‘Suite Speed Dating’ gives emerging tech firms a foot in the door

It’s been nearly 16 years since emerging technology firm ExactTarget (now Salesforce) inked early sales deals with electronics and appliances retailer HHGregg and shopping malls giant Simon Property Group — all Indianapolis-based companies at the time. According to a 2007 interview in the Indianapolis Business Journal with founder and CEO Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget was able to leverage the credibility it gained with those well-known clients to land many more.

“For us, it really had a big benefit. It was in the first year or two of our business and it gave us visibility in the business community and senior-level contacts,” Dorsey said. “There’s very little that our community could do to be more beneficial to our startup companies than using their products.” — IBJ

It’s with that experience in mind that TechPoint hosted the first-ever Suite Speed Dating event at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for 16 of Indiana’s most promising emerging tech firms to meet face-to-face with a dozen of our state’s largest, most well-known household brands and companies. The law firm of Barnes & Thornburg was the presenting sponsor for Suite Speed Dating with additional support from underwriting sponsors Comcast Business, DeveloperTown and mAccounting.

Browse the full list of participating Suite Speed Dating scale-up companies.

“Building trust and jump-starting relationships — and ultimately the sales process — between young companies and large, established companies isn’t a new idea, but it’s something our maturing tech community needs more of right now,” said Mike Langellier, president and CEO of TechPoint. He kicked off the event by challenging everyone in attendance to approach every conversation thinking “start with YES.”

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Emerging tech firms had their own suites overlooking the landmark court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for face-to-face meetings with local anchor companies.

It’s not all one-sided; there are plenty of benefits for anchor companies working with scale-up companies, too. Tapping into homegrown, emerging innovation and entrepreneurship is something established companies often seek out, and programs like TechPoint’s Tailwind initiative and Suite Speed Dating event offer a vetted path to the most promising partners.

In the state of Indiana, however, there are far fewer customer relationships and collaborations between big companies and emerging scale-up companies compared to other regions. The Kauffman Foundation identified this critical gap in an assessment released last year. With its own Tailwind program already in place, TechPoint developed Suite Speed Dating as a step toward improving this metric. The connections and potential new customer relationships that come out of the event could very well be the boost scale-up companies need to become our next big success stories.

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Representatives from large and small companies alike commented on how impressive and effective it was to have the “speed dating” event at a landmark location like Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Judd Williams, chief information officer at the NCAA, wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when he and his top team members attended the Suite Speed Dating event. “We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and you guys really created a fun environment in a unique and memorable location,” Williams said. “It was a great opportunity to see what local companies are doing that we would not have been exposed to otherwise, and to discuss potential applications at the NCAA.”

PactSafe Founder and President Brian Powers said “the event was a great way for PactSafe to get valuable exposure to some of Indy’s key business leaders.” He also commented on how fun the event itself was for everyone involved. “I’m pumped to see TechPoint taking the lead and creating opportunities like this for Indiana tech companies.” PactSafe innovates in the legal contracts and agreements software space.

“One of our team’s most reliable skeptics came away from Suite Speed Dating really, really enthusiastic about the connections we made with some important prospects,” said John McDonald, CEO of CloudOne — a fast-growing cloud services company and Internet of Things (IoT) convener. “We want to be first in line when you do this again. Creating an intersection where companies like ours can have meaningful conversations with the big guys is just not something that happens every day.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joshua Hall is editor of techpoint.org. He writes about Indiana tech companies, jobs, people & events. @joshua2349