Indianapolis Startup Community - Travis's Assessment

by Travis Stegemoller

Though it may not get the publicity of cities like Chicago, Cincinnati, or Kansas City, Indianapolis is bolstering its own growing startup community. While nearby major cities hope to become the “Silicon Valley of the Midwest,” Indianapolis boasts a personality of its own – holding strong to classic Midwestern attributes of community support.

I started with Gutwein Law one year ago from January and the occasion prompted me to reflect upon the differences I experienced between the Chicago startup community and the startup community here in Indianapolis.  On a high level, it’s hard to deny the ubiquity of Hoosier Hospitality and its role in providing a foundation for support and comradery of startups versus the seemingly transient feel of Chicago’s startup community at large.  Here’s what I’ve noticed so far.


Chicago is an international city.  The scope of talent expands beyond those who were born and raised in and around Chicago because many people relocate to Chicago.  I was always the most impressed by the number of sharp finance professionals working in Chicago.  This makes sense given that Chicago is home to many financial institutions and a commodities market. Chicago also has some of the country’s top economics and entrepreneurial schools, particularly those at the University of Chicago.  By comparison, Indy is building its status as a Midwest hub for young professionals to relocate.  And, what Indy arguably lacks in financial talent, it makes up for in marketing and business talent.  Between Purdue’s entrepreneur program and the Foundry, and IU’s marketing school and top-ranked entrepreneurship program, Indy based startups have access to a deep pool of young, executive potential talent.  The next step is to actually attract and steer that talent towards startups and emerging growth companies, something the Chicago startup community actively promotes.

However, Indy startups do have a tougher time finding technology-centric talent.  Namely, there seems to be a void centered around computer coding professionals despite Indy’s proximity to Purdue’s top-ranked top-20 computer science and computer engineering schools.  To that end, Chicago was ahead of the curve in the Midwest by really embracing coding academies.  In 2011, the Starter League enrolled its first student and has since enrolled more than 1,000 students.   Since then, more than 15 code academies have opened offices in Chicago.  Here in Indy, it was not until 2014 that code academies caught on with the launch of 1150 Code Academy


This is probably the biggest difference – startups in Chicago have greater access to capital.  That may be obvious, but the numbers really illustrate the difference.  PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association recently released their MoneyTree report, in which they reported $1,119,035,600 invested across 96 deals for Illinois in 2015. Indiana lagged behind with $54,942,100 invested in 17 deals in 2015 (a number that has gone down from 21 since 2014). Indy based startups oftentimes travel to other Midwest cities, including Chicago, to access capital.


Every company has to start up somewhere.  And many find a launching pad at accelerator labs and coworking spaces. As for coworking spaces, each location has its advantages. Chicago has a higher saturation and variety of spaces, giving entrepreneurs and small businesses a greater option pool to pick from.  In addition to having the coworking giant, 1871, Chicago has niche spaces for almost every industry (i.e. real estate, fashion, food and beverage).  On the other hand, Indianapolis, and its surrounding communities, provide coworking spaces that are more dedicated to each neighborhood rather than industry – for example zWorks of Zionsville or the newly launched Brownsburg Co-Work. Spaces like these promote cross pollination across many verticals by bringing an entire community of startups and entrepreneurs together. To further promote these efforts, Indiana created the Indiana Coworking Passport allowing members of participating spaces to work at other coworking spaces one day each month for free.

Earlier this year, Stuart Gutwein wrote an assessment on the startup community in the Greater Lafayette community. As we discussed in that post, having feeders, or people/organizations who support the entrepreneurial ecosystem, is crucial for a thriving startup community. As it stands today, Indianapolis is in the right place for sustained growth. The city is getting increasing support from “feeders” across the board:

Government –

Coworking/Accelerators/Incubators/Studios –

Universities –

  • Butler University
  • Indiana University
  • Marian University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Indianapolis

Networking & Connectivity –

Capital –

I am excited to be in Indianapolis, helping the startup scene grow to the next phase of long term sustainability.  I currently sit on the Board of Director for the Venture Club of Indiana, I serve on the Advisory Board of the Fight For Life Foundation, and I serve as an ambassador for Purdue’s FoundryX.  If either I, or Gutwein Law, can do anything to help you in your entrepreneurial endeavors, please contact me.


Travis Stegemoller was previously an attorney at Gutwein Law. Travis earned his undergraduate degree from Purdue University and his JD from Valparaiso University Law School. He focuses primarily in trademark and franchise law. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Venture Club of Indiana, serves on the Advisory Board of the Fight For Life Foundation, and is an ambassador for Purdue’s FoundryX.


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