that wishes I could go back and do it again Now because I’ve got such a. A stronger foundation and knowledge to build upon, but it was really pivotal for me at the time, and I think it can be a real opportunity for others as well.

Having married a tech entrepreneur, I’ve realized I’m not one I’m exist to support entrepreneurs and you guys need help at times. I dunno what you’re talking about. I’m looking at you to not help. I get really excited about being around people who have strong visions. Yeah.

But then helping to enact that. And so I don’t know if you need an MBA to go to, to pursue a tech, career and to be an entrepreneur. I. What I find with a lot of entrepreneurs is you can’t stop them from doing things. And for me, the MBA experience was [00:08:00] something that I felt like I needed to be able to move forward in my career. And so I just recognize that in that, entrepreneur dna you may not need an MBA to be successful, but it was foundational for me. 

Toph: I got a thousand questions now that have come up moving forward from that. I wanna circle backwards real quick.

Sure. Were there anything, is there anything today that you look back in the political experience, so you were in, in that world for five years. Was there anything that, that you learned in the political world that’s quote unquote, it’s just the same as entrepreneurism or? Or or a dynamic that, wow, that just wouldn’t exist in one world or the other.

Like any shocking things that you look back and you’re just like, these are two different worlds and this is a big reason why, 

Matt: or, yeah. For those that the West Wing is like the closest w that I’ve ever been to. The political sphere. Yeah. 

Toph: And like working for Richard Luer, right? I can’t remember what his background was, but I don’t know where he, was he a political.

Personal through his career? Was he in business? I’m not sure, but I’m just curious if there’s any fun stories that, that you can share or correlations? 

Emily: What I’ve loved is the ability to translate between [00:09:00] sectors and I think that translating between industries, being able to bring the language of business to the political arena and vice versa as part of what’s just fueled me inherently.

There are, there were definitely times in the political arena where. You the roi, the decision making is totally different than it is in a business setting. What’s deemed as risky I is very different because it’s oftentimes measured in reputational risk rather than in financial risk. Say something bad.

So the, the thought process, the decision making process is oftentimes very different. One of the things that when I look back on and is a way that I’ve demonstrated some entrepreneurship in my own career and trajectory, even in the political arena, is most of the jobs that I’ve had, Are ones that no one had before me.

And I usually wrote my own job description. And that happened first in the luer arena as well. And it happened when I was in business school. I wrote my own job [00:10:00] description for the two internships that I had. One of those was with the Chicago Climate Exchange, and this was the summer of 2009 when cap and trade legislation was being debated on.

The hill and I was working for what would’ve been the premier trading platform for climate, products, financial products during that summer. And they’d never had an MBA intern before. And I saw that opportunity. I. I pitched them on it and I spent that summer learning from them. That’s, wow, that’s awesome.

Yeah, and I did the same, also working for Baxter a large company, but as a sustainability project, an intern there. So I always 

Toph: tell that real quick. Hang on. How did you get these awesome opportunities, right? These are like really different opp opportunities in very different, like portions of the world.

How did you get these opportunities? 

Emily: I’ve always been someone who’s been motivated by learning, and I really like having an impact on places and organizations and people. I would not be good in a job where I had to [00:11:00] do the same thing over and over again. And that’s probably the tendency that I share most with a traditional entrepreneur.

But I also know that I’m not as big of a risk taker as many entrepreneurs and I like I’ve just always sought out large problems and wanted to be a part of the solution for them. And You. Even going back in terms of my academic career, I spent three years as a chemistry major.

I dropped my chemistry major as a junior. That’s probably one of the secrets I don’t share, but you’ve managed to pull outta me during this podcast. And the reason was I was, Sitting in a lecture hall and in a physical chemistry class, and I can, in my mind’s eye, I can go back and find myself in that lecture room.

And I recall the professor describing how to calculate the velocity of a particle as it hit the sides of an imaginary box. And I thought, I’m done. Me too. I’m done. This doesn’t a. How is, the only path that I saw forward for me at that point was being a professor or a [00:12:00] researcher. And there’s some incredible serendipity in the fact that now I’m in an environment where, r and d is happening on a daily basis in 16 tech.

And I think if I’d had exposure to the types of job opportunities and career paths that would’ve been possible with that, where might I have ended up? But so I’ve just always. Been a variety junkie ever since I was little. I love to read and learn, and so this is a great environment for me because we’re growing as an organization, but on a daily basis, I’m getting to interact with startups in the life sciences, hard tech, b2b SaaS, social impact university researchers who are prefer, pursuing commercialization opportunities 

Toph: and assistant deputy secretaries, is 

Emily: it?

That’s right. Yes. Yeah. And all of that’s happening here at 


Matt: Tech. Yeah. That’s really cool. You mentioned chief of staff was one of the first roles that you had in the private sector that is a position that I’ve seen just take off in particular in the tech and startup space, high-growth tech company space.

Can you talk a little [00:13:00] bit about what a chief of staff does and what that position is? 

Emily: I love that role, and that’s one of the roles that I wrote my own job description for, and interestingly I was approached for this position because of someone who knew that I had worked in the political arena. And so they asked me, LDI is looking for a chief of staff. Do you have any idea what this role is or could be? And I thought, I’ve got this. And I was very fortunate to have learned from a variety of people in the political arena. And one of those was Luger’s chief of staff. And so for me, the chief of staff role, very early in my career.

Was a way to allow me a seat at the table to watch how decisions were made and to be the person who then helped carry those decisions out and implement them. And I loved that. I really saw that role as being the right hand to the ceo. It is, it’s a huge role. And being the person that was responsible for helping make.

The things happen that, that they, the decisions that they had made and the risks that were, they were willing to take. And so [00:14:00] I find that it’s a really powerful role. It can be a great opportunity for someone who’s trying to figure out what functional area do I wanna be in, and maybe they’re not ready to make a decision yet.

And you get some wide exposure to the organization and I think. As a chief of staff and someone who has counseled others, you wanna make sure that whoever you’re working for has a really good admin because you don’t wanna end up becoming a glorified admin. But if you’re working with the right executive and you help that person get the right resources around him or her, it’s an incredibly powerful role and it allows you to have a seat at the table and.

While in the Luer Arena, I was not the chief of staff, I was a political fund designee, so I did fundraising for Luer out in Maryland, DC and Virginia for political action committees and individual donors. And so that was again, a moment where I’m in my early twenties. A seat at the table in, in very, in rooms with foreign diplomats, CEOs, et cetera.

[00:15:00] And I love that. And I, I, no one was asking for my opinion, but I was soaking up every single minute of it. And then the chief of staff role, I think, really allows that for people. 

Nate: What else did you learn? From your time in government that now directly impacts the work you’re doing at 16 Tech.

Emily: What’s What’s helpful for me in 16 Tech is being able to communicate an ROI to our public sector investors. And we have received significant funding from the city of Indianapolis, from the state of Indiana, and I think it’s really important that we’re able to recognize and share with them what. Return they’re seeing on their investment.

So I have a sense having worked in the political arena of the types of wins that they’re looking for, and that helps me know how to connect what’s happening here at 16 Tech to their goals and ambitions. Of the companies that are located in 16 Tech right now, we have at least four that have relocated from out of state.

And these are smaller companies, and they’re not the ones that yield the large headlines, right? [00:16:00] Because they’re not investing significant CapEx or bringing significant jobs on day one. But these are fundamentally the types of companies that we want here and that are gonna be growing our ecosystem and have the potential to make significant investment in the future.

And so helping to connect those stories in terms of what we’re doing and how that might. It could matter. And what it means for our elected officials I think is part of what I can bring to this role in a way that’s really compelling. Can 

Matt: you tell us a little bit about the story of 16 Tech itself? I know you have so many stories about the amazing companies that are here.

But I feel like the story of 16 Tech that I’ve heard is just fascinating how it came to be. And I know, I don’t even know the whole story. It’s 

Emily: a long one. And and so it, it truly when I first joined 16 Tech, I was surprised because my first couple months people kept showing up and handing me versions of plans that they had been a part of going back decades.

Wow. So the, that’s awesome. The area that 16 Tech resides on. Historically, and [00:17:00] still today is the site of the city of Indianapolis water infrastructure. So there were some buildings here, but not a lot, and people were not encouraged. The only reason to come was to pay your water bill when this building where we’re doing the podcast was at the time the headquarters of the Indianapolis Water Company.

And it’s important to recognize that geography because fundamentally it’s what has made the site expensive to develop and what’s also taken it a fair amount of time in order to get to a place where we’re able to see and experience the growth and momentum that we have today. But the story of 16 Tech is.

Ultimately one about the collaboration that exists in Indianapolis and in Indiana more broadly, and that makes this a place that’s great for entrepreneurship, not because entrepreneurs need safety nets, but because they need environments in which the risks that they’re going to take ideally are minimized, or the friction in order to grow their companies is reduced.

And that’s ultimately what our stakeholders came together and said. We [00:18:00] need a clear destination for innovation and entrepreneurship in Indianapolis. And this land is the largest undeveloped land closest to downtown. So it was the perfect spot for it. And it’s also the perfect spot because of some of the research assets, the corporate assets that are adjacent, a recognition that.

What’s happening right now is o oftentimes the tech enablement of the life sciences and advanced manufacturing industries, and we’re also doing this in a neighborhood which has a strong history and culture of innovation. Madame CJ Walker, who is the first self-made female millionaire in our country, her manufacturing facility was located in the same neighborhood in which 16 Tech exists.

So there’s a lot that’s really. Neat about why this place and also the opportunity to exist. But it took a long time. And one of those lessons was there was no organization that was dedicated to overseeing the development of the innovation district. So our community came together and said, we’re gonna do this.[00:19:00] 

But then when you don’t have an entity that has resources, including, capital and people. Things don’t happen. And so it was really the leadership of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and in 2015 came together and said, This still matters. And in order to do this, we’ve gotta get a, an entity in place that’s able to lead this.

And that’s when 16 Tech Community Corporation was birthed. So one of the odd things being a part of 16 Tech is that people often have 20 plus years of history in their mind. But as an organization, we’ve just got five years of operations and When I joined as the coo, I knew we had a credibility gap to close.

And we’ve been sprinting like hell these last five years to close that gap. And we did so in the midst of extraordinary circumstances during the pandemic. And I’ve referenced the three buildings that we have open, but. There’s over 90 companies working in 16 tech, over 700 people who are calling this home.

We now have [00:20:00] shovel-ready access to nine remaining development parcels. And, we’re ready to go. And not only are we ready to go, but there are some really exciting things happening in our community that are just gonna catapult this. And a big one is what’s happening at IU and what’s happening at Purdue in Indianapolis, and what is happening with Purdue and iu.

I think we all know they’re decoupling. Yeah. They’re realigning and I think that this is great. They’re, it’s really exciting, also going back in, in weird ways why this opportunity is exciting for me, Senator Luger, who is such a defining figure in my career.

I U P U I was formed during his mayoral administration. Yep. And it was a recognition that you can’t have a great city without a great university. And so I U P U I was a response to that community need for a great university, and it served its purpose, but it’s time to let both universities pursue their independent visions in Indianapolis.

And[00:21:00] 16 tech is the, Land that’s closest to them. It’s the play box. It’s the sandbox for IU and Purdue for their faculty researchers as well as for their students. And you need spaces outside of the university campus environment in order to create exposure to industry that helps keep. Students here and recognize, helps ’em recognize that indy’s a place where they can start their career.

And it also creates the opportunities for faculty who are increasingly attracted to universities because of the opportunities to commercialize their ideas. It gives them the opportunity to do that in settings like 16 Tech. 

Matt: That resonates with me so much. Cause I, I went to both Purdue and IU in West Sofia in Bloomington.

And I was learning so much, not just in the classroom but even more so off campus. I was working as a CAD detail, computer automated design detailer at in Lafayette across the river from West Lafayette when I was at Purdue. And. When I was at iu I was starting a company and [00:22:00] so I needed to be out outside the university cuz universities don’t make great customers all the time when you’re getting a startup off the ground and it’s only one customer.

I love that that is a lens through which to look at 16 Tech and I don’t think about it that much when I’m here because we’re usually like hosting events in the 16 tech area or we’re in our offices. Heads down building stuff. And it’s really cool to think about that as like another lens through which to look at this entire area of just bringing those universities in.

And I’ve seen Notre Dame here. I’ve seen. Like more universities, ball state here, there, there is more than even just Purdue and iu. 

Emily: What you’re highlighting is two of the distinguishing features of the 16 Tech Innovation district. They’re more than a hundred innovation districts around the world.

What we’re doing is not unique, but the. The industry strengths, the geography, the corporate stakeholders, the university partners that are here are, yeah, that’s what makes our ecosystem truly unique. That’s what offers different opportunities than you’re gonna find in other [00:23:00] markets. And so two, two things.

One, we’re building from the ground up. I talked about that already. Because this land has historically been the side of the city’s water infrastructure. Most innovation districts start with underutilized university real estate assets. And what that also signals is the second thing that really distinguishes 16 tech.

We are a playground for multiple universities. Typically, an innovation district is led by a single university, and it becomes the place to interact with them. And we have six universities that have a presence in 16 Tech. So 16 tech is also becoming a place where our universities. Can collaborate together.

A great example of that is the analytics IEN initiative that’s housed here and brings together iu, Notre Dame and Purdue. Our three tier one research universities are here in 16 tech collaborating together on data analytics projects and resources that are bringing together some of our top corporations across the state as well.

And so we’re really excited by [00:24:00] that. We had an interesting moment in the evolution of 16 Tech where in 2019 as we were designing this building in which we’re sitting in right now, we got together a bunch of universities and colleges from across the state, and we pitched them on a university commons.

We thought that would be a great idea. Let’s make a one stop shop where you can all be here and we’ll put all your, flags out around the hallways, et cetera. And what we learned through that meeting was They were all excited about being at 16 Tech. They were all excited about conversations where they could come to be together, but they didn’t wanna do the same thing, right?

And it’s interesting, going back to some of the differences between the political sector and public sector and the private sector and what’s happening in IU and Purdue. We were trying to force them to do the same thing, right? And instead what we’ve created is an environment where today we have six universities that are here and they’re engaging with 16 tech in different ways.

And those align with their unique [00:25:00] capabilities, their own strategies, and their own ambitions. And so we’re just really excited to see what that continues to mean for 16 tech. We sit at this intersection of the hard tech corridor. Which the president of Purdue University has coined and extends from West Lafayette down to Indianapolis, and we also sit at right at the intersection of the hard tech corridor with the Cytech corridor that IU has also indicated as part of its vision.

And all of that is. In 16 Tech, and we’re also adjacent to one of the largest excuse me, actually, the largest hospital construction project in the country. The IU Health District that’s in the works is gonna be really exciting. And IU School of Medicine, the largest medical school in the country, all of these things are right here, and 16 Tech is the place where we can bring people together.

Toph: I B R I is across the parking lot. What, talk about that as well. 

Emily: How does that tie in? Yeah, the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute is one of the anchors [00:26:00] in 16 tech, and in many respects, the need for the I B R I is what drove the need for 16 tech. I find it really compelling that. Our two of our buildings are anchored by startups themselves, the I B R I, as well as EMC Squared.

And so that’s also part of what, at the end of the day, I think is gonna make the 16 tech story really compelling, is it’s not only a place for innovators, but it’s been developed and anchored by innovators. And we’ve done that in different industries and in different sectors. And the I B R I. Paved the way for that.

The I B R I is effectively a translational research institute and, bottom line, what that means is they take the research and they figure out how to apply it at the bedside. And so they started off being focused on diabetes, which made a ton of sense because of the strength that we have with Eli Lilly being one of our corporate stakeholders in Indiana.

But they’ve expanded from that and they are now doing incredible things in pediatric [00:27:00] oncology. They’re at the forefront of Alzheimer’s research and they’ve effectively created a place and through the I B R I in many respects is like 16 Tech. We’re Switzerland, right? So they’ve got corporate funded research, they’ve got the university funded research, and.

In evolving their own business model. They’ve also allowed startups in the life sciences to use the wet lab space that they have excess capacity for. And so there’s 13 companies that are incubating right now at the I B R I. They’re also in the process of opening a drug discovery lab as well. And what’s really neat, we talk so much about how the office has changed as a result of covid, but r and d has changed too.

It’s. Distributed. And so three of those 13 life sciences startup companies in the I B R I are from out of state. And they relocated in Indiana because a science goes farther here. It’s a lot. What do you mean by that? So you try getting a five by five lab bench in Boston, in Cambridge [00:28:00] or in the Bay Area.

And compare it to quick 

Toph: restate that, make sure I heard you correctly. So five out of 13 startups in I B R I three out of the 1303, I’m sorry, three out of the 13. It’s a big percentage. Are from out of state that relocated here because they can do what again? The science 

Emily: goes farther. You can, the science 

Toph: goes farther.

Emily: You heard it here first. That’s really interesting. But I mean, but there’s something, I’m really the new one liner I’m gonna use. Yeah. I’m really intentional in saying that because I think we all know that the cost of living here is better. But. What that also means is the runway that you have as a startup goes farther.

Yeah. And that really means a lot when you’re in these capital intensive industries. Totally. Like the life sciences and the hard tech. And when you don’t have to be at the lab every single day. It means you can access the lab almost like you access a gym membership. And so the way that the I B R I has used the additional lab space to provide incubator space for life sciences startups, is really [00:29:00] exciting and it means that there are companies from the coast who are calling because they want to be here and maybe they just wanna be here for a period of time.

That’s okay. Yeah, sure. But at the end of the day, it’s a really interesting model in terms of how, 

Toph: have you ever heard ’em have you ever heard ’em quantify that Three x four X. Have you heard? I’ve 


Emily: but I do know one of the companies that’s at the I B R I A, depo Therapeutics Karen, wooster, who is the c e o, and she told me I believe that a lab bench, a five by five lab bench in Cambridge would cost about $7,500 a month. The I B R I, it’s about 750 bucks. Holy cow. So that’s the difference. 

Matt: Yeah. Wow. That’s amazing. I just got chills. Yeah. That’s amazing. Let’s go. It sounds very similar to some of the hard tech stuff that I’ve learned about here in 16 Tech.

I know glass Board whose studio we’re using right now. Thank you. Glass Board. Yes. They were saying the same thing that all of these coastal companies that pre pandemic, they had their in own in-house r and d and their own people on staff. All those people moved around the country during the pandemic and they don’t have people on [00:30:00] site anymore.

That’s hard with hard tech, when you don’t have your employees to be able to like, come in and quickly, design something, prototype something. And so that business that’s headquartered here at 16 Tech gets a lot of their business because these big companies are like we don’t even have the capacity.

To do that anymore. Can you help us? And I know they’re growing 

Emily: like crazy. Yeah. There’s a lot of really interesting things that are converging in this conversation and that comment one, physical places still matter. Yeah. And Indiana has strengths in life sciences and manufacturing.

This is the most ca manufacturing intensive state in the nation. So we need places. To build physical products and but we can do that in distributed ways. And one of the other trends that I find really fascinating is it’s never been easier to prototype a product than it is today. We’re sitting adjacent to our maker space where we’ve got lots of 3D printers, electronic benches, you name it.

What that means is the equipment that companies previously had to [00:31:00] invest in order to create competitive advantages for their product, innovations no longer. Creates the competitive advantage when you’ve got 3D printers and easy ways to prototype products. So what that means is we can create shared environments where you can have competitors that are using the same equipment and resources because the intellectual property.

And what makes them competitive is not in the equipment itself, it’s in what they’re doing with it. And so that’s fundamentally part of what we’re creating here is access to shared resources for these highly intensive. A capital highly capital intensive industries to help de-risk that entrepreneurial journey for those startups and the life sciences and manufacturing.

And, sorry, I’m 

Toph: getting all excited. I wanna go out next, start in the company or, so 

Matt: we can go build something after this. 

Nate: Let’s get in 

Matt: there in the maker space. A quick break from our normal programming. I have Erica Schwer, COO from Elevate Ventures here in the studio today. [00:32:00] Erica, thanks for being here.

Yeah, thanks for having me. And you’re gonna tell us a little bit about this Rally innovation conference that’s coming up? 

Emily: Yep. So it’s the largest cross-sector innovation conference in the world. We’re gonna feature six innovation studios, so think Hard Tech software, sports tech, ag, and food, healthcare and entrepreneurship’s gonna kinda be our catchall.

Matt: love that. So tell me what is. Who’s it for? 

Emily: Yeah, it’s for innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, honestly, anybody probably listening to this podcast. 

Matt: And it’s gonna be a multi-day thing that’s happening multi-day in downtown Indianapolis. Yep. People coming in from all over the country and maybe even all over the world to be here.

That’s our 

Emily: hope. Yep. And the dates are actually August 

Matt: 29th to the 31st. Perfect. And if people want to find out more information about speakers, tickets, things like that, where can they go? Yeah, 

Emily: so they just go to rally and sign up for communications, and they can also 

Matt: get their tickets. I love it.

You heard it here, rally We’ll see you there. I was gonna say, do you have any 

Nate: success stories of companies like using the Makerspace and growing and just any of those stories from actual entrepreneurs that are in 16 [00:33:00] Tech right now 

Emily: growing their business? Is Sure. Our first graduation in 16 Tech was actually one of our members here in the Makerspace, and it was the first company that moved into Machyne when it opened in spring of 2021.

You’ve heard me talk about the importance of having different industries companies of different sizes, et cetera. Ironically, our first graduation was a traditional artist, so Caitlin who is the CEO of Cream Concrete, she had her business here and within a year, the business totally exploded.

She bought a building that is adjacent to 16 Tech and continues to be a member here and use the equipment. So we, we do have some graduation stories. What does 

Nate: she make the graduation? Calling it a 

Emily: graduation guy. That’s amazing. Yeah. But then, there’s really cool things that are happening here.

We were talking about hard tech. So one of the companies that has located from out-of-state, Cambridge, actually over at EMC Squared, is named 24 M. They’re a spinout from M I t. [00:34:00] Wow. TW Volkswagen owns 25% of that company. They’re located here in 16 Tech, doing really cool battery research. Our newest member of the Machine Maker Space is a company named Rogue ai.

It’s an ag tech company and they’re building 700 pound drones. Right here that they’re using to help distribute fertilizer, et cetera, more efficiently and effectively. There are such cool things that are happening here. One of the members in our maker space is someone who is helping to.

Who is effectively creating a product that allows for small batch making of pills. If you have something that’s a highly specialized medicine and you need just a couple of them that has veterinary uses a whole bunch of applications. We’ve got a spin out from, I use chemistry department.

Chris Benson is the CEO of Halo four, which is a company also located here in our maker’s. Base, they have a incredibly powerful fluorescent, which has a whole bunch of applications [00:35:00] from scar tissue removal, et cetera. So we’ve got companies that are doing all sorts of really cool things here. And we do, we celebrate those successes when even that means they have to leave us.

Matt: I would love to do like an actual graduation ceremony sometime at a powderkeg event. Like anytime you wanna bring up done and we can showcase like, hey, And by the way, we’re gonna graduate someone and we can put the mortar boards out in the crowd and throw them up and graduate them from the 

Emily: makerspace.

And I’ll give a shout out to Glass Board because we’re using their podcast studio here in our makerspace and they were one of the early believers in adopters of 16 tech. Yeah. They needed more space than we had the ability to service them with, so they. Bought a building that was close by, and that’s where they’ve located their company, but they’ve maintained this space here and the membership here because, they’re a growing product engineering team.

There is equipment that it does not make financial sense Yeah. For them to buy. It’s too expensive. Yeah. And they don’t use it all the time, but they. Do use it [00:36:00] frequently enough that it makes sense for them to have this presence here. So that’s another way that having these shared resources enables startup companies that we might not have the perfect spot for them, but there’s a reason for them to have a membership here to access some of the resources that might not make stage at, that might not make sense for them at that stage of their growth.

One of the 

Matt: things I love about 16 Tech is just how much. The organization has engaged the surrounding community and businesses and people and homes that were here in the neighborhood long before 16 Tech. Can you talk a little bit about some of those programs that you’re currently doing and just how you’ve brought in?

Look at all the people in the food space out in the amp. Yeah. There, there’s just so much there. 

Emily: We’re located in the Riverside neighborhood, which is one of the neighborhoods of the near Northwest of Indianapolis. And we also support the neighborhoods of the near west Hawthorne Ville.

We care string town as well as the flair homes and ransom place neighborhoods. So it’s roughly 40,000 [00:37:00] residents that make up those geographies. 76% of whom are persons of color. And were it not for their support. 16 Tech Community Corporation would not exist. And so the engagement with our neighbors began before 16 Tech was formed as an organization.

And so our commitment to them is deep and we would not exist without them. And so we have worked very intentionally. Not just to build a physical infrastructure for vertical development in the district for lab buildings, et cetera, but to create a social infrastructure which is also welcoming and inclusive to those who are closest to us.

And that’s why our mission is so intertwined with supporting entrepreneurs, but also lowering the barriers to participation to the innovation economy. So what that means is we have scholarships and discounted memberships to all of our spaces for residents in the neighborhoods around 16 Tech. We have a community investment fund, leases in the district, 10 cents per square foot, goes to a [00:38:00] community investment fund.

We’re now getting ready for our fifth cycle, and we’ve awarded more than $1.5 million of grants in the neighborhoods around 16 tech. Those grants are four projects that benefit our residents, and they are reviewed by a committee that is made up of a majority of residents, and each grant application has to demonstrate that it has resident support to be a part of it.

We have a street team that we engage, so roughly six individuals that we pay six months out of the year to help us engage with our neighbors. We have engaged neighbors in design projects for public infrastructure and public spaces. And we also then in the bringing online the amenities for the district, the food and drink and social spaces very intentionally cultivated a mix of tenants in those spaces that have direct connections to the neighborhoods around 16 tech.

So the amp food and event Hall. Was really meant to be an answer initially to our [00:39:00] startups who wanted to know where are my employees going to eat? Sure. Because our, cluster truck can only go so far here. And and we opened a food hall at a time not only when we were coming out of a pandemic and people were wondering what that meant for public spaces, but also pretty early in our.

Development as a physical place. And the reason we did that is to make a very clear statement that this place is for you. And it, by having people come to 16 tech for food, for drink, for fellowship, it creates a sense of belonging. And so of the roughly 20 food and retail tenants that we have in the amp, a hundred percent are independent, owned, and local.

65% are female and minority owned or operated. 50% are new business concepts, and roughly five of them have direct connections to the neighborhoods around 16 tech. So whether it’s Chef Tiana, whether it’s Monique and Kara Hawkins with Wings and Greens, whether it’s Corey, the food architect, [00:40:00] people are coming because there’s a relationship that exists.

An architect, the food architect. Yes. What is this? You gotta go try the sea Mos. Oh yes. 

Matt: Yeah, Rick and our team has that every day. He loves the sea moss. The sea moss is a 

Emily: great, I’m little too timid to try. Yes. No, the sea mos. The sea moss is great. And then Corey will also make some specialties usually some vegetarian or vegan dishes that if you can catch them, his soups are also fabulous as well.

But, Karen, Monique Hawkins Kara’s grandfather was the first person to open a liquor store on Indiana Avenue. Their family has 90 years of history in this neighborhood. Amazing. And this is just such a great example of how we live out our mission, right? Our target customer is that innovation driven entrepreneur.

There are wonderful programs and resources for your more retail entrepreneurs, but we really exist. To drive that, venture backable, scalable, innovation driven enterprise, but we exist to support entrepreneurship. And so we’ve made sure that in bringing [00:41:00] on our food tenants, that we are supporting food entrepreneurs and not just any food entrepreneur.

Also, the ones that have direct connections to our neighborhoods are on 16 tech. And so for us, part of what that shows is our commitment to creating opportunities for inspiration here. Meaning if you come to 16 Tech for Food and Drink, Maybe you learn about a career in advanced manufacturing or if you get exposed to hard tech and it can open your eyes to the possibilities and you see yourself someplace maybe you didn’t think was possible to see yourself.

And we’ve been really intentional in the design of our spaces in order to create those opportunities. And it’s part of what really motivates me personally and excites me. About not just what we’re doing, but how we go about doing it 

Matt: here. Can you talk a little bit, it’s almost time for the lightning round, but can you talk a little bit about what’s next for 16 Tech?

What are you excited about? 

Emily: We’ve really come out of a phase where we were focused on the public [00:42:00] infrastructure. These first five years, a lot of what happened at 16 Tech was underground, and so what excites me the most as we move forward is Moving very clearly into this programmatic phase as 16 tech we definitely are responsible for developing spaces and bringing spaces to the market.

But we exist to make sure that there is value that goes beyond the physical space. And so that move into programmatic work, having a direct role in helping to support the innovation ecosystem, not just through the delivery of space, but through programs, partnerships, education, networking events.

I, I’m really excited about that. So you can expect to see a lot more from us in terms of events, et cetera. But because of the work that we’ve done on the public infrastructure, you. Can also expect to see a lot more buildings coming out of the ground. And as I mentioned, we have nine remaining development parcels.

We have three parcels that are developed today. And so we’ve got a runway of probably five to seven years in front [00:43:00] of us where there’s gonna be significant physical development in the district. And we’re really excited about what that’s gonna mean for the support of our startup 

Matt: ecosystem. US two.

US two. Gosh, I could talk to you probably another six hours about this, but I think we only have time for three more questions and they are our lightning 


Emily: questions. Is this like Brene Brown Lightning round? 

Matt: Yeah. Except it’s Nate Spangle. 

Emily: She always gave the questions to her guests in advance.

That’s not how 

Matt: Nate Spangle. 

Emily: I know I’ll do my best. I am not made for Jeopardy. My mind is we 

Toph: love the authenticity. 

Nate: Yes. Soak. Quick responses. First thing that comes to your top of your head. Sure. All right. Three questions. Here’s the lightning round. All right, so outside of the amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem, what is Indiana known for?

Emily: Ooh. Actually the first thing that came to my mind was the Trail Network, which is probably not something that a lot of people recognize, but this is a really amazing city to bike in. And we also sit at the [00:44:00] intersection of a lot of that. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is a wonderful resource, and so that’s something that I really enjoy about our community that I don’t.

think is widely appreciated, but it’s something that’s front of mind for me. Are you a cyclist? I love to ride my bike. Yeah. Yes, we do. Team 

Matt: walks back here by the White River, just behind the office. And part of why we picked the office that we did is that it’s facing the White River. Yes. That’s great.

We go out there and walk. Any nice day we get. 

Nate: I am a, I’m an aspiring cyclist, so I definitely resonate with your 

Matt: Hey, I is an Iron Man next weekend. 

Toph: Yeah. Woo. Now hang on Nate. If I’m not mistaken I love that answer, Amway. That’s awesome. I think this date has a very intentional push, right?

That no Hoosier lives or Governor Holcomb is behind this whole push that no Hoosier lives more than six miles from a trail. I think 

Matt: it is. I think that might have been Ballard. I’m 

Toph: talking him statewide though. Statewide. Really? Statewide. I’m pretty, he said something, the state of the state address that one of the goals initiatives statewide isn’t no Hoosier.

Oh wow. I may have the mileage slightly off. Yeah. But it [00:45:00] was really, that’s cool. Awesome, 

Emily: cool. It’s truly amazing. My sister lives in Manhattan and she’s been out there for more than 15 years. Riverside Park is larger than Central Park. It is the third largest municipal park in the country.

And it’s such an underutilized r. Resource and asset. It’s beautiful. You gotta put that in the trivia. Yes. And it’s true. There, there is a lot here that can really be accessed through the trail network. Which is pretty neat. 

Nate: That’s amazing to, you’re gonna have to add that too.

Matt: Yeah. This is the least lightning round. 

Emily: Sorry. 

Nate: What’ll do it back up? Lightning round. What 

Toph: is, it’s now two and a half hours later. So Emily, our last question is, 

Nate: no, what is a hidden gem in Indiana?

Emily: The Albanese gummy shop in northern Michigan. Whoa. It’s not in Indiana. I don’t wait. When I said, I say it’s northern Michigan in northern Indiana, right at the border between Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. Yes. Albanese Candy shop. We gotta check that out. They essentially make, sounds like an onsite all of the gummy bears in the world.

What? Spectacular. Wow. It’s [00:46:00] amazing. Hang on, see it again. The what? Albanese Yes. But Albanese is the what? Gummy bear in the world. I believe they’re like the largest manufacturer of gummy bears. Hell yeah. Let’s go. Come on. And the way that you can tell whether you’re eating a gummy bear from Indiana is that the belly has an A on it.

So look at the belly. That’s the gift. Check the belly. That’s a tell. Check the belly. Belly. All 

Nate: right, there we go. And final question, who is someone that we need to keep on our radar? Someone who is doing big 

Matt: things. 

Emily: First person who comes to mind. There are so many people in 16 Tech who are doing really cool things, but I would offer Gsh with Converse site as one of those.

And so this is a, a B2B SaaS company headquartered in 16 Tech. And, part of, one of the trends that’s really fascinating right now is what’s happening with large language models and chat, G P t exposing that and effectively, GNE and his company have a bot that helps with data analytics and supply chain management.

And so I just think he was. [00:47:00] Ahead of this in many respects. And so I think he’s doing some really cool things. I love it. Great. 

Nate: From large language models, healthcare, gummy bears, we covered the entire spectrum. 

Matt: Trifecta. I love it. We covered a lot of ground. Yes. Emily, thank you so much for You’re welcome.

For being on and thank you for everything you’re doing for us 16 Tech and for Indiana. 

Emily: Thanks. We appreciate having Powderkeg here in 16 Tech. We love having to elevate. Team stop by and be a part of what’s happening here as well. And we invite you to continue to consider this as your playground.

Absolutely. Amen. 

Matt: Yes. We love it. Great. Thanks Emily. 

Toph: Congrats to all your success. It’s awesome. Thanks. 

Matt: Thank you. This has been get in a Powderkeg production in partnership with Elevate Ventures, and we wanna hear from you. If you have suggestions for our guest or segment, reach out to Matt or Nate on LinkedIn or on email to discover top tier tech companies outside of Silicon Valley in hubs like Indiana.

Check out our slash newsletter, and to apply for membership to the powderkeg executive community, check out We’ll catch you next time and next week as we continue to help the world get in. Since you just listened to this podcast, you might be thinking about starting one for your company.

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