“Seriously?! You chose to move to Indy from California?” That is the first question I usually hear when I tell people that I did choose Indy over California just one month ago.
“Why!?” is the next question followed by
“Were you dropped on your head as a child?” which of course I answer with, “Yes, but that has nothing to do with it!”
To quickly explain, well that all depends on how fast you read, this is my story as to why I am here at DeveloperTown @DeveloperTown . (If you could care less of my story and just want to get to the facts of why I believe Indianapolis is by far the better place to be over California when it comes to the startup community, CLICK HERE)
Here we go…
I was born and raised in Napa Valley and I worked in the wine industry for a good amount of time. Just so you know, I am game to talk wine with anyone that is a wino like me. I was raised around technology and was involved with some startups out of the Bay Area but never saw myself as an Entrepreneur. I loved people, leadership, process, and making things more efficient. If you were to ask me 10 years ago what my dream job was, it was being a camp director and surf instructor for the rest of my life… FYI, that didn’t happen.
About three years ago, I was provided the opportunity to raise money to purchase an account that I was managing from a company that I worked for and start a new company. Honestly, I had never raised money, I didn’t have aspirations of running a company, and I was a Communications major in college… enough said. I wrestled with this opportunity and realized that the biggest mistake I could make would be allowing fear to define my path in this life. With the support of many amazing people back in California and a supportive wife, I was able to raise $2.5m , acquire the account, and close the deal in less than 90 days. Over the next 45 days we went from 3 to 25 employees and within 10 months we grew to become a multi-million dollar company with offices in California and here in Indianapolis. Last year I brought my family out to Indiana for what was supposed to be a 3-month stint and 14 months later I am still here!
I came to Indy to work with the office here and to better understand what this city had to offer. This is what I learned. Note that in the next couple paragraphs I am not name dropping but more giving shout outs to those that made the decision to choose Indy easier.
My family and I set our feet on Indiana soil three days before the epic ice storm of 2011. I have videos of using a hammer to clear the ice just to get into our offices! We wanted to go back home but I wasn’t going to let the weather deter me, I was interested in something more, interested in finding the TIPPING POINT. I had a strange feeling that Indy was gearing up to see a huge TIPPING POINT. (I will come back to this TIPPING POINT) So typically when I come to a new place I always want to know the people, the hearts of those people, and really see what drives the local community. One of the first people I met was a gentleman by the name of Greg Downey @greg_purim. Now Greg is a guy that you want on your side, one that could seriously hurt you if he wanted to, but he has a huge heart and a passion for startups, a passion to connect people and a passion to help others succeed. Greg then started to introduce me to many people in Indy like Jeff Kirk of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP (who was a rock star for my company with a couple tough legal issues and has also introduced me to an amazing group of minds here in Indy), led me to Aaron Nelson @asnelson (who is an Indy native but is rocking it now at Google with Double Click), Michael Cloran @mecloran (a local rock star when it comes to innovative thinking) and last but not least Christopher Day and his brother Stephen, which if you don’t know the Days, your life is no where near where it could be on the fun scale of life.
Side Story: I get a text from Jeff Kirk and Chris Day asking if I would like to go “surfing”. As you can imagine I thought this was a joke and I was instantly home sick. But to my surprise, they were totally serious! So last summer these wonderful guys took myself, Chad Ashcraft, Matt Toyer, and Kelly Hendricks @blastkelly out to wake surf on Geist! Epic epic day, so good for my soul and just so you know both Matt Toyer and Kelly Hendricks are pros at wake surfing!
Through this group I was also introduced to a couple city officials and was given a great view of how the local government is really supporting the local businesses and especially startups. For those of you that don’t already know this, you are all freakin blessed! My local government in California basically kicks the small business out and provides very little support. All of this was a 45 day ride for me that brought me to the conclusion that Indy was where I needed to move my company… all of it. Now some of you might know that even if you are a CEO, it doesn’t mean you call all of the shots. I pushed for about a year and as of a month ago the board decided to close the Indy office and move everything back to California. The board wanted me to move back California. I can tell you a year ago this would have been a hard decision, but last month, it was a five minute decision that went like this, (in summary of course)
“Coffey we would like for you to come back to California”
My response, “Hold on one second… hey love (that’s my wife), they want to move everything back to California and for us to go back as well. I personally think Indy has the TIPPING POINT FACTOR and it’s time for us to place our stake in the ground here… you ok with me resigning and selling off my side of the company so we can stay here for a while?”
Wife’s response, “do you really believe this is the place?”
Me again, “YES!”
Wife, “then do it!”
Me again, “hey board, I will help you through this transition but I am staying here.”
As you can imagine, this was a huge step of faith for us and at that time I did not have a plan as to what we were going to do. As the story unfolded, on a Thursday night I let my contacts here know I was staying. Friday morning Cloran asked me to come down to DeveloperTown to talk with him and some of the team (Shout out to Mike Kelly goes here). One week later I decided to come on board and I will tell you that I could not be happier and from my vantage point, I could not be in a better position to be a part of the TIPPING POINT that will happen here in Indy.
So let’s talk about this TIPPING POINT. Here is what I see:
Growth in Mindshare deciding to stay – I can’t tell you why or how this happens but it’s one of those macro economic shifts that you can see when a generation leaves for the coasts, gains amazing experience, and then decides they want to come back home. If you look around this city you will be able to list names of people here that have done this and have started companies that are now attracting young minds to stay after college.
Deal Flow – because of the above, the amount of deals and extremely good ideas that I have seen here over the last year has convinced me that Indy has a huge potential to make a name for itself in not only measured marketing but also in tech. Simply go to a Verge event, follow Matt Hunkler @hunkler and you will see what I mean.
Desire for a shift or diversification in investments to happen – We are seeing more and more investors want to diversify their portfolio into the tech space but are looking for ways to verify the options. We have some great IPOs which will birth new young investors that understand this space. We need to keep both the ideas and the money HERE!
Cost of living – I must say that the quality of life due to this is amazing for someone coming from California. This is extremely attractive and Indy is proving that it’s a city that can be enjoyed. Once again, hats off to the local community and government.
Family Focused – Hands down one of the best places to raise a family.
In short here is the map that I see:
Due to Mindshare coming back we are seeing great IPOs take place which will infuse capital that can be used as startup fuel which will keep the mindshare needed to grow this city!
Now here are my concerns. Even though people are getting excited and these shifts are starting to take place we still need to find a way to fund companies in between the friends and family round and “A” round founding. This needs to happen quickly.
I do love seeing people like Chris Day trying to rally with individuals to do this. I love seeing new companies like LocalStake @localstake focusing on crowd sourcing. (By the way, the guys over at LocalStake are great guys and if you don’t know what crowd sourcing is… look it up now!) BUT I also am seeing some of your big VCs on the coasts start to focus on this level of investment in cities like Austin, Denver, Boston, Atlanta, and even Indy.
With that said, I believe that this city has what it takes to really be a hot hub for startups. I believe in DeveloperTown and the team that exists within these houses. I believe that both the startup entrepreneur and the investment community need a solid accelerator and development house like DeveloperTown that focuses on guiding startups through the pain of building a tech company from concept to market push. I believe in our local government and its support, which we just saw last week as Mayor Ballard spoke here on his view of 2012 for our city. I believe in all of us!
So as I was driving home last night, a great song by Jon McLaughlin @jonmclaughlin called Indiana came on my Pandora station. If you haven’t ever heard the song, it’s worth the $.99 but there is a line that simply says, …”It’s probably best I stay in Indiana”. Three weeks ago I said, it’s probably time I set my stake in Indiana. I will tell you that since I made that decision, I have not been more excited for this city.
Rise From The Middle!
*disclaimer – if I didn’t mention you and you know you have been influential in my life, don’t worry there will be more blogs! Seriously, Kyle @kyleplacy and Mason @jmasonhughes you will get love very soon in your own blog!:)