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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, August 25, 2019 1:00 am

Indiana firms get investor interest

$151 million through first 6 months of year

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Nineteen Indiana businesses have drawn venture capital investments of up to $500,000 this year.

Nineteen others saw investors pump in $1 million to $5 million, and four captured $10 million or more.

Those snapshots shed light on the kind of money available for people with good ideas and business savvy.

The figures are from a midyear assessment report Elevate Ventures released last week.

The primary source of information for the report was PitchBook Data Inc., a database of private capital markets, including venture capital, private equity and mergers and acquisitions, Elevate Ventures said.

A geographical map in the report noted the North East Region that includes Fort Wayne had three deals while the Central region including Indianapolis had 34 and the adjacent West Central had six. Some regions had none.

Along with Allen County, other counties in the North East Region are DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley, according to Erica Schweyer, a spokeswoman in Indianapolis for Elevate Ventures.

Elevate Ventures is a private organization focused on assisting emerging and existing high-potential businesses into high-performing companies. 

“This Indiana-focused activity has allowed Elevate Ventures to participate in nearly 50% of reported deals so far,” the report said.

Details about the documented deals were not included in the report, which provides a broad overview of the venture capital scene, and Schweyer did not respond with requested information about the Fort Wayne area deals that were funded.

The report said U.S. venture capital activity has been growing the past decade, reaching nearly $60 billion the first half of this year, after hitting close to $120 billion last year.

For Indiana, based on a 10-year trendline in the report, 2009 was a peak year with nearly 70 deals and investment of $334 million. For this year's first half, the report shows about 30 deals captured $151 million in venture investment.

But the report may not provide a full picture of venture funding in northeast Indiana.

Marilyn Moran-Townsend is chair of the elevate northeast indiana board. She said Elevate Ventures is working with the regional organization on an Entrepreneur in Residence in Northeast Indiana.

“The gap in this needed regional resource partially explains the lower level of reported venture funding in northeast Indiana,” Moran-Townsend said through email. “The work of Elevate Northeast Indiana is to identify entrepreneurs and mentor them; and then the Entrepreneur in Residence provides more intensive mentoring for the high-potential entrepreneurs and connects them with funding to grow their enterprises.

“The members of the Elevate Northeast Indiana board are intimately aware of angel investor deals in our region, which are robust,” she said. “They don't show up in this report.”

In 2017, Elevate Northeast Indiana helped launch the Farnsworth Fund, recognizing the “region had taken its eye off the ball of the importance of entrepreneurism,” said Moran-Townsend, CEO of Fort Wayne-based CVC Communications.

The initial work has been “to build the bench” of new entrepreneurs, she said, working with other supporting organizations to mentor those individuals and provide seed money.

In June, the organization announced the giving entity's new name is the Fortitude Fund and said it has provided $1,000 grants to more than 110 new entrepreneurs.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership is also involved in community and business development initiatives.

“From my perspective, we are making a persistent and determined effort to leverage the value that Elevate Ventures can deliver statewide in Fort Wayne and across our region,” John Sampson, president and CEO of the Regional Partnership, said in a statement.

“This will take time, but it is an absolute necessity that we not be discouraged by our humble beginnings,” he said. “Northeast Indiana is home to many extremely successful entrepreneurs and it is fully within our culture to identify and nurture even more in the future.”

lisagreen@jg.net