Endeavor is on a mission to encourage entrepreneurs to dream big, scale up, and pay it forward. Behind each raise or company milestone is a founder and story that represents a region to bring attention to. While many are aware of regions where investment capital is the norm (such as Silicon Valley and New York City), we aim to lend support to entrepreneurs in places that may not be on the heavy hitters’ radar – but certainly should be. 

Middle America – including our region of Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio – quickly became and continues to be an area we know to be capable of major growth, and has the metrics and entrepreneurial ecosystem to back it up. 

Through a case study from Endeavor Insight that highlights the opportunities present in Middle America, a breakdown of the growth already happening for startups and scale ups, and examples of Endeavor’s expansive work in the region, we aim to illustrate the potential that already exists in the cities we spend our days in. 

First up in our Midwest City Series is Indianapolis. A city many may know by name, but has long been underestimated when it comes to the innovation and opportunity it provides new and emerging founders.


A Case For Indianapolis

Midwest startup case studySince 2019, Endeavor has made Indianapolis a core community to support, expanding its regional office and adding Entrepreneur Selection & Growth and Scale Up Program Manager, Jake Budler, as boots on the ground in the city.

By providing resources and mentorship to early startups and entrepreneurs through Scale Up, building relationships with local investors, and making connections for promising founders, we’ve seen first hand the promise the city and its surrounding communities have. But to keep the needle moving forward, more recognition and action is needed.

With first hand experience comes the data to match. Endeavor’s research arm, Endeavor Insight, conducted their own assessment of Middle American cities, publishing a 2020 report titled, Middle America’s Competitive Advantages In Entrepreneurship.

The goal of this study was to assess the particular opportunities available to Middle American cities using new data to identify a community’s competitive advantages in entrepreneurship. Through their research, four major conclusions were found:

Middle American cities require new solutions to avoid falling behind cities on the coasts.

Due to smaller populations, lower incomes and economies dependent on industries projected to shrink or change, Middle American cities are falling behind compared to metropolitan areas on the coasts, and need new strategies that build on the region’s strengths.

Significant resources for growth exist in Middle American cities.

Between the three Middle American cities examined in this series (Indy being joined by Louisville and Cincinnati), companies raised more than $1.4 billion in 289 deals over five years up to March 2020. This exceeded venture capital investments from the five years prior by nearly $500 million. 

Businesses in these regions have ample access to markets, and their cities are some of the nation’s largest talent generators. In fact, Middle American cities produce more Tier 1 and Tier 2 research university graduates than cities on the coasts.

Economic growth follows the production of Big, Entrepreneurial, Super-Productive, and Tech-Enabled businesses in Middle American cities.

The Middle American cities with the greatest productivity and highest incomes generate large numbers of the BEST businesses; those that are big, entrepreneurial, super-productive, and tech-enabled

Decision makers should further support the BEST businesses in Middle America.

Strategies should be created to increase the number of BEST businesses and support the BEST businesses that already exist as they continue to grow. Local leaders should take coordinated action to support their BEST businesses by:

  • Identifying the BEST businesses that make up local competitive advantages in entrepreneurship.
  • Aligning the development of local resources to the needs of the founders leading the BEST businesses.
  • Acting regionally to broaden the support available to the BEST businesses.


A Backbone of Entrepreneurial Success in the Region

As pointed out in the report, entrepreneurship built the economy that still exists in Indianapolis, dating back to 1876 when Colonel Eli Lilly founded his Indianapolis based pharmaceuticals company that is still flourishing today. The firm now employs more than 33,000 people worldwide, and is undergoing a $400 million manufacturing expansion at its Lilly Technology Center campus in Indianapolis

Many organizations in Indianapolis continue to see the potential of the region’s entrepreneurs, and are doing their part to attract the right talent and capital to the city, especially in technology. Indianapolis has come in 4th in Midwest Startups’ Best of the Midwest Startup Cities Rankings for the past three years thanks to new and big tech wins including 2021 highlight rounds for Greenlight Guru ($120M), OnBoard ($100M) and acquisitions of Jobvite ($200M) and Emplify ($50M). 


From left to right, High Alpha Managing Partner Scott Dorsey, Partners Eric Tobias, Mike Fitzgerald, and Kristian Andersen

Some of these firms leading the way for emerging companies include:

  • Techpoint is the growth accelerator for Indiana’s tech ecosystem, and connects college and university students to companies in need of highly skilled talent. 
  • Elevate Ventures guides local entrepreneurs to fund groups and angel managers that can jumpstart their rounds of capital, while investing in Indiana-based companies from their own VC fund.
  • Innovatemap helps software companies of any size or scale to bring leading digital products and services to market. Innovatemap also invests in select companies they work with, and was recently named to the Inc. 5000 2021 fastest growing companies list.
  • High Alpha works between their Studio and Capital teams to launch and fund business-to-business software-as-a-service (B2B SaaS) companies. In fact, just a few months ago they raised $110 million for Indiana’s largest venture capital fund to date.


At the entrepreneur level, the list of Indiana-based founders goes on and on. Through Endeavor’s Scale Up Program, we’ve supported several entrepreneurs behind innovative companies who are well on their way to high-impact, high-growth work. Past and present Scale Up Companies from Indiana include:

Authenticx Founder and CEO, Amy Brown

  • Authenticx helps healthcare organizations use technology to analyze data from customer-to-business interactions. Founder Amy Brown and her company organizes data and gathers insights to help healthcare companies serve their patients better. 
  • Selfless.ly was launched by Joshua Driver and Zach Rodenbarger to make philanthropy engagement easy for companies looking to give back. The turnkey software solution is an affordable, all-in-one platform for companies to create a personal philanthropy strategy, and offer these benefits to their employees. 
  • Continuud leverages artificial intelligence to help HIV Service Organizations connect and engage with high-risk community members. Founders Richard and Nathan Walsh designed the integrated ecosystem from the ground up to enable organizations to work more efficiently toward the goal of eradicating 90% of new HIV infections from communities by 2030.


Other startups and scale ups making noise in the state include:

  • RxLightning streamlines the historically complicated manual enrollment process of starting a patient on specialty

    From left to right, DemandJump co-founders Christopher Day and Shawn Schwegman

    medications, and founder Julia Regan was recently recognized as a 2021 Business Women First Enterprising Women Awards honoree.

  • PERQ saves real estate teams time with a “people-less conversion process” – using AI-powered digital tools specifically created for multi-family real estate.
  • Casted is the only podcast marketing platform built to give marketers a true return on effort through access, amplification, and attribution of their brand podcasts and related content. The company also closed a $7 million Series A in April 2021.
  • DemandJump is a content marketing and attribution platform that assists digital marketers by providing insights on the customer’s journey and the competitive landscape to reach and target customers.
  • Mandolin is a concert live streaming platform for artists, venues, and fans that emerged as an industry leader in 2020 as the live music industry was turned upside down overnight due to Covid-19. The High Alpha portfolio company closed a $12 million round of funding in June 2021, and plans to hire up to 100 new employees.


Building a Community in Indy

For the first time, Endeavor entrepreneurs, mentors and board members came together in Indianapolis during the summer of 2021 to mix, mingle and explore all the opportunities the city has to offer new and innovative founders.

The two-day tour included the first Endeavor Local Selection Panel to be hosted in Indianapolis, a tour of the leading Venture Studio, High Alpha, a meet and greet for members of our network to connect, as well as office hours for new and emerging entrepreneurs to learn about the high-impact work of Endeavor. Innovatemap hosted the Local Selection Panel and regional meet and greet, bringing together the Endeavor network from Indiana.

This was just a taste of what’s to come for the relationships Endeavor aims to build and the support intended to be given to the Middle American city as it continues to grow and be recognized as an entrepreneurial hub.


This blog and case study was co-written by Endeavor Intern Jackson Bologna.