The way Innovatemap CEO Mike Reynolds sees it, Indiana’s collaborative culture is a huge asset when it comes to sparking innovation and startup activity.

“I wouldn’t have been able to actually start this company without people in Indiana giving their time and advice to me,” said Reynolds, a Chicago native. “That is especially unique to Indiana. That should never stop.”

Innovatemap is a Broad Ripple-based agency that helps clients design digital products and services and deliver them to market. And Reynolds was among the panelists at an Indiana Technology and Innovation Association event Tuesday afternoon.

The panel, which was part of the organization’s annual conference, focused on the barriers and opportunities involved with launching and growing an innovation-focused enterprise in Indiana. The ITIA conference took place at the Indiana Convention Center alongside the Rally innovation conference. The one-day ITIA event was separate from Rally, but organizers of both events have deliberately cross-promoted each others’ gatherings.

IBJ is providing Rally updates on a dedicated blog over the course of the three-day event.

In addition to Reynolds, the other panelists were all also Indiana business founders: Amy Brown, CEO of Indianapolis- based Authenticx, Darrian Mikell, co-founder and CEO of Indianapolis-based Quali; and Julia Regan, co-founder and CEO of New Albany-based RxLightning. Brent Oakley, president of Fishers-based Vibenomics, moderated the discussion.

Brown echoed Reynolds’ assessment of the Hoosier state, saying that she had a lot to learn when she founded software startup Authenticx at age 42. She had no background in technology, had never built a company and had no experience raising investment capital. But she was able to get support from others who had these skills and abilities.

“… Indiana has a great, and Indianapolis has a great, ecosystem helping early-stage founders … I was able to get advisory support from other companies that have been successful and in the end, you know, I’m grateful for it,” Brown said.

Authenticx has raised $20 million in venture funding to date. The company was ranked as the fastest-growing in Indiana, and 349th nationwide, on this year’s Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies.

Regan also cited Indiana’s business incentives as an asset. A native of Pennsylvania, Regan said she considered both Indiana and Kentucky as potential headquarters locations for RxLightning, a health care tech company that launched in 2020.

“Indiana really looked at creating a custom package for us, not just at the state level but at the local, the New Albany level,” Regan said.

In contrast, Regan said, Kentucky’s incentives were more focused on how much a company invested in things like equipment and machinery—metrics that aren’t relevant to software startups, Regan said.

When asked about the challenges they’ve faced as founders, Reynolds said he’d like to see more events like Rally—deliberate attempts to connect founders, funders and other resources across different parts of the state.

As an example, Reynolds said his rm has clients in South Bend who are eager to make connections in Indianapolis. “So we’re making connections there. But I’m just one person doing that. I just think there’s a real opportunity to convene the state, to have a vibrant state ecosystem and just kind of take that mentality [from] the local level, because it shouldn’t be absent from the state level.”

Mikell said he’d like to see more diversity represented in Indiana’s tech industry. He, and two of his three co-founders, are Black, and the company has diversity as one of its core values. “We felt that [diversity] was lacking in the tech community here, and for that reason I do think it’s an opportunity.”

Quali’s emphasis on diversity has helped it attract talent, Mikell said, and a similar approach could do the same for other companies. On the opposite side of the equation, Mikell said, failing to embrace diversity means a company is limiting its growth opportunities. “Sure, things can grow. But we’re limiting ourselves if we’re only focused on one community or on a small subset of communities.”

Oakley agreed on the importance of diversity, saying that the quality of a company’s workforce is often the differentiating factor between competitors. Whether it’s grocery chains or software companies, Oakley said, “the people are the only thing that really separates them.”

Written by Susan Orr for Indianapolis Business Journal.