All Posts By

Fortitude Fund

Region first to use startup investment fund

By | News | No Comments

Region first to use startup investment fund

| Business Weekly

October 12th, 2018

An important part of creating an entrepreneurial culture is celebrating the success of a region’s entrepreneurial community, and Elevate Ventures wants to provide that opportunity during the region’s first Techstars Startup Week.


Start Fort Wayne has announced that the multi-day event, scheduled for Monday through Friday, will include an emerging entrepreneurs launch night where Elevate Ventures will share how area entrepreneurs in the restaurant and health care industries recently attracted up to $60,000 in seed funding.


The investment is from a new, statewide Community Ideation Fund of Elevate Ventures, which has designating up to $200,000 for business startup investment over three years in each of its four partnership regions.


In northeast Indiana, that investment will complement the Fortitude Fund program, which awards microgrants of $1,000 to help the region’s founders from the very beginning of their entrepreneurial journey.

Receiving a microgrant is not a requirement of Community Ideation Fund investment, but the first three founders receiving the money were also honored with $1,000 from the Fortitude Fund earlier this year to advance their projects.


“The Fortitude Fund is the initial stage,” said Robert Clark, entrepreneur-in-residence for Elevate Ventures. “Then we have this new Community Ideation Fund, where entrepreneurs can get $5,000 up to $20,000,.”


The investment is intended to help an entrepreneur “hit a certain milestone, so they have to tell us what the funds are going to be used for,” he said. “The next round would be a seed round of from $100,000 to $500,000.”


For rounds where Elevate Ventures participates beyond the Community Ideation Fund investment, “normally we get other co-investors to come in,” Clark said.


In addition to other regional organizations that help startups, such as Northeast Indiana Innovation Center and Brightpoint, he said it would be open to angel network participation.


“We’re pleased to be able to offer the Community Ideation Fund in regions where we have partnerships and see a promising entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Chris LaMothe, Elevate Ventures CEO, said in a statement. “For young startups that aren’t quite ready to seek traditional investment funding, these smaller amounts can be the catalyst that propels them forward to that next stage of investment and growth. Supporting founders every step of the way ultimately stimulates the types of entrepreneurial ecosystems we’re trying to foster statewide.”


The free Emerging Entrepreneurs Launch Night will take place 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Wunderkammer Co., 3402 Fairfield Ave. in Fort Wayne. The event will celebrate Community Ideation Fund investment in 3B Apps, Apollo Dynamics and Blaire Biomedical.


Fort Wayne-based 3B Apps has been lining up clients in Indiana and out of the state for an app it developed for independent restaurants. The online and mobile app is designed to take orders for restaurants, food trucks, and corporate cafes. The emerging entrepreneurs behind 3B are brothers Mitchell and Connor Skees.


The emerging entrepreneurs with health care industry innovations are Kyle Craig, founder of Apollo Dynamics, and Melanie Watson, founder of Blaire Biomedical. Both startups are based in Angola.


Apollo Dynamics has developed software-as-a-service and wearable device technology for accelerating athletic conditioning and rehabilitation through motion analysis based on data collected through a wireless network of sensors, which measure and record the motion of joints as well as the forces exerted on them.


Blaire Biomedical has developed an app capable of providing diagnostic blood results in the field from a drop of patient blood applied to a cartridge that medical personnel slide into the company’s SmartMed case after attaching it to a smart phone.


While relatively small injections from the microgrant program and Community Ideation Fund “may seem like not much to some people, they enabled us to move to the next level,” Watson said in a statement. “These funds are necessary for people who need to go from not having anything to a seed round. Elevate Ventures has made it possible to get through these initial stages.”


“Through the entrepreneurship community, Apollo has been guided to a solid beachhead market, monitoring patients after they’ve gone through a joint replacement surgery,” Craig said in the statement. “Our initial product will help hospitals gather data on their patients during their required rehabilitation period. Our intent is to capture that as a revenue stream and continue on to other markets.”


The Emerging Entrepreneurs Launch Night coincides with the next Fortitude Fund Social where the program’s mini-grant recipients connect and collaborate with other entrepreneurs in the region.

Innovation Profile: SoundWalk offers site-specific augmented audio

By | News | No Comments

Innovation Profile: SoundWalk offers site-specific augmented audio

| Business Weekly

October 12th, 2018

Please share a little about the business behind your SoundWalk project – the Space Owl Productions company you founded for your freelance production work.

I run a small visual and audio freelance business called Space Owl Productions. Under the name, I compose and record music and sound for video games, animations, short films, performance arts, and dance collaborations.

I also have been contracted to record several audio books. I also perform in and help manage several bands, two of which often travel on the road for weeks at a time.

I do all of this while working three part time jobs. With all of this I have not only learned how to organize my projects, but I’ve also learned how to organize people in order to get projects done.

How would you describe SoundWalk and how far along is the project?

SoundWalk is a mobile app that allows artists to compose immersive audio experiences and map them to GPS locations around the globe, allowing the public to interact with these compositions by walking through the public spaces for which they are composed.

The app will be downloadable through both the Android and Apple marketplaces, and will provide the user with a selection of experiences that have been developed for the app.

Because these experiences are mapped to specific physical geographic locations, they can be experienced by traveling to those prepared spaces with the app. Once they’re at the specified location, they open the app, put their headphones on, and start their SoundWalk.

I will work with musicians, writers, and game developers to create SoundWalks for the app. The Walk to Walk content will vary from place to place, but its focus will always be to enhance the user’s appreciation or understanding of the places that they visit.

One may be an abstract audio environment that enhances a public space’s features, while another might put you in the center of a narrative story with dialogue and action that exists completely in the audible realm.

I have been working on the project for seven months and have a business process for it as well as a mockup or prototype.

Who have you been working with on the project?

I am currently working on SoundWalk under the guidance of the Artlink 212 incubator. I have a mentor, Matt Ganucheau of Grey Area in San Francisco, who is helping me focus the project and getting me to the phase of pitching it for future funding opportunities.

Otherwise, the people that I will be working with on SoundWalk will be any creatives that can add a valuable voice to its content development phases.

How did you plan to use the $1,000 microgrant you received from the Fortitude Fund?

Currently, I have a system that works. I have built the necessary app and have set up the means for distributing it. Now, I just need content. I planned to use the Fortitude Fund money to fund the production of one narrative fictional piece for SoundWalk.

It would pay a local writer to create a plan for the experience. Then, I would use the rest to pay actors to dedicate their time and effort to recording the required dialogue for the experience.

Having a fictional narrative piece packed into SoundWalk’s launch will really help people understand the capabilities of the medium.

In addition to the microgrant, what might be helpful for the project?

SoundWalk is at an interesting point in its development. The app is there. Most of the sound development tools that are needed are there. What it really needs right now is money to pay for content development.

It needs to invest in creatives to develop SoundWalks that will show people that sound can amplify their understanding and appreciation for the unseen worlds around them. I think the Fortitude Fund can help connect me to people who see the importance of this work and who are willing to invest in it.

How do you see yourself fitting into the Fortitude Fund community of entrepreneurs?

I currently see myself as a student of the community. While I am confident in the experiences that can be created with SoundWalk, I know that I have much to learn when it comes to presenting the app to the public.

I am a musician and artist first. Business has never been something in the front of my mind. I hope that I can extend my knowledge as a hardworking creative, and receive a helping hand by those who really know how to do business.

Chasing a dream? Art of Beckham draws on the power of ideas

By | News | No Comments

Chasing a dream? Art of Beckham draws on the power of ideas

| Input Fort Wayne

October 3rd, 2018

Davonta Beckham stands in front of a crowd at TedxFortWayne in March.

At 23-years-old, he’s tall and thin with a friendly demeanor. He’s wearing khakis, and a blue button-down shirt with a green cardigan over it. He’s talking to the crowd about the power of imagination.

“For a moment, I’d like to ask you to close your eyes and imagine yourself as a child,” Beckham says.

Beckham draws all of his pieces by hand.

He tells the audience about a time when he tried to fly as a child by jumping off his parents’ couch. It’s something a lot of kids do, he says—whether they’re pumping their legs on a swing set, or bouncing on a bed, or leaping off a couch.

Children believe they can fly.

“Think about how confident you were in that moment,” Beckham says. “Even after realizing it was actually humanly impossible to fly, you probably got back up and tried again—not to be disappointed in your inability to fly, but to feel the exciting rush of that trying, that jumping, that taking the risk brought.”

But as he continues to talk, his tone turns serious.

“You know, maybe some of you have had moments where you felt like your wings were damaged. Maybe things didn’t go as you expected. Maybe you felt like you failed, or maybe even when you jumped off the couch as a child, and you landed on the ground, you got back up, and said, ‘Man, what’s wrong with these things,’” he says looking down at his arms in a moment of exasperation.

“Today, I want to share with you a moment when I truly lost my wings. But through that experience, I actually learned what it truly means to fly.”

Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Beckham moved to Fort Wayne to attend Indiana Tech on a track scholarship.

In high school, running was how he felt a sense of purpose in life. But when he broke his foot twice in college, he took it as a sign that he needed to find a new passion to fill his downtime.

Beckham uses his art to share motivational messages.

“You can get really low in those moments,” he says. “So I just started drawing and focusing on art.”

Beckham has been an artist of sorts since he was a kid, but he let his art take a back seat to athletics for awhile. Then, as he admired the work of other artists on Instagram, like KAWS (Brian Donnelly)Paper Frank, and Hebru Brantley, he began to see how powerful art could be.

“I started realizing what art really was, and that people are really impacted by it,” he says.

So Beckham started thinking of ways that his art could impact people, and he started with a simple idea.

“I just drew this lightbulb,” he says. “We all have so many ideas, and I thought: What if we could see our ideas in real life? What if they could be tangible and really do things?”

So he gave the lightbulb eyes, hands, and feet with running shoes, and he put it into different scenarios, like playing basketball or running track.

Before long, it evolved into a fully animated character with a face, a name, and a personality. Beckham’s friends started asking him to draw custom pieces of art for them using the lightbulb to tell their story or express their ideas.

For instance, if they played tennis, the lightbulb might be impersonating them in a match.

And with that, the Art of Beckham was born.

Read the full story here.

What is coë? A small town space where food, music and creative arts collide

By | Dekalb News + Blogs, News | No Comments

What is coë? A small town space where food, music and creative arts collide

| Input Fort Wayne

September 26th, 2018

What does art look like? TK Kelley and Angie Slentz are challenging the notion that art has to be a one-dimensional experience, found only in a bigger city.

Enter coë, a project that combines culinary, music, and creative arts all under one roof, in unique experiences that cannot be replicated. And co-founders Kelley and Slentz are betting on the town of Auburn as the location for these experiences.

Why Auburn?

For Kelly, the reason is part personal, a nod to both his youth and his professional trajectory.

“I grew up in a small town in central Minnesota … before leaving to move to Hollywood at age 18,” he says. “I have lived all over the county and toured all over (as a musician). I literally grew up on the road.”

His time on the touring circuit influenced his outlook, showing him that cities both large and small can hold great potential. For example, Auburn, with a population of about 13,000, is small town with character and a strong community of people who are investing in its future. Downtown Auburn is especially poised for growth, as a company called Team Quality Services has recently pledged an investment of $2.56 million to move its headquarters there.

Speaking of moving, Kelly went on to work in tourism and hospitality for 15 years—which brought him to northeast Indiana. He’s lived in cities like Nashville, Seattle, San Francisco, and Oklahoma City and traveled the country supporting many other attractions.

You could say there’s been a consistent theme over the years. Through his travels, he’s had the opportunity to immerse himself in the cultures in each of these areas that have ultimately allowed him to establish great relationships in music and culinary communities. Most recently, he enjoyed a 4-year tenure at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo as the general manager.

Upon relocation to the area, it didn’t take long for Kelly to realize that Northeast Indiana had great potential and heart—and that includes boosting entrepreneurship and innovation.

“If you truly have a dream, there’s an entire community (willing) to support you,” he says.

So he and Slentz did just that. They had a meeting of minds and fleshed out what the coë experience might look like. They’ve devoted the last year to planning these experiences, and “experience” is the key word here.

“We don’t believe we can ever replicate the night,” he says. “It’s like falling in love for the first time.”

For example, the duo have spent the past several months curating a series of pop-up style focus groups at The Deli at Sixth and Main in Auburn. A select group of people, with a diverse set of backgrounds, were invited for an evening engagement.

The real magic was in the lack of details provided. According to an Aug. 28 press release, “the intimate group of 40 guests were aware there would be food and music, and that was it. What they ultimately walked into was a unique, one-of-a-kind invitation into the minds of all these artists.”

What the first cohort of guests found was a nationally recognized chef mentoring an up-and-coming talented cook from Fort Wayne, a touring singer-songwriter from Nashville sharing the night with a local rising guitarist, and a creative artist painting live.

This all happened in a living room where food was cooked in front of the guests, songwriters performed on couches, and the visual artist captured the energy of the evening in the form of a painting.

In other words, it was dynamic and organic. There was no agenda, and that’s the beauty of it.

In Kelly words, it’s all about intimacy and allowing the artists to be themselves and transparent.

“The connection comes from the art,” he says.

Kelly hopes to continue the momentum of events like these and draw guests from around the region and beyond to participate.

“The plan is to do two to three experiences between now and next spring,” he says, adding that he hopes to ramp up the frequency in 2019.

The success of coë largely depends on people taking a chance. Kelly says the fact that they are “first to market” makes coë elusive, and some people are hesitant to take the leap.

“When people actually experience it, that’s when they get it,” he says.

But it doesn’t end there. Kelly says they are looking into the possibility of making coë a more regular part of the community. Their vision? “This (would) no longer be a ticketed event, but a 7-day a week storefront location in downtown Auburn that would showcase author readings and signings, culinary creations created in an open kitchen and cooked in front of you, combined with featured creative and musical artists.”

Experience coë

The ticket is $75 a person and includes an evening of artistic experiences and a 5-course meal, with and beer and wine sourced from local vendors.

See their Facebook page for a schedule of upcoming experiences.

Technology column: Elevate Northeast launches Emerging Entrepreneurs fund

By | News | No Comments

Technology column: Elevate Northeast launches Emerging Entrepreneurs fund

| Business Weekly

September 20th, 2018

Emerging Entrepreneurs applications must represent Indiana-based companies with a headquarters in a community under a partnership with Elevate Ventures to qualify for funding. The companies must have no more than $50,000 in trailing revenue over the past 12 months.

Funding for the investment is from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s 21st Century Technology and Research Fund, provided by Elevate Ventures from its $200,000 Community Ideation Fund.

The Community Ideation Fund was created to feed entrepreneurial momentum through investment in some of northeast Indiana’s startup and early-stage companies.

The first three companies receiving Emerging Entrepreneurs investment will be identified at Launch Night.

The individuals running the businesses are among the early $1,000 grant recipients of the Fortitude Fund, which Elevate Northeast Indiana started this year to provide entrepreneurs in the region with community, mentors and money to help them launch and grow their companies.

Launch Night coincides with the next Fortitude Fund Social, “which means you get to connect and collaborate with other northeast Indiana entrepreneurs while enjoying drinks and appetizers,” the announcement said.

“Whether you are brand new or a seasoned business veteran, you will find yourself surrounded by a supportive community of peers who want to see you achieve your vision.”

Read Full Story Here.

Ciara Jiminez

By | Allen, Cohort #4, Media, Stories | No Comments

As a self-published author of two books and a long-time blogger, Ciara Jiminez is familiar with the process of writing and publishing a book. She wants to help people in their writing ventures by providing the editing, publishing, and marketing an up and coming author needs. With a micro-grant from Fortitude, Ciara can begin to launch the publishing process and help others achieve their writing dreams.

Janae Andrews

By | Allen, Cohort #4, Consumers, Stories | No Comments

Born with naturally curly hair, Janae Andrews was tired of using products that were damaging and excessively harsh on her hair. Not only was she losing the healthy look of her curls, the curl pattern itself was lost because of products that didn’t work and only damaged her hair. Janae created Banah Hair Care, a product line to help rebuild hair texture, reconstruct curl pattern, and restore curls to their glowing, healthy state. With the micro-grant, Janae can begin the process of attaining a provisional patent on her products.

Robert Johnson

By | Allen, Cohort #4, Featured Founders, Foods, Stories | No Comments

After his success with Crossroads Kombucha, Robert Johnson decided to tap into a venture that hasn’t quite been explored in our region yet: sparkling water. Inspired by the culture and flavors around the world, he hopes to create three unique flavors of sparkling water. Through a grant from Fortitude, Robert can purchase the brite tanks he needs for quick carbonation, allowing him to create a quick-to-market product.

TK Kelly

By | Arts, Cohort #4, DeKalb, Stories | No Comments

Tom Kelly came up with the unique idea of creating a culinary, musical, and creative arts experience in an intimate environment. This exclusive experience will serve guests with a three-course meal while songwriters and artists share their work throughout an evening. With the micro-grant, Tom and his partner can invest in branding that will exemplify their unique and exclusive dining venture.

Logan Herald

By | Allen, Cohort #4, Medical, Stories | No Comments

Logan Herald, along with two other Indiana Tech alumni, created technology that will, in the event of a fall, help acute care patients receive the help they need faster. Logan recognized that current technology does not help in the aid of patients quick enough, so he and his team created Ratio Medical to solve the problem. The micro-grant from Fortitude will allow Logan to fund a provisional patent for his product.