Global Entrepreneurship Week Highlight 2022~ Indiana

Cecilia Wessinger
5 min readDec 18, 2022

Blest Indiana! in thy soil
Are found the sure rewards of toil,
Where honest poverty and worth
May make a Paradise on earth.
With feelings proud we contemplate
The rising glory of our State ~ excerpt from The Hoosier’s Nest by John Finley

When you think about thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems, Indiana may not come to mind, but it should. I have the honor and privilege of working with people in almost 200 countries. This gives me a high level view of activities and stakeholders in a multitude of places. For several years, I have observed, studied and participated in “entrepreneurial ecosystem building” as a practice, approach and profession. I do not make statements like this lightly.

Indiana has it going on!

For this reason, when I was invited to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Global Entrepreneurship in the middle of the United States, I said, “YES!” The state of Indiana is working effectively to grow and foster a robust environment for entrepreneurship. The messages and the mission from Governor Holcomb’s office through to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and all the connected nodes are: they are open for business and they mean it.

photo credit to IEDC

Traditionally, “business” attraction focuses on large corporations with hundreds of employees. Few economic development organizations focus on entrepreneurship, and when they do, we see singular programs often outsourced or plug and play. We think of government as risk averse, often with reputations of betting on the proven models. They are seldom seen as innovative or inspiring. This could not be further from the truth, as Mariana Mazzucato has eloquently shared. When there is good leadership, cohesive teamwork, talent and support (just some of the necessary ingredients) governments can be entrepreneurial.

Secretary of Commerce Bradley Chambers

Enter Secretary of Commerce, Bradley Chambers

As Governor Holcomb took office, he tapped an entrepreneur, founder of Buckingham Companies to lead strategy and growth. Secretary Chambers recognized talent in the community, created a position and recruited Julie Heath to foster entrepreneurial ecosystem building efforts.

(Listen to Julie’s insights and wisdom Season 4, Episode 7 on Ecosystems for Change podcast)

Along the way, Julie brought remarkable team members like Morgan Allen (who we will all likely be working for one day) and the talent of creatives like Polina Osherov, Editor in Chief of Pattern to create the first ever Entrepreneurship Indiana Yearbook, it’s GORGEOUS!

Entrepreneurship Indiana Yearbook
Team Indiana making things happen

Julie also made sure The Speak Easy, Indiana’s original non-profit coworking space she led, had a good leader (TJ Wright) as she exited the role. We don’t often think about how important a succession plan is; usually when we’re out, we’re done. The thing is, when you are still part of the ecosystem (and even when we are not), it is important to maintain relationships. Julie is well aware that your network is your net worth. I love the phrase she coined, “Know How via Know Who”. One of the things I love about the Speak Easy is how clearly it defines what it is and what it isn’t. This breaks away from the model of trying to be all things to all people. When you’re a one stop shop, you seldom excel at anything. It likely comes from a scarcity mindset which is connected with fear, but that’s a blog for another day.

During Global Entrepreneurship Week, I had a wonderful opportunity to attend a couple of events and learn more about collective efforts across the state. Elevate Ventures supports high tech, high growth founders and is a wonderful catalyzer. I look forward to seeing them expand their knowledge and awareness into other sectors or invite other players to fill gaps. There’s potential for all, from manufacturing, agriculture and biotech to pharmaceuticals (which Indiana has a rich history of with companies like Eli Lilly founded almost a century and half ago). They haven’t forgotten that all big companies began as startups.

Bethany Hartley and her crew hosted Founder Factory in Elkhart, IN. The Startup Summit had investors, entrepreneur support organizers, educators and about 100 high school students. These innovative teens were inspired and inspiring.

Founder Factory ~ Startup Summit

When you recognize the talent in your community, support them to succeed and invite more people (inside and outside) to the conversation, it works. The formula is simple, but it tends to get gunked up as we forget it’s complex (which is different from complicated), messy (particularly as it is happening), takes time and trust.

How do we know this? Besides the fantastic stories showcased in the yearbook, there is data. Out of 287 global communities reflected in the Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER), Indiana ranks #76. Factors reflect the amount of funding, experience, talent in the region. As the Kauffman Foundation research shows, new businesses (1–5 year) are the biggest job creators. Indiana, which is 38th-largest by area and the 17th-most populous of the 50 United States ranks about 19th in gross domestic product (GDP). They recently conducted a study and $11.5B comes from new businesses. The state is not putting all their eggs into one entrepreneur basket, they recently announced Stellanis and Samsung will be investing $2.5 Billion into a joint venture in Kokomo, IN.

It is through the magical mix of older companies, startups, education, investments, talent and ideas, Indiana is catalyzing resources in ways other places are not. Their openness and resourcefulness is cultivating the environment. Startup Genome’s report points to high scores in many aspects, noted as an area of opportunity is for more knowledge. As leadership works on that, which it is doing in a number of ways, they will bridge that gap and continue to shine by staying on course.

So, what is a Hoosier anyway? I have a feeling we’re all going to learn as we watch Indiana shine their entrepreneurial beacon.

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Cecilia Wessinger

Community & Ecosystem Builder, Collaborator, Catalyst, Speaker/ Facilitator. Lover of words, ideas and people.