Indianapolis: burgeoning marketing technology hub
There’s been a lot of talk lately about Indianapolis’ role in the high-growth world of Marketing Technology. With 11 acquisitions of marketing tech companies in the last four years that total out to over $4.8 billion, we have proven that we know marketing tech. Some may view these numbers as big wins for the Circle City, but to borrow a phrase from Bachman Turner Overdrive, you a’int seen nothing yet. Last Friday, Tim Kopp (ExactTarget CMO), Mike Langellier (Techpoint CEO), and Scott Hill (CIK Enterprises CEO) gathered at Techpoint’s “New Economy, New Rules” breakfast to discuss the impact that Indianapolis is having on marketing tech, and their stance was clear. “Indy already is Marketing Tech Capital of the World. The rest of the world just doesn’t know it yet,” said Kopp. “We are still in the early innings of Marketing Technology.” And in these early innings, Indianapolis appears poised to take the lead. The sum of a thriving entrepreneurial scene, home brewed marketing tech giants like Angie’s List and ExactTarget, and close proximity to three top business schools and two top engineering schools is a winning combination. Yet, we’re still making a name for ourselves. “We have the core assets, we just need to leverage them,” said Langellier.
Key Takeaways for Other Cities on the Rise
What is it exactly that differentiates Indianapolis as a center of marketing technology? How did we get here? I mean, there are dozens of up-and-coming cities around the world that are showing the potential to become tech giants in their own ways. What lessons can these cities learn from Indianapolis?
Corner a Market
One of the things that puts Indy in such a great place right now is its competitive position in marketing technology. With marketing tech giants and startups alike scattered across the area, Indianapolis has carved out a niche that has been able to attract the top talent in its field. Some of the best marketing thought leadership calls Indianapolis home. This is the first step to building something special.
Build a Community
Individuals always lose out to teams, and that includes individual companies. Between Verge, Powder Keg, Techpoint, lean startup circles, and the dozens of other meetups that are happening almost every day in Indy, more ideas get shared and, more importantly, acted upon, than would be possible without strong community ties. Not only do ideas spread more rapidly, but ideas are more likely to get off the ground when you have a team of backers ready to hear your pitch and build your product. At the same time, Indianapolis companies are still pushed to the coasts seeking top technical talent too often. Verge and other organizations are doing our best to enhance the culture of learning here, and while we’re proud of how far we’ve come together, we still have plenty of work to do if we want to make a really meaningful dent in the talent gap.
Find Your Ocean’s Eleven
Some people in the business world call this “synergy,” but that’s because they’re Boring McYawningtons who don’t like to have any fun. Ocean’s Eleven is my favorite movie. It should be everyone’s favorite movie. It’s the best. What made this movie great wasn’t the script, it was the cast. When startup communities fail to gain traction, it’s often the result of having too many Frank Cattons and not enough Yens. Much like robbing a Casino, building a community around marketing tech requires a lot of business people and techies alike. After all, we all know you need a former blackjack dealer to be your inside guy, but you’ll never get past the lobby without a circus acrobat to slip down an elevator shaft. Seriously. I dare you to tell me you don’t love that movie. Say it to my face. You won’t.
What are Other Communities on the Rise Doing Well?
There are countless ways communities succeed–and fail–at growing the way they want to. Here are just a couple of examples. If you have some of your own, please share in the comments!
Organizations like The Downtown Project, Vegas Tech and the Vegas Tech Fund embody thought leadership when it comes to investing not just in companies, but in communities. Their multi-faceted approach to creating economic impact includes bold, quantifiable goals like “Create Residential Urban Density Greater than 100 People/Acre” and “Add Density Of Ground Level Activities, Spaces, And Businesses.” And with hundreds of millions in funding, the goals they’ve set are within reach.
Maybe it’s not surprising that Las Vegas–a veritable adult playground–is leading the charge not just in helping technologists and founders succeed, but also in helping them be happy. The Downtown Project’s clear emphasis on data-driven results isn’t just to set clear performance targets–it’s to set clear expectations of what kind of community they want to build and how they’ll do it.
Lots of factors play into Detroit’s growing resurgence, and many of them are both challenges and opportunities. Detroit has one of the highest concentrations of tech talent in the country, a gritty grassroots support network, a strong cultural identity, and of course their $18 Billion bankruptcy. But of the things the Motor City has going for (and against) it, perhaps the most obvious one is physical space.
As the population declined from over 1.4 million to less than 800K over the last few decades, warehouses and factories emptied. They stayed empty for years, but now they’re filling up again. Old bottle factories and automotive assembally plants are being transformed into coworking spaces and community centers all along Woodward Avenue (the nation’s first paved boulevard). Just look at what the strong community leaders like Quicken Loans’ Dan Gilbert are doing with places like the M@dison Building and you’ll see that Detroit is committed to creating the environments startups need to thrive: