Why Convene Hardtech Entrepreneurs?
Indiana is possibly the only state in the U.S. operating two hardtech startup accelerator programs concurrently: The Heritage Group Accelerator and the gBETA Industry 4.0 Accelerator. This may come as no surprise: Indiana is the most manufacturing intense state as measured by percentage of GDP and 1 in 5 Hoosiers are employed by an advanced manufacturing or logistics company.
But to maintain this leadership in advanced manufacturing, a thriving entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem is crucial. Research from the Kauffman Foundation shows that startups drive job growth and economic resilience. Firms that are less than 5 years in age, according to the Kauffman Foundation, “account for nearly all net new job creation and almost 20 percent of gross job creation in the United States.”
Many of the startup founders participating in the accelerator programs are considering how to scale up their own company, determine their product-market fit, develop a prototype and/or acquire their first customer. During this period of company growth, entrepreneurs seek connections with true peers and want to learn about aspirational examples, but they are too busy to organize such events. And ecosystems that rank higher in ‘Local Connectedness’, a measure of how connected founders are to the fabric of knowledge within the ecosystem, can make a big difference for these companies in terms of revenue growth.
With these points in mind, Conexus Indiana and its ecosystem partners, including the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, AgriNovus, HG Ventures and Elevate Ventures, partnered with a local manufacturer to convene these hardtech entrepreneurs and support momentum during the accelerator programs.
On September 27, approximately 15 hardtech founders attended the Hardtech Entrepreneurship Networking Event and Facility Tour at ADDMAN’s metal 3D printing facility in Westfield, Indiana.
Bob Markley, Executive Vice President at ADDMAN, talked about his own startup journey and the challenges he faced along the way. This journey started 8 years ago when he founded 3rd Dimension Industrial 3D Printing and bootstrapped growth. In March 2021, it was acquired by ADDMAN, a division of American Industrial Partners, to accelerate expansion through the addition of people and equipment.
The two accelerator cohorts participated in a facility tour to see firsthand how ADDMAN leverages Industry 4.0 technologies to produce high-end, complex metal parts for its commercial space, defense and automotive customers. During the networking session that followed, startup founders made valuable connections with their hardtech peers, potential mentors and key assets within Indiana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
- Cash is king. Hardtech products must be engineered, tested and eventually manufactured. That requires machines and other equipment for analysis, which are expensive for early-stage companies to acquire and operate.
- Hardtech founders must be open to building a strong and diverse team early in their journey. Knowledge, capability and manufacturing capacity are not attainable for a single individual.
- Maintaining mental health is just as important as maintaining company health. Startup founders are often so driven to succeed, that they don’t have an “off” switch, which can lead to burnout.
Conexus Indiana and its ecosystem partners will continue to convene additional hardtech networking events with entrepreneurs in different stages of development. Establishing a more connected ecosystem among Indiana startup companies will help move Indiana from ‘Emerging’ to a ‘Top 30’ ecosystem contender.
If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Ryan Henderson (email@example.com) to get involved.