Venturing into Indy's startup community

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This is the first in a series of blogs featuring the Venture Club, written by Evening MBA student Vicky Bender.

Shortly before I began my Evening MBA Program at the IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, I found myself unexpectedly seeking employment. So - I simultaneously became a student of business and a student of networking. I packed my calendar with coffee meetings, lunches, and networking events as often as I could. A closet introvert, I found ways to exist in large rooms full of strangers without retreating into myself too often. I practiced answering difficult questions without rolling my eyes or sounding sarcastic, and I learned to keep a conversation going by asking open-ended questions. One of the most valuable things I learned in that time was that the Indianapolis start-up community is among the easiest to navigate and most willing to help.

In my first summer semester, I enrolled in an entrepreneurship class called W579 Innovation Showcase, taught by Todd Saxton, associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship. As part of the course, we examined various business models and the five discovery skills of entrepreneurship: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking. The capstone experience of the course involved attending the Innovation Showcase, where we visited with exhibiting start-ups, learning about their product or service and their journey along the path of financing and building their business.

For the fall semester, I enrolled in W525 Entrepreneurship and the Venture Community of Indianapolis, also taught by Professor Todd Saxton. We explore the growing start-up community through the Venture Club, a non-profit focused on assisting entrepreneurs and helping new businesses succeed. A typical monthly lunch meeting held at the Columbia Club downtown includes time to network, a guest speaker, and a couple of new ventures practicing their investor pitch for the group.

While the presentations at the Venture Club (and the Innovation Showcase, for that matter) are always interesting, the networking component is perhaps the most powerful. People are genuinely interested in understanding your business structure, and their questions are insightful. More than that, the venture community is adept at connecting people. When I explained my job situation to those in the entrepreneurial space, I found them eager to connect me to others in their network. They know better than most that it’s not what you know, but who you know.

I am happy to report that shortly after the Innovation Showcase, I did secure employment. It wasn’t an entrepreneurial connection that pointed me to my new job opportunity, but that doesn’t matter. I learned so much about networking, maintaining connections, and how to help others find employment by my involvement with Indy’s entrepreneurs. I would like to think I am forever changed by the connected mindset I found in Indy’s venture community. The real test will be in my ability to pay it forward and help connect someone else in need.