New Program Announcement: ADVANCE

Are you ready to take your business to the next level? Advance is a 4-month cohort program designed to move your business forward in a purposeful way! Over the 4 months, you’ll connect with other business owners, work with industry experts, and reach business goals. 

Each month we’ll have a new guest speaker cover a particular topic relating to business. The leaders will also take time to discuss the content covered in the session and discuss upcoming goals with the cohort! 

Wondering if this program is for you? We encourage all entrepreneurial-minded people to join, no matter if you have a dream of starting a venture in the future or if you already have your own operating business. 

Find more information about program dates and how to sign up, click here!

Big Idea Pitch 2021

An End to the Xtern Program 2021

We’re Hiring a Hospitality & Concierge Specialist

We’re searching for the right person to join our dynamic team! Could it be you?

Job Title-Hospitality & Concierge Specialist

Wage-$12.00 an hour

Hours of Work-20 hours per week, hours flexible depending on event schedule

Main Duties and Responsibilities 

  • Greeting and assisting guests and clients at the front desk
  • Coordinating groups and events as needed
  • Common area oversight of the facility
  • Other miscellaneous administrative duties

Apply Here:

Innovation Connector Announces First Associate Director

The Innovation Connector is pleased to announce the promotion of Carter Anderson to Associate Director.

Anderson will serve as the first Associate Director at the Innovation Connector. In this new role, he will manage facilities, operations, and specific programming for the center.


“The Innovation Connector is thrilled to have Carter on our team to serve in this new capacity. Creating this position is a major step forward as we continue to grow our service offerings for entrepreneurs and businesses in East Central Indiana,” stated CEO/Executive Director of the Innovation Connector, Ted Baker.


Anderson has already shown that entrepreneurism plays a large role in his life. During high school, Carter began his entrepreneurial journey by starting and running his own landscaping company. After graduating from Delta High School, he enrolled in Ball State University’s nationally ranked entrepreneurship program. During his time in college, he immersed himself into learning all he could about the business development process by serving as a student assistant in both the President’s Office and the Office of Business Affairs at Ball State University. In 2019, Carter placed 3rd at the Innovation Connector’s BIG Idea Pitch for another business idea – FamLeo.


In the fall of 2020, Carter began working at the Innovation Connector as the Innovation Specialist where he helped design, develop, and implement strategic entrepreneurial programs for clients of the Innovation Connector.

“Since Carter was hired in August 2020, his impact at the Innovation Connector has been remarkable. As Associate Director, Carter will lead several valuable initiatives for our clients. I look forward to seeing what he will accomplish as he serves our community,” Baker commented


As a Muncie native, Carter is familiar with the community’s economic challenges as well as its successes, and he understands the impact of bringing new ideas and resources to entrepreneurs that will help our community flourish.


Anderson will graduate this spring from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurial Management. When he is not running his own business, pursuing his degree, or working at the Innovation Connector, he can be found enjoying time with his wife Stella and participating in just about anything involving sports.


Congratulate Carter by sending him an email.

Tech Talk: CTPs Deserve Additional Support

The program responsible for Certified Technology Parks (CTPs) in Indiana was created as a tool to “support the attraction and growth of high-technology businesses and promote technology transfer opportunities,” according to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC).

CTPs are the product of local redevelopment departments, which are established to improve certain – sometimes blighted or underutilized – areas of the community. The redevelopment commission, which governs the department, applies to the IEDC seeking a CTP designation for all or part of the territory within its jurisdiction.

Designation as a CTP allows for the local recapture of certain state and local tax revenue which can be invested in the development of the park. Specifically, CTPs may capture a maximum of $5 million over the life of the park in incremental sales and income taxes. Those that hit their lifetime cap are eligible to capture an additional $100,000 annually in incremental income tax revenue as long as it maintains its certification with the IEDC.

Another distinction is that CTPs are anchored by at least one business engaged in “high-technology activity” that will create a significant number of jobs. This includes, for example, advanced computing, biotechnology, medical device technology and advanced vehicle technology, among others. (See IC 36-7-32-7)

This year, Senate Bill 213 seeks to increase the annual post-cap capture to $250,000 for CTPs by addressing a concern (one that has been the death knell for similar attempts in previous sessions) raised by members of the House of Representatives: What happens when a CTP evolves into a general business incubator rather than a hotbed for high-tech innovation?

Admittedly, this happens. CTPs, through their own success, cultivate high-technology businesses to the point they “graduate” from the CTP and move into another, larger space in the community. In need of backfilling the empty CTP space, they negotiate a lease – sometimes with a new, albeit non-high-tech tenant. After five to 10 years, the CTP may no longer have an anchoring business engaged in “high-technology activity.”

In short, SB 213 says that (i) once the CTP reaches the $5 million lifetime cap, it must be recertified by the IEDC, (ii) the IEDC evaluates the CTP to determine if it still meets the statutory requirements for CTP designation, (iii) if so, then the CTP will be considered a “Level 2 CTP” and eligible for the additional recapture; if not, then it is designated a “Level 1 CTP,” which means that it may maintain the CTP label but must come into compliance with the statute before being eligible for the additional recapture and/or risks losing the CTP label all together.

We are hopeful that these changes to the statute will resonate with the decision-makers in the Indiana House, specifically those on the Ways and Means Committee who must agree to hear the bill. CTPs are a success story in Indiana that have bolstered communities throughout the state and cultivate a spirit of STEM entrepreneurship.

But they have a unique business model: a successful CTP risks losing high-paying tenants and therefore revenue. As such, time has come to support these hubs of high-tech innovation by rewarding those CTPs that the IEDC determines are “good actors” – especially as most, if not all, CTPs are near the $5 million cap and will struggle to exist without additional state support.

Adam H. Berry | | (317) 264-6892

This story was originally posted on 

The BIG Idea Pitch – Becoming an Entrepreneur at Six Years Old

Six-year-old Muncie resident Kai Markelz is launching his first business this holiday season after pitching his idea at the Innovation Connector’s annual BIG Idea Pitch Competition and earning 1st place.


When Lindsey and Andy Markelz pitched their business in the 2018 BIG Idea Pitch Competition, they were very passionate about making this a family event and included their children, Kai (then 4) and Tiana (2), in the ideation and planning process. Kai observed his parents’ excitement for their invention and tried very hard to identify a problem so that he could find a solution.


One day, after a bath, Kai hurried to his mother, eyes wide, “I have a good invention!” he announced. Accustomed by this point to patiently listening to his ideas, Lindsey anticipated the need to let him down easily again, but this time was different. Kai was frustrated during hair washing in the bath because soap and water would end up in his eyes.  He thought a pair of strapless goggles would keep his eyes tear-free. He worked on some sketches, deciding that animal designs would make them fun for kids.


“Kai liked the idea of inventing something and kept trying to identify problems and solutions. I remember how excited he was when he realized that he had identified a real problem and a viable solution because he was always so frustrated during hair washing. Looking back, it’s one of those ideas that makes you ask, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?'” Lindsey shared.


Kai worked with his parents to prepare for the 2020 BIG Idea Pitch, presenting “Froggles.” On the night of the big competition, Kai was calm, joking that his mom was more nervous than he was (she agreed), with his nerves ramping up only after walking into a room of adults and waiting to begin his pitch. After delivering their three-minute pitch, the mother-son team met some of the other local entrepreneurs and waited for the results. As the announcements started with fifth place and going to first, Kai rode the waves of hopefulness and concern as the prize pool narrowed. Ultimately 1st place was announced, and Kai moved with reserved excitement to the front of the room to claim his baseball bat trophy, which is now mounted in his bedroom.


“Of course, we’re excited that Kai came up with this idea and won, but we’re also thankful for the opportunity for him to focus on a goal and to put the hard work into preparing and practicing that ultimately paid off. The life lessons that he will carry forward are invaluable.” Lindsey and Andy Markelz said when asked about Kai’s invention.


Winning 1st place at the Innovation Connector’s BIG Idea Pitch Competition includes a prize package with an abundance of business services. With Innovation Connector partners’ services, Kai and his family can take his idea to the next level by launching an online store with Oggles 1.0 in three kid-friendly designs. Customers can now purchase Froggles, Doggles, and Unicoggles at

Innovation Connector Announces the Winners of the Seventh Annual BIG Idea Pitch Competition

November 13, 2020 – Muncie, IN – On Monday, November 2nd The Innovation Connector of Muncie, Indiana, awarded five local entrepreneurs prizes for winning the seventh annual BIG Idea Pitch competition.

Over 35 entrepreneurs and innovators signed up to “pitch” their business, business concepts, product, or invention to a panel of judges for a chance to win an abundance of business services and cash prizes. This year our participants followed all COVID-19 guidelines and not only pitched in front of a panel of judges but also pitched in front of a socially-distanced room of viewers and many viewers from a streaming service through Facebook Live.

The winners of the 2020 BIG Idea Pitch Competition are:

1st Place: Kai and Lindsey Markelz – Froggles

2nd Place: Paul Dytmire and Andy Klotz – Score IT

3rd Place: Teah Mirabelli – Magnetic Nails

4th Place: Josh Raines – ARES: Alarm-Reducing Environmental Sensors

5th Place: Jacob Peterson, Melissa Jones, and Breanna Daugherty – Portefolio

In addition to a cash prize, each winner was awarded in-kind services, including marketing and branding, business coaching, financial help, a spot in the ADVANCE program, and more. All of the in-kind services were donated from the Innovation Connector’s partners.

Thank you to our partners for their continued support for the Innovation Connector and the BIG Idea Pitch 2020: First Merchants Bank, Whitinger Strategic Services, Whitinger & Company, Deltec Solutions, R&R Engineering, Action Technologies Group, Bankable, The City of Muncie, and Shafer Leadership Academy.

From left to right: Josh Raines, Paul Dytmire and Andy Klotz, Teah Mirabelli, Kai and Lindsey Markelz, Melissa Jones, Jacob Peterson, and Breanna Daugherty.

Xtern program expands to Muncie, additional expansion expected

For seven years now, the TechPoint Xtern program has become increasingly popular with college students across the U.S. Applicants have far out-paced the number of positions available from Indianapolis tech companies each year, even as companies outside the capital city wanted and needed young talent.

More than 2,000 students from 222 universities and 43 home states applied to be in the summer 2021 Xtern class, a high-engagement, 10-week, summer internship program that provides participants housing, access to numerous tech and governmental leaders, and a huge step forward into tech careers. Total available hiring spots for those Xterns: 150.

“The answer was obvious and had been for a while but it wasn’t until Casey Stanley, Vice President at Ontario Systems, and our Relationship Manager Jennifer Merrell got together this year that we came up with what we think could be a model for additional expansion,” said Merillat Flowers, Senior Director of TechPoint’s College to Career Talent programs.

“They started finishing each other’s sentences and throwing out ideas about who to go to next and how it could happen. Before we knew it, we had offers for housing, leadership, and hiring companies lining up,” she said.

A survey of the applicant pool showed that nearly 78 percent of the students were as happy to be placed in Muncie as Indianapolis. The result is that a portion of the 2021 Xtern class will be working and living (if the pandemic allows) in Muncie.

“It was amazing how many groups said yes when Casey started talking,” Jennifer said. “He took it on as a personal project, and it was like magic.”

Casey shrugs off his influence in the process, saying the community was ready to help long before it was asked.

“Muncie is a community that pulls together and helps each other out, and we’re all very proud of what we have to offer,” he said. “It’s nice to get to show that off a little bit.”

Leaders at Ball State University, the Innovation Connector, the City of Muncie, NextMuncie, and the Ball Brothers Foundation, First Merchant’s Bank, LEAP Managed IT, Dannar, Accutech Systems, Deltec Solutions, Magna PowerTrain, Shafer Leadership Academy and the City of Muncie were involved in the initial collaboration and are pioneering partners in Xtern Muncie.

Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour is eager to lure top tech talent to his Delaware County city.

“As east-central Indiana’s economic growth engine, Muncie needs ongoing access to qualified tech talent, so we are very excited that TechPoint has chosen our community to expand their highly-regarded Xtern program,” he said. “Local employers will gain the services of top tech talent, and the program will draw to our community an exciting group of young professionals, many of whom will discover Muncie for the very first time.”

Key to Muncie’s success will be a partnership with the Innovation Connector and the boots-on-the-ground leadership from Ted Baker, the organization’s executive director.

Merillat said the expansion will start to address a pain point she and her team experience every year.

“We have so many talented, eager and passionate students who want careers in tech,” she said. “We are thrilled to have more organizations taking part and giving these young people a great look at Indiana, and the Indiana tech sector.”

The innovative Xtern program was launched in 2014 to create a life-changing experience that would make the next generation of tech workers rethink or discover Indianapolis as a destination for their career path. Last year, more than 2,000 students from all over the country applied for the program. Over the past seven years, surveys of students entering the program showed that 25% of them said they were considering a career in Indianapolis after graduation, while after the program, 76% of Xterns were interested in staying in the city and accepting job offers.

Assuming the pandemic restrictions are lifted and there are no safety concerns, Indianapolis Xterns will live on the IUPUI campus. Muncie Xterns will live together in a dorm on Ball State University’s campus. When they are not working or soaking up after-hours professional development, the Xterns have plenty of opportunities to explore the area,  learn how to get involved in the community and leave their mark. The two Xtern groups will have opportunities to network and take part in activities together as well.

Mike Butler, CTO at First Merchant’s Bank, encouraged other Muncie businesses to stand ready for a chance to join the program and start cultivating relationships with what could be their next generation of leaders—even if they’re not considered a tech company.

“Banking isn’t a place many people think about as a place to work with technology, but First Merchants has a thriving technology culture, rich with technologies and innovative ideas,” he said. “There are approximately 100 people on our technology teams, ranging in skills such as cyber defense, software development, systems/network engineering, application management, business analysis, data engineering, and many other functions.  We are excited to be part of the Xtern Muncie program and to give back to the community.”

TechPoint CEO Mike Langellier said he was encouraged by the survey results that showed most Xtern prospects were happy to be in the program regardless of where exactly they’d be located.

“That says a lot for Xtern’s reputation but also for Indiana’s growing reputation as a state—not just one city or region—where great tech careers can happen,” he said.

“Indianapolis tends to get most of the hype when it comes to national commentary about the next big tech hub, but there’s exciting tech happening across the state and we want the world to know about every bit of it.”

Original story posted on By Cheryl Reed October 27, 2020

‘Why I Entered The BIG Idea Pitch Competition and Why You Should Too.’ A Story by Carter Anderson.

<strong><span style="color: #ff0000;">Third Place Winner of the BIG Idea Pitch 2019 Competition, Carter Anderson</span></strong>

I was sitting in my entrepreneurship class at Ball State University when my professor began to tell us about the BIG Idea Pitch competition. She encouraged us to participate in the competition as it would be an excellent opportunity to make connections, practice pitching, and even win a cash prize. As my professor was talking, I began to get nervous about participating. I knew that the BIG Idea Pitch was a great opportunity, but I wondered if I had what it took to participate in the competition without making a fool out of myself. After pondering it for a while, I finally got the courage to take one step forward and sign up for the first training camp.

Fast forward to the training camp, I was able to not only learn about business ideas and how to come up with them, but I was introduced to the Innovation Connector staff. Since I was born and raised in Muncie, I always knew of the Innovation Connector but never got a chance to work with their team. The Innovation Connector staff not only welcomed me but everyone at the training camp with open arms. They suggested that if we need assistance with our business idea or need help developing a pitch, the Innovation Connector staff will meet with us. I took another step forward and scheduled a meeting with their executive director, Ted Baker.

At my first meeting with Ted, he helped me develop an outline for my pitch. I will never forget his words to me in my first meeting after I told him about my business idea. He looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m proud of you for doing this.” After he said that, I thought to myself, “how can someone be proud of me that just met me.” Well, Ted knew the boldness that it took to not only participate in the BIG Idea Pitch but also to ask for help.

The next two weeks leading up to the pitch night, my nerves started to disappear. The more that I practiced my pitch, the more confident I felt about presenting. I reminded myself to have a conversation with the judges about my business rather than a “perfectly written pitch.” When I showed up to the pitch competition, I felt nervous, but they were the kind of nerves that make you excited to present. Once my name was called, I went inside, I made eye contact with the judges, and I had a conversation with them about my business idea.

After my presentation, I stuck around for a while to hear the semi-finalists announced, and sure enough, my name was called. I got chosen to participate in the final competition at the Innovation Connector’s Excellence in Innovation Awards banquet at the Horizon Convention Center. What did this mean for me? It meant that I was in the running to win up to $4,000 by going on stage and having a conversation with people attending that dinner. So, I attended the dinner, pitched my idea, and came away with a 3rd place prize of $2,500 and business services to advance my idea.

Looking back on the experience, there are a couple of things that I learned. The first thing I learned is that pitching isn’t as bad as it seems. Pitching my business has built my confidence and experience tremendously. The second thing I learned is that people are more willing to help you than you think. It is easy to feel as if we don’t have a support system when we’re creating something new, but we’re actually surrounded by hundreds of people that will help us if we ask. Lastly, it is important to expose yourself to new opportunities and events, no matter who you are and what you do. The world is out there, and we have the choice to get up and get it.

You could have the chance to prove the potential of your business idea, meet people who can help you succeed, and even win a cash prize at the BIG Idea Pitch Competition. You can find more information about training camps and how to register your idea by going to