What do you think of when you hear the word “technology?”

Software? AI? The Cloud?

If my hunch is correct, you thought of something that the computer can do… and not the physical computer itself.

Glassboard and Grant Chapman are on a mission to reshape that thinking and get HardTech in the conversation.


Grant Chapman is a mad scientist by trade. 

He and the team at Glassboard build physical products in their “laboratory” on the near west side of Indianapolis. 

The work at Glassboard lies at the core of cross-sector innovation. While their primary focus is on building HardTech physical products, many of these still incorporate elements of traditional software.

From top engineering schools Purude and Rose-Hulman, pharma giant Lilly, and software powerhouse Salesforce, Indianaforms the ideal breeding ground for genuine cross-sector innovation. We take a closer look at this movement during our conversation.

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 Grant, you will learn about:

  • Why attending Rally was a game changer for Glassboard
  • What makes Indianapolis a hub for cross sector innovation
  • How Glassboard helps bring physical products to market 

This conversation took place at Rally, the Largest Global Cross-Sector Innovation Conference. Rally forges and celebrates cross-sector connections between companies, entrepreneurs, investors and universities from across the globe and features a $5M cash IN-Prize pitch competition, 1:1 investor meetups, a demo arena, content sessions and more. 

Rally 2024 will take place from August 27-29, 2024 in downtown Indianapolis. Register now for early bird prices >> 

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Episode Transcript

Nate: 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 in the heartland today. I’m Nate Spangle and I’ll be your host for today’s conversation. Today, we have a live recording from Rally, the largest global cross sector innovation conference that was held right here in Indianapolis.

On the show today is Grant Chapman, CEO of Glassboard.

Grant Chapman is the CEO of Glassboard, a best in class product development firm. That helps companies design, develop, prototype, and bring meaningful products to market. Please enjoy this live episode of Get IN from Rally

Could you introduce yourself for us, please?

Grant: Yeah. Hey, I’m Grant Chapman. I’m CEO of Glassboard Product Development here in Indianapolis, Indiana. So we build things with atoms in it. Hard tech, anything from med tech, electronic bikes, scooters, e- bikes, whatever you need.

Nate: Whatever we need. All right. How has Rally been going so far? Give me like a couple highlights, flyovers. What are some three quick hitters, how Rally’s been going?

Grant: Rally’s great. I think the favorite part for me in Rally is the curated crowd that’s here. is exactly what we all wanted to get together for, right? You, whenever you go to a conference or convention I hope this is the right blend of people, the right mix of people, but the curation that’s been done here is really awesome, to get the right people in the room.

Nate: Who is the coolest person you’ve met thus far?

Grant: Aside from you?

Nate: Oh, you know your way, let’s go. Besides me, yes.

Grant: Okay, I think it’s probably, I would say it’s the, one of the med techs I saw in the pitch competition. So they were doing the Asthma detection through a little disposable, right? So you have a, like a diabetes, like the test strips, but for asthma.

And that was really cool to see. You could detect an asthma attack coming in the future through some indicators. And I think that is the coolest thing I’ve seen here at Rally.

Nate: That’s amazing. Who have you met that’s come from the furthest away? Like the farthest travel to get here?

Grant: I haven’t met anyone here this week internationally. Last week at the sports tech thing, we got a bunch from Dublin in town. That was pretty cool. But now lots of guys from locker. Yeah. Yeah. They’re good dudes. Oh, they were cool. So we had, we see lots of people from Boston and lots of course in the West coast, but Boston I think is a huge hub that we see coming in here this week.

Yeah. When you think of a cross sector innovation, and you’re coming from the hard tech side. How are you working with different software obsessed? What is cross tech really look like for you and why is Indianapolis a great place for it?

Grant: That’s really neat because Indianapolis is more than just that juxtaposition of software and hardware.

So for us at Glassboard, we are always data for software has to come from somewhere. You have to access it either through a screen in your hand or a watch in your wrist or a device that senses the temperature in your room. That’s what we are. We are always the data gateway up to the cloud. But really in that juxtaposition, you need the manufacturing and logistics to ship those products across and then you need the health care and other places for the med tech.

And Indiana really is a crossroads for most of those things.

Nate: We’ll talk to us a little bit about Glassboard and what y’all are doing there.

Grant: Yeah, so Glassboard we’re a hardware product development firm, so we’ll help. Take clients ideas or prototypes or existing products up to the next stage, the next level through ideation, prototyping, design, testing and then all the way through and build a supply chain for them.

So it, it’s much more than just sketching something out or 3D printing. You have to figure out why it delights users, why it makes them happy and then how to go make that so you can get it in the hands of the user.

Nate: Yeah. Talk to me about your mad scientist laboratory over on the near west side of Indianapolis.

Grant: We just started Glassboard so we could collect toys. Yeah, talk me out of those toys. We’ve got a about a 10, 000 square foot building half offices, half labs. And really, it’s prototyping fast and hardware is how you compete with software development, right? If you can shorten the iteration cycle to, we can’t quite compile code in an hour.

But if I can 3D print in three hours, we’re getting pretty close to closing that gap between hardware and software development.

Nate: Yeah, absolutely. Who are the companies or the entrepreneurs that you’re working with? Is it like, I have an idea and I want to get something built, or is it like, I’m more down market a little ways, like ready to take something out and sell it?

Grant: We have about three verticals. So a third of our business is full solopreneur startup. And we’ll meet them as early as a problem statement and help connect them here in Indy and in our global partnerships with the VCs, accelerators, the right people to coach them to the point where they’re ready to start building hardware.

And about a third of our business is existing small businesses. And the third is Fortune 500. We’re helping solve problems they might not be great at.

Nate: And what kind of what kind of employees are working at a company like Glassboard? Just full on mad scientists?

Grant: Just great ones. Honestly, I think the kind of person we look for when we’re interviewing for Glassboard is this weird Venn diagram of nerd engineer, and outgoing creative person.

We need someone that’s going to be able to talk to our clients, and more importantly, the end users, have that empathy for what this product’s going to do in the field, but then have that technical chops to design a solution to that problem, iterate, and take that to manufacturing. So we’re really looking for that weird blend.

Nate: Yeah, and you guys have done a great job of kind of solidifying the hard tech community in Indianapolis, right? Who are a couple other of the players in that hard tech space that you guys are collabing with?

Grant: No it’s really cool because in, in hard tech, there aren’t enough of us to fight over sales or compete in the market.

There’s always too many people that need what we’re doing. So everyone from InDesign to Catalyst product development here in town, as well as 16 tech and the machine makerspace are all in this ecosystem trying to serve the need that’s both here in Indianapolis and globally trying to make hardware happen.

Nate: I love it. Okay. We are halfway through rally as we’re recording this podcast, right? Day and a half left. What are you most excited for?

Grant: Oh, at Rally? Like the outcome here? I am really excited to see who wins the pitch competitions on Thursday, all those announcements. I am waiting for that, but really I’ve got a list of people I’ve written down.

I’ve seen pitch or seen on stage. I need to go find here while we’re at the conference still. So that for me is the most exciting part is checking that list off and getting to zero before it ends.

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Matt: This has been Get IN, a Powderkeg production in partnership with Elevate Ventures. And we want to 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 newsletter at powderkeg.com slash newsletter. And to apply for membership to the powderkeg executive community, check out powderkeg.com slash premium. We’ll catch you next time and next week as we continue to help the world Get IN.

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