The Venture Club of Indiana’s annual Innovation Showcase includes the state’s largest pitch event, with some 20 companies vying for prize money. This year the pot is sweeter thanks to a companion event, the 2019 Indiana Next Level Fund Summit, held the morning of The Innovation Showcase. The host of the Summit is 50 South Capital Advisors, the fund administrator of the Next Level Fund. Aaron Gillum, senior vice president at 50 South, is also the president of the Venture Club of Indiana and works with the state’s venture community. I recently sat down with Aaron to learn more about the Summit and how VisionTech Angels, startups, and others can get involved. Here goes!
BP: What’s the history of the Next Level Fund? It’s fairly new, right?
AG: It is! The Indiana General Assembly announced the Next Level Fund in 2017 as a replacement of the Next Generation Trust Fund originally created by the Indiana Toll Road. We officially kicked off in March 2018. The Next Level Fund aims to invest $250 million over five years to encourage venture capital and philanthropic organizations to invest in Indiana’s innovation community. 50 South Capital manages the fund with oversight by the Governor’s Office and an Investment Board. While most of the money invested by venture capital firms (VCs) in our portfolio, the Next Level Fund can also make direct investments in companies alongside VCs in our program.
BP: How many VCs are participating in the Next Level Fund so far? Is there a limit to how many that can get involved?
AG: So far we have five groups that we have announced in our VC portfolio: Allos, High Alpha, the Foundry Group, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and Techstars SportsTech. There really isn’t a limit per se, but participants either have to be located in Indiana or have a track record of investing in Indiana companies. The objective is to get more venture funds in the state and deployed to Indiana startups and entrepreneurs.
BP: That’s awesome! Tell me about the Next Level Fund Summit? This is a first-time event, right?
AG: It is the first year for the Summit. I do want to stress while we share the same date and venue, the Next Level Fund Summit is a standalone event. At the same time, 50 South is heavily involved in the efforts of the Venture Club and thus The Innovation Showcase. The purpose of the Summit is to highlight our work to date, introduce our fund managers and what they’re working on, introduce portfolio companies, and ultimately, by exposing more people to the Next Level Fund, expand our list of VCs. We have invited venture firms from across the country to attend. To date we have more than 120 guests that have RSVP’d for the event. Our goal is to double that number.
BP: Is the Summit limited to VCs? Are angel investors welcome to attend?
AG: We’ve extended a special invitation to all investors – anyone who writes checks! Indiana is blessed to have a thriving angel investing community and groups like VisionTech Angels, Elevate Ventures, and several other up and coming angel groups throughout the state that play a critical role in funding early stage companies. We want you guys at the Summit connecting with the VCs, the investment board and me. We want to grow our investment community; we’re all in this together! The general public is also invited to the Summit.
BP: VisionTech Angels as well as other angel groups in Indiana have a number of Indiana-based portfolio companies in the middle of Series A Rounds. Can they attend?
AG: Absolutely. We want them at the Summit. I would encourage them to go to our website, look at the venture firms that are currently participating, do some homework, and come prepared to network.
BP: Any special guests you’d like to mention?
AG: Every guest is special, but we are particularly pleased to welcome Governor Eric Holcomb as well as members of the Fund’s investment board. Our fund managers and many of their portfolio companies are looking forward to showcasing all the work they have been doing throughout the state.
BP: Will we see Summit guests at The Innovation Showcase?
AG: I am personally encouraging everyone who attends the Next Level Fund Summit to stay and attend the Venture Club of Indiana’s Innovation Showcase. It’s such a natural segue from what Indiana is doing as a state to increase the number of VCs firms and ramp up later stage investment, to the excitement of the pitch competition with 20 of Indiana’s most investable companies. Anyone with a stake in Indiana’s innovation and entrepreneurship community should attend both events.
BP: I’ll be there.
AG: I’m counting on you, Ben.
For more information on the Indiana Next Level Fund, click here. RSVP for the 2019 Next Level Fund Summit on Thursday, August 22, 8-11 am at The Center here. There is no cost to attend. RSVP for The Innovation Showcase here. We look forward to seeing you at both events!