Going down to the Crossroads
Today's itinerary: Indy startup tsunami; using AI in everything from cancer treatment to beer brewing; help for parents of kids with autism; and new jobs added in Columbus.
August 27, 2019
Tracing the DNA of Indy’s tech startup boom
Image by David Mark from Pixaby
The big bang for a burgeoning tech hub is sometimes hard to pinpoint, but for Indianapolis it was definitely the $2.5 billion acquisition six years ago of ExactTarget, a locally funded email marketing automation company, by sector giant Salesforce.
Since then, tech startups have exploded in Indiana's capital. Accelerator TechPoint lists 350 startups in the 2 million metro. Much, but not all, of the activity has been around sales and marketing tech, a booming sector—digital marketing spend is expected to reach $120 billion by 2021.
We’ve actually been at this a while now, thanks
ExactTarget wasn’t Indy’s first tech startup success. Angie’s List moved to Indy in 1996, just a year after being founded in Columbus, OH, and IBM spent $200 million to purchase Software Artistry in 1999. (We need to note that locals revere Bob Compton, the prime mover of Software Artistry and investor in several dozen other tech companies, including ExactTarget, as the Johnny Appleseed of the Indy tech boom.)
But after the Dot.Com 1 bust, economic leaders in a lot of towns were leery of tech startups, and Indy was no exception. Local firms that weathered the burst continued to show steady growth, and then came the ExactTarget deal. For the last five years, the tech hits have kept on coming. Indy even made the short list for Amazon’s HQ2—for whatever that was worth.
The more, the merrier
Back in the real world, Indy keeps landing deals:
Money always helps
What’s driving this growth? VentureBeat recently talked to former ExactTarget execs about the tech startup climate in Indy and found that the SaaS deal brought more than just an enormous influx of capital to town. But it was an ENORMOUS influx, and it’s fostered a climate the embraces risk. Seed capital for startups grew to $14.8 million in 2018, up from just $1.05 million in 2013.
ExactTarget’s leadership DNA can be found in a slew of Indy marketing SaaS startups, Including Sigstr, Zylo, Pattern89, and Compendium. And this success has fueled ongoing interest from coastal tech giants; SalesForce and Infosys recently announced plans to add more than 5,000 jobs.
More high-flying tech in the heartland
- How Kentucky's bourbon industry is going high tech (TechRepublic)
- Bloomington, IN-based CashMD launches new healthcare platform to bring transparency to $3.5 trillion healthcare industry (TechStartups)
- Startup offers indoor and outdoor virtual reality experiences in Iowa (Clay & Milk)
- Why tech companies want to move to the Ozarks (KY3)
ZOOM-IN: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
From the flight deck:
The next three stories reveal the various ways in which artificial intelligence and other technology, being deployed in flyover businesses, are improving the way we live both in the heartland and around the world. There will be much more to come in future issues!
Innovations in automation and AI could reduce inefficiencies in our nation’s airports. More people are flying than ever before. In 2017, according to Forbes, one in seven passengers missed flights because of protracted security procedures.
Relief may be on the horizon, though. Solutions for many inefficiencies, from arrival at the airport to security to boarding are already in use or on the verge of implementation.
Denver International Airport is looking to robotic, self-driving shuttles to reduce curbside delays and decrease traffic congestion.
Delta is working on biometric facial recognition stations to automate passenger verification and reduce check-in times.
The TSA has allocated $71.5M for 2019 to add more than 145 machine learning-based CT scanners to speed up checkpoints without sacrificing passenger safety.
Meanwhile, Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh International Airport have developed technologies to estimate wait times and distribute passengers more evenly among checkpoints and reduce wait times.
According to Boeing, boarding times have more than doubled since the 1970s, but innovations like facial recognition software and mobile apps that automate flight delay and gate reassignment updates could help speed things along.
2. AI for cancer treatments
Helomics, a subsidiary of Predictive Oncology, recently announced that it’s collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to explore the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in clinical decision making when treating women with ovarian cancer.
Helomics’ AI platform, D-CHIP, will analyze genomic and drug response to help predict clinical outcomes for these patients.
In a press release, Dr. Robert Edwards, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UPMC, said, “We believe that this effort will enhance our understanding of the molecular profiles of women with ovarian cancer by using the power of artificial intelligence to create predictive models of therapeutic success. We are excited about the potential for AI-powered, evidence-based decision making to increase our ability to bring about successful outcomes.”
Helomics is also using its D-CHIP technology in collaboration with Interpace Diagnostics Group, which offers tests for evaluating cancer risk. The partnership aims to use Interpace’s products to diagnose and assess risk of thyroid cancer, as well as to make therapeutic recommendations.
Charlotte, NC’s Sugar Creek Brewing has gone digital in a big way. With the help of IBM, the company has begun using artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to resolve manufacturing issues, implement process improvements, and enhance product quality.
The company first turned to IBM for help with a major glitch that was occurring during packaging. Inconsistent fill levels led to foaming, which led to too much oxygen in the beer and spillage—and it was costing them $30,000 a month. Bad news for the brewers (not to mention beer drinkers).
In a recent Forbes article, Joe Vogelbacher, president and co-founder of Sugar Creek Brewing, explained how the company used technology to tackle the issue.
“We presented this problem to the engineers at IBM, and they installed a camera, which takes pictures of our beer as it exits the bottle line. This picture, when combined with other data we collect during bottling operations, then gets uploaded to the IBM cloud and interpreted by the Watson algorithms.”
Sugar Creek has also installed IoT sensors that collect production data 24 hours a day, which puts critical information at their fingertips.
And they like AI so much, they plan to become the first brewery to use it to create a beer from scratch. The name? IPAi.
Help for parents of children with autism
A Richmond, VA, startup called AnswersNow, which provides technology to help parents of children with autism, has closed an $850,000 seed funding round, according to co-founder Jeff Beck. AnswersNow is part of Richmond’s growing field of health–focused tech startups.
The funding round was led by Richmond-based venture capital group Trolley Ventures and California’s Kapor Capital, the Kapor Center for Social Impact’s investment division. With the funding, Beck and his co-founder Adam Dreyfus plan to add more clinicians and expand the company's user base.
With the AnswersNow platform, each parent is paired with a clinician who works with their child. Parents can reach out for personalized support at any time. With some plans offered, the clinician will also check in once or several times per day. Other resources, like tips and strategies, are available as well.
Beck is a therapist and Dreyfus is the director of the Sarah Dooley Center for Autism at St. Joseph’s Villa. Beck said they're also looking to extend the platform to adults on the autism spectrum.
550 new jobs added to Columbus
Some people might see a large population of lawyers, brokers, and insurance executives as a reason to dash to their computers and write a joke book. But not support-services provider Williams Lea. That company has announced plans to create 550 new jobs in Columbus, OH, to support that city’s legion of insurance, finance, and law firms.
Williams Lea provides business services like printing, mail processing, bulk mailing, and graphic design to law firms, insurance companies, financial-services companies, and other large professional firms that need support services.
With major employers like JPMorgan Chase and Nationwide revving the Columbus economic engine, Williams Lea has staked a claim to 36,000 square feet of office space, with plans to expand to 60,000.
The company specifically cited Columbus’ skilled talent pool and 134,000 students attending 52 college and university campuses as instrumental in the move. Columbus is the company’s seventh expansion city in the US, but parent company—Williams Lea Tag—is an international company operating in 195 cities with 10,000 employees across the globe.
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