Year in Review for The Mill

by Jan 11, 2024

Crossposted from the Herald-Times, this is The Mill’s regular column, written by Pat East, Executive Director.  

December is a perfect time reflect, especially in the last week of the year when lots of folks are taking time off and it’s easier to find time to think. For me, reflecting includes reviewing my monthly stakeholder updates from the previous year, taking stock of the big wins, and getting motivated for the upcoming year.

My first takeaway is that we have the best Entrepreneurial Support Organization (ESO) staff in the state, half of whom are new to the team. This year, we welcomed Haley Pritchett, Code/IT Academy Program Manager; John Fernandez, Senior Vice President, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships; Nick Faulkenberg, Venue & Booking Manager; Scott Reynolds, General Counsel for Flywheel Fund; Kelsey Fitzgerald, Membership Manager; Richard Millunchick, Startup Coach; Jerrell Stephens, Facilities Manager; and Aimee Cottle, Head of Marketing.

My second takeaway is that The Mill and our startups have accomplished a lot this year. Our staff and the companies we help are extraordinary hard workers. I’m proud to lead this group as we help bring Bloomington into the new economy. They’re smart folks who are doing cool, interesting things and I hope the list below makes you agree. Thank you to our cornerstone sponsors – City of Bloomington, Cook Group, and Indiana University – for providing the financial support to make this work and impact possible.

January

  • Atlas Solutions re-brands to Grantcycle
  • The Mill signs an agreement with the Redevelopment Commission (City of Bloomington) to market and develop the Trades District and the Tech Center
  • Mill revenue grew 33% year-over-year
  • upSTRTER, an alternate career pathway program for K12, launches
  • 3rd annual Freezefest is held

February

  • 7 Mill or Flywheel companies are nominated for 9 Mira awards
  • The Mill is nominated for Mira’s Entrepreneurial Service Excellence award
  • 3 of 5 Nexus South (pitch competition) winners are Mill/Crossroads/Flywheel companies
  • Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, also a gubernatorial candidate, visits The Mill

March

  • infoSentience announces their new partnership with CBS Sports
  • rScan wins Crossroads Collegiate, our statewide pitch competition

April

  • DREAM Tech is selected to participate in NIH’s Company Showcase at the BIO International Convention
  • The ecosystem is growing: A former co-founder of a Mill company (Blueprint Stats) is a new co-founder of another Mill company (Stagetime)
  • $3 million of construction funding is secured for the Tech Center
  • We showcased 3 pieces of Crane intellectual property (IP) as part of our Crane accelerator
  • Bloomington won Midwest Startup’s “Midwest Madness for Best Startup City”

May

  • Senator Mike Braun, also a gubernatorial candidate, visits The Mill
  • One of our startup founders, Erik Coyne, is named Chancellor of Ivy Tech Bloomington
  • Flywheel Fund III invested at 10-15x the national average for women- and minority-founded teams
  • Everewear and ReproHealth Technologies win Crossroads Spring, among an all-time record for applicants
  • Launched two websites: tradesdistrict.com and codeitacademy.org

June

  • Blueprint Stats is sold
  • Civic Champs receives $500k from the RK Mellon Foundation
  • The Mill publishes a “Notice of Offering” of the developable lots in the Trades District
  • The Mill becomes a “HubSpot for Startups” organization
  • Lemonade Day participation increases 50% year-over-year
  • 5 students from CompTIA Security+ find jobs
  • Two Flywheel companies raise $7.5 million total (AfterSchool HQ and Qualifi)

July

  • Traduality is accepted to gener8tor
  • infoSentience signs an agreement with the world’s largest futures and options market
  • 4 of 15 Nexus North/Central/South (pitch competition) winners are Mill/Crossroads/Flywheel companies
  • 2 Flywheel companies win second place at Innovation Showcase
  • Advisory Board for the Trades District is announced
  • The Mill becomes a Fast Company Best Places to Work
  • The showcase for Startup Summer, our paid internship for collegiate founders, is held

August

  • Grantcycle participates in GrowthX
  • IU Innovates hires their inaugural executive director, Julie Heath
  • Bids request for the Tech Center are published
  • Crossroads Fall (our 15th!) applications opened
  • The Mill works with MCCSC again to support their entrepreneurship curriculum
  • We also welcomed our second batch of high school interns
  • We judged a $1 million investment competition at Rally

September

  • IU names Nicholas Hammond as their new head of Innovation and Commercialization
  • We secure $3.8 million additional for construction of Tech Center
  • The Mill is appointed to Ivy Tech’s entrepreneurship advisory board
  • New terms have begun for The Mill’s Board of Directors: Rahul Shrivastav (IU Provost), Jeana Finlinson (Cook Medical), Chelsea Linder (TechPoint), Don Lukes (IU Treasurer), Nate Lattimer (ShipSigma), and Eli Serrano (student entrepreneur representative)

October

  • Gubernatorial candidate Eric Doden visits The Mill
  • We produced a dozen events for Innovation Week, our annual celebration of events around technology and entrepreneurship, designed to showcase our community and get folks excited about our ecosystem
  • We break ground on the Tech Center
  • Percipient moves to Bloomington
  • infoSentience partners with MaxPreps
  • 3 of 5 Nexus State (pitch competition) winners are Mill/Crossroads/Flywheel companies
  • The Mill celebrates its 5th birthday
  • Pocket and Integrate, two EdTech companies, sweep Crossroads Fall
  • German American ranked #1 for Best Places to Work, our 6th annual edition
  • $40k grant awarded to pilot a Southern Indiana pre-accelerator

November

  • IU officially launches IU Innovates
  • Civic Champs is awarded a $70k Moonshot Grant
  • Site and foundation work is progressing on schedule for the Tech Center
  • The showcases for gBETA Bloomington/Columbus and Main Street are held

December

  • The showcase for Cohorts, our pre-accelerator, is held
  • Paid.Care and Sheep Wool Pellets won Crossroads Idea
  • Thank you to Duke Energy for sponsoring our new Climate Resiliency track

Flywheel Fund

In April, Flywheel Fund IV surpassed its fundraising goal of $1 million with $1.1 million. We made our first investment in July. To date, we’ve made 15 investments totaling $660k. A third of those investments were in Bloomington companies. We also started chapters in South Bend-Elkhart and Greater Lafayette, where we made our first investments in May and July, respectively. In August, Flywheel was named the 3rd most active investor in the Great Lakes region.

Code/IT Academy

Partnering again with Ivy Tech, we ran three cohorts this year: in the winter for CompTIA Security+ which recorded an all-time high for applicants, in the summer for introduction to web development, and in the fall for Amazon Web Services (AWS). In May, The Mill won a $1.3 million grant to expand Code/IT Academy from Monroe County to Southern Indiana. The first two counties were Washington and Crawford. The next three are Daviess, Dubois, and Orange counties will come this summer. We expect to continue teaching 15-20 students on average for each class in each county. Thank you to ROI and READI for this generous award that allows to make an impact across Southern Indiana.

ReBoot

Designed for folks who are interested in starting a business, we held cohorts in the winter for women and non-binary folx and we expanded to the entire community in the summer and fall. We moved from a 6-week course meeting once a week to a more focused and intensive schedule where we met 5 times in a single week and also made the switch from meeting virtually over Zoom to meeting in person at The Mill. This drastically improved registrations, engagement, and completion. Our winter cohort had 28 registrations and 19 completions, our summer cohort had 22 registrations and 14 completions, and our fall cohort had 20 registrations and 18 completions.

Bloomington Remote

No longer do you have to work and live in the same place We recruit remote workers to work and live in Bloomington, using The Mill as their work space. Since 2020, the Bloomington Remote Program has 45 members across 50 households totaling 90 people who have relocated from 23 states and 1 country. Beginning the last half of this year, we averaged moving 3 people a month. In October, we moved 7 participants, an all-time record.