Press

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The mill & our members in the news

The Mill, gener8tor, and Ivy Tech Form Partnership  INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

Bloomington to Receive Rising Tech City Award TECHPOINT INDEX   INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

Bloomington-Based Fund Sees Rapid Expansion STARTUP MATH.COM WBIW.COM    AGRINOVUS

Bloomington Capital Fund Growing in Second Cohort INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS WISH TV

New Entrepreneurship Program for the Formerly Incarcerated Launched in Bloomington INDIANA PHILANTHROPY ALLIANCE   INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS   WTIU

New Cybersecurity Network Launched in Southern Indiana WBIW.COM  

Mill Launches New Pitch Competition for Indiana College Students WBIW.COM   INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

Bloomington Code School Pilot Graduates First Cohort INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS   WISHTV    NEWSBREAK

Bloomington Predictive Mood Software Wins Competition INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS  NEWSBREAK

Students Compete in Annual Maker Challenge HERALD TIMES

IU Student Develops App to Combat Social Media Burnout INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS 

The Mill Enticing Remote Workers to Move to Bloomington INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

Crossroads Powers New Pitch Competition in Fort Wayne WOWO.COM FORT WAYNE NBC

Students at Edgewood Create Business Plans HOOSIER TIMES

Venture Funds Aim at Esports INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS  INDIANA BUSINESS JOURNAL   WBIW.COM

Indiana Wesleyan Senior Wins Pitch Competition  INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS  WBIW.COM

Startups Win Funding from Bloomington Nonprofit  INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS BLOOM  INTRODUCESTARTUPS

Academy Students Pitch Ideas HERALD TIMES

Fast 15 Business Awards Recognize Growth, MVP Employees  INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS    WBIW.COM   NEWSBREAK 

The Mill Names Business Innovation Award Winners INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS    WBIW.COM

15 Startups Receive $660K from Nexus Pitch Competitions (includes 4 Mill member companies) ELEVATE VENTURES

The Mill Partners on New Coding School INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

Video Startup Receives Funding, Uses AI Technology  INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

15 Startups Receive $660K from Nexus Pitch Competitions  ELEVATE VENTURES

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Diversity Education Firm Promotes Racial Healing  WBIW

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Fund Invests $250K in Water Utility Mapping Startup IU NEWS

IU Philanthropic Venture Fund Invests $100,000 Toward Solving Water Challenge IU PHILANTHROPIC FUND

Boost logo

Startup Battles Bedsores With Wheelchair Cushion INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

gBETA Bloomington-Columbus and Indy Unveil Spring Cohort WISH-TV

Startup to Partner with VHA to Improve Wheelchairs INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

Bloomington Predictive Mood Software Wins Competition INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS  NEWSBREAK   IU ENGINEERING NEWS

15 Startups Receive $660K from Nexus Pitch Competitions  ELEVATE VENTURES

ShuffleMe Uncovering How Social Media Can Impact Mood INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

ShuffleMe Accepted to 2021 Rice Business Plan Competition RICE UNIVERSITY

IU Student Develops App to Combat Social Media Burnout INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS 

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gBETA Bloomington-Columbus and Indy Unveil Spring Cohort WISH-TV

Bloomington Startup Receives Funding to Test Software INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

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Ed Tech Startup Using App to Improve Student Performance  INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

New App from IU Helps Students Stay on Track to Graduate  WBIW.COM

Volunteer Management Startup Growing in Bloomington INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

Civic Champs app gives nonprofits the tech tools to manage volunteers TECH CRUNCH

MassChallenge Texas Names Top 12 Startup Finalists MASS CHALLENGE

Techstars Iowa announces the 10 startups in its first cohort CLAY AND MILK

After Tech Success, Pittsburgh Entrepreneur Focuses on “Social Impact” PITTSBURGH GAZETTE

Civic Champs Finalist in Reimagine Charitable Giving Challenge BETTER GIVING STUDIO

Civic Champs Receives Elevate Ventures Investment INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

City Announces Sixth PGH Lab Cohort  CITY OF PITTSBURGH

Startups Win Funding from Bloomington Nonprofit  INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS    INTRODUCESTARTUPS

IU Angel Network Invests in Blueprint Stats Startup  INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

15 Startups Receive $660K from Nexus Pitch Competitions  ELEVATE VENTURES

Bloomington Startup Inks Deal with DC Athletics INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

IU Angel Network Invests in Showcase Platform INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

IU Angel Network Invests in Showcase Platform WISHTV.COM

Bloomington Performing Arts Startup Receives Funding INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS

19 Performing Arts Startups Positioned to Dominate in 2021  WELP MAGAZINE

Startups Win Funding from Bloomington Nonprofit  INSIDE INDIANA BUSINESS BLOOM  INTRODUCESTARTUPS

15 Startups Receive $660K from Nexus Pitch Competitions  ELEVATE VENTURES

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Enterprise Data Collection Startup FormAssembly Bags $10 Million Series A Funding  TECH STARTUPS

Inc. 5000 2020: Introducing the 5,000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America  INC

IndyStar Top Workplaces 2020  INDY STAR

Blue Burro Partners with LegalSifter to Deliver an Artificial Intelligence Procurement Contract Review Solution 

LEGAL SIFTER

PRESS RELEASES FROM The mill

Local Woman Creates "Greyprints" for Education, Employment Success

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

June 23, 2021

For more information, please contact: Sharrmaine Pechac, GreyPrint Consulting, [email protected]

Local Woman Creates “Greyprints” for Education, Employment Success

Bloomington, Ind.—“Policies and procedures are often written in black and white, but humans make them grey.” So says Dr. Sharrmaine Pechac about her business, GreyPrint Consulting, LLC. That grey space is her sweet spot.

An Ohio native, Pechac built a career in human resources and student services and started her PhD in higher education there. When her husband got a job with the IU football program, she had to pivot, finish her dissertation, and keep building her career—from Bloomington. She needed something that would allow her to continue to work in what she considers her purpose: helping others be successful through education and employment opportunities. But at the same time, she needed flexibility with family in Indiana and Ohio.

The result was GreyPrint, a consultancy to bridge the gap between education and employment opportunities. Pechac’s previous experience working in HR showed her how policies on how to apply for jobs, get promoted, or take sick leave were sometimes too inflexible to accommodate the real needs and potential of unique individuals. The same was true in higher education, she found, when it came to black-and-white admissions policies, curriculums, and academic standing.

“Success is not a blueprint, especially when it comes to education and employment,” Pechac noted in a recent interview. “There are so many different factors that go into being successful. It is a greyprint.”

At first glance, the scope of GreyPrint’s work appears broad. It spans implementing a regional scholarship for minorities and women to diversify the digital tech field, to designing a national community engagement strategy for STEM PhD students, to creating a student-focused mental and behavioral health coaching program.  The common thread between them is importance of strategic partnerships and what it takes to accomplish them.

“A lot of people don’t understand what it takes to come up with an idea for a strategic partnership and then figure out, what are the exact next steps to accomplish this idea? Who are the stakeholders that need to be at the table? How much money will it take to accomplish this idea? And oftentimes they don’t have the capacity or the expertise internally. If it’s a strategic partnership that involves an educator and an employer, they need somebody who could sit right in the middle, right in that grey space.”

This need exists, according to Pechac, as employers and educators are re-examining what their own success looks like. Higher ed sees the need to ensure more students complete their studies and graduate. Employers need better ways to source talent. These are related issues, Pechac says, best solved through strategic partnerships that close the gap between education and employment, in ways that accommodate unique individuals and connect them to opportunities.

“I believe that my purpose is to help other people be successful through education and employment opportunities,” Pechac said. “And so I can’t be quiet. I have to meet people, I have to network, because the more projects that I work on, the more opportunities I can help develop for other people. I have to tell myself, ‘You’re shy, you’re introverted, you don’t want to do this—do it anyway. Get out of your own way, because if you open your mouth or if you send this email and you connect with somebody, that could give you a project. There are hundreds of students that you could help get a degree, hundreds of people that you can help get an employment opportunity.”

GreyPrint’s current client list includes Greater Washington Partnership, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and  Health Management Systems of America.  She recently served as contributing writer for a publication from Achieving the Dream, one of the most well-known organizations seeking to transform the community college system.

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The Mill Launches Program to Attract Remote Workers

 June 16, 2021

Contact: Pat East, [email protected]

The Mill Launches Program to Attract Remote Workers to Bloomington, Indiana, Bucks Trend of Offering Cash

Program Cites “Goldilocks Factor” of Right Fit

Bloomington, Ind.—Today The Mill, a nonprofit center for entrepreneurship and coworking, announced the launch of Bloomington Remote, a program offering free coworking membership and additional benefits to attract remote workers to move to Bloomington, Indiana.

Experience the future home of remote work: https://www.bloomingtonremote.com/

“Remote workers bring fresh talent and energy to our community,” said Pat East, Executive Director of The Mill. “The pandemic caused many people to rethink how and where they want to live. It’s the perfect time to shine a spotlight on Bloomington’s creative, independent spirit. The Mill can help remote workers connect quickly to their new home.”

Program participants receive lifetime free coworking at The Mill, a renovated historic building with a distinctive sawtooth roof and over 280 members. Applicants must live outside of Indiana, have full-time remote employment, and be willing to move within six months.

“Bloomington Remote builds on our city’s recognition as Indiana’s 2020 Rising Tech City. Bloomington is a place where diverse, tech-skilled people want to live and work,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “We are very excited to welcome remote workers into our thriving community.”

In May, the nonprofit group TechPoint awarded Bloomington with the Mira Award for Rising Tech City and noted that Bloomington  has excelled in creating a quality of life that is attracting new talent to the region. Indiana has emerged as a competitive state for tech as major companies like Salesforce have chosen to locate headquarters there.

“As people look for new homes outside the legacy tech hubs, some cities try to stand out with cash incentives,” East remarked. “We’re looking for people who will be happy here. For them, Bloomington has that ‘just right’ Goldilocks factor. You don’t have to get on the highway to go to the gym, your kids’ school, or a peaceful spot in nature. You can enjoy world-class culture, great food, exciting sports. You can afford to own a home and to travel. The payoff is a very high quality of life and a community of smart, creative people.” 

Bloomington Remote offers ongoing networking events and concierge onboarding to ensure remote workers connect quickly. The program includes banking discounts, volunteer service opportunities, and other benefits.

Bloomington is home to Indiana University and its top-rated music, business, environmental policy, and informatics schools. A Democratic stronghold, Bloomington is known within Indiana for its highly educated and socially conscious culture, college basketball, recreational boating, and 60-block entertainment and arts district.

The Mill launched Bloomington Remote, sponsored by Velocities, to grow the local talent pool and showcase Bloomington to the national tech community. See details on eligibility, benefits, and program application at BloomingtonRemote.com

About The Mill

The Mill (https://www.dimensionmill.org/) is the heart of southern Indiana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and its largest coworking space. Its mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship.

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Synthetic Video Startup Takes Ethical Approach to Deep Fakes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 8, 2021

Contact: Ankush Bikkasani, CEO, Deep Word, [email protected]

Synthetic Video Startup Takes Ethical Approach to Deep Fakes

Bloomington, Ind.—When it comes to synthetic video, seeing is believing. Synthetic video pairs any face with any words, in any language, in any voice. It’s created not by a person filming an actor on a set, but by artificial intelligence (AI), in cyberspace. The result is surprisingly realistic, as this demo from Bloomington-based startup Deep Word shows.

CEO Ankush Bikkasani, a senior at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, launched Deep Word in November 2020. Since then, Deep Word has acquired 19,000 users, who have generated 38,000 synthetic videos.

As a freelance videographer, Bikkasani experienced the pain points associated with traditional filming firsthand: traveling to a location, setting up equipment, filming multiple takes, and so on. He started to read about deep fakes and the available software, but found that wasn’t a solution. “Deep fakes are essentially a very high-quality face swap,” he explained in an interview with The Mill, Bloomington’s center for entrepreneurship. “They put your face on mine, or my face on yours. But what we needed was the ability to change or modify the things that somebody was saying.”

In the summer of 2020, Bikkasani began talking to friends studying data science at Indiana University, and a few months later, they launched Deep Word’s current prototype. Users select one of Deep Word’s video actors or upload their own video, and then supply either a script or an audio file. The AI generates a new video that matches the original video to its new audio in minutes. Deep Word’s AI converts text to audio spoken through an artificial voice called a neural voice. Deep Word trains its neural voices on 30-40 hours of data of people talking. Eventually, they hope to offer users the ability to clone their own voices (without having to sit behind a microphone for a week).

There are a few limitations: the technology works best with a relatively stationary actor facing the camera, for example. But that’s improving quickly. Even over the last six months, Deep Word’s demo videos have added more hand gestures and movement.

One of the biggest opportunities for application, Bikkasani noted, lies in e-learning. “Research shows that when people have a face to associate with the information they’re learning, they retain almost up to 40% more information. And a lot of content being produced doesn’t have that. So it’s a very easy and cheap value proposition to these companies. We’re communicating, ‘Hey, if you’re producing content, or if your past content doesn’t have a teacher, just integrate with our software, and you can automatically have teachers overlaid over all of your content.’”

Although it’s very early in the field, other deep fake software is already online and open for anyone to use. In fact, Deep Word has competitors in Synthesia and Rephrase.ai, although their technology works differently. “They are essentially puppeting faces,” Bikkasani explained. “Every time their software sees a new face, they have to train a model to output video with that face. Ours is a generalized model, meaning that it will work with video of anyone without further training, so it’s a much faster and more versatile process. If I wanted to integrate a thousand video actors into our website in the next hour, I could, but for them, each one would take several days of model training and integration.”

Synthetic video’s potential—to quickly and easily put words into anyone’s mouth, on video, in a realistic way—raises obvious concerns about ethics, as well as business concerns about regulation. Bikkasani and his team have established strict ethics for using their product, and they’re prepared to comply with regulations.

“At the end of the day, we only want content being produced that is intended to be produced by the people who are in the video,” he asserted. “We really put our foot down. We monitor all the content produced through our website. We’ve developed auto flagging systems for content, and we’re working on an internal video verification tool.”

Bikkasani sees potential in that verification tool not only as an internal solution for Deep Word, but as a large market opportunity in itself: a chance to become the standard for verifying if a video has been produced synthetically. Synthetic video also has the potential to make a positive ethical impact, by making it easy to increase the diversity of faces, voices, and languages represented in training and educational videos.

“I think synthetic video is a hundred percent here to stay,” Bikkasani stated. “It’s just too much of an improvement—or its potential is too much of an improvement—over how we currently produce video. And I think that regulators will understand that. It’s an evolving field. It’s a very gray area. The ultimate goal is that we and other companies hold the same ethical grounds, but we can’t always guarantee the perceptions of others.”

In addition to CEO Bikkasani, the Deep Word team includes two data scientists and a software engineer, all IU graduates. In 2020, Deep Word won a $20,000 pre-seed award in the Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competition. They also secured $100,000 in Amazon Web Services (AWS)—another important win that saved the company 85% on operational costs. Earlier this year, Deep Word placed first at the Clapp IDEA Competition and second at the Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge. In May they secured an additional $20,000 investment from the Community Ideation Fund (run by Elevate Ventures through the Velocities partnership) to enable further technological improvements.

Later this summer, Deep Word will launch an API that allows companies to generate videos at scale. For example, a large company using a learning management system could pass specific information about each individual employee (name, title, duties, supervisor name, etc.) to Deep Word’s servers and receive back training videos personalized for each employee.

“Deep Word has really been able to prove out the technology with individual users,” said Cy Megnin, Elevate Ventures’ entrepreneur-in-residence serving Velocities, a partnership supporting startups in south-central Indiana. “What has me most excited about this company is the release of its API, which will allow video production to be truly scalable.”

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship. For more information, visit https://www.dimensionmill.org/

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Bedford-Based Clean Beauty Company Expanding CBD Product Lines

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 25, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Megan Cox, CEO, Genie Supply, [email protected]

Photos available from Gretchen Knapp, Head of Marketing and Communications, The Mill, [email protected]

Bedford-Based Clean Beauty Company Expanding CBD Products

Bedford, Ind.—Bedford native Megan Cox has always been a maker. As a young girl growing up in Bedford, she knitted, crocheted, made jewelry—and then hawked her wares to schoolmates to earn money and buy more craft supplies. “I’ve been wheeling and dealing and making things and selling things since I was a kid,” Cox commented. “The only time I went to the principal’s office, I had a price list I was passing around the classroom, and it got intercepted.”

Today, her company Genie Supply offers white label manufacturing, custom formulation, and contract manufacturing for startup beauty and skincare companies. Genie Supply bills itself as “the beauty lab for entrepreneurs” and is the hidden source behind brands seen at free people, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, TJ Maxx, and other stores. Cox chose to locate Genie in her hometown of Bedford to take advantage of her personal connections there and the region’s experience and expertise in manufacturing.

Genie Supply launched in 2018 and has 20 employees, including five full-time remote, one of whom is in China. Cox travels to China every three months to meet with staff and vendors, but she hasn’t been able to travel there since the outbreak of COVID. That hasn’t impacted Genie Supply’s growth or sales, however. During COVID, Genie crossed the $1m sales lines and saw its third product line release in Urban Outfitters.

The internet and social media have made it easier for startups to break into industries dominated by massive global companies, and the beauty industry is no exception. Cox knows all about creating a startup beauty company, because she launched her first company, Amalie, from her dorm room at MIT. Amalie’s sales blew up literally overnight when, unbeknownst to Cox, the Indy Star picked up a story from the Bedford Times-Mail.  “I woke up, and I had $10,000 of sales overnight. And people just kept buying and buying and buying and buying all day.”

She was 21. For the next five years, Cox worked full time to build the company. She learned not only how to formulate, package, and sell beauty products, but also how hot the opportunity for startup brands is, what kind of help they need to launch—and how hard it is for them to find a lab to work with in the U.S., on a small scale, in what’s called “clean” beauty.

Cox, who speaks Mandarin, spent three years in China building a supply chain of labs and manufacturers, not only for her own business, but also for clients she helped with quality control and negotiation. Launching her own lab, in the US—in Bedford—was the natural next step.

These days, clean has become the standard for startup companies. But the majority of products on the market, Cox explained, are still pushed out by two or three multinational companies, such as LVMH and L’Oréal, that own all the major brands.

“The only reason that the entire industry hasn’t moved to clean—because that’s what people want—is because those big companies don’t want to go back and reformulate or recall those products. But that’s going to happen soon enough, in the next two or three years. But all the small and medium brands are going clean now.”

Genie has launched well over a hundred new brands to date. So what are those new brands, exactly? It’s a secret, for good reason.

“We are not trying to be the media superstars. We want to stay behind the scenes, because if we make too much noise, people are going to be asking, ‘Who’s working with Genie Supply?’ This is very much still a hush-hush industry, because things do not get patented. All you have are your trademark secrets.”

Genie’s focus to date has been replicating top-shelf formulas and making classic products clean. The next step for Genie is becoming a leader in putting out all-new formulations. Cox predicts that CBD will become the next hot trend in the beauty industry. “CBD is not just a fad. CBD is really powerful, and it does work well in skincare. It’s still in this very early stage. There’s so much that’s unknown that people dismiss it. We know that CBG is better for anti-aging and skin and CBN is better for sleep. I think once we have a little bit more research there, especially surrounding the different minor cannabinoids and their benefits, then it will be even more useful.”

Genie Supply is currently developing a behind-the-scenes formulation for a major, Sephora-level vendor and beefing up their hybrid beauty offerings that combine color and skincare. In June Genie will launch 10 new CBG products. Beyond that, Cox and her team are exploring their options.

“I’ve had a lot of fun with this venture so far, and I’m really excited for these next steps. We’re at a pretty critical point right now. We have been feeling out strategic partners. People like our formulas, but we’re still very small. So we’ve been having these conversations to figure out if we’re going to work with factories that already exist, that have big machinery and can do our filling and assembly pieces, and keep a small team here. We’ve been having conversations with other partners that might buy part of the business or provide more funding.”

“We went from zero dollars in this teeny tiny garage in 2018 to doing $100,000 a month. Last year, we were doing $30,000 a month. We’ve been growing so quickly. That doesn’t sound quick to someone who has funding, but to someone who’s been working off of no funding and just reinvesting the profits, I feel like it’s been a very quick journey. I’m very happy with where the team’s at right now and everything we’ve accomplished so far—and no one knows that we exist.”

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Bloomington Fund Announces Investment in Esports Startup from IU Grad

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 3, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Pat East, Executive Director, The Mill, [email protected] or 317.965.2155

Brian Anderson, co-CEO, beastcoast, [email protected] 

Bloomington Fund Announces Investment in Esports Startup

Bloomington, Ind.—Flywheel Fund, a member-managed capital fund run by The Mill, announced a $50,000 investment in beastcoast. Beastcoast is an industry-leading esports and professional gaming content network led by co-CEOs Grant Zinn and Brian Anderson.

Pat East, Executive Director of the Mill, said, “Flywheel Fund is so fortunate to have the opportunity to invest in Beastcoast. E-sports viewership is growing by double-digits annually, and Beastcoast is the fastest-growing pro-gaming content creator online. It’s just a really cool company with tremendous potential that’s already being realized.” A Techstars company, Beastcoast has 1.5 million subscribers to 14 content channels.

Anderson, a graduate of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, developed the model for Beastcoast while working in finance. His work doing due diligence on the esports industry uncovered an opportunity to move away from the traditional model for physical sports, in which media rights, box office, merchandising and sponsorships drive revenue, to an integrated model that monetizes the content itself. The content advertising market size of esports is estimated at $400 billion. Beastcoast’s success is powered by tight relationships to a roster of top-level pro players with extensive fan bases.

“Beastcoast is extremely excited to announce an investment from Flywheel,” Anderson said in a statement, “especially because this partnership goes beyond just capital. Flywheel has already opened their incredible network of midwestern investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders to Beastcoast and is helping us continue to grow the leading gaming and esports content network online. I grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana, and went to school at IU Bloomington, so finding amazing midwestern partners is especially important to me. At Beastcoast, we love Flywheel’s support of Indiana entrepreneurs and are so proud to be the first investment in their second fund.” 

Beastcoast closed its $2.5m pre-seed capital raise last week with participation from Elevate Ventures, Techstars, Andover Ventures, and other notable sports tech and media angel investors, including Steven Temares and Scott Dorsey. 

Flywheel Fund launched in summer of 2020. Now in its second round, Flywheel Fund II has 49 members and $640,000 to invest. One-third of the fund is reserved for follow-on investments of $50,000 to $150,000 in Fund I’s five companies (Boost, Civic Champs, FloWaste, Qualifi, and Stagetime), as merited by their progress, terms, and opportunity. The fund seeks early-stage and high-potential companies based in Indiana, with special attention to startups based in Bloomington and southern Indiana. Flywheel reserves a minimum of 13% of its funds for Black founding teams; the first round of the fund awarded 20% of funds to Black founding teams.

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship.

 

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Indiana Wesleyan Student Wins Inaugural Crossroads Collegiate Pitch Competition

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 29, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming, The Mill, [email protected] 

Andre Harakas, Founder and CEO, ProBook Sports, [email protected] 

Indiana Wesleyan Student Wins Inaugural Crossroads Collegiate Pitch Competition 

Bloomington, Ind.—The Mill, Bloomington’s center for entrepreneurship, announced today that ProBook Sports won first place in the inaugural Crossroads Collegiate Pitch Competition, sponsored by Purdue Ventures and Velocities. Founder and CEO Andre Harakas from Indiana Wesleyan University took home a cash prize of $5,000, priority access to the Indiana University Maurer School of Law IP Clinic, and a guaranteed spot to pitch at the prestigious Elevate Nexus Pitch Competition.

ProBook Sports streamlines sports team management, allowing coaches to track and foster athlete development while building team culture through an all-in-one app that allows them to share game videos, set goals for athlete nutrition, share chat and news in a team feed, message players and their families, and more. Harakas and co-founders Carter Dood and Graham Terry have already developed an MVP (minimum viable product), secured celebrity sports ambassadors, and begun selling in a market they estimate at $1.78 billion in size. 

Harakas, who had taken his last exam as a senior as Indiana Wesleyan just one hour before pitching to the judges, said the Crossroads Collegiate prize money will go toward marketing the app this summer.

Zokos, a startup from Ryan Ryker at Ivy Tech South Bend, placed second in the competition and will also pitch at Elevate Nexus. Zokos is a software company that has developed a proprietary app for resellers of liquidated e-commerce returns to process and post products to online marketplaces up to seven times faster. 

Crossroads Collegiate Pitch Competition was open to any student currently enrolled at any Indiana university or college with a startup based in Indiana. Fifteen startups competed from eleven campuses around the state, including Butler University, Hanover College, Indiana University, Indiana Wesleyan, Ivy Tech Bloomington, Ivy Tech Richmond, Ivy Tech South Bend-Elkhart, Purdue University, Taylor University, the University of Notre Dame, and Wabash College.

The four finalists were Naxos Neighbors (Joanne Kelley Cogdell, Ivy Tech South Bend, and Kirk Hoey, Ivy Tech Richmond), ProBook (Andre Harakas, Carter Dood, and Graham Terry, Indiana Wesleyan University), Spoke Locally (Matt Baggott, Hanover College), and Zokos (Ryan Ryker, Rod Baradan, Julian Marquez, and Michael Altenburger, Ivy Tech South Bend). 

“Crossroads Collegiate attracted terrific student entrepreneurs,” said Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming for The Mill. “Indiana college students are not just thinking about entrepreneurship; they’re already creating exciting, viable startups, while they’re still in school. We were impressed by their innovation, their passion, and their market savvy. ProBook is an outstanding startup with a very bright future.”

Each student submitted an executive summary, a pitch deck, and a 10-minute pitch video to the competition. A panel of seventeen judges of entrepreneurs, investors, and business experts selected four finalists, who pitched live by Zoom. This was the first year for the collegiate pitch competition, which was inspired by The Mill’s flagship event, the Crossroads Pitch Competition. The fifth annual Crossroads Pitch Competition will be held October 13, 2021.

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship. For more information on Crossroads Collegiate Pitch Competition, visit https://crossroadscollegiate.com/ For more information on the flagship Crossroads event, visit https://crossroadspitch.com/

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Bloomington Tech Startup Promotes Volunteering, Builds Community

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 14, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Gretchen Knapp, Head of Marketing and Communications, The Mill, [email protected] 

Darcy Neureiter, Civic Champs, [email protected]

Bloomington Tech Startup Promotes Volunteering, Builds Community  

Bloomington, IN—Serial entrepreneur Geng Wang had already built and sold two tech startups—Rent Jungle and Community Elf—before founding his current venture, Civic Champs in 2019. Having experienced early success, he decided to invest his next efforts in supporting something he had long believed in and practiced: volunteering. 

“Startups are hard, and you’re always going to have down moments,” CEO Wang said. “It’s certainly helpful if you believe in the mission in what you’re building and you’re excited at the prospect of building a really large company around that idea. Volunteering is something that almost everyone is like, ‘Oh yeah, I think that’s a good idea.’ It’s one of the few times that across racial, ethnic, political, and income lines, you have people actually rubbing shoulders with each other. There’s something special about that in terms of building empathy. Because if you don’t meet other people, how are you ever going to build that type of empathy?” 

Civic Champs is a mobile and web application that helps nonprofits easily manage, track, and engage their volunteers: tasks that are typically both time-intensive and critical for nonprofits. But the ultimate vision of the company to inspire volunteerism, strengthen nonprofits, and improve lives and communities. Every month, Civic Champs staff get together to do a service or volunteer project of their own.

“Volunteering is such a great way to show love and kindness,” Wang said. “And being able to promote that and encourage that in your community, within people, that’s something that I can definitely get behind.” 

The original idea for Civic Champs was a mobile game, like Pokemon Go for volunteering, that would make volunteering fun and easy. As the founders explored the idea with potential customers, they started hearing a common theme. Most nonprofits either were unhappy with their volunteer management platform or didn’t have one: and they were willing to pay for a solution. So Civic Champs quickly repurposed their technology and signed up nonprofits for a pilot program. It took a while to get the product right, but they had an early sense that it was needed and would eventually work for customers. Today, over 90% of users who download the Civic Champs mobile app keep it on their phone, making Civic Champs an unusually “sticky” application. 

In just two years, Civic Champs raised a million dollars from investors and hired nine employees—a large team, by startup standards. When COVID hit, like most other companies, Civic Champs needed to reestablish their footing. The company launched its own pro-bono initiative, Helping Hands. They were accepted into two prestigious startup accelerator programs: MassChallenge and Techstars. Then they added a new COVID-specific feature set and received funding support from the Hillman Foundation and Jewish Healthcare Foundation to launch a pilot program with the United Way of Southwestern PA. In February of 2021, Civic Champs’ microdonations feature was selected as one of 10 winners of the IDEO and Gates Foundation Reimagine Charitable Giving Challenge out of more than 400 concepts submitted from over 68 countries.

“I think there is something really special that we can bring to the table for these organizations outside of the core features that I know that they want,” Wang noted. “And that’s around building community for them, which essentially drives donations because people are more invested in you and becoming true champions of your cause. And if we can build that for these nonprofits, they’ll have much more engaged people who are going to want to advocate for them, to donate to their cause. That’s the key vision piece that keeps me excited.” 

Civic Champs now serves 61 nonprofits in 23 states, including Habitat for Humanity, Animal Shelters, United Way, and the Boys and Girls Club. 

Learn more about Civic Champs.

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The Mill, gener8tor and Ivy Tech Partner for Rapid Reskilling in Bloomington

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 7, 2021

For more information, please contact: Melissa Ward, Head of Partnerships and Initiatives, The Mill, [email protected]

The Mill, gener8tor and Ivy Tech Partner for Rapid Reskilling in Bloomington

Program Uses Cohort Model for Job Seeker Training, Support and Placement

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – Local entrepreneurship and coworking center The Mill, nationally ranked startup accelerator gener8tor, and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system, Ivy Tech, announced today a program to help individuals get new digital skills in IT administration. This partnership builds on The Mill and gener8tor’s partnership called The Mill Code School, a gener8tor program.

Funded in part through a $100,000 investment by the City of Bloomington, the Mill Code School is currently accepting applications from Indiana residents. The program is focused on quickly getting people into jobs in the digital economy, and is tailored to individuals seeking to develop new skills or become proficient in a variety of in-demand technologies and programs associated with IT. Program participants do not need any prior experience or degrees. gener8tor team members will guide participants through the IT Administrator learning modules that are available at no cost via the LinkedIn Learning platform. The deadline to apply is May 5, and the course runs from May 10 through July 16.

The modules associated with the IT Administrator prepare participants to take the CompTIA Network + certification. Coursework covers skills to become a certified Network + administrator, including essential networking concepts, techniques to manage and administer network infrastructure, and preparation for the N10-007 exam. Participants may select to take the CompTIA Network + exam; those who pass can earn Ivy Tech credits to start a full academic pathway. Additionally, participants will earn LinkedIn Certifications in diversity, inclusion, and belonging and professional soft skills.

This 10-week, cohort-based program will include:

  • Self-paced virtual curriculum from Microsoft and LinkedIn to learn skills for positions such as IT Administrator and earn industry-recognized certifications;
  • One-on-one concierge support from the gener8tor team on the skills content, plus career coaching on resume and cover letter writing, LinkedIn profile creation and interviewing;
  • Technical support and mentoring from Ivy Tech faculty and professional staff;
  • Virtual access to a network of peers for support and community;
  • Access to The Mill’s coworking space and community-wide tech network during the program;
  • Opportunity to earn LinkedIn certifications, gener8tor Upskilling certification and industry-recognized CompTIA Network + certification;
  • And interviews with companies ready to hire candidates with skills taught during the program.

 Through this partnership, participants will have the ability to leverage the resources of these organizations to find a living-wage job in our community. The final week of the program includes an “interview swarm” where participants will use their new technical and job-seeking skills to impress hiring companies during a speed-dating-style facilitated meet-up.

Those interested in learning more can visit gener8torupskilling.com/mill-code-school. Program participants do not need any prior experience or degrees. Eligible participants do not need to pay any fee if they meet the following criteria:

  • Indiana residents
  • Have a high school diploma or GED/High School Equivalency
  • Have not previously received an associate degree or higher (bachelors, masters, etc.)
  • Have not previously used Next Level Jobs funding (if you have a question about this, please email [email protected])

“We are excited to be expanding the programming for The Mill Code School to include IT Administrator. This program has transformative potential for struggling individuals, families, and Monroe County’s economy,” said Pat East, Executive Director of The Mill. “Earning industry-recognized certifications and credits toward an academic pathway at Ivy Tech provides an additional benefit and access to high-paying jobs in high demand. Over 3.9 million IT Administrator jobs were posted on LinkedIn in 2020. Pivoting our skill building and learning to reflect the market is imperative to our community lifting itself out of economic uncertainty. The Code School is just one component of our commitment to supporting a sustainable, equitable future for Bloomington.” 

“Partnering with The Mill and gener8tor to engage un- and underemployed or traditionally underrepresented in the digital economy, get skills and help to move into tech careers was a no-brainer,” said Chancellor Jennie Vaughan. “The last year has proven IT and digitally enabled careers will be more and more important in our community. We look forward to contributing our piece to make this a success.”

“gener8tor focuses on helping communities invest in themselves in projects just like this,” said Joe Kirgues, Co-Founder and Partner of gener8tor. “Mayor Hamilton’s commitment to helping provide traditionally underrepresented individuals a career pathway in technology based on market need is forward thinking. gener8tor’s Upskilling program is excited to use the Microsoft global skills initiative in partnership with The Mill and Ivy Tech to help participants grow their skills, earn industry-recognized certificates and find higher paying jobs.” 

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About The Mill                      

The Mill is Bloomington’s nonprofit center for entrepreneurship and coworking. Its members are entrepreneurs, startups, techies, freelancers, remote workers, innovators, and independents. Funded with the generous support of the City of Bloomington, Cook Group, and Indiana University, The Mill’s mission is to launch and accelerate startups.

About gener8tor

gener8tor’s turnkey platform for the creative economy connects startup founders, musicians, artists, investors, universities, and corporations. The gener8tor platform includes pre-accelerators, accelerators, corporate programming, upskilling, conferences and fellowships focused on entrepreneurs, artists and musicians.

About Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana

Ivy Tech Community College, serves the people of Indiana through accessible and affordable world-class education and adaptive learning by empowering our students to achieve their career and transfer aspirations. Our vision of economic transformation is inspired by the education and earnings attainment of our citizens, the vitality of our workforce, and the prosperity of our unique and diverse communities.

Formerly Incarcerated Entrepreneurs Pitch Business Ideas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 2, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming, The Mill, [email protected]

Formerly Incarcerated Entrepreneurs Pitch Business Ideas

Bloomington, Ind.—The Mill, Bloomington’s nonprofit center for entrepreneurship, announced the conclusion of its pilot cohort of ReBoot, an entrepreneurial development program for the formerly incarcerated. Participants pitched their businesses live over Zoom on Thursday, April 1. Danielle Morris won the night and took home the winning prize of $2,500 for her business Heroine Studios, a photography service to help women in recovery from substance abuse reclaim their self-esteem. Her business model, based on TOMS shoes, would match each purchased photography session with a free session for a woman in recovery.

“We’re thrilled with the success of the ReBoot pilot,” said Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming for The Mill. “We learned so much from our partners, participants, and guest speakers, and the participants showcased great ideas on demo night.” The pitches were judged by Christopher Emge, Manager of Talent and Education at the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce; Samantha Ginther, Senior Associate and Head of Platform, IU Ventures; and Adam Gross, Director of Industry Outreach and Personal Enrichment, Ivy Tech. Velocities sponsored the prize money for the winning pitch.

ReBoot is a partnership with New Leaf – New Life, which supports incarcerated individuals to make a successful transition back into the community, and Courage to Change, which offers low-barrier housing and services to individuals in recovery. Participants in the six-week program learn how to focus their business ideas, get customer validation, and present their business to potential investors. At the end of the program, participants become members of The Mill, where they can take advantage of additional free programs to grow their businesses and connect to an extensive network of mentors and investors.

The Mill is currently seeking sponsors for the fall 2021 cohort of ReBoot.

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship. To learn more about ReBoot or becoming a mentor or program sponsor, contact Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming: [email protected].

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Diversity Education Firm Promotes Racial Healing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 6, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Nichelle Whitney, CEO, The Guarden, [email protected]

Diversity Education Firm Promotes Racial Healing

Bloomington, Ind.—A diversity education consulting company located in Bloomington, Indiana, believes that forgiveness and grace are key to healing racial tensions, according to a news release.

The Guarden started in 2018 as a podcast and grew into a consulting firm offering diversity education workshops, cultural sensitivity training, and cultural remediation. “The end goal is that everyone who has an experience in The Guarden grows through their education around race, class, gender, and identity,” founder and CEO Nichelle Whitney said. “It doesn’t matter where you are on the spectrum, if you’re at the point of resistance, or if you’re at the point of, ‘I’m energized and motivated around this work.’ We help people build toolkits for dealing with DEI stuff.” 

Whitney has been involved in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues across a broad range of organizations. As senior assistant director for admissions at Indiana University (IU) and state chair of the Inclusion, Access, and Success Committee for the Indiana Association for College Admission Counseling, she works to ensure that college admissions practices increase campus diversity. As chair of the Monroe County Women’s Commission, she helps to lead an annual coding camp for girls and its Brown Girls Who Code program. Whitney also serves as staff champion for the Black Women & Tech Alliance through IU’s Center of Excellence for Women in Technology.

“I always try to support marginalized groups in many different industries,” Whitney commented, “one of them being tech, because that’s where Black and Brown women are so under-represented.”

Recently, The Guarden delivered a workshop on imposter syndrome with Justus Coleman Kelley, Mrs. Indiana, whose platform is Building Inclusive Societies. Whitney noted that talking about imposter syndrome, a relatively common experience, provides an accessible, low-pressure entrée into sensitive discussions. Participants explore the role of culture, implicit bias, and internalized messages on individual and team behaviors. The workshop concludes with a self-assessment on imposter syndrome. “Seeing Mrs. Indiana talk about her experience—everyone sees you as perfect, your body’s perfect, your hair’s perfect—for her to sit upright and say, ‘I struggle a lot with imposter syndrome, and here’s my score,’ that was phenomenal,” Whitney said.

The Guarden’s trainers place a heavy emphasis on forgiveness and grace, according to Whitney. “You’ve got to give people room to learn and to make mistakes. So much grace is needed in such racially tense times. People don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know what to believe, they don’t know what to feel.”

Diversity education has an immediate impact on many participants, Whitney said. Others may not fully understand the message until they have a personal experience, such as a family member coming out as LGBTQ or marrying someone of another race or culture. The goal for effective DEI training is to create openness to ongoing learning and further conversation, even—or especially—when the parties involved don’t agree or like each other.   

In the last year or so, The Guarden has completed 21 contracts, including international contracts and organizational contracts with large teams of 300+. Learn more about The Guarden

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New Cybersecurity Network Launched in Southern Indiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 11, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Melissa Ward, Head of Partnerships and Initiatives, The Mill, [email protected] 

New Cybersecurity Network Launched in Southern Indiana 

Bloomington, Ind.—A new network for cybersecurity in southern Indiana held its first meeting on March 9. The Cybersecurity Exchange (CSX) is the brain child of The Mill, a nonprofit center for entrepreneurship based in Bloomington. 

“The Innovation Corridor that runs from Crane through Bloomington and on to Columbus and Muscatatuck is uniquely positioned to become a global leader in cybersecurity,” noted Executive Director Pat East. “Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar industry that has the potential to transform our regional economy. We have world-class higher ed programs, the third-largest naval installation in the world, a globally unique city for urban training, and companies who are already major players in the industry.” 

The Mill formed the Cybersecurity Exchange to bring together leaders from the private sector, higher education, government and defense, and the nonprofit sector. The Exchange provides the platform for cybersecurity leaders to learn from one another, collaborate on ideas and projects, and advocate for cybersecurity to become an economic driver in the Innovation Corridor.

Half of the 22 members of the CSX advisory board represent leading businesses in the region, including MetroStar Systems, Warrant Technologies, Scientia, DAXEOS, Dioltas, Cummins, and General Dynamics Information Technology. Representatives from Crane, the National Security Innovation Network, Atterbury-Muscatatuck, [email protected], the Indiana Innovation Institute, Regional Opportunity Initiatives, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Indiana University, Ivy Tech College, and Monroe County Council make up the rest of the board. 

The advisory board is currently laying the groundwork for the CSX’s future operations. The board is conducting a technical inventory of the region’s collective strengths and needs in cybersecurity, assessing entrepreneurial pain points in accessing the market, and defining future community engagement and public relations.

The advisory board will meet quarterly, with intermittent working group meetings. Opportunities and events to engage the broader cybersecurity network of talent, startups, students, and agencies will be announced at a later date. 

The Mill submitted a $500,000 federal grant in December of 2020 outlining three goals for the Cybersecurity Exchange: 1) create a regional network of cybersecurity leaders, 2) catalog resources and opportunities in a digital portal to increase entrepreneurial access and attract talent, and 3) support turning intellectual property and innovations around cybersecurity into thriving enterprises. 

“We’re forging ahead with the Cybersecurity Exchange,” East said. “The time is right to seize this opportunity.” If the grant is received, dedicated staff will be able to develop the CSX faster, and if not, The Mill will use existing staff and partners to build the network. 

“The breadth of experience and knowledge represented on the advisory board is outstanding,” commented Melissa Ward, Head of Partnerships and Initiatives at The Mill. “These are highly regarded companies and individuals with national and global reputations who are already shaping the economic future of our region. Their collaboration through the CSX has the potential to exponentially increase the opportunities across our ecosystem.”

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship.

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Tech CEO Speaks Candidly on Risk and Personal Resilience

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

March 18, 2021

For more information, please contact: Ansley Fender, CEO and Founder, Atlas Solutions, [email protected] 

Tech CEO Speaks Candidly on Risk and Personal Resilience

Bloomington, Ind.—Ansley Fender, Founder and CEO of Atlas Solutions, is no stranger to risk. She’s been a homeless teenager, a classically trained violinist, a pregnant grad student, a small business owner, and now she’s a non-technical founder of a software as a service (SaaS) company that streamlines grant management. All of these experiences have shaped who she is today, she says, and prepared her to compete in an arena where women are underrepresented and underfunded. 

Fender’s tech startup, Atlas Solutions, provides end-to-end management of the grant and government contract funding cycle for that 2 trillion–dollar market. In October of 2020, Atlas received $20,000 in pre-seed investment from Elevate Ventures’ Community Ideation Fund and is currently running a pilot with MVP software developed with those funds.

Fender’s early life laid the foundation for the resilience need to survive the competitive startup world. “I was a homeless teenager,” Fender said, “so the drive to hustle started really early. You learn to deal with the cards you’ve been dealt. I still went to school, and I maintained straight As.”

Music brought Fender from Florida to Bloomington, Indiana, to attend the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. After injuring her hand, she transferred her credits into an arts management program at SPEA. “Music is very high risk—arguably more high risk than starting a company,” according to Fender. “Thousands of violinists graduate every year, and there are only a couple of hundred positions available in orchestras worldwide. So I actually de-risked myself by leaving music school.”

After finishing her undergraduate degree, Fender started on a masters of public affairs in public finance. When she got pregnant, she worked from home doing books for nonprofits. That spiraled into a full-blown business, and she quickly saw that as much as 30% of grant funding was used to cover administrative costs. Nonprofits get into a vicious circle, Fender noted, of applying for more grants to pay for the labor to manage their other grants.   

Siloed software is one of the biggest problems, Atlas has found. The accounting deadlines for financial reporting, for example, may not align with the program schedules for executing work to meet grant milestones. The resulting conflicts cost precious time and hard-won dollars to reconcile. Atlas’s pilot is currently testing the software’s tracking and reporting capabilities while the team builds out a new feature, a grant-finding tool powered by machine learning.

Fender speaks candidly about the stresses of being a CEO. “Being a startup is not all about the fancy IPO or billion-dollar exit. It’s antidepressant meds and homeless teenager stories. This the actual reality of being a CEO of anything, a tech company or non-tech company. You’ve got a baby screaming in the background while you’re trying to pitch.”

Nonetheless, Fender says, her experiences have developed a repertoire of skills that she uses today as a CEO. “As a violinist, the number of hours you’ll spend on a single measure, drilling it to perfection, is mind numbing. There’s spontaneity, but also muscle memory—and that’s the heart of a good pitch. You have to know exactly what you want to say, and you have to improvise, to react to the people listening. You get a really thick skin really quickly, and you get used to rejection.”

Only 3% of venture capital dollars go to female founding companies, and while 2020 was one of the biggest years for venture capital, the share received by women-led companies went down. To date, women have led fewer than two dozen IPOs.

Despite these daunting numbers, Fender is currently looking for a technical co-founder or CTO to bring not only skill, but more diversity to her organization. “I would love to find a person of color or someone who identifies as LGBTQ,” she commented. “It might hurt my odds, but I think it’s important to have representation. It’s hard to balance all of this, to keep in mind what’s best for the company, and what’s also best for morality and my own personal beliefs.”

Atlas Solutions will raise an angel round later in 2021 and is currently participating in nationally ranked startup accelerator gener8tor’s gBETA program. 

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Bloomington-Based Fund Sees Rapid Expansion of Startup Capital and Investors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 24, 2021

For more information, please contact: Pat East, Executive Director, The Mill, [email protected] 

Bloomington-Based Fund Sees Rapid Expansion of Startup Capital and Investors 

Bloomington, Ind.—The Mill, Bloomington’s nonprofit center for entrepreneurship, announced today the start of the second cohort of Flywheel Fund, its member-managed capital fund for early-stage and high-potential startups. Flywheel Fund I launched in the summer of 2020. The first cohort of 11 members planned to make four investments of $25,000 in a year. By January 2021, the fund had exceeded expectations, investing $120,000 across five companies in less than six months. The second cohort has quadrupled membership to 50 investors and grown the investment fund to $640,000—an increase of over 500%. 

“We’re seeing a lot of excitement around the opportunities in Indiana right now,” said Mill Executive Director Pat East. “When we launched Flywheel, we knew promising startups existed here. With critical investment at the right time, the opportunities for innovation and investment can increase exponentially. In five years, the startup and investment landscape in southern Indiana in particular is going to look very different. The snowball is starting to roll.”

Flywheel Fund II plans to make six to eight investments of about $50,000 each, double the investment from Fund I. One-third of the fund is reserved for follow-on investments of $50,000 to $150,000 in Fund I’s five companies (Boost, Civic Champs, FloWaste, Qualifi, and Stagetime), as merited by their progress, terms, and opportunity. 

Flywheel Fund aims to grow not only the pool of startup funding in the region, but also the pool of experienced investors. Many of Flywheel’s members are first-time investors, East said. The Mill educates them on how the investment process works, what to look for in a pitch, and what to expect in terms of return. “About 80% of the members and total dollars in our second fund are from Bloomington,” East said, “but we’ve also got members from Indianapolis, South Bend, and across the state.” Two-thirds of the investors have contributed $10,000 to Flywheel Fund II, The Mill reports; about 30% of members have contributed $20,000.

As a member-managed fund, Flywheel forms a separate LLC for each investment. The fund seeks early-stage and high-potential companies with an Indiana connection, with special attention to startups based in Bloomington and southern Indiana. Flywheel reserves a minimum of 13% of its funds for Black founding teams and awarded 20% in its first cohort.

East, who is himself a founder of Hanapin Marketing and an experienced angel investor, sources startups for the fund and mentors founding teams after investment. In March, Flywheel brought on Brian Hatton to help manage the fund’s rapid growth. “Brian’s four years of VC experience at the UK firm QVentures are an incredible asset to our fund,” East said, noting that Hatton is also a Flywheel investor. Hatton oversees startup screening and due diligence. The Mill also consults with IU Ventures, IU Angel Network, Vision Tech, and other experienced groups to determine best practice for Flywheel Fund. 

Flywheel Fund II will hear its first startup pitch in early April.

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship. 

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New App out of IU Helps College Students Stay on Track to Graduate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 4, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Josh Owens, CEO & Co-founder, Boost, [email protected]; Gretchen Knapp, Head of Marketing & Communications, The Mill, [email protected]

New App out of IU Helps College Students Stay on Track to Graduate

Bloomington, Ind.—A year ago, former SupplyKick CEO and 2020 Indiana gubernatorial candidate

Josh Owens was getting ready to fly to Italy for an extended trip. Then COVID struck, the flight was canceled, and Owens found himself back in Indianapolis.

In the tight-knit Hoosier entrepreneurial ecosystem, word of opportunity spreads fast. A few months later, Owens was contacted by Cy Megnin, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the Velocities region and Jason Whitney at Indiana University (IU) Angel Network, about a new edtech startup called Boost developed by Ben Motz. It was helping students stay on top of what they needed to do that day and increasing the number of students who were completing a class and staying on track for graduation. As a former faculty member at IU and Butler University, Owens immediately understood the problem that Boost was trying to solve.

And that’s how in the middle of a pandemic, Owens found himself back in the startup world, as CEO of a new venture that elegantly sidesteps one of the biggest problems for edtech: adoption.

“Most solutions in the education space require a lot of faculty or teacher input to manage it,” Owens says. “And Boost was inadvertently solving this problem: it was focused directly on the student, using existing data.”

Boost is a lightweight solution that doesn’t add to the instructor’s burden, and yet it still provides substantial results in student learning. In the age of COVID and massive shifts in education, this advantage is even more critical, for overwhelmed teachers and for struggling students. The Boost app pulls data that’s already in the learning management system (LMS), and then repurposes it to empower students to control the notifications they receive about assignments.

The premise sounds simple: can reminders really make a difference? Shouldn’t students already know what they have to do? Learning today looks different, Owens argues. “For a lot of students, college involves transferring schools, changing majors maybe three, four, five times. That might set them back a year or two. Now that schools are flipping between online, hybrid, and in-class learning, things are changing dynamically for students. They might also be working two or three jobs to help pay for school, on top of family obligations and other things.”

The base-level assigned work at typical universities works out to just over one assignment per school day, so one “bad week” can quickly take a toll on academic performance.

“It’s not unreasonable for students to simply not be able to stay on top of all the things that are due in their classes, things that do add up to missing points here and there. It can make the difference between staying on track versus being at a really difficult decision point of, are their grades in a place where it’s even worth continuing at school?”

As a research scientist and director of the eLearning Research and Practice Lab at Indiana University, co-founder Ben Motz studies the intersection of student psychology and behaviors. The origin of the research project that led to Boost was one simple question: How can we make an impact on students turning in assignments?

The first route Motz and his team explored was email reminders. But students, like most people, receive so many emails that reminders get lost there. The solution lay in harnessing an existing student behavior: checking their smart phones.

Students’ Canvas accounts already held all the relevant information on assignments and due dates; all that was needed were optimized push notifications. The research project led to an alpha test across 200 students and a beta test across 5,000 students. Boost increased the number of students who were submitting assignments by 6%, increased the overall course grade by 4%, and increased the number of students who would pass the class by 3%.

“All of those success metrics were coming not from faculty members having to put more hours into it, or the school having to find the students who were having troubles,” Owens says. “The success came from giving students more control over understanding what was due that day, when it needed to be done, and how they needed to do it. And that support turned out to be incredibly powerful.”

IU quickly saw the potential in commercializing the technology and spinning it out into its own company. From mid-2020 on, the focus was first on building the team, then fundraising, and now expanding the pilot into many different universities and ultimately into K–12 schools.

Boost was developed in close communication and now has a partnership agreement with Canvas.

Owens developed domain expertise in elearning in the summer of 2013, when he helped develop Butler Lacy School of Business’ online classes in economics and statistics.  “I’ve used Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, many of the major learning management systems. They are incredibly powerful, but you do need a vision for what you’re trying to build, time, resources. . . . What we’re asking of faculty members today is to not just be great at teaching students, but also also to become technology experts.”

Boost is only a few months old but is already active at Indiana University and IUPUI. Owens and Motz are hoping to get Boost into about a dozen more schools before the start of the 2021–22 school year, including some K–12 schools.

“From a business perspective, you have to make some bets. Hopefully you’re doing enough testing and having enough conversations around the underlying product to think through, Is it the right solution at the right time for the right people? And then if that’s the case, are you getting it into the right people’s hands at the right time? And do you have a pricing mechanism to help pay for it, but not get too much in the way of scaling the solution?”

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we have been able to put a lot of those pieces together quickly. We’ve been lucky to have a lot of really great people along for the ride: Cy from Elevate, Jason at IU Ventures, Pat East and the community at The Mill, the Flywheel Fund . . . It’s just been really helpful for me as a founder. It’s also been really rewarding to be going back through this journey as a startup leader and to have so many Hoosier leaders and entities along this journey with us.”

Boost recently closed a round of funding in January 2021 and will soon be hiring an additional technology leader and a few sales and marketing positions.

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2020 FUSE Business Innovation Award Winners Announced

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 17, 2020

For more information, please contact:

Gretchen Knapp, Head of Marketing and Communications, The Mill, [email protected]  

Bloomington, Ind.—The Mill, Bloomington’s nonprofit center for entrepreneurship, announced the 2020 FUSE Business Innovation Awards today, December 17. The FUSE Awards recognize the accomplishments of both companies and individuals in Bloomington’s thriving technology and innovation scene.

“These innovation leaders drive growth in our entrepreneurial ecosystem and our local economy,” said Pat East, The Mill’s Executive Director. “Some of the 2020 winners, like Jeff Mease of One World Enterprises, have been bringing creative ideas to life for years. Others, like Megan Cox’s company Genie Supply, are bringing new energy, new talent, and whole new industries to south central Indiana. The Bloomington metro area is rich in experience and ingenuity, and we’re going to need both to fully recover from the economic repercussions of the pandemic.”

The 2020 winners are:

  • Bill & Gayle Cook Entrepreneur of the Year: Jeff Mease, One World Enterprises
  • Mentor of the Year (awarded to an outstanding role model who has advised and encouraged best practices in an early stage company’s growth): Cy Megnin, Velocities
  • Company of the Year (awarded to a company who exemplifies Bloomington’s values while achieving revenue and job growth): Catalent
  • Rising Star of the Year (awarded to a company with less than ten employees that has laid the foundation for future revenue and job growth): Genie Supply
  • Partner of the Year (awarded to an organization who directly impacts the success of The Mill and its members): Cook Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Community Leader Supporting Entrepreneurship & Innovation (awarded to an individual who proudly and unapologetically supports The Mill and its members with time, energy, and talent): Lynn Coyne
  • Newsworthy Event of the Year (voted by Mill members and awarded to an individual, corporation, or organization who best demonstrates through public relations that great things are happening in Bloomington: Catalent invests $50mm and hires 300 additional employees to support a COVID-19 vaccine

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship. The FUSE Awards were founded by the Indiana SBDC (Small Business Development Center) in 2004. The Mill rebooted the awards and has been celebrating the community’s successes since 2017.

For a full list of all nominees and winners, visit https://www.dimensionmill.org/fuse-business-innovation-awards/

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New Entrepreneurship Program for the Formerly Incarcerated

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 10, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming, The Mill, [email protected]

New Entrepreneurship Program for the Formerly Incarcerated Launched in Bloomington

Bloomington, Ind.—The Mill, Bloomington’s nonprofit center for entrepreneurship, has launched ReBoot, a new entrepreneurial development program for the formerly incarcerated. “Entrepreneurship presents powerful opportunities for individuals and communities,” said Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming. “So we want to grow our startup ecosystem and create access for more people. And that means we not only open the door to the ecosystem wider, but also step outside and invite more folks in.”

Participants in the six-week program learn how to focus their business ideas, get customer validation, and present their business to potential investors. At the end of the program, participants become members of The Mill, where they can take advantage of additional free programs to grow their businesses and connect to an extensive network of mentors and investors.

This new philanthropic program was inspired in 2020, when The Mill sponsored a pitch night for REDi, the ReEntry Entrepreneurship Development Initiative run by the Indy Chamber. The winner of that pitch night won a spot to pitch at The Mill’s Crossroads Pitch Competition. “I was really impressed with the winner’s story and her scrappiness,” Lehman said. “She had everything you want to see in someone starting a business.”

Monroe County didn’t offer any similar programming, however. So The Mill developed ReBoot in partnership with New Leaf – New Life, which supports incarcerated individuals to make a successful transition back into the community, and Courage to Change, which offers low-barrier housing and services to individuals in recovery. These organizations helped identify and refer program candidates. All participants met stability metrics—full-time employment, stable living situation, established sobriety—and were fully vetted. “We couldn’t ask for better partners,” Lehman said. “Stacy Flynn at New Leaf – New Life and Marilyn Burrus at Courage to Change have been instrumental in launching the ReBoot program.”

The first cohort of seven participants includes four men and three women with business ideas ranging from a stocked pay lake for sport fisherman and fishing tournaments, to a painting business, to a photography business focused on helping victims of domestic violence re-see and reclaim their sense of self. Guest speakers have included Mark Harsley, founder of Kitemail, who is himself formerly incarcerated, and Pete Yonkman, president of Cook Medical.

Participants are already leveraging their new access to the ecosystem. One person told Lehman, “Being part of your ReBoot Program has me doing more research on things I need and want to know about what I want to do, and reaching out to connections I now have for answers I need.” Another said, “I really just love your dedication to us. It makes me smile.” 

ReBoot will wrap up with a demo night of business pitches. The winner will take home a little seed money for their business, and all participants will be able to continue developing their enterprises as Mill members.

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship. To learn more about ReBoot or becoming a mentor or program sponsor, contact Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming: [email protected].

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New Pitch Competition for Indiana College Students

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 23, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming, The Mill, [email protected] 

The Mill Launches New Pitch Competition for Indiana College Students

Bloomington, Ind.—The Mill, Bloomington’s center for entrepreneurship, announced the launch of a collegiate version of its flagship pitch competition, Crossroads. The new spinoff event, called Crossroads Collegiate Pitch Competition, is open to any student currently enrolled at any Indiana university or college with a startup based in Indiana. The winner will take home a cash prize of $5,000.

The collegiate competition was inspired by the success of going virtual with the signature event last fall, explained Andy Lehman, Head of Accelerator Programming for The Mill. “Going virtual allowed us to expand our reach considerably,” Lehman said. “We were able to attract not only more startups, but also more judges, and more diverse participation from every corner of Indiana.” The Mill saw a surge in student interest in 2020, in Crossroads and its other programs, including its Spark Business Plan competition and boot-camp startup classes offered through Indiana University. “We already work with some incredibly talented college students, and we know there are many more across the state. This new event will showcase their innovation and drive. Crossroads Collegiate gives student entrepreneurs the chance to not only win some money, but also to get out in front of judges, entrepreneurs, and investors from all over the state, from South Bend to Evansville.”

To apply to Crossroads Collegiate, students will submit an executive summary, a pitch deck, and a 10-minute pitch video by April 12. “The video takes some of the pressure off of pitching,” Lehman explains. “You can re-record it a dozen times, as many as needed to get it just right. New entrepreneurs really benefit from the practice and the opportunity to get feedback.” A judging panel of respected Indiana entrepreneurs and angel investors will view the recorded pitches at the semi-finals and select finalists, who will pitch live over Zoom on April 29.

“Students are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs earlier and earlier,” Lehman commented. “It’s the right time to feed their interest and build on the current momentum in our startup ecosystem.” Indiana has seen a surge in investment in early stage startups. Elevate Ventures recently reported that despite COVID, in 2020, pre-seed investments in Indiana more than doubled to 100 from 46 in the prior year.

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship. For more information on the new Crossroads Collegiate Pitch Competition, visit https://crossroadscollegiate.com/ For more information on the flagship Crossroads event, visit https://crossroadspitch.com/

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Startup Develops Tool for Social Media Burnout

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 3, 2021 

For more information, please contact:

Gretchen Knapp, Head of Marketing and Communications, The Mill, [email protected] 

or Britain Taylor, CEO, ShuffleMe, [email protected]

Photos available at https://www.dimensionmill.org/britain-taylor-shuffleme/ 

Startup Develops Tool for Managing Social Media Burnout 

Bloomington, Ind.— “I just want to help people to have a healthy relationship with social media,” says CEO and Cofounder Dr. Britain Taylor about ShuffleMe, a predictive software app that helps people track the impact of social media on their mental health.

Taylor has been working toward this mission since long before Twitter wars, the pandemic, and doomscrolling. She’s invested eleven years in preparing herself: she holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and neuroscience, an MBA in behavior and marketing, a masters in industrial and systems engineering, and now, at Indiana University, is completing a PhD in intelligent systems engineering. Taylor is a member of The Mill, a nonprofit startup accelerator in Bloomington, and won The Mill’s 2020 Spark Business Plan Competition.

An early adopter of the first social media platforms­—in 2004 she was the 16th user on MySpace, where she had over a million followers—Taylor grew up hacking and coding. In those days, social media was very different, Taylor says, without much cyberbullying.

By 2011, Facebook had exploded. “Facebook gave you more options to actually talk to each other,” Taylor says. “So a lot of my friends started using Facebook to express their emotions. And now that I’m older, I realize some of them were reaching out for help.” By the time Taylor was 18, she had lost three friends by suicide. In fact, the CDC has reported that between 2007 and 2016 (years of tremendous growth in social media usage) rates of suicide among young people jumped 56 percent.    

“I told myself, there has to be a way around this. I told myself that I was going to college, and I was going to stay in college as long as possible to build some sort of solution,” says Taylor. 

Her solution, an app called ShuffleMe, is still in beta testing. Users download the app and give it access to their webcams. From there the app runs in the background, tracking social media activity against facial expressions, and recording patterns in emotional responses. A dashboard then shows users which social media channels and specific content have impacted their mood, thus empowering them to make specific, effective changes to their social feeds, their behavior, and ultimately, Taylor hopes, their happiness. 

ShuffleMe addresses privacy concerns head-on. User data is only used to create the dashboard report, then deleted from the server immediately. “The beautiful thing is that our younger generation is so obsessed with data,” Taylor says.  “They’re like, ‘What are you doing with my data, with my phone?’ That’s a plus. You want to know what that data means. And you want to see if some data can actually help you.” 

The app uses algorithms and a face classifier, based on research on universal facial expressions and trained on over a million people, to connect your facial reactions to social media to specific emotions. It achieves 98.9% accuracy in classifying emotional responses, an impressive accuracy for software. 

ShuffleMe is currently pre-revenue and running a closed beta program for practitioners. They recently completed an NSF I-Corps program and noticed a different niche market, where the data from the end users can be shared in one-on-one sessions with their practitioners. In February ShuffleMe will launch a second closed beta for end users. About 2,000 students from Indiana University, Purdue University, and Ball State have signed up, and Taylor and her team are thinking about expanding to other students in the Midwest. Possible next steps include entering an accelerator program and opening up a pre-seed funding round for angel investors. Eventually, Taylor expects to release a viable product in a public launch.

For all the promise ShuffleMe shows for its research and market potential, neither of those is what excites Britain Taylor the most.

“What I want to see is whether something that I spent 11 years building is going to benefit people in the long run. Not just, ‘Your software helps me to understand that when I spend this amount of time on social media or use it this way, it impacts my mood,’ but ‘Hey, here are the changes I can make because of it.’ That’s something that motivates me every single day.”

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Five Startups Win Funding

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 20, 2021

For more information, please contact:

Melissa Ward, Head of Partnerships and Initiatives, The Mill, [email protected]  

Bloomington, Ind.—Over the last six months, five startups have received investment from a new member-managed capital fund run by The Mill, a nonprofit center for entrepreneurship. The Flywheel Fund launched in the summer of 2020 and planned to make 4 investments of $25,000 each over the course of a year. By January, the fund had exceeded expectations, investing $120,000 in five companies in less than six months.

Flywheel is a member-managed fund that invests in early stage and high-potential companies. Rotating cohorts of members join, each contributing $10,000 to the fund upon joining. The group meets every other month to listen to one pitch, and each member then votes on whether to invest. When a majority votes “yes,” the company receives an investment of $25,000.

“Our first cohort was really excited about this opportunity to support startups in southern Indiana,” said Pat East, the Executive Director of The Mill. “So we started with a bigger pool to invest than we expected—$120,000—and we were able to invest quickly in some very promising startups.” Flywheel Fund is open to first-time investors and includes an educational component to support them in learning how the investment process works, what to look for in a pitch, and what to expect in terms of a return on the investment. 

“Flywheel Fund is committed to providing equitable access to critical startup capital,” East noted. “We’ve promised that at least 13% of our investments will be in companies with Black founding teams, and I’m proud that in our first year we exceeded that promise and invested 20%. Diversity is a matter of ethics, and it’s also a matter of economics. It’s simply better for our fund to invest in all the great ideas that could fuel our community’s future economy. When we’re inclusive about our approach, the possibilities for everyone are really limitless.”

The five companies who received investment are:

  • Stagetime, an online professional network for the performing arts
  • Civic Champs, an app for nonprofits that automates volunteer management
  • Boost, an app that helps students manage and meet assignment deadlines
  • Qualifi’s technology allows HR professionals to conduct very high volumes of phone interviews quickly
  • Flowaste’s data analytics provide cafeterias, restaurants, and individuals actionable insights on food waste patterns

The second cohort of Flywheel Fund starts April 1, 2021. Given the success of the first cohort, East expects the second cohort to be significantly larger in terms of members and the total investment pool. “Word is getting out about the high-quality startups we have in our region, and investors want to get in on that opportunity,” East said. “The Mill is thrilled to help grow resources for startups and a new pool of angels and investors.”

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The Mill Graduates First Cohort of Code School

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 11, 2020

For more information, please contact:

Melissa Ward, Head of Partnerships and Initiatives, [email protected]

Bloomington, Indiana (December 11, 2020)—On Friday, December 11, the first cohort of The Mill Code School, powered by gener8tor, graduated in a virtual ceremony. Featured speakers include Mayor John Hamilton and Secretary Blair Milo, the State of Indiana’s first Secretary for Career Connections and Talent.

Funded in part through a $100,000 investment by the City of Bloomington, The Mill Code School was a 10-week free pilot program for Bloomington residents to gain entry-level coding skills, in order to access better employment options.  No prior experience or degrees were required. Participants could complete the program while also working full-time.

The Mill started brainstorming about the program June of 2020, in response to the economic challenges of COVID, and partnered with nationally ranked startup accelerator gener8tor to bring their ground-breaking upskilling programs to Bloomington. To find Code School students, The Mill and gener8tor worked together to spread the word, collaborate with local organizations, and conduct outreach. The pilot program quickly received about 140 applications for 40 slots, which were prioritized for participants who were unemployed or underemployed and not typically represented in tech jobs. Almost 30% of applicants were minorities, 20 applicants identified as immigrants, and 20 identified as LGBTQ+. Half the participants selected were women.

Over the course of the program, gener8tor team members guided participants through LinkedIn Learning Platform’s Software Developer modules related to core technologies for web development, software development, and databases.  In addition, Code School participants received technical, resume, and interview coaching; gained virtual access to a network of peers for support and community; attended lunch and learns; and received interview placement with companies ready to hire candidates with these skills. Gener8tor even went above and beyond the partnership contract and generously donated a Chromebook to a student in need. Secretary Milo praised the program for being “trailblazing” and commented, “This is such a perfect example of another way that Bloomington is continuing to lead the way in the world, with the collaboration you’ve brought together, and the skill set that graduates have learned to become  part of an emerging economy.”

Ivy Tech Community College also supported the program. Their Workforce Alignment Office volunteered for The Mill Code School Lunch & Learn series, and computer science instructors in the School of Information Technology donated hours of technical coaching.

Many of the participants finished the self-paced curriculum early. The program had an 80% retention rate (compared to the average 50% rate). Of the 40 original participants, 32 will graduate on Friday. Moreover, the program is reaching beyond those students. The Mill surveyed applicants who weren’t selected to join the program, and of those who responded, 20% have started the software development career track on their own; another 30% said they hadn’t started yet, but plan to.

The Mill and its partners supported participants in and outside of the program, addressing life obstacles and working on job placement. “Even once the curriculum is done and the participants have graduated, there’s still work to be done,” said Executive Director Pat East, “including the important work of finding funding and preparing for additional cohorts in 2021. We want to build on this success, grow Bloomington’s tech talent pool, and create more opportunities for more citizens to enter the digital economy.”

“We’re your long-term advocates,” gener8tor’s Cole Shearer told graduates during the virtual ceremony. Graduates will receive ongoing job postings; several graduates have already received offers or interviews.  “Each one of you is in a position to turn a page and start a new chapter in your life,” Mayor Hamilton noted.

The City of Bloomington’s investment in the pilot program of The Mill Code School is part of Recover Forward, Mayor John Hamilton’s initiative to rebuild Bloomington from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic collapse in a way that more thoroughly embodies the community’s goals for racial equity, a sustainable and resilient economy, and climate action.

“We’re so proud of the first cohort of Code School graduates,” East said, “for their persistence, bravery, and engagement. We’re excited to see where they go from here.”

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gBETA Bloomington-Columbus Announces Its Inaugural Program

BLOOMINGTON/COLUMBUS, INDIANA – gBETA has announced its newest Indiana program Bloomington-Columbus in partnership with Velocities, The Mill and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. gBETA is nationally ranked accelerator gener8tor’s free, seven-week accelerator program for early stage startups with local roots. gBETA Bloomington-Columbus is an expansion of gBETA’s programming in Indiana, with previous expansions to Terre Haute and Ft. Wayne in 2020.

The program is slated to kick off in early March, 2021, and will be industry and vertical agnostic. Geoff Zentz, who ran the gBETA Indy, Terre Haute, and AgBioScience programs in 2019 and 2020, will serve as the gBETA Bloomington-Columbus Director. The gBETA program will work with five startups from the Velocities region, helping them refine their business models, connect with mentors, gain more customer traction and prepare their pitches. The companies will also pitch to a minimum of 25 investors.

The program will culminate with a Pitch Night in late April. The participating gBETA companies will give a five-minute pitch in front of a captive audience of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and community members. The Velocities-region community will be invited to attend, and the event will be free and open to the public.

“gBETA’s entry into Columbus and Bloomington presents a tremendous opportunity for area entrepreneurs to accelerate their startups, by opening doors to top-notch expertise and a powerful network of investors,” says Cindy Frey, President of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. “I’ve witnessed, first-hand, how gBETA can transform entrepreneurs with a big idea into leaders of a focused, fast-growing company.”

The gBETA program is offered in Bloomington-Columbus thanks to the support of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Velocities.
Interested Startup founders looking to accelerate the growth for their business and/or also potentially raising venture capital, mentors, or investors interested in learning more should contact gBETA Indiana Director Geoff Zentz ([email protected]). For more information, visit https://www.gbetastartups.com/bloomington-columbus.

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About gener8tor
www.gener8tor.com

gener8tor’s turnkey platform for the creative economy connects startup founders, musicians, artists, investors, universities and corporations. The gener8tor platform includes pre-accelerators, accelerators, corporate programming, conferences and fellowships.

About gBETA
www.gBETAstartups.com

gBETA accelerates the growth of early-stage companies through its network-driven program. gBETA supports five teams per cohort and requires no fees and no equity. Since launching in 2015, gBETA program alumni have raised $111M+ in capital and created 1,000+ jobs across the U.S. and Canada.

About Velocities
https://velocitiesin.com/

Velocities is a partnership between The Mill of Bloomington, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, and Elevate Ventures. This partnership provides a wealth of resources to entrepreneurs and early stage companies. Starting and growing a business takes more than passion. It takes the support and resources that two of Indiana’s most inspiring and vibrant cities can offer. Let passion fuel your dreams. The partners of Velocities can provide funding, marketing support, business coaching, and professional resources to accelerate your success.

Predictive Mood Software ShuffleMe Wins Business plan Competition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 15, 2020

For more information, please contact:

Gretchen Knapp, Head of Marketing and Communications, The Mill, [email protected] or 812-369-1399

Bloomington, Ind.—The Mill, Bloomington’s nonprofit center for entrepreneurship, announced that ShuffleMe was the winner of the inaugural Spark Business Plan Competition today, December 15. ShuffleMe is predictive mood software to help social media users monitor the impact of social media on their mood. The SaaS solution runs in the background, using facial recognition and emotional AI to gather data for users and their mental health providers. Founder Britain Taylor took home $2,500, which she says will be used to help make sure the software is multiplatform. Test pilots are already running now with several medical institutions.

The competition was open to entrepreneurs in the Bloomington-Columbus area, and sponsored by Duke Energy. Entries were scored by a panel of judges including investors and experts representing Elevate Ventures, IU Ventures, the Kelley School of Business, the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Velocities, and Ivy Tech Community College.

Additional high scores were earned by: OurSafeQ, a virtual system to manage lines of waiting; Reezy, an app to help consumers easily save all digital and print receipts from any store; and WayZada, which creates custom 3-D works of art to memorialize outdoor achievements such as long distance runs.

The Mill’s mission is to spark Bloomington’s innovation economy by launching and accelerating startups, and its vision is to become Indiana’s center of gravity for entrepreneurship. For more information on the Spark competition, visit https://www.dimensionmill.org/business-plan-competition/

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