Lafayette, IN: Midwest’s Newest Startup Hub

As we head into 2016, it is no secret that startup culture is spreading beyond the coasts. Cities throughout the Midwest are claiming qualities that new companies are finding increasingly alluring. Thinking about startup hubs in the Midwest, a few cities come to mind: Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, even Detroit. One city that might not be on many people’s radar is Lafayette, IN — and it should be.

Last weekend, MatchBOX Coworking Studio hosted Greater Lafayette Startup Weekend — an event that inadvertently showcases the value that a city like Lafayette has to offer startup companies. After attending the event, we wanted to outline some of the reasons that being a Lafayette startup is so great — and how this location gives companies an advantage against criteria by which startups are often judged.

Community involvement and support: At first glance, when you compare Lafayette to Startup Weekends hosted in larger cities, you may take note of the small group of people in attendance. Upon a closer look, you would notice a group of 35–40 participants who aregenuinely engaged and interested in the companies and their ideas. In a time where tech culture is on the rise, Startup Weekends can become “the place to be” in certain cities. This is certainly not a bad thing, but there is an advantage to a small group of people who are intimately involved throughout the weekend. Especially when that group of people ranges anywhere from community leaders to students who traveled the two hours from Indiana University.

One of the criteria by which startups are judged at the event is their business model: Who are your target customers? What is your value prop? What is your roll-out strategy? These are questions that any new business needs to ask. Working from Lafayette gives companies a network of coworking spaces, businesses, and a university that are committed to helping them succeed. With easy access to these resources, Lafayette startups are able to tap into answers to basic business model questions. For instance, if the team is looking to find their ideal customer, they have access to do consumer testing on Purdue University’s campus, downtown, in the neighborhoods, or an hour away in Indianapolis — giving them a full spectrum of consumers.

Less competition: As a budding player in the startup arena, Lafayette it able to offer its companies less competition to the city’s resources. Located minutes away from Purdue University, and within two hours from both the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University, Lafayette is in a prime location to attract Indiana talent. Companies in the process of growing their business benefit from the close proximity to universities without competing against hundreds or thousands of others looking for talent. This applies not only to talent, but to resources such as office space, materials, or even venture capital funding. Securing any of the above resources is a time consuming venture, the less time companies spend thwarting competitors, the more time they can spend running their business.

Lower cost of living: One of the more frequently discussed benefits to running your startup in the Midwest is the lower cost of living. In fact, the overall cost of living in Lafayette is 17% less than the national average, with housing averaging 47% less. With the ability to save money on real estate (both commercially and residentially), companies are able to allocate more money towards their business. They can save even more by running their business out of local coworking spaces such as MatchBOX, the Anvil, or Purdue Foundry. Another criteria startups are often judged for is their execution. While the executive team largely determines a company’s success in execution, having the ability to spend more on additional talent, resources, etc. doesn’t hurt.

Winners of the weekend, Dime, a smart decision making software for groups, and Collide, a mobile app that tests for concussions via pupil responsiveness, are two glowing examples of the types of innovation coming from our city. As the Midwest grows as a contender in the startup world, Lafayette should continue to climb the ranks as a promising location to grow new business. The more entrepreneurs and startup companies we have in the city, the more our entrepreneurial ecosystem will thrive.

About the Author

Stuart Gutwein is co-founder and attorney at Gutwein Law. His career encompasses over a decade of experience in several areas of business including mergers and acquisitions, business formation, and product development. He currently serves on the Indiana Business Law Survey Commission, serves as a board member of M25 Group and is an active member of the Ag Law Council of the Indiana State Bar Association.

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