INDIANAPOLIS (April 22, 2023) — TechPoint, the nonprofit, industry-led growth initiative for Indiana’s digital innovation economy, today honored 141 nominees and presented 18 awards during the organization’s annual Mira Awards gala, presented by UKG, Salesforce and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
Winners come from Evansville, Fishers, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Lafayette, New Albany, and West Lafayette and are recognized by their peers in the tech ecosystem as true change agents whose innovations are helping save and improve lives, digitally transforming Indiana businesses and educating Hoosiers for tech careers in Indiana and throughout the world.
RxLightning was a repeat double-winner this year, and Zylo returned to the podium for an award it earned in 2020.
“The Mira Awards have always represented the best in Indiana tech, and this year we’re diving deep into talent development and digital innovation because both are economic growth imperatives,” said Ting Gootee, president and CEO of TechPoint. “Fortunately for us, the Indiana tech community is one that responds collaboratively to challenges, and we celebrate that tonight with examples of talent, innovation and entrepreneurship endeavors that will have ripple effects for generations to come.”
TechPoint launched Mission41K in late 2022 and set a goal that many deemed unattainable: inclusively growing the Indiana tech workforce by 41,000 people by 2030 and doubling the average 2 percent per year growth rate for tech workers in 2022.
TechPoint Senior Vice President of Talent, Strategy and Partnerships Dennis Trinkle announced from the Mira stage that the goal had been surpassed, with recent data showing a 5.6 percent jump in Indiana tech hires.
The 2023 TechPoint Mira Award winners:
System Scale and Growth Heroes for Digital Transformation Award (Indianapolis): Technology is everywhere these days. It plays an oversized role in organizational success whether it’s in the life sciences, advanced manufacturing and logistics, energy or agbiosciences sectors, in academia, the nonprofit world, retail or food service organizations. But it wasn’t always that way, and more than a few companies have stumbled by either not adopting tech as it evolved or by not adopting the right tech fast enough. In a crowded field, System Scale, a major player in the weights and measures industry and its Salesforce consultant, Growth Heroes, Growth Heroes stood out for a soup-to-nuts transformation and the effect on System Scale’s employee-owners.
- The Mira judges were astonished by the results of System Scale’s decade-long partnership with Growth Heroes and called it a testament to making bold moves in business by allowing technology to drive change as a profit center versus a cost center. The partners achieved quintuple corporate growth without increasing headcount and while simultaneously reducing the need for overtime, increasing associate engagement and remaining cost neutral. The judges said the thoughtful, deliberate approach to systematic cloud migration, automation and improvement should be studied and replicated everywhere possible.
Tactile Engineering for Product Innovation of the Year (Lafayette): Against a backdrop of nearly 30 years of consistent warnings that their concept was “impossible” to achieve, the Tactile Engineering team proved the naysayers wrong with the launch of the Cadence tablet, a mass-produced, affordable, reliable and portable electronic braille and graphics display for the blind and visually impaired (B/VI) community. Until Cadence, blind people – including tens of thousands of Hoosiers – lacked adequate access to braille and tactile graphics, resulting in literacy rates under 5 percent and an unemployment rate of more than 50 percent. Cadence brings education for the B/VI community into the modern age, giving them many of the modern computer-based conveniences that sighted people take for granted.
- The Mira judges found the decades of dedication and perseverance of the Tactile Engineering core team inspiring. The outcome is a revolutionary new device and platform that improves the quality of life for millions of people and brings them more fully into the workforce and society.
RxLightning for Product Launch of the Year (New Albany): RxLightning won the 2022 TechPoint Mira Startup of the Year and Tech Product of the Year awards for its groundbreaking work in digitizing a paper-dominated process for patients to receive more than 1,200 specialty medications, reducing wait times from months or weeks to days or hours. In November, the company launched its revolutionary MedAccess Ecosystem, the first end-to-end digital platform to streamline the specialty medication process and establish interconnectivity between prescribers, specialty pharmacies, patients and everyone in the process. The platform is already being used by some of the world’s leading healthcare organizations. With the platform, 94.1 percent of patients are getting access to medications in less than one hour, and 99.1 percent in less than one day.
- The Mira judges loved how the RxLightning team continues to take big swings at big, pervasive problems.
RxLightning for Disruptor of the Year (New Albany): Some say lightning never strikes twice in the same place. For RxLightning, the old adage just doesn’t hold true. With its 2023 win, the New Albany company became the first double-award winner to follow its dual wins last year with another set of double wins. RxLightning won Startup of the Year and Tech Product of the Year awards in 2022. This year, the company won Mira awards for Product Launch of the Year and Disruptor of the Year. Founded in 2020 by Julia Regan and Brad Allen, RxLightning digitizes a paper-dominated process for patients to receive more than 1,200 specialty medications, reducing wait times months or weeks to days or hours.
- The Mira judges said the potential for saving lives along with updating an antiquated process put RxLightning over the edge to win the highly competitive category.
gener8tor for Entrepreneurial Service Excellence (Indianapolis): Startup accelerator gener8tor grants access to opportunity regardless of race, place, or gender and is particularly focused on shrinking the equity gap for founders who are women of color, whose presence among their peers barely registers. Its core work supports others, but the organization also works to ensure its own team and actions encourage diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). The programming stands apart from other organizations designed to support founders in three key areas, and its approach is paying off for Hoosier founders: the accelerator has helped to attract more than $121 million in funding for Indiana alumni to date, along with the creation or retention of 579 jobs in Indiana. In addition to exhaustive programming for dozens of founders, gener8tor also hosted the OnRamp Manufacturing 2022 Conference at Gainbridge Fieldhouse at which more than 30 representatives from investment and manufacturing firms connected with more than 40 emerging manufacturing startups.
- The Mira judges congratulated gener8tor for its broad support model, focus on tech and on shrinking the equity gap for women of color. Fewer than 1 percent of startups with a woman of color founder receive venture capital investment. gener8tor prioritized reversing this trend as a business community success indicator and has helped attract more than $121 million in funding for Indiana program alumni to date, along with the creation or retention of 579 jobs in in the state.
Glassboard for Service Partner of the Year (Indianapolis): The hardware product development company helps solopreneurs, startups, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies punch above their weight class and out-innovate their competition. The Glassboard team often starts with napkin sketches and concept renders from which they begin development, working through product challenges and engineering, helping create pitch decks, operating as fractionalized Chief Technology Officers and providing business strategy support to founders. Their work with INO Armor to bring an academic research project to life, developing a novel, eco-friendly material made from silk cocoons into a material that can replace toxic expanded polystyrene foams in products ranging from impact-absorbing safety products like bicycle helmets to product packaging.
- The Mira judges were wowed when the Glassboard team demonstrated how they engineered silk cocoons into a bicycle helmet that could replace toxic polystyrene foams, with applications ranging from impact-absorbing safety products to product packaging, doing it all with renewable resources that are non-toxic and backyard compostable.
Ixana for Startup of the Year (West Lafayette): Ixana introduced its Wi-R technology last year, offering a new way to transmit information using the electromagnetic field that surrounds each human body. The body-guided wireless technology and silicon chip is based on research done at Purdue University. Wi-R behaves as a wire by confining the signal in a bubble around users’ bodies. Unlike radiative wireless technology like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Wi-R confines the signal only around the user or surfaces, leading to 100 times better energy efficiency. This also leads to the physical security of the signal such that individuals can transfer contacts, data, audio, video and more with just a touch.
- The Mira judges called the breakthrough “the solution to a billion-dollar problem that has long vexed the global wearable tech market.”
Zylo for Scale-up of the Year (Indianapolis): Founded in 2017, Zylo was the first company to recognize that organizations needed a better way to help manage their rapidly growing Software as a Service (SaaS) portfolios. Its groundbreaking service was a near instant success and led to the Indianapolis company’s 2020 TechPoint Mira Scale-up of the Year award. Three years later, the company returned to the Mira gala stage to take home the award again. Even in 2022’s uncertain economic times, Zylo secured $36.5 million in a Series C capital raise. Over the next five years, the company expects to nearly triple its employee base from 130 to nearly 400 employees in Indiana and throughout the country. The company is also on pace to more than triple its revenue, nearing $50 million in annual recurring revenue. Zylo has a historical client retention rate of more than 90 percent and achieved multiple record-breaking sales quarters in 2022. It is well capitalized for future growth and led by a strong and stable executive team that has the experience to propel its continued upward trajectory.
- The Mira judges said Zylo was the first company to recognize the need for a better way to help manage rapidly growing SaaS portfolios ,and its leaders continue to prove the company’s worth in a tumultuous economy.
JobWorks Education & Training Systems for Education Impact Award (Fort Wayne): Tech positions in Indiana and around the world are in white-hot demand and supply is woefully short, which is why TechPoint launched its Mission41K initiative in 2022, a collaborative effort to inclusively add 41,000 people to the Hoosier tech workforce by 2025.
Hitting that mark will undoubtedly be helped by JobWorks Education & Training Systems (JETS), which for 40 years has helped Hoosiers find employment. Its virtual boot camps have supercharged those efforts and are providing accessible, life-changing opportunity to underrepresented Hoosiers throughout Indiana. Despite entering the organization’s program with no prior tech training, 85 percent of its employed graduates hold tech positions, earning $19 an hour on average, an increase of about 25 percent over their pre-program wage on average, most of them coming from underrepresented groups.
- The Mira judges were impressed by both the mission and JETS’ 80 percent graduation rate. Perhaps even more telling, is the fact that employers who hire JETS alumni for the first time frequently contact the team asking if there are other available graduates for them to hire.
Kerry Ao for Student Entrepreneur of the Year (Evansville): When you’re an Indiana high school senior and France’s President Emmanuel Macron applauds one of your research papers, you might be forgiven for focusing solely on a future in international affairs. Evansville’s Signature School senior Kerry Ao would likely respond, “Au contraire.” He can’t be pigeon-holed so easily. At 18, he is pursuing an International Baccalaureate diploma, but is also a serial entrepreneur, a veteran fund raiser, product developer and a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Intertwined Finance LLC, a financial literacy program being piloted in 14 states that uses artificial intelligence to help students learn. Since January 2022, he has raised $36,000 in pre-seed capital for his formerly bootstrapped company.
- The Mira judges were a bit humbled by the teenager who saw a need to teach his peers financial literacy using integrated adaptive curriculum driven by artificial intelligence and secured funding to form a team and get the product to market.
Preventia for Tech Team of the Year (Indianapolis):Colleges and universities have long struggled to meet student needs for mental health services. Recent studies suggest the pandemic has only exacerbated the challenge, finding that more than 50 percent of American students suffer from one or more mental health issues. A two-person team from Preventia stepped in to address this challenge last year. Preventia is a scalable virtual-first care solution that enables any organization’s members to immediately connect with credentialed caregivers who focus on lifestyle, mental, and behavioral health.
- The Mira judges said they were impressed that such a small team was able to increase revenue by sevenfold at the same time that they received 5-star reviews by 100 percent of their customers.
Dave Schleppenbach for Rising Entrepreneur (Lafayette): Dave Schleppenbach is a lifelong champion of improving accessibility of STEM content and careers for people with disabilities. At his first company, GH, LLC, he pioneered innovations in braille production and tactile graphics design, building GH into one of the largest producers of braille in the world. He later started Tactile Engineering and Tactile Solutions to pursue his long-held dream of making an affordable mass-produced tactile graphics display and tablet computer for the blind. Schleppenbach led the Tactile team through years of bootstrapped research and development, manufacturing, sales, and fundraising, interchangeably wearing the hats of CEO, sales director, engineer, and researcher. In 2022, he secured solid funding, brought its Lafayette manufacturing facility online, and began deployment of its Cadence tablets in schools throughout the state and world.
- The Mira judges were struck by the potential of Schleppenbach’s device, which they called “a home-grown product with global reach.” They expressed deep respect for his personal advocacy for those with vision impairments and his commitment dating back to his firsthand experience at Purdue University with vision impaired chemistry students.
Qualifi for Exceptional Employer (Indianapolis): Launching a startup is a daunting task. Creating a successful company is even harder, and when it’s one of just 2.4 percent of Black-owned businesses in the U.S., it’s easy to imagine a workplace of stress, pressure and constant demand. At Qualifi, an on-demand phone interview platform for recruiters, though, that’s not the case due to things like unlimited and required paid time off, dedicated “koality” days (which pay tribute to Audi’O Koala, the company’s koala mascot) for employees to do whatever fills their cup, company paid continuing education, work-from-home resources, parental leave and financial literacy offerings. The company is on track to see 900 percent growth in revenue in the next three years and plans to grow from 19 to 50 employees, using their own technology, of course, to start that process.
- The Mira judges were impressed that Qualifi “walks their talk.” One example is refusing to accept that it’s hard to hire women in tech: they partnered with The Mom Project, investing in new pathways to overcome the obstacle.
Allegion for Mission41K Talent Champion Award (Carmel): A cross-sector panel of judges reviewed the nominations and data for six extraordinary companies that answered TechPoint’s call to action for companies across all sectors to innovate and adopt leading strategies to inclusively grow Indiana’s tech and tech-enabled workforce by 41,000 net new workers by 2030. Allegion, a global provider of security products for homes and businesses, stood out from its peers for the breadth, depth, and commitment to Mission41K’s goals and strategies.
- The Mira judges loved the passion with which Allegion has immersed the entire organization in Mission41K The company has hired more than 40 new associates this year, participated in skills-based hiring workshops and applied those practices to Information Technology (IT) hiring. It also hired TechPoint Xterns and identified five roles to pilot adult apprenticeships across its IT department.
Four previously announced TechPoint Mira Award winners were honored as well:
Captain Ryan Lynch, MAEL, Republic Airways for TechPoint Foundation for Youth Bridge Builder Award (Indianapolis): The Bridge Builder Award recognizes visionary leaders who offer underserved student populations in Indiana experiential learning opportunities that encourage science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
Maria Sellers for Nextech Computer Science Teacher of the Year (Terre Haute): The award recognizes educators whose achievements advance the education of students beyond the mere use of technology: they go above and beyond to inspire students to view computer science in a new light, engage students in disciplined computer science curriculum aligned with Indiana standards and create opportunities for ALL students to participate.
Solinftec for Deal of the Year (West Lafayette): Solinftec secured $60 million in a growth investment round supported by Lightsmith Group and Unbox Capital and Circularis Partners (TPG ART). The investment will enable the company to further expand its digital farm operations platform in North America and South America.
Rupal Thanawala for TechPoint Trailblazer Award (Fishers): The Trailblazer Award recognizes visionaries whose contributions have had lasting and significant impact on the state and its technology ecosystem.
In its 24th year, the Mira Award gala is the state’s largest and longest running technology awards program recognizing the “Best of Tech” in Indiana. Fifty-six independent, volunteer judges spent more than 850 total hours evaluating applications, interviewing nominees, and selecting this year’s winners. Judges included an impressive roster of company founders, CEOs and presidents, CTOs, CIOs, engineers and other industry professionals.
In addition to the 14 adjudicated categories, the TechPoint Foundation for Youth Bridge Builder Award was determined by a selection committee made up of Foundation Board and executive staff. The Nextech K-12 Computer Science Teacher of the Year was determined by Nextech. The Deal of the Year and the TechPoint Trailblazer Award are selected by the executive committee of TechPoint’s board of directors.
About TechPoint: TechPoint is the industry-led growth initiative for Indiana’s digital innovation economy and overall tech ecosystem. The team is focused on working with public, private and industry partners to expand tech talent pipeline, enhance resource connectivity for enterprise organizations and startups alike, and elevate the industry by activating the community and amplifying stories of success. For more information, please visit www.techpoint.org.