In early November, the Powderkeg and Raidious teams sat down and had a heated discussion. Raidious sets the bar for content marketing in Indianapolis, and I used to run a little content marketing and SEO company named Slingshot SEO, where my friend Matt Hunckler was the marketing director.
There was a lot of content marketing firepower sitting together in one room. We were collaborating to create a piece of content that would make a significant contribution to the Indy tech scene, that could then be replicated for use in other communities. Andrew Gouty from Raidious nicknamed the project the Indy Tech Census, and the name stuck.
Slingshot and Raidious grew together in Indianapolis before the latest upsurge in tech companies. Slingshot was a technology enabled services company that grew hundreds of percent a year for nearly 5 years straight. We were a tech darling in Indianapolis, and I was a twenty something entrepreneur with more confidence than I had experience.
I came from the skyscraper Chicago business scene and I was shocked at how supportive the Indy tech community was. Highly successful tech entrepreneurs were coming out of the woodwork to help my partners and I make tough decisions that would determine our eventual fate. Don Aquilano, Jim Jay, Kristian Andersen, Scott Jones, Scott Dorsey and Chris Baggott all sat down with me to see if they could help me navigate the tricky waters of tech entrepreneurship.
A lot was at stake. $60 million dollars, precisely. No amount of mentorship could have helped me from the poor decisions that lead to our acquisition falling through.
It was the biggest smack to the face I’d ever received: to see that kinda money slip through my fingers, and know I was too burnt out to step back into the helm of the company we’d worked tirelessly on for years.
My story is no different than that of many tech entrepreneurs I’ve met while working at Powderkeg. Tech entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It’s a vessel to smooth out all of your rough spots. As quickly as it can inflate your ego to the stratosphere, it can knock that wind right out of you and leave you crawling.
After several years of declining revenue at Slingshot, I started to become a bit jaded about just about everything, including Indy. I stopped meeting with my mentors too often, even though they reached out consistently. During this period of suffering and Slingshot layoffs, I gained a first-hand understanding of the entrepreneurial hero’s journey and plenty of empathy for tech entrepreneurs.
So you could say helping create the Indianapolis Tech Census was personal. I had many old mentors to re-acquaint myself with. In addition to gathering insights for the report, I began searching for the answer to a simple question:
Do Indianapolis tech companies have an edge, or was my experience just a fluke?
The answer became quite obvious after conducting 25 extensive interviews with Indy tech leaders and fielding over 350 survey responses. The one characteristic that underlied all of the thoughtful responses was passion. Indy tech is humble, but under that humble demeanor resides palpable and selfless passion for technology and a brighter future.
Hard work, collaboration, integrity, cooperation and transparency were the top 5 values of the Indy tech community listed by the survey respondents. We value cooperation, integrity, transparency and hard work over selfishness and greed.
The wind that I felt I had at my back as an Indy tech entrepreneur was no fluke. Our tech community goes out of its way to figure out how to lift its entrepreneurs up.
But we’re at a point now where moral support and advice aren’t all that’s needed to get the job done. Central Indiana is full of amazing entrepreneurs, talent and ideas, but we need more fuel if we want to take center stage in the national tech ecosystem. Indy tech needs more growth capital, and we need it now.
Download the full Indianapolis Tech Census Report to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of Indy and the diverse national tech hub we’re creating.