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May 2024 Newsletter: Startup South Bend – Elkhart

Welcome to the Startup South Bend – Elkhart Newsletter! Each month we’ll introduce you to resources and opportunities here in our region, as well as entrepreneurs doing interesting things.

Newest Rooted & Reaching Podcast Episode – Josh Rodgers of Mili Llama
The newest episode of the Rooted & Reaching podcast features Josh Rodgers of Mili Llama! Mili Llama looks to solve the substitute teacher shortage by matching qualified substitutes with schools through its on-demand staffing platform. Check out this and all Rooted & Reaching episodes, via video or audio.

This season of Rooted & Reaching has also featured a live panel recorded at IDEA Week, and an interview with Amanda Havens, curator of the South Bend – Elkhart region’s only female-led brewery and cidery BrewHers.

HustleSBE Highlight: Jamie Dietrich
HustleSBE graduate Jamie Dietrich combined her career in fashion, love of diving, and passion for marine conservation into her own business. Blue Adaptation makes eco-friendly women’s divewear that incorporates the patterns of sea life into its designs. Learn more about Jamie’s entrepreneurial journey here.

McCloskey Winners
Congratulations to all the winners at the 24th McCloskey New Venture Competition! Close to $600,000 in cash and in-kind/pitch for investment prizes were awarded at the finals on Friday, April 26th. Medical device startup VisiLocate took home the top prize with technology that aims to improve breast cancer surgery outcomes. Door Jack won the Startup South Bend – Elkhart Best Community Venture Award. The company developed an easy-to-use, fire-code compliant secondary locking device for schools, universities, and other buildings during threat situations. Learn more and see all the winners here.

Rally Innovation Conference – Happening August 27 & 28
Rally, the largest global cross-sector innovation conference, is coming to Indianapolis August 27 & 28! From the excitement of the IN-Prize Pitch competition to top-notch keynotes, exhibits and networking, Rally has something for everyone. Learn more and get tickets at

Where’s Marty?
Much like the guy in the striped shirt and glasses, Entrepreneurship Director Marty Mechtenberg has been on the go! From the IU Founders and Funders Venture Summit in Bloomington, to the Startup Champions Network Spring Summit in Harrisonburg, VA, to the InBIA International Conference on Business Incubation in San Antonio, Marty’s been sharing the region’s startup story, learning best practices, and networking with other entrepreneur ecosystem pros!

Lemonade Day Elkhart County
Lemonade Day Elkhart County is June 1st! Learn more about how you can support our region’s youngest entrepreneurs here.

Thank you to everyone who took part in IDEA Week 2024! From the Launch Party to the live Rooted & Reaching recording, to concerts and comedy and everything in-between, thank you for coming out and making this year a success!

New Navigator!
Hannah Ollen recently started as the North Central Ecosystem Navigator for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Connect with her at

1 Million Cups
Now active in Mishawaka, 1 Million Cups provides a supportive, inclusive space for entrepreneurs and their communities to gather and connect, where they can work through business challenges and identify opportunities. The meetings happen every Wednesday – learn more here.

Looking for Entrepreneur and Startup events in our region? Check out the Startup South Bend – Elkhart event calendar!

About Startup South Bend – Elkhart 
The mission of Startup South Bend – Elkhart, a non-profit initiative of the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership is to promote and foster a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem by stimulating the entrepreneurial spirit and collaborative culture of our people, serving as a connector, and supporting the creation of high-growth business.


Entrepreneur Profile: Ray Fraser

Ray Fraser is a serial entrepreneur. He is co-founder and CEO at his sixth start-up, VitalView Technologies. The company brings patient monitoring into the home with a contactless sensor platform keeping eye on heart failure patients. This potentially life-changing technology reaches far beyond the medical field.

His entrepreneurial journey started his senior year in college at the University of Richmond. A double major in finance and marketing, Ray founded Snooze Systems with his friends and roommates. Snooze gave university students access to a streamlined class registration process. While the company didn’t go on to huge success, it gave Ray insight into the importance of road mapping a business and knowing when to bootstrap your way through and when to seek out investors.

“We were promising product features that our small team didn’t have the capacity to deliver on,” he said. “We would have needed an engineering team of five to ten people and we just kept on adding more features upon features.”

Originally from Hartford, Connecticut, the University of Notre Dame drew Ray to the South Bend – Elkhart region. After working with a variety of startups, he knew he wanted to take his career to the next level and began working on his master’s degree in business administration. He became involved with the IDEA Center at the university, becoming Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the Pit Road Venture Fund. It was through this position that he learned of the technology behind Vital View.

“This is all based on incredible faculty research out of the University of Notre Dame,” Ray said. “The faculty researcher is Dr. Tom Pratt. He is an expert in what’s called Radio Frequency (RF) Polarization Mode Dispersion or RF PMD. While PMD was understood in Optical Systems and was considered a source of noise, PMD in the RF systems contains a vastly rich set of data. Dr. Pratt was the first person to recognize that PMD in RF systems could be harnessed to build sensors with previously unmatched capabilities. But because of Dr. Pratt’s breakthrough, it’s now giving the medical community a less invasive way to capture critical human body data such as fluid retention that wasn’t possible before.”

The Vital View sensor platform monitors fluid build-up in congestive heart failure patients from home. This sensor can sit in one of two places – underneath the patient’s mattress or on the wall. One reading is taken each day, and over time can identify changes in fluid levels.

“This would allow both care teams and patients to monitor the event of fluid overload happening,” he said.

The patient can now witness how their lifestyle and diet choices impact their health. If fluid levels increase, the patient can reflect on the past day to consider their sodium or fluid in-take and activity level to act.

“It helps to reinforce the regiments the care teams put in place and helps them have an active dialogue with the patient,” Ray said.

Better care is important to Ray. His brother lives with class 2 congestive heart failure.

“I’ve been able to see first-hand how, if a tool like this were available, could impact overall quality of care that care teams are able to provide patients and, overall, lead to even better outcomes,” he said.

He sees the technology expanding into monitoring for other health issues, such as kidney disease.

“I think this technology has vast applications to any area in the medical industry where fluid retention is an issue,” he said. “But we’ve also even seen outside of the medical field possible applications such as agriculture, where moisture has an impact on grain processing.”

This East Coast transplant loves what the South Bend – Elkhart region offers on both a professional and personal level. He enjoys the support for entrepreneurs and Elevate Ventures initiatives throughout the state. He and his girlfriend explore the food scene in the area and enjoy trips to Silver Beach. Ray is a kayaker and frequently travels the St. Joseph River.

“What I find when it comes to starting a company, you need to have escapes where you can focus and manage stress well,” he said. “Those are some of the things that help me manage both dealing with the day-to-day of running a start-up, but also my overall mental health.”

Ray is excited for the journey Vital View is on. The company recently hit a huge product milestone and is raising a second round of funding. This all leads to product demonstrations in the fall with clinical trials and FDA submission next year.

Looking ahead, Ray wants his legacy to be built around making a positive impact.

“I want to plant roots in this community,” he said. “Not just to build Vital View into a great company that can employ and start a lot of great careers, but to also support other entrepreneurs coming along the way after, so this can become a large vibrant community in and of itself.”

For more information on VitalView Technologies, visit

Save the Date! Join Google for Startups Head Burks Solomon at Founder Factory 2022 – November 16

After a successful inaugural event, we are excited to announce Founder Factory is coming back for its second year! Join us November 16 at the Lerner Theatre in Elkhart for Founder Factory 2022.

This startup summit for “Movers, Makers and Shakers” brings together entrepreneurs, investors, and enthusiasts for a day of inspiration, motivation, and real-world insights from those who have been there. We have something for everyone, whether you’re just starting out, venture capital backed, looking to invest in the next big thing, or a fan who wants to see what the entrepreneurial ecosystem has down the pipeline.

And we are pumped to share our keynote speaker. Jewel Burks Solomon is managing partner at Collab Capital, but you are probably more familiar with her as the Head of Google for Startups. She will be joined by Justin Dawkins, her partner at Collab Capital and founder of entrepreneur support non-profit Goodie Nation.

We expect the event to sell out, so click here to sign up to be first to know when Early Bird Registration opens!


About Startup South Bend – Elkhart
The mission of Startup South Bend – Elkhart, a non-profit initiative of the South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership is to promote and foster the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the South Bend – Elkhart region. Startup South Bend – Elkhart works to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit and culture in the regional community, identify and nurture new business startups, and support the growth of existing high potential businesses. For more information about Startup South Bend – Elkhart, visit

Startup Focused on Safety Analysis Receives Funding

South Bend, Ind. (Feb. 15, 2022)SAFA today announced a $20,000 investment from Elevate Ventures’ Community Ideation Fund.

SAFA uses artificial intelligence to improve safety analysis of technical documents and software in the automotive, robotics, IoT (internet of things), and medical device industries. The SAFA software integrates with existing systems to automatically detect and analyze system changes, providing real-time warnings and recommendations for hazard mitigation.

Dr. Jane Cleland-Huang, a professor and lead researcher at the University of Notre Dame, developed SAFA in 2021. Huang and CEO Aarik Gulaya collaborated with the IDEA Center at Notre Dame to accelerate the commercialization of SAFA’s technology.

“SAFA is an excellent example of a startup developing high-tech solutions for specific industry problems,” said Nicholas Kuhn, Elevate Ventures’ entrepreneur-in-residence serving Startup South Bend – Elkhart, a partnership that supports entrepreneurs in north-central Indiana. “SAFA is harnessing the most advanced AI capabilities to solve difficult and potentially dangerous problems.”

SAFA will use the funding from Elevate to develop a minimal viable product and recruit software developer talent to expand safety features.

“This funding will allow our team to jump over any hurdles and execute on our development partnerships,” said Gulaya. “We will be better able to meet our goal of providing innovative solutions to improve quality, efficiency and safety in high-risk industries.”

SAFA received a $20,000 pre-seed investment from the Elevate Nexus Regional Pitch Competition in 2021.

The post Startup Focused on Safety Analysis Receives Funding appeared first on Elevate Ventures.

Startup South Bend – Elkhart Pre-Accelerator Cohort Two Graduate, Kelley Rich and Lisa Vetne

Cohort Two Graduates: Kelley Rich and Lisa Vetne, Co-Founders
Company: Purple Nation
Contact Purple Nation: Via Email

Describe your company: “It all started when my family and I (Kelley) were sitting down for a nice dinner when before I knew it, the discussion turned political. The next thing I knew, my husband was yelling, and my daughter was crying, and then would not speak to me or my husband for three days! I thought, we need to be able to discuss politics without damaging relationships so that we can understand each other’s thinking. Unfortunately, this example is not uncommon. It is disheartening to see how divided Americans have become in recent years and how toxic the communication is between those on opposite ends of the political spectrum. This division, fueled by social media and fake news, has resulted in hurtful social media arguments, families torn apart, and friendships demolished all because of differing political views and the inability to communicate in an empathetic and respectful way. We started Purple Nation to heal the political divide by bringing people closer together in hopes of a more united America.”

What have you learned from the Pre-Accelerator Program? “The biggest learning experience is how powerful a network can be. Through the pre-accelerator program we were connected to a Notre Dame PhD student studying the polarization of families (who joined Purple Nation as our Chief Social Scientist) and the CTO of Real Clear politics (who joined Purple Nation as an advisor). Their contributions to our startup have been extremely valuable.”