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Elevate Ventures: Making a difference in NE Indiana

June 1st, 2012

Elevate Ventures: Making a difference in NE Indiana

KRISTINA JOHNSON - TRINE UNIVERSITY

Friday, Jun. 01, 2012 at 5:30am

If you would have driven through my neighborhood on a recent weekend, you would have seen me as well as many of my fellow homeowners attending to our landscaping and flower beds. Many of you also spend significant resources on cultivating your lawns so they will flourish. Some of you may have chosen to outsource this task, realizing you were not born with a green thumb. Or, unlike me, maybe you chose to keep your thumbs free of blisters.

A few of you may have the knowledge and expertise — as well as a better pair of gloves — to handle it yourselves. Either way, we make the investment because we are cognizant of the value it brings to our homes.

How about the value of economic gardening for your business? Imagine a high-level consulting firm making an assessment of your business, offering suggestions on how you can grow and scale. Imagine having someone identify qualified sales leads for you, or to optimize your website to get in front of more customers. Imagine an expert helping you with your core strategies and helping with targeted marketing efforts. What value would this bring to your business? Now, imagine receiving these services at no cost.

“Economic gardening” is just one of three initiatives Elevate Ventures Inc. has designed to provide significant, sophisticated technical assistance to identified second-stage companies that have the intent and capacity to grow their businesses. The idea began with the Edward Lowe Foundation in Michigan. Edward Lowe was an entrepreneur who wanted to help companies grow. He understood that many companies cannot make the kind of commitment needed because of expense, or possibly due to lack of time and expertise.

This foundation has partnered with Elevate Ventures, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit venture development firm launched in 2011. It currently manages the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Together, they pick up the tab to have a high-level consulting firm evaluate your business, arming you with valuable advice so your business can flourish.

It takes a village of experts

Another initiative launched by Elevate Ventures has positioned entrepreneurs-in-residence in each region to assist entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs in developing new high-potential ventures. Robert Clark and Dave Corcoran are the entrepreneurs-in-residence for the northeast Indiana region. Clark has been a serial entrepreneur for more than 20 years. He co-founded the Indiana Angel Network and has a consistent history of concept development, business planning, capitalization strategies, fundraising and executive oversight.

“Every day, I get up and ask myself how I can make a difference in the life of an entrepreneur,” Clark said.

Corcoran has provided consulting services for the last decade to companies and agencies including Apple, Sun Microsystems, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and many others. Experienced in angel fundraising and successful exits, he sold his last company to VeriSign Inc. He continues to serve in senior business development roles, including his current work on Symantec’s mobile authentication technologies.

Strengthening the weak link

Elevate Ventures’ third initiative is its angel network program that encourages investments in Indiana companies.

Clark stated: “Elevate Ventures helps to get entrepreneurs in front of accredited angel investors. We never leave the business owner out there on his or her own. We help them with their pitch or with their executive summary. We are helping them through the whole process. We provide high-level resources such as assisting them with their key personnel or management team. We help companies discover all of the region’s resources. We connect people so that collaboration can take place. We make sure due diligence has taken place, which helps to mitigate risk.”

Why is Elevate Ventures needed in our region? Clark answered: “In early 2010, our region was facing significant economic challenges: a decline in employment opportunities, persistently high unemployment, below-average per-capita income, limited deal flow and very little entrepreneurial activity. The solution would be the regional entrepreneurship action plan, a regional initiative that supports innovation, entrepreneurial activity and associated economic opportunities throughout the northern regions of Indiana. This effort will be directed and managed by Elevate Ventures.”

While the services that Elevate Ventures provides are invaluable to economic development within our community, it does require a financial commitment in order to sustain the program. The REAP has a goal of raising $1 million locally that will help to support this effort in our region for three years. National funders will invest $3 million and Elevate Ventures will invest $2 million. With a 5-to-1 leverage ratio, this is a very good investment for northeast Indiana.

Many area leaders have already come on board. Jim Marcuccilli, president and CEO of Star Bank, and Bob Taylor, president and CEO of Do it Best Corp., are co-chairs in the fundraising efforts for the REAP. Mark Becker, deputy mayor of Fort Wayne, is on the board of directors of Elevate Ventures.

Mike Packnett, president and CEO of Parkview Health, has already pledged $100,000 toward the $1-million goal.

“Working with Elevate Ventures is the top priority for Vision 2020’s entrepreneurship pillar, which focuses on developing and attracting innovative talent to the region,” Packnett said. “By connecting entrepreneurs to the right resources and providing them with professional guidance in creating competitive business models, Elevate is helping us change the story of northeast Indiana. We at Parkview Health strongly support the mission of both Vision 2020 and Elevate Ventures, which is why we have committed to invest in this initiative.”

Marcuccilli and Taylor hope to have commitments for the $1 million in place by June 30.

For any entity to flourish and thrive, resources such as money and time are necessary investments. Our landscaping requires these investments, and so does an entrepreneur who desires a successful business. But all too often, many entrepreneurs are left wondering where these resources will come from. Who do they call? What resources are available? Which universities have programs in place to assist businesses, like the services offered by Trine University? Elevate Ventures wants to bring these resources to all entrepreneurs, whether the request comes from an entrepreneur who has been in business for years or from an up-and-coming entrepreneur who brings only a great business idea to the table.

It is said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Elevate Ventures is a no-cost resource to help strengthen any weak link an entrepreneur may have in his or her business. Robert Clark with Elevate Ventures can be reached at (260) 433-5350 or rclark@elevateventures.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you desire his help in growing your business — free of fees and blisters.

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