How a Midwest Startup Generator Bursts the Bay Area Tech Bubble and Solves Real Problems

INVANTI, a startup generator in South Bend, Indiana, sees being different as a competitive advantage. 

Launching a technology incubator in a mid-size Indiana city might strike some as a challenge. It can be hard, after all, to compete with the talent, investor pool, and innovation potential of the Bay Area and other big cities. But one of the founders of INVANTI, a unique startup generator in South Bend, Indiana, believes the atypical location is an asset.

Putting people, and the problem, first-entrepreneurs in the program spend months researching an issue before putting together a business plan-INVANTI aims to flip the script on the traditional venture capital formula behind the country’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, says co-founder Dustin Mix. And instead of trying to create a mini Bay Area in the Midwest, Mix and co-founder Maria Gibbs believe INVANTI’s location is its strength.

“Our competitive advantage is being something different,” says Mix. “And to be frank, a lot more of the country looks like South Bend than like San Francisco. There are a lot more places eager to adopt solutions and ideas that we create here, for places like here.”

INVANTI invites groups of potential entrepreneurs to come to South Bend, Indiana, for six months and solve problems around a social impact theme, like improving personal finances or helping small businesses. Unlike startup incubators, which usually audition entrepreneurs who already have an idea or business concept, INVANTI seeks out “people who want to be entrepreneurs, but don’t know what that means,” says Mix, starting them at stage zero, researching a problem and talking to stakeholders and community members.

That process is why the program, which launched with a small pilot in September 2016, benefits from South Bend. A city of roughly 102,000, it’s big enough to have complex problems, but also small enough to navigate easily and make connections-and it doesn’t hurt that the University of Notre Dame is in town. But Mix argues it’s more about meeting middle America where it is, and tackling every day problems.

Read the full article in Curbed.