Julie Heath grew up in the San Francisco Bay area during the tech boom of the 80s & 90s. She then spent over a decade of her career on the east coast. Though she has lived across the country she proudly calls Indianapolis home and is working to continue making Indiana even more supportive for entrepreneurs. 

Julie Heath is the VP of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC.) She began her career in the world of museums and arts helping innovate at The Smithsonian. 

From there she transitioned into the private sector and eventually wound up as one of the first full-time employees at Boardable, an Indianapolis based software company and long time Powderkeg Community member.

She then went on to become the Executive Director at The Speak Easy, Indiana’s first collaborative workspace. She continues to support entrepreneurs in her daily work at the IEDC. 

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

  • [2:30] Where Indiana beats Silicon Valley 
  • [16:15] How to transition from the public sector to the private sector
  • [18:45] What does it take to be in tech? 
  • [22:15] Tips to build meaningful professional relationships. 
  • [31:45] What is Indiana doing to support its entrepreneurs? 
  • [36:30]Where to find entrepreneurship stories from around the state

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 Julie, you will learn about:

  • Actionable tips to transition your career into tech.
  • What the state of Indiana is doing to support entrepreneurs and small businesses.
  • How the Indiana community stacks up against the rest of the world. 

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] From the Crossroads of America in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is Get IN the show focused on the unfolding stories and most extraordinary innovations happening in the heartland today. Today’s guest is Julie Heath, who’s the VP of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, or IEDC.

You may hear us saying, IEDC 

Julie Heath: on the show today, moving to Indiana. What? What do I need to know? You don’t wanna be my only friend. How do I, how do. To that he told me to join the speakeasy and I thought, I’m joining a bar. I like Indiana already.

She focuses on removing barriers to entrepreneurship by creating a shared economy of supportive connections, accessible resources, and know. Prior to that, she was the executive director at the speakeasy, a 5 0 1 nonprofit. In Indiana’s [00:01:00] first collaborative workspace, the speakeasy helped lower barriers to entry and continues to do it is still very much a vibrant community. It has lowered the barrier of entry to entrepreneurship through community building and shared economy of knowledge, social capital, and affordable space. Prior to that, she was a VP of customer success at Portable, a longtime Powderkeg member after transition.

From a career in the museum and art sector, she holds a Bachelor’s degree from uc Davis in Studio Art and Economics, as well as a master’s degree in painting from the University of New Hampshire. We’re so excited to have her on the show today. Julie, thanks so much for being here. 

Julie Heath: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Yeah, we’re 

Toph: pumped. I’m totally stoked. Julie is like a total rockstar in the Indiana entrepreneurial ecosystem at a abc, but I’m super excited to hear about her background. 

Me too. Me too. And I’ll actually add also superstar nationally. Have been able to plug into some of the events that you’ve hosted Julie, and seen some of the people that you’ve pulled from around the country to be here in Indiana, people building [00:02:00] ecosystems around the country.

So I’m excited to talk about all of that. Me too. All right, let’s dive in. I’d love to start just early on. I know that you grew up in the Bay Area, San Francisco area. Tell me a little bit about that. What was 

Julie Heath: that like? Yeah, growing up in the San Francisco Bay area was fantastic.

It’s, I think it was the beneficiary of Silicon Valley and everything that happened in terms of entrepreneurship and wealth creation in the 1980s, 1990s. I think one really important ingredient that is left out of the Silicon Valley story is the cost of. Of the Bay Area in the eighties. So in the early eighties, your entry level librarian, your entry level firefighter could still buy a house and have a 10 minute commute to work.

Yep. For some reason we have lost that piece of the puzzle in telling why the Silicon Valley is a Silicon Valley, and yet we still have that here in Indiana. A lot of Indiana. Is at a cost of living where you can still have your entry level public servants affording to buy a house and have a 10 minute c commute to work, which also helps [00:03:00] entrepreneurs, especially in terms of their runway and the process of affording starting a company.

Do you have 

some early memories of kind of that childhood and brushing up against 

Julie Heath: the tech industry? Yeah it probably was most, Obvious in high school, I feel like all of my classmates were headed to either uc, Berkeley, or Stanford. That seemed to be the big debate, and most of their parents were in tech or had started companies, and so it was just in, in the culture.

It was absolutely ingrained in the day-to-day. Were your parents in tech. No, mine were of the public servant variety, meaning my father was a captain of the Oakland Fire Department, which is how I know about how public servants were able to afford houses in the early eighties in the Bay Area.

And it, it seems to me critical because you need to be able to have a healthy society with all its contributors in order to have a healthy ecosystem. So I think it’s, I think cost of living and how it affects different people in our society is an important part of this topic. 

Toph: So in, when you were in the household, When did you first hear this idea called [00:04:00] entrepreneurship?

Like in, in high school? Did your friends talk about it? Or when you went to visit their homes, did their parents talk about tech? How’d you start thinking about those things? Or did you 

Julie Heath: I, you know what? I don’t think I did. It was there, it just seemed it was always there. I don’t remember learning about it.

Yep. Because I remember the. The Netscape era and IPOs, and I remember Apple going through its permutations, but I don’t remember learning about it. It feels like it was always there just ingrained in the 

Toph: culture. Yeah, 

Nate: that’s right. Yeah. Was there a disparity between like your parents, your dad was a firefighter versus My dad works at a tech company or my dad works at Apple was that like part of.

The high school. I know high schoolers can be mean, was that part of your growing 

Julie Heath: up? No, I, you know what? I didn’t notice it. I think I noticed it in college because then all of a sudden you had a whole bunch of students coming from Cupertino and they were driving their very fancy cars.

That’s when I remember it at uc, Davis’s which kids came from that part of the silicon. 

Toph: My first car, by the way, cost me $150 and it was a [00:05:00] Dodge Charger. Nice. 1976. 

Julie Heath: Mine is a VW bug. Bright orange. 

That’s amazing. Yes. Mine was Dodge Intrepid. 

Nate: What was yours? I had a Pontiac G six. I had just watched the Fast and Furious Uhhuh series and I like totally decked it out and what I thought was decked out and looking back.

Terrible car. 

That’s awesome. Tell me a little bit about your first professional job. Can you bridge the gap of how you went from growing up in the Bay Area to then going into economics and. 

Julie Heath: Yeah. I was an entrepreneur at the Smithsonian. I love that. I don’t know if that was a bridge or not, but that’s where I started.

That’s a great bridge. Yeah. Yeah. So I studied both economics and art. I was, I went to grad school. I figured I was gonna get an MBA or an mfa. Landed on the MFA because I got a scholarship top. Yep. That shows for me scholarships help. Yeah. I went to the East coast cause I figured it’s an opportunity for growth, so I better go and do something I haven’t done before.

Ended up in New England. And then[00:06:00] my, my then boyfriend, now husband was a scientist, so he had all the job offers and being in the arts you go where the job is and there’s. Backup. There’s no second place for not getting that art professor job, which is the career I was angling for.

And it’s not like you, they pay off half your loans and say, here, teach a class. No, you’re, you either win or you don’t. I ended up applying to every single school. In the Washington, DC area, every college, every private high school because I had all the material put together, my students material, my own portfolio.

And that’s because my husband was accepting a job down in Washington, DC So I ended up picking up a paid internship at the Smithsonian and also an adjunct teaching position. So between the. Piecemealed it together. 

That’s really cool. Yeah. I would imagine you probably learned some things about entrepreneurship at a, in an institution like the Smithsonian.

What were some of the bigger takeaways that you still see applicable to the work that you’re 

Julie Heath: doing today? Yeah, that, that’s a great question because it quite literally is [00:07:00] all the factors and actors that enable you to do something new. If that is the definition of ecosystem factors and actors and the relationships between them.

So with a huge bureaucracy like the Smithsonian, which is. Quasi federal government agency, you have to figure out who’s interested in coming to the table and figuring out how we’re gonna do this. So you have that North star. So one of ’em for us was opening a new center called the London Conservation Center.

It was the art conservation laboratories, but made visible with glass walls. The idea being you can’t be. To a cause you don’t know about, so you better make it visible so people can care about it. Yeah. And we put a lot of money into preserving our cultural treasures. So why not show all the science and investment that we spend absolutely on, on this, which is a parallel to entrepreneurship.

If you’re investing on the front end, you’re saying, Hey, we’re not doing this for right now. We’re doing this for five or 10 years out, or in cultural preservation, a hundred dues out, 500 years out. Yeah. 

That’s really cool. That’s really cool.[00:08:00] Tell me about how you went from the non-profit arts world and found your way into the intersection of non-profit and for-profit.

Julie Heath: Yeah so I, let’s see, it was 2008. The economy was doing its toilet bowl spiral and was that scary? No, cuz I had an endowed position at the Smithsonian. That’s about, that’s a nice situation 

job. You can now. Yes. 

Julie Heath: But I managed to scare my parents when I said, Hey, I’m gonna go take this new job.

So my husband had gone up to get his PhD in Massachusetts. Cool. And so we were doing that long to Smith marriage and some couples can do it. We I did not like doing the long distance marriage. That’s challenging. Yeah. So I was applying to jobs, but during any recess. There’s usually no jobs. 


Julie Heath: so there was this one that was posted from an advanced manufacturer and they basically went to the distribution list where all the art conservators were looking for jobs.

Now, I was not an art conservator, but I was working with them because of that news center and they said, We’re looking for [00:09:00] someone from the museum world who can come and help us go to market. I don’t think I even knew what go to market was at that point, but I thought I know museums I’ll, I’ll apply to this job.

And I ended up getting it. And that was great because they said I could live wherever I wanted to live. Massachusetts. As long as I live near an airport because I was gonna be on an airplane every week. And what do they manufacture? They advance it’s glass and acrylic with certain coatings.

That make the material behave differently. 

Toph: And is that the same company that you use at Smithsonian or is it a different 

Julie Heath: company? We were buying their products. Got it. We were, as was the National Gallery and the British Museum and that, that was the company’s biggest problem is they knew that customers at these museums were using their product, but they couldn’t get.

Sales calls. So 

Toph: that’s what we call ideal customer profile and really dialing in on your target market. Absolutely. Someone comes from the exact marketplace that you’re trying to sell to. Smart. That’s 

Julie Heath: right. That’s awesome. Yeah. And so I thought why not? It was the only, it was the only company hiring [00:10:00] in early 2009, business lesson number.

If a company is hiring in the bottom of a reception of a session, they have a healthy balance sheet. So yeah, that was then, that was our deal. I said, look, I don’t know the first thing about business, but I wanna learn. Cause I was gonna get an mba, but I didn’t. So this will be my applied MBA and I’ll get you guys into whatever museum you wanna get into.

I love that. 

Yeah. That’s really cool. Yeah, I, through that whole process, I know you lived in a lot of. Places. Yeah. Bay Area dc. Chicago, Philly. Yeah. What brought you to Indiana and why have you stayed? 

Julie Heath: Yeah. So let’s see. It was Philadelphia that I was I did a non-profit turnaround, combining that for-profit knowhow and the non-profit knowhow.

In, in Philadelphia at a small 5 0 1 and my husband was then finishing up his PhD and he was an immunologist and so he was applying for post-OCS all over the country. And when you’re applying for a postdoc in the sciences at a company, they’ll fly you out. [00:11:00] Have you talked to 374 people and then you come back, a day or two later and he had been doing a lot of these interviews in San Diego and New York came back from this one.

I lost track. He came back from this one and he was excited. Like I could just tell his energy level was up and I thought, okay, where was this one? Sounds like this is a winner. And I was just finishing up that, that work with that Philadelphia nonprofit and they were in a much better position.

So I felt okay, I can hand this off now. And he said, Eli Lilly. I thought, okay, where’s that? So that is amazing. Yeah, that’s great. Looked it up. It was in Indiana and Eli 

Toph: Lilly is the number two exporter of life sciences in the world. I believe it is. Good place for a postdoc and they hold one of the highest number of patents of any company.

In their competitive set. It’s pretty amazing. Yeah. 

We should probably get someone from their innovation department on the show at some point. Yes. Ooh, that’d be cool. Yes, that’d be a great idea. Yeah, let’s do that. That’d be awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Very cool. What was your first impression of Indiana?

Julie Heath: Let’s see. I immediately as he was accepting the position, I went through my [00:12:00] address book because my entire professional network was on the East Coast Address book. You know the On the phone? It was on the phone. Ah, there you go. Contacts. Typed in Indiana one, one person showed up. It was Richard McCoy who’s now at exhibit Columbus.

Yeah. And called him up cuz we had let’s see. He had been at the Indianapolis Museum of Art as an objects conservator when I was at Smithsonian. And we met at the Mellon Foundation at some program seven years earlier. But it’s a small enough world where you can call someone after seven years and say, Hey, how you doing?

So I said, yeah move into Indiana. What do I need to. You don’t wanna be my only friend. How do I, how do I fix that? He told me to join the speakeasy and I thought, I’m joining a bar. I like Indiana already. 

Toph: That’s hysterical. That’s incredible, right? That someone who’s in the museum sector.

Yeah. And the first thing that they recommend. Is the speakeasy, which is involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. That’s right. Yeah. 

That’s awesome. Yeah. First co-working space, at least in Indianapolis, maybe the state. 

Julie Heath: Yeah. [00:13:00] Specifically for entrepreneurs. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s what he said because I, he asked what do you wanna do?

And I said, I don’t 

Toph: know yet. Oh, you, I wanted to do go to market for somebody, 

Julie Heath: right? Yeah. Did that so he said, go to the speakeasy, cuz there’s a lot of people launching cool things. So at least you’ll get to talk to a lot of good. That is awesome. I love it. Yeah, and that’s how I, that’s how I found the portable.

I, I just started talking to a whole bunch of speakeasy members and eventually got connected with Andy and Jeb. 

Toph: That’s a beautiful example of the home of the one degree separation, right? Yeah. Here in Indiana, you can quickly connect to relevant things that are fulfilling, whether it’s personal or professional.

That’s awesome. 

Quick break from our normal programming. I have Erica Scheyer, COO from Elevate Ventures here in the studio today. 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 

Julie Heath: up? 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. 

I love that. Tell me what [00:14:00] is, who’s it for? Yeah, 

Julie Heath: it’s for innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, honestly, anybody probably listening to this 


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 hope. Yep. And the dates are actually 

Julie Heath: August 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, so they just go to rally 

Julie Heath: innovation.com and sign up for communications, and they can also get their. 

I love it. You heard it here. Rally innovation.com. We’ll see you there. I remember those days, Julian, I remember when you first moved to town because everyone was recommending we get connected, Julie, and here we are.

Yeah. And here we are. Here we are connected. How did you actually end up. With the speakeasy because I know you originally got connected with portable Right. And had a chance to jump into a startup. Yeah. Which is fantastic, at the very early stages. So maybe let’s slow down and talk about that experience, because I would imagine that was a very [00:15:00] different culture and environment than the Smithsonian and some of the museum and arts work that 

Julie Heath: you had done.

Yeah, because if you think of the quadrants of the professional world with for-profit on one side and non-profit on the other, and large organizations, and. I had been in the other three. Yeah. But I hadn’t been in a small startup, so that was new. And I joined when there were zero paying customers.

So going from zero paying customers to that first customer, second 10th, 20, the white 

Toph: knuckle moment, here 

Julie Heath: we go. Hold on. It was phenomenal. Yeah, it was phenomenal. And I think Joe Downey, the developer, one of the founders and I were the only full-time people, so I was the first employee who was not a.

And being able to be in, in those trenches, figuring out, all right, how do we build this thing? It turned out to be fantastic in that our customers were non-profit executives. And I had turned around on non-profit, so I understood what it was. I knew the problems set. I understood what unmet need we were meeting, and so that was [00:16:00] a really important part of understanding.

Both customer discovery and building out the product roadmap at the same time. 

Toph: Yeah. In that customer segment all customer segments are different. And so understanding their language and how they think, how they talk, what that business case is in that environment, 

Julie Heath: right? Yeah, that’s right.

Very different listening between the lines to the Yes. Those pain points. Yes. 

Absolutely. And is, this is a really cool example of crossing over from non-tech. Tech, which is a question we get a lot at Powderkeg. We’ve got a lot of people who are experienced in their careers and they’re looking to plug into a job in tech in innovation.

And I think what’s really neat about how you found your door into the industry is you found a tech company, a SAS company that was focused on what you were focused on serving the customer. That you had been right for many years and had institutional knowledge in actually, very similar to how Nate broke into the industry because he came from a benefits company where he had been an OR fellow for two years.

So working in hr, then moving to an [00:17:00] HR tech company, which I would put powderkeg in that Venn diagram. At least that’s a part of our mix. Yeah. So that’s really cool. That you’re able to navigate that. 

Julie Heath: Yeah. And it’s probably. Worth highlighting there that if you understand the pain points of a certain set of professionals, you probably have a place at a startup.

Toph: Yeah. This point, let’s double click. That’s the old phrase, right? Double click. Yep. In there commercial. It has 

Julie Heath: double click on that. Don’t ask me. I’d said address book. And so 

Toph: this is such a, this is an imperative I think for people to. There’s a lot of folks out there, and I talk to my son’s friends, right?

And he’s 15 and they have this perception that to be in tech, you have to be a developer. You have to understand how to, manage complex data sets and all these, put fingertips on keyboards and write code, but they’re, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, right? In tech and startups and tech enabled companies and having these other skill sets, customer success, sales product, whatever it might be.

What did, were you nervous, scared? Were you like, [00:18:00] okay, I’m doing something totally different. I’ve been in a museum curation protecting these incredible assets for thousands of years in the future. Then you worked for a manufacturer who, who built, the products that Very fancy 

Julie Heath: glass.

Toph: Yeah, very fancy glass. Now you’re gonna jump off this crazy cliff into the abyss of a zero revenue pre-revenue company. No customers. What was that? 

Julie Heath: It was like the rest of it, or do you know how to code it? It was, yeah, no, I dunno how to code and it was like every other step of the career.

I think. And you only get this with hindsight, right? If I look backwards at my career, Every chapter was an example of something that hadn’t been done before. Yep. So at Smithsonian, first it was launching a distance learning program that hadn’t been done before launching this new conservation center hadn’t been done before.

Going over working on this for this advanced manufacturer on this go to market method. That hadn’t been done before in, in the way we did it. So 

Julie is 

Toph: an early adopter. 

Julie Heath: Absolutely love it in my career. Yeah. I like it. Yeah. So [00:19:00] that, that didn’t feel any different. It, it certainly had a whole bunch of new jargon that I had to learn.

Yeah. But I think that’s good for us too, especially when it comes to innovation. 

You mentioned learning the jargon in software and in tech. What kind of advice do you have for people who are looking to break into tech and maybe even building their network? The first time in a new industry, whether that’s straight outta college or not even college, or it’s crossing over from another industry, what were some of the things that you did?

Yeah, and I’ll 

Nate: even go deeper, right? You show up at the speakeasy, right? Day one, not technically an entrepreneur, no background in tech, everyone’s, what are you working on? What are you building? What was your pitch? What did you. 

Julie Heath: I think I said, I’m just looking to get connected here, which I didn’t realize was a powerful thing to say.

Yeah. Because I think we know now with the power of weak ties in career paths, it’s really important to understand that if you are meeting someone new, then you are expanding your network. So if you are only [00:20:00] talking, this is my advice. If you’re only talking to people you already know, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

You gotta go and meet new people because every time you meet someone new, you’re meeting their entire network. And there’s social researchers who can cite the Dunbar number and explain why that’s so powerful mathematically. We’ve had that proven out now in terms of career paths where if you can go and show up at the speakeasy or show up at some other center of gravity and talk to someone new that’s the best thing you can do for yourself.


Toph: And hallelujah. 

As you were having these connections, was there anything that you did during those conversations or even as a follow up, that you think helped turn those, not just into connections, but real professional relationships? 

Julie Heath: Yeah. I would keep going back. So I joined the speakeasy so that I could show up on any given day or week and, pick up a conversation.

So if I met you last week, I’m gonna remember your [00:21:00] name and would say, Hey, you mentioned you were working on this new podcast. How’s it going? Did you, how’d that last interview go? If you remember someone’s name, you keep going. I think that’s probably the best thing you can do.

It’s a little bit different from traditional networking in terms of thinking, I’m gonna go to this one-off event that doesn’t, that’s not as important as going back. And then, and it’s much more 

Toph: natural, right? That’s right. You’re going to a place where people want to meet collabo.

Communicate. That’s right. Much more natural. 

Nate: It’s almost like the difference between a networking event and joining a community. That’s right. Yes. You joined and you showed up. That’s right. And you put in the work. Yeah, because you have to remember all these names. That’s powerful.

And remember 

Julie Heath: what people are doing and what they’re interested in. Yeah. Because if I can remember that, then we’re gonna have a conversation. What if 

Toph: somebody’s terrified? What if? What if we have listen or someone’s listening right now. Yeah. And they’re like, oh my gosh, she’s so brave. There’s no way I could ever walk into the speakeasy and say, hi, my name is tof [00:22:00] and I’m just here to meet people.


Julie Heath: if they’re terrified of that? And hopefully there’s a community manager usually. Usually there’s someone whose job it is to at least welcome you and introduce you to that first 


Julie Heath: Yep. People usually don’t mind if you come up and introduce yourself. Totally agree. Totally agree. It’s, if you think about that, there’s two people.

I might be frightened to go up and introduce myself, but the person on the other side of that isn’t going to, isn’t gonna think that’s weird. They’re, they put their pants 

Toph: on the morning, they’re 

Julie Heath: just like, we all do. And they’re gonna be like, Hey, great to meet you. And then they’re gonna think, oh my goodness.

You have initiative going up and introducing yourself. Yep. That’s 

Nate: a. Yep. Is there a way your community building slash networking skills have evolved with technology? Are there things that you’re doing, whether it be LinkedIn, email, social media, that you’re doing, that have helped build community?

Julie Heath: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great question by the way. I say, have you two met? It’s like my favorite phrase on the planet. Have you two met? Yeah. Love a, I don’t have to remember your name, so I’ve [00:23:00] forgotten that 

there. It’s, that’s a pro tip right? That’s a pro. 


Julie Heath: And also if I’ve remembered something about, by the way, 

Toph: truly did that once a couple months ago to me, she said, Hey, 

have you two met?

I love that. What 

Toph: was your name again? I love that. 

Julie Heath: That’s the, it’s the number one thing. And and I recommend it at, especially at events where you see that person, you’re like, oh yeah, I know we know each other. How do we know each other? And I remember something about what you’re doing. And what’s great is you can just introduce someone else based on that little tid.

I love it. What’s the new CEO of Elevate Ventures? Have you met? 

I love it. That’s a great tip. I just made an intro to TOF yesterday. Yes. Re-intro. TOF knows everybody but that was great. Yeah, that’s 

Julie Heath: right. And it works in person. And to answer your question, it also works on LinkedIn. Yeah. You can put two people on a message.

Have you two met? I think you might be interested in talking to each other. 

Shameless plug or on Powderkeg. There you go. What were some of the challenges at Speak? Because by the time you were plugging in, it was an [00:24:00] established organization. Yeah. And you had now experienced working at a SaaS company from zero to 

Julie Heath: Right.

There were 92 customers when that Yeah. 

That’s awesome. Yeah. 

Julie Heath: That’s awesome. And the, so actually what had happened with the speakeasy is they had expanded. So they had their original location in South Broad Ripple, and then they had brought on an additional location downtown. And it was, it was an interesting.

Business model situation for a small nonprofit usually small nonprofits are filling a need that is a community or societal need. But with 5 0 1 usually there’s some type of business model failure and that’s really important to acknowledge. Cuz if there isn’t business model failure, then you’re a for-profit.

But because 5 0 1 cun are solving for a societal. You have to really get clear on what that thing is. And with the speakeasy, it is a shared economy of space and knowhow. So you get the connections, you get that we called it know how Via know who. If you were stuck on something, I’d be like, I think one of these two might [00:25:00] know how to help you.

God’s stuck. Yeah. What didn’t work was having a very big footprint downtown. Especially when the big box store co-working organizations were moving in. Sure. If you’re a mom and pop shop and the big box stores move in with a lot of out-of-state investors, your chances of survival are pretty low.

So the board had brought me on to say, Hey, how do we navigate 

this? Yeah. How did you navigate it? Yeah. Were there a couple big lessons you learned and 

Julie Heath: Yeah. Yeah. The, I think the biggest lesson is you ask your community why does this need to exist? And then you solve it from there.

Yeah. Or customers or, yeah. Fill in the blank. Yeah. Why does this need to exist? What would we take away? Is there anything that if we took it away, it would be, 

Julie Heath: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Those customer discovery 

questions. Exactly. It all comes back to customer discovery.

I’d love to learn a little bit more about what you’re doing now at the I E D C Economic Development Corporation of Indiana. Yeah. In that transition. 

Toph: How, yeah. How did you transition into adc? Yeah. How did, how 

Julie Heath: that come about? Yeah. Let. [00:26:00] So I had, in the course of working at the speakeasy, I was seeing that a lot of new companies were being born and I could see that there were a whole bunch of new jobs that previously hadn’t existed.

So in the course of asking why does this need to exist I thought we’ve got a bunch of anecdotes, but how do we put some numbers to this some metrics, and. We started with the help of Mike Kelly at Developer Town. We started figuring out like of the companies who’ve spent time at the speakeasy, where are they now?

Like, where are they now in terms of revenue fundraise, hiring? So we started just counting employees here are the, here are these new jobs that exist now that didn’t exist before the speakeasy was in existence. And so I started. Adding up their revenue. We just did a sample set of about 50 companies and their estimated aggregated revenue was over a hundred million.

Wow. As of 2018. And Wow. Hey yo. Yeah. And there were like 923 jobs that had been [00:27:00] created, and I didn’t know what the labor income was associated with those jobs, but I thought that’s a lot of money. Yeah. And there’s probably a lot of income tax. Yep. Coming back from those jobs that didn’t exist yesterday but now exist and will exist tomorrow.

So I started doing some searching about who else was thinking about community wellbeing through economic health, specifically around entrepreneurship, and I found the Kaufman Foundation. So I went out to Kansas City for the conference that’s called the E-Ship Summit that ran from 2017 to 2020.

Got to meet 400. Others who, like me, were very interested in this idea of community wellbeing through economic health specific to entrepreneurship. Yeah, so that’s where the data started to 

come in. The Kaufman Foundation is one of those entities. It’s amazing. That is just incredible. Based in the Midwest as well down in Yeah.

In Kansas City. Yeah. And the ability to bring these community builders around the US and beyond. Yeah. That’s funny. Is really cool to see that kind of knowledge share. Yeah. 

Julie Heath: So I came back from that summit in 2019 with all this nude. [00:28:00] Because it, it’s very helpful, right? You have to have, you have to have the stories to make the data interesting.

Yep. But then you need the data to, to prove that the stories are believable and effective. So I came back and I started doing debriefs just with anyone else who is interested in supporting entrepreneurs. All the other support organizations and saying, here’s what I learned. There’s no point in it staying in my head.

Here’s what we know about the economic impact of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. And I, at one point, I’d had the chance to share some of that with Dave Roberts over at the I E D C. And so the transition really happened because, man, are we lucky In Indiana, our governor appointed an entre.

To be our Secretary of Commerce. Absolutely. That changed everything. Yep. So Secretary Brad Chambers made entrepreneurship a priority and Dave Roberts gave me a call and said, Hey, can you. Come bring all your 

Toph: folders of data, and I think Brad gets paid 99 cents a year. That’s right.

And he says that publicly, so 

Julie Heath: hopefully that’s okay. That’s right. Yeah. He’s doing this to, yeah. To [00:29:00] underscore that he’s doing this as a service project. Yes. He knows the power of starting a company from scratch, growing it up. So it’s a significant contributor to your local economy. And he says he wants to pay it forward for others who wanna start.

Understands the importance of place too. Yeah. Which is pretty neat. Maybe we need to get Brad on the show at some time. Yeah, I think it sounds like a great idea. I do too. Oh, I love that. Digging in at I E D C. Yeah. What have been some of the most exciting projects that you’ve worked on and maybe are currently working on?


Julie Heath: Okay. You ready? Hold on. 

Let’s go. Hold 

Toph: on everybody. Let’s hold on to your. 

Julie Heath: So who, and this goes back to entrepreneurs and what we advised them, right? If you have 10 seconds in the elevator with someone, what do you say? The number one thing that we need to figure out is how do entrepreneurs impact our economic health as a state?

There’s one metric that everyone seems to understand, which is gdp. Yep. And so immediately started asking, how do we see our state’s gdp? That is contributed by our [00:30:00] youngest companies. And so the most exciting moment of this year, of 2022 was when our friends over at IU Business Research Center came back with basically a first pass at it looks like it was 11.5 billion in 2021.

So 11.5 billion of our state’s gdp. Was contributed by companies under five years of age. Wow. It’s amazing. And that’s a conservative estimate cuz that only counts young companies that have employees. So it doesn’t include sole proprietors or those who haven’t hired yet. So it’s a conservative estimate.

Wow. That’s what I say in an elevator. If someone says, why is entrepreneurship powerful in terms of the state’s economy? 


Julie Heath: billion in gdp. In, yeah, in 2021. Wow. That’s 

Toph: incredible. Yeah. Do you have off the top of your head the state’s GDP in like the biggest contributor? It’s 

Julie Heath: about that the 11.5 billion is about 3%, 11% as a percentage.

It’s not huge, but it becomes powerful when you look at the research around how young, [00:31:00] fast growing companies. Are punching way above their weight class. Absolutely. In of productivity. 

Toph: Yeah, absolutely. The what’s one of the largest one, I think manufacturing about manufacturing and life sciences a second.

Is that right? No, I don’t remember. Okay. Yeah. But yeah, agreed. It’s, I love it. Looking at through the lens of gdp. 

That’s amazing. How does someone plug into the I E D C? I know there’s a ton of programs right now that the state is running to even grow that 11.5 to an even bigger number. Yeah.

What are some of those programs where people can plug in and Right. Find a way to contribute? Yeah. 

Julie Heath: As of today we’ve got one program right here in terms of Elevate Ventures and another in terms of the small business development centers. Today you can reach out to Elevate, you can reach out to SBDC and get help for the company you’re starting.

So those are the quickest ways. We’re also working on a digital front door. The secretary has said, when I started my company, there was no single place to go. I knew I would find all of the resources and all of [00:32:00] those organizations that support people who are starting companies.

He said I want us to have a digital front door where there’s no wrong door after that. Yeah. So we’re working on that. 

Very cool. Yeah, that’s exciting. 

Toph: I love what Julie just said there. So the intentionality that, that Julie idc the State have aligns directly back to the Kaufman Foundation with their definitions of the Tale of two entrepreneurs.

So they talk about SMEs versus ides. So SME being small and medium enterprises aligned directly to the spdc. And then the ides, the Innovation Driven Enterprises align directly to, to what Elevate Ventures. And so it’s very intentional, right? And that’s what I really love about what you’ve been doing there, Julie, is the intentionality of direct connectivity.

This digital front door concept is, Makes it very efficient to the ecosystem. 

Julie Heath: Yeah. Yeah. And it taps into what I think might be the Holy grill in terms of where we’re gonna go. Just out at ces met Steve Case and got a copy of his Rise of the Rest book where Indianapolis [00:33:00] is highlighted Yeah.

In terms of the exact target, Salesforce story. And he talked. How do we think about the ecosystem work and how do we skate to where the puck will be? And a big part of I think what we’re doing right now around that intentionality is saying, here’s why it matters.

Here’s how we’re gonna measure it. We’re gonna, we’re gonna tell some stories because we have success stories hiding in plain sight all over this state in terms of people. 

Toph: Great. And historically 

Julie Heath: we’ve never talked about it. Nope. No, we’ve never talked about it. Yeah. Yeah. And so we, one of our, one of our stories, so I’m over here looking at this we call it internally the yearbook.

It’s called Entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship, Indiana 2022. It’s an oversized magazine with a hundred stories. About 75 stories of entrepreneurs and another 25 of the organizations and the people who support entrepreneurs and I think you know what’s beautiful is that when you are intentional and you say what is celebrated as emulate?

And you say, we’re gonna create this artifact that has long shelf [00:34:00] life, that yes, that can be handed from one person to another, and you’re intentional about making sure you have a story from every corner of the state. And I can’t remember, we have over 40 counties represented, I think in these, in, in these stories.

That gets people excited. Yes. And then so you combine the stories. With the data and at least then if you have more than 10 seconds, the elevator you can dig in on the anecdotes of why it matters. Where does somebody get a copy of the yearbook? Yeah. Entrepreneurship indiana.com. Yeah, we can, I love it.

You can get a, you can download a digital copy. I don’t know if we have figured out how to distribute the hard copies. We just launched it during Global Entrepreneurship Week. 

Nate: Cool. I love it. Yeah. We’ll we’ll link that up in the show notes, so we thank you. Help share those stories. Cause that’s what this is all about, right?


Toph: that’s a hundred percent right. 

Julie Heath: Yeah. And I don’t know 


Julie Heath: we’ll get there in terms of connectedness, but that’s definitely something that if we look at the next year, what we’re thinking about, what, 

can you give us two minutes on local connectedness?

Because yeah, we’re about to enter the lightning round, but I wanna make sure Yeah. We at least tease the local [00:35:00] connectedness and of course we’ll can have you back on the show later. Once, yeah. Once a lot of those things have been 

Julie Heath: rolled out. Yeah. That’ll be exciting. Yeah. Yeah. So what’s given with entrepreneurship is that entrepreneurs are going to get stuck when you haven’t done something.

There’s no blueprint that is inherent in the process. So what and what we did when we started this work about a year ago, was we decided to do an assessment of where we are. We didn’t wanna just benchmark against Ohio and Michigan. We wanted to know where Indiana was compared to Tel Aviv and Taipei City and Western Sweden.

So we hired Startup Genome, which is a group that has assessed over a hundred ecosystems in over 45 countries. So we liked their global data set. And they worked with us and interviewed and surveyed. A few hundred of our entrepreneurs are high tech, high growth entrepreneurs, and We had about 200 slides of findings, but there was one in particular that I was beyond excited about and it’s called local connectedness.

What it [00:36:00] measures is how much help you can get from peers. Yes. Like other founders from investors, whether or not they’ve invested experts, community members, this this impulse toward helping. each other Hoosier hospitality, right? Yeah. Hoosier hospitality applied for entrepreneurship here? Yeah. We know. We know it’s strong.

We know that and real. It’s real and real. We know this just in terms of our culture here in the Midwest. What we didn’t know until now is the impact of it. The impact of it is that it’s a way for us to bet on all of our startups. The impact relates to revenue. So what they found is that the regions like ours, first of all, we’re globally competitive.

We are up there with Tel Aviv. We are up there with Taipei City and that’s pretty exciting to highlight, right? Yeah. The regions with the highest level of local connectedness accelerate all of their startups in quarterly revenue growth twice as fast as the regions with the lowest [00:37:00] level of local connectedness.

Wow. Think about that for a minute. We have a way intent. To bet on all of our startups in terms of growing their revenue. That is the holy grail 

Toph: and the exponential factor of that is insane through the roof. Yep. That’s amazing, 

Julie. I love it. I love it. Thank you for sharing that. That’s really cool.

I think we’ve got two more minutes. Two round lightning. 

Nate: Right. We’re here for the lightning round. We have four questions for you, Julie, that are gonna.

Show what kind of Hoosier you are. Okay. All right. So we’re gonna start out outside of the amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem. What do you think Indiana’s known for? 

Julie Heath: That’s related, that impulse toward neighborliness. Neighborliness. 

Nate: I love that. It’s like we can measure it local connectedness.

Yeah. I love it. All right. Favorite college 

Julie Heath: in. Favorite college? I feel like I’m gonna get in trouble. 

Toph: You 

Nate: gotta pick one. You gotta pick one. 

Julie Heath: You 

Toph: per 

Purdue. Per Purdue. Per Purdue. You I too. 

Julie Heath: I went to University of California Davis. [00:38:00] I have no favorites. I work for the state, sir. I have no favorites. No 

Nate: favorites.

Toph: Boo. Yeah, 

I like 

Nate: it. Give us your hidden gem 

Julie Heath: in Indiana. Hidden gem.

I love the conservatory at the zoo. In the middle of January and February when it’s been dark and cold for weeks and weeks. You can go inside there and feel like you’re in a tropical forest. That is, that’s good. Always does. Yeah, that does wonders. I love that. The 

Nate: conservatory at the zoo.

All right, final one. Ready? Who is someone that we need to keep on our radar? Someone who’s doing big things. 

Julie Heath: Present company excluded. 

Present company excluded

Julie Heath: Bethany Hartley up in Elkhart and South Bend. Yes, she’s absolutely knocking it out of the park. Yeah. Founder Factory, she’s incredible. Founder Factory. We just had Founder Factory as part of Global [00:39:00] Entrepreneurship Week, and she and her team put together the most amazing lineup including the head of Google for Startups, jewel Burke, Solomon, and her partner from CoEB Capital, it was NACADA the park successful.

And she not only had this phenomenal lineup and then had a whole bunch of Small working group sessions so the entrepreneurs could get unstuck, like in, in the course of the conference. She also invited about a hundred students, a hundred high school students to come in and hear from the speakers.

It was phenomenal. I 

Nate: love that. Nice. So we need you to give us one of those. Do you two know each other? Have you got, have you Two minutes and we’ll get Bethany on the show then. Perfect. 

That’s great. Thanks for being on the show. Yeah, thank you. This is wonderful. Great job, Julie. It was 

Toph: awesome. Yeah.

Congratulations on your journey and your success. I. 

Julie Heath: Oh, takes the team. 

Can’t wait to see what 2023 has in store. 

Julie Heath: Yeah, I love it. It’s gonna be fun. Yeah. I hear Indiana’s a good place to start a company in 2023. Heck yeah. Absolutely. Number one. Yeah. Go for it. My, 

Toph: for. Check it out. [00:40:00] There’s a thing called www.

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. Check out our newsletter@powderkeg.com slash newsletter, and to apply for membership to the powderkeg executive community, check out powderkeg.com/premium.

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