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Elevate Ventures Leverages EDA Grant, Exceeds Expectations

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2021 Nexus Higher Education grant award winners: (left to right): Chris LaMothe, CEO of Elevate Ventures; Dr. Ying Shang, Indiana Tech; Dr. Gabriel Gruionu, Indiana University School of Medicine; Dr. Huseyin Ergin, Ball State University; Erin Lewis, University of Evansville; Chelsea Marburger, program manager of university initiatives at Elevate Ventures; Landon Young, executive director of university initiatives at Elevate Ventures.

An EDA grant to Indianapolis-based venture development firm Elevate Ventures has provided free entrepreneurship training to more than 500 entrepreneurs from across Indiana since 2019 – more than twice what was projected.

The $750,000 grant was awarded as part of EDA’s Build to Scale program, previously called the Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program. The grant aimed to stimulate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Indiana’s colleges and universities. The initiative, called Elevate Nexus, provides entrepreneurial development opportunities through training courses, pitch competitions, conferences, and sub-grants to higher education institutions.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elevate Ventures saw a spike in demand for its training resources. The virtual distribution of the program not only allowed for entrepreneurs across at least 33 counties to engage, but also resulted in a broader, more diverse group of entrepreneurs learning how to grow innovative companies and pitch to investors.

“Because the Elevate Nexus programming is subsidized by the EDA grant, it lowered the barrier-to-entry that welcomes any and all Indiana residents with an entrepreneurial mindset. The program not only boasts participants across age, gender, and race, but it also attracts ideas and entrepreneurs not typically seen in venture capital,” said Landon Young, executive director for university initiatives and entrepreneur-in-residence at Elevate Ventures.

Programs and Competitions for Entrepreneurs

As part of the initiative, Elevate Ventures offers its Elevate Origins pitch training program at no cost to the entrepreneurs. The program, funded by grants from both EDA and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, helps entrepreneurs develop investor-ready pitch decks and executive summaries appropriate for their business stage.

Elevate Origins offers two tracks – pre-seed and seed – and provides virtual group learning, one-on-one coaching, and live pitch practice to startups.

The pre-seed track is for startups that have not yet generated revenue or aspiring entrepreneurs who may not have a business idea yet.

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Schedule of the 2021 Elevate Nexus Conference

The pre-seed track offers sessions such as:

  • Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Ideation and Business Model Innovation
  • Pitch Deck Iteration and How to Pitch to Investors
  • Coaching and Peer Pitch Practice

The seed track is reserved for revenue-generating startups and for life science companies that have completed pre-clinical trials. This training places a greater emphasis on developing business models, pitch decks, and executive summaries from lessons learned and data collected.

The seed track offers sessions such as:

  • Creating a Winning Pitch Deck
  • Pitch Deck Iteration and How to Pitch to Investors
  • Coaching and Peer Pitch Practice
  • Pitch Deck Design and Practice

Entrepreneurs who complete Elevate Origins will have all the assets needed to apply to the Elevate Nexus Pitch Competition. Every year, 35 investments – ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 – are awarded to Indiana-based startups.

The 2021 Nexus Statewide Pitch Competitions was held in August – in conjunction with the Elevate Nexus Annual Conference and Elevate Venture’s Kinetic conference. The competition showcased 10 companies, all of which have received investment from a previous regional competition. Three pre-seed companies received $40,000 investments while two seed companies received $100,000 investments. The total investment to date as a direct result of the Nexus Pitch Competitions has exceeded $3 million.

Engaging Higher Education

Elevate Ventures also used the EDA grant funding to provide sub-awards of $50,000 each to 12 Indiana higher education institutions. This grant funding supported, and in some cases created, entrepreneurship classes, programs, or experiential learning for students and faculty at the institutions. This funding also encouraged relationship building and connectivity across Indiana universities, students, and faculty alike and resulted in several university-supported companies competing and winning Nexus Pitch Competition award investments from Elevate Ventures.

Universities and community partners benefit when the companies they support compete and win one or more of the Elevate Nexus Pitch Competitions. Grants totaling 10 percent of the amount invested is awarded and earmarked toward entrepreneurship programming.

The Nexus Annual Conference also provides an opportunity for representatives from higher education institutions to network with entrepreneurs and innovators, while also learning about best practices for experiential learning and funding opportunities.

While the Elevate Origins training was originally intended for entrepreneurs with developed concepts, the new Pre-Seed curriculum has been integrated into classrooms at nearly 10 colleges and universities in Indiana while a partnership with TechPoint, an Indiana-based nonprofit technology growth accelerator, resulted in nearly 200 students enrolling in Elevate Origins for “dual credit” as part of TechPoint’s S.O.S. Challenge. The S.O.S. Challenge was developed to help offset the number of internships lost due to COVID and provides a stipend to students looking to develop their entrepreneurial, innovative, and technological skill sets.

“By using a scalable, online platform we have been able to seamlessly integrate our training seamlessly into college classrooms and other types of entrepreneurship and innovation programming across the state,” said Chelsea Marburger, program manager of university initiatives. “Being able to deliver our content at that scale in a way that supports the entire ecosystem has certainly contributed to the success of the Elevate Nexus program and the communities we serve.”

Tags: Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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