Ladies, Be Careful Not to Silence Yourself

Shelley Klingerman | Managing Entrepreneur for NEXT Studios and CEO & Founder of Stiletto Agency

Photo by Chelsi Peter from Pexels

Building a company with partners is a whole different experience than building a company by yourself. Ask me how I know. Both are rewarding and challenging, but they are different journeys. When you build a company yourself, you are 100% in control of the decisions that, for the most part, only affect you.  It’s your success or your failure and you know that. It could be a great payoff for you, but you could also lose it all if it doesn’t work.  And when it’s just you, you can control the level of risk you’re willing and comfortable in taking. Most likely that level of risk will come with a lot of questions; such as, “Do you have another source of income to get you by? Do you have a spouse that can support you while you test the waters?  Are you going to jump in with both feet and burn the boat?”  It doesn’t matter what you do, because you only have to “worry” about yourself.  You can’t be silent because you’re talking to yourself and making independent decisions that you will immediately know about.

In a partnership it’s different. You are bringing various experiences and perspective to the table to build a company. No single partner’s thoughts, opinions or experience trumps another, UNLESS YOU LET IT.  If you don’t speak up, it’s on you. Most partnerships come together because everyone is bringing an important perspective to the table and you are stronger together than you are independently. Always keep that in mind, you are there for a reason.  There might be times when you feel your perspective doesn’t align with the majority so, “I must be wrong” or you trust the others. That’s common, however, your purpose for being at the table is to disrupt the group think and provide a DIFFERENT perspective. One that might be completely opposite of what’s being discussed, but it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s considered.  It might not be the way things go, but at least it was considered.  I’m here to tell you, it can be intimidating and misinterpreted (by you) that, “I don’t see it that way, so I must be wrong”.  Yet, it is so important that you don’t silence yourself. You need to be heard for the benefit of the company that you’re equally responsible for building and its success. If you are a female, this whole experience has the potential to be exacerbated.  

As someone who is passionate about this challenge, I spend a lot of time empowering women on how to seize control of their safety through my work in Stiletto Agency, as well as empowering visionaries (entrepreneurs) to seize control of their future through my work as a Managing Entrepreneur with NEXT Studios. And to be completely honest, I spend a lot of time managing this for myself. Ladies, if we’re going to come to the table, we have to check any insecurities, passiveness, and 100% trust at the door. Acknowledge feelings when they surface and know they were given to you as tools to guide you through life in both personal and professional situations. There is NO feeling that should be dismissed. Every feeling/emotion has a very important role. Some are meant to pause you; others are meant to make you act. They are YOUR feelings. You own them. No one can tell you they’re wrong.  

You may allow others to provide you information that you can take into account to work through your feelings, but they can’t change them, only you can.  My point is, when something doesn’t FEEL right to you, it’s real. It might not be the way someone else feels, but that doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid.  When you’re building a company or making your way through a corporate environment, don’t not address something that doesn’t feel right to you.  Unchecked, these feelings will manifest into things like resentment or panic, which become a much larger distraction and can unnecessarily derail your success.

Women get concerned about being labeled, so we don’t speak up. We need to. For our own good and for the good of our business. Do not silence yourself. I often go back to this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The “gig” is up.

John McDonald | Managing Entrepreneur at NEXT Studios

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Sitting at home one evening feeling hungry, you pop out your phone and flip through the specials on DoorDash, looking for something you like. As you scroll, you remember that you’re out of napkins and paper plates, as there’s been a lot of takeout meals delivered to your house recently. You flip over to the local grocery store app and add them to the list for the scheduled delivery tomorrow. After placing your orders, you switch over to YouTube, looking for something entertaining to watch while you wait. Up pops a show from a favorite chef, and you’re inspired enough by what he’s making to add some of the ingredients to your grocery store order, and then to go to Amazon and order yet another specialty cooking utensil you’ll probably only use once.

Sound familiar? If your house is like my house, scenes like this play out every day, more so now than ever due to COVID. What you may not realize, though, is that each of these events represents an interaction with the gig economy — something that was already happening before the pandemic, but now has accelerated into a way of life for millions.

The gig economy is a system whereby organizations hire independent contractors to work for limited periods of time for a specific function. The name comes from an informal term used by musicians to describe being hired for a single performance or limited engagement, and it now perfectly describes all kinds of jobs beyond just playing a guitar. Essentially you as an individual have skills and have time, and these are in demand by other people who would like to pay for that time and skill, but not as a long-term or permanent employee.

The gig economy has been a part of food service for a long time, and the upending of the taxi industry through Uber and Lyft is well documented, but the growth in technology-based platforms has enabled locating, hiring and paying a gig worker infinitely easier that it was just a few short years ago. This has enabled the spread of the gig economy to now include writing, art and design, media and communications, software development, information technology and project management. Most interestingly, a significant portion of some traditional industries are converting to gig workers, including accounting and finance, legal work and education.

According to Gallup, about 36% of US workers are now involved in the gig economy, and if this growth rate continues, more than half the workforce will participate in it by 2027. This growth rate is three times faster than the growth rate of the workforce as a whole, according to Forbes. More importantly, according to McKinsey, 78% of gig workers say they’re happier than those working traditional jobs, 68% say they’re healthier, and 51% would not go back to traditional work for any amount of money. It’s clear that the gig economy is here to stay and isn’t just a COVID-related temporary disruption in how work gets done.

What is the long-term impact? It’s likely that there are several:

1. Every industry will be transformed by the gig economy. The transformation that has already occurred in short-distance ground transportation via Uber and Lyft is coming in every industry. For some, it is well underway: in 4Q 2020, 54% of the products sold on Amazon actually came from third-party independent gig economy sellers, and almost half of its deliveries are now done through gig workers. For others, such as legal and financial services, long-standing regulations are slowing the transition, but are not stopping it: legal assistance requests through gig economy platforms like Docketly jumped significantly as COVID began and have not slowed down

2. You will become part of the gig economy personally. If you’re not already offering your time and talents and resources through some sort of on-demand platform, you may be missing out on a personal business opportunity. Got a pickup truck? Uber launched Uber Connect, where you can hire out yourself as a driver to deliver small packages and materials to businesses or to a factory. Know how to code? Any number of online platforms would hire you now to develop or to test software written by others. Like to teach? Online academies and local school districts are looking for gig workers to fill in their teaching staff.

3. The gig economy represents a renaissance in entrepreneurship. Once thought reserved for the elite few, going into business for yourself is one of the principal ideas upon which our US economy was built. According to the Kauffman Foundation, all new job roles created in in America come from new startup companies — deciding to start a business and then making your first hire: yourself. This accounts for the high marks that gig economy workers give themselves related to fulfillment and sense of purpose, as well as their desire to stay with it and not return to traditional work.

So, how can you leverage the gig economy for your business? Here’s a few ideas:

1. Recognize that you probably already are. From how you source supplies to how you find new workers, you and your coworkers are probably already leveraging online gig economy platforms to get your work done. Identify what those are and look for ways you can expand their usage to save money and increase flexibility.

2. Look for jobs within your organization that could be gig economy jobs. The list today is much longer than it was even a year ago. Look for roles that can, or should be, done mobile or from home. Look for roles that aren’t time-dependent, meaning the work could be done at odd hours or on the weekends. Also, look for roles that can be done largely digitally, without the need for special equipment that might be found only in a single location. All of these roles have the potential to be made more flexible and dynamic through the gig economy.

3. Think about new ways you could leverage the gig economy to help your company grow. If there’s an app or platform that already offers what you do through the gig economy, consider becoming part of it. If not, consider starting up one in partnership with a technology incubator or studio.

There’s no doubt that the gig economy is a growing and important part of how work gets done today. While it was already happening prior to the pandemic, like so many things, it was greatly accelerated by it. The only question for you is if you will be the victim or the victor of this 2021 and beyond megatrend.

NEXT Studios Adds Two New Studio Companies to Portfolio

Pulse Analytix and Voxi partner with fellow entrepreneurs to begin journey to build and shape their startups

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 15, 2021 – NEXT Studios, the Midwest’s newest venture studio, designed by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs, with entrepreneurs, today announced it has added two new Central Indiana-based startups to its portfolio. Joining NEXT Studios are Pulse Analytix, a digital platform focused on civic oversight, and Voxi which provides data driven product placement.

Led by tech and entrepreneurial veterans Joseph Cudby, Tom Kilcoyne, Shelley Klingerman and John McDonald, the NEXT Studios team is applying its innovative process for helping ideas become products and products become companies to two new startups. As the studio for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs, the chances of success are increased through collaboration and providing entrepreneurs the ability to work together with seasoned entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to fruition.

“We are excited to continue to grow our portfolio with these great startups that are empowering consumers and disrupting their industries through the power of data analytics and machine learning,” said Shelley Klingerman, managing partner of NEXT Studios. “We are thrilled to be their partner on their entrepreneurial journey.”

Pulse Analytix was added to the portfolio in November 2020 and is a cloud-based customer service platform that improves transparency, accountability and communication by empowering citizens to notify, track, and review interactions with government agencies, while enabling agencies to monitor, respond and analyze interactions. Lisa Mitchell and Marlin Jackson are a founding team that cares about the community. The seasoned entrepreneurs are driven by their passion to leave the world better than they found it after having cultivated success after coming from humble beginnings.

Voxi, founded by Nathan Miller and added to the portfolio in January 2021, creates custom platforms that serve as a marketplace for consumers to view, learn and purchase products they see on screen. In addition to their work with clients such as Two Chicks and a Hammer, they produce revenue generating opportunities for movies, shows, networks, music artists, podcasts and influencers by connecting content creators to brands with a shared target audience.

“We are excited to be part of the NEXT Studios family. Shelley and their team have already proven to be a great asset with key network connections and expert guidance to help us navigate these unchartered waters,” said Nathan Miller, founder and CEO of Voxi.

NEXT Studios operates from co-working spaces across Indiana. As new innovations can come from anywhere, the Studio enables visionaries from all parts of our State to develop their ideas, and fuel them with talent and capital in their own local communities. To learn more about NEXT Studios and ways they are expanding their partnerships, please visit

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About NEXT Studios

Founded in 2020, NEXT Studios is a venture studio that is a partnership of experienced entrepreneurs who help visionaries share their ideas, craft them through a repeatable process, and move them forward with capital and talent.  The studio works with entrepreneurs across the state to move their ideas into products and their products into companies.  The studio uses a proven process to reduce the risk for investors and encourage more local investors to get involved in our local innovation economy.


Indianapolis, IN: announces the addition of two new Directors to their Board and their inclusion as a portfolio company with NEXT Studios. Jay Love, founder of Bloomerang, and Vicki Bohlsen, CEO of Bohlsen PR, were recently added to the Board. is now a member of NEXT Studios’ portfolio of companies. is focused on purpose-driven benefits for companies and employees. They make it possible for companies and organizations to integrate, administrate, and measure community impact all in one place.

“Personally and professionally, I am passionate about corporate social responsibility and believe that is a tool that companies can easily and inexpensively integrate into their CSR programs to effectively communicate to stakeholders that they care about more than just making a profit,” says Bohlsen, who hosts the Taking Caring In Business podcast.
“Blending philanthropy with technology is a win-win scenario for companies and nonprofits,” adds Jay Love, a longtime champion for the charity sector. “The pandemic has accelerated the need for creative opportunities for corporate giving and is uniquely positioned to capture the philanthropic cultural data of companies and displays its impact.” helps companies share their giving culture with others, appeal to new customers, and recruit and retain their people.

“In a world filled with new choices for philanthropy, it is smart business for a company to show its heart,” says NEXT Studios Managing Entrepreneur John McDonald. “ is what the world needs: companies showing their impact on their community and beyond, and nonprofits identifying their specific needs. Giving without data doesn’t move the needle of change. changes that. We are delighted to have in our portfolio.”

In addition to connecting companies of any size with corporate social responsibility opportunities via volunteering, monetary donations and in-kind contributions, provides a virtual foundation platform which utilizes data to change or improve corporate culture, attract new talent, and gain new customers. is a certified LGBT Business Enterprise and Indiana’s first dual-certified domestic benefit corporation and B Corp. Our mission is to reshape corporate culture through technology that helps companies contribute to making their communities a better place. Think, act purposely. Learn more at

NEXT Studios Partners with Crossroads Education to Innovate Education

Venture studio teams with education disruptor to bring about new innovations in education technology

INDIANAPOLIS – Sept. 21, 2020  – NEXT Studios, an Indiana-based venture studio and corporate innovation partner, and Crossroads Education (CRE), an Indiana-based organization focused on innovating education and providing equitable access to quality education for all, today announced a partnership to infuse innovation and disruption in the education technology (EdTech) marketplace, leveraging NEXT Studios intentional venture studio process and CRE’s charter to disrupt the education (EdTech) market.

“This partnership is a dream for our team. We recognize the significant contributions of those who put Indianapolis on the map as an innovation epicenter for education,” said Kevin Berkopes, founder and CEO of Crossroads Education. We now move forward to build what the stagnated innovation models were missing: agility. Our ‘venture studio for education’ represents a pace of innovation that is required to build companies with the mission to disrupt while retaining the ability to adapt.”

Drawing on resources from NEXT Studios, the joint venture will enable CRE to incubate and accelerate ideas focusing on innovative solutions that help students, teachers and families access educational resources (regardless of their location) and transition from education delivery to meaningful learning. Virtual learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the existing education inequalities and the urgent need for digital technology solutions to effectively address existing inequalities. The initial focus of the partnership will be to launch and scale a new company called Crossroads Learning Pods, which will enable small groups of students to meet in-person and complete their eLearning with the assistance of a professional Learning Pod Coach (LPC). The partnership has tapped local education leader, Jenn Watts, to manage Crossroads Learning Pods as its founding president. Watts comes to the company with significant innovation and education experience, recently serving as the director of policy for the Indiana Department of Education.

Crossroads Education believes technology, collaborative peer-learning, distributed education through eLearning and high-quality instructional talent, when applied appropriately, can instigate breakthrough progress in advancing education. They also believe the collective work of many diverse partners—governments, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, foundations and others—can accelerate that progress.

Founded by four Indiana entrepreneurs with extensive experience in technology, NEXT Studios operates from co-working spaces across Indiana. The Studio enables visionaries from around the state to develop their ideas and fuel them with talent and capital in their own local communities. 

“NEXT Studios has the expertise in birthing companies, Crossroads Education has the expertise in disrupting the education market,” said Joseph Cudby, managing entrepreneur of NEXT Studios. “We are excited to work closely with CRE to deliver on our collective vision for what’s possible in education.”

“Indianapolis is accelerating its education innovation and this new collaboration between Crossroads Education and NEXT Studios is the cutting edge initiative we need during these unprecedented times,” said Greg Ballard, former mayor of Indianapolis.

To learn more, visit CRE at or NEXT Studios at

About NEXT Studios

Founded in 2020, NEXT Studios is a venture studio that is a partnership of experienced entrepreneurs, including Joseph Cudby, Tom Kilcoyne, Shelley Klingerman and John McDonald, who help visionaries share their ideas, craft them through a repeatable process, and move them forward with capital and talent. The studio works with entrepreneurs across the state to move their ideas into products and their products into companies. The studio uses a proven process to reduce the risk for investors and encourage more local investors to get involved in our local innovation economy.

About Crossroads Education

Crossroads Education (CRE) is led by a team of experts ranging from education to technology. We aim to improve learning outcomes for all students by advancing innovation in education across the United States. We inspire breakthroughs that advance education by harnessing the potential of technology, collaborative peer-learning, distributed education through eLearning, and high-quality instructional talent.

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Media Contacts:

Robert Vane, Veteran Strategies


Jennifer Chan, Porch Light PR


NEXT Studios Establishes Home at 16 Tech

New venture studio to fuel tech talent at HqO, 16 Tech’s Innovation Hub

INDIANAPOLIS – Aug. 12, 2020  – NEXT Studios, Indiana’s newest venture studio and corporate innovation partner, announced a partnership to become the first venture studio located in the 16 Tech Innovation District in downtown Indianapolis.

“As Indiana’s newest and most exciting technology center, it’s natural that Indiana’s newest venture studio would choose to call 16 Tech home,” said John McDonald, managing entrepreneur of NEXT Studios. “We look forward to partnering with 16 Tech and 1776 in creating programs and experiences for our corporate innovation partners and portfolio startup companies alike to meet, make and innovate.”

Founded by four Indiana entrepreneurs with extensive experience in technology, NEXT Studios operates from co-working spaces across Indiana. The Studio will enable visionaries from around the state to develop their ideas and fuel them with talent and capital in their own local communities. NEXT Studios’ home base for statewide Studio operations will be located in the incubator space managed by 1776 and located at HqO, the innovation hub in the heart of the 16 Tech Innovation District.

“We are thrilled that the NEXT Studios team has decided to be part of HqO, 16 Tech’s innovation hub,” said Bob Coy, president and CEO of the 16 Tech Community Corporation. “Their experience and repeatable process will add an incredibly powerful engine to the creation of new startups and corporate innovation in the 16 Tech Innovation District.”

As a Benefits (B) Corporation, the Studio will use a portion of the proceeds from operations to reduce or eliminate Studio costs for startup companies.  NEXT Studios will open its office at the same time as the opening of the HqO, slated for early 2021.

To learn more about NEXT Studios, visit the website at or contact Shelley Klingerman, managing entrepreneur, at

About NEXT Studios

Founded in 2020, NEXT Studios is a venture studio that is a partnership of experienced entrepreneurs, including Joseph Cudby, Tom Kilcoyne, Shelley Klingerman and John McDonald, who help visionaries share their ideas, craft them through a repeatable process, and move them forward with capital and talent. The studio will work with entrepreneurs across the state to move their ideas into products and their products into companies. The studio will use a proven process to reduce the risk for investors and encourage more local investors to get involved in our local innovation economy.

About 16 Tech

The 16 Tech Innovation District is one of the largest talent attraction, retention and development opportunities in Indianapolis’s history. Located in downtown Indianapolis, 16 Tech leverages its proximity to top academic, corporate, and healthcare institutions—and a growing network of spaces, programs, and talent—to foster the cross-industry convergence and collaboration that make world-changing innovation possible. The nonprofit 16 Tech Community Corporation oversees the development of the district and ensures benefits of economic growth, new investment and job creation extend to nearby neighborhoods as well as the city, the region and the state. More information can be found at

About 1776 

1776 is the nation’s largest network of business incubators that cultivates and empowers companies and entrepreneurs to fuel innovation and growth. 1776 transforms markets by curating communities of entrepreneurs and enterprises in flexible work environments. Our members gain access to a dynamic network and focused programming to provide the knowledge and resources necessary to spur innovation and solve complex challenges. With eight campuses across five states, 1776 is the nation’s largest network of incubators. For more information, please visit and follow @1776 on Twitter and @1776vc on Instagram. 

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Media Contacts:

Jennifer Chan, Porch Light PR


Jacqueline Cromleigh Eckhardt, 16 Tech Community Corporation


Veteran Entrepreneurs Launch New Venture Studio

By Alex Brown, Assistant Managing Editor


INDIANAPOLIS – Four Hoosier entrepreneurs have launched a new venture studio designed to help fellow entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. Indianapolis-based NEXT Studios is the brainchild of Joseph Cudby, Tom Kilcoyne, Shelley Klingerman and John McDonald. The goal of the studio is to create a “customizable, repeatable process” that is designed to help entrepreneurs avoid common problems and get their innovations to market more quickly.

Klingerman, a founder and former executive director of Launch Terre Haute, tells Inside INdiana Business the studio’s benefit corporation status sets it apart from other studios.

“We’ll use a portion of our process from operations to reduce or eliminate studio costs for other startup companies,” said Klingerman. “We understand that sometimes a founder does not have the up-front money. As a Benefits Corp., we are going to offset some of those for some of the founders to relieve some of that cost burden.”

Klingerman says the studio is a combination of seasoned entrepreneurs who have come together to help others de-risk their ideas to make them more attractive for investors. 

While NEXT Studios is officially headquartered in Indianapolis, it will operate out of coworking spaces throughout the state. Klingerman says they want to tap into the innovative ideas being developed in smaller Hoosier communities.

“Sometimes when you’re not directly located in central Indiana, it’s hard to plug in. So what we’re really looking to do is be a bridge and be a resource for communities around the state to kind of get involved in this process because it can be kind of lonely. It can be a little bit frightening. So we’re going to be doing outreach to these communities to make a connection back into central Indiana where there are a lot of resources.”

Klingerman says, in addition to independent entrepreneurs, the studio also plans to work with in-house innovators at corporations.

“I think COVID has really put a light on this that companies need to be able to pivot pretty quickly. Some companies have lost markets…some have opened new markets by thinking a little bit differently. So we are getting a lot of interest as well in coming in-house to really foster that process and be intentional about innovation within corporations and we’re actually working on a program to do that.”

She says corporations are also seeking to connect with outside founders to foster more innovation exchange among them. 

Klingerman adds she and the studio have a goal of growing the number of female entrepreneurs, particularly in the tech space.

In addition to his experience at various startups, Joe Cudby is a former chief technology officer with the Indiana State Office of Technology and has been an active angel investor since 2013. 

Tom Kilcoyne is the former chief operating officer of Fishers-based ClearObject and previously served as an entrepreneur-in-residence for Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures. He also co-founded NewRoad Partners, a boutique merger and acquisition advisory firm in Virginia.

John McDonald is the founder and former chief executive officer of ClearObject, where he continues to serve as chief evangelist. He is also a founder and board member of the Indiana Technology & Innovation Association.

Read more on Inside Indiana Business.

New Company to Help Entrepreneurs Start and Grow Their Businesses

WABASH VALLEY, Ind. (WTHI) – A new statewide startup that will help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses is now available.

The company is called ‘Next.’ They say the will come to you and help you grow your business.

The company wants to help local entrepreneurs grow their communities.

They say they will help connect you to other entrepreneurs and investors.

Watch at more on at

3 Questions: Demystifying Venture Capital with John McDonald

This is the first installment in our “3 Questions” series contributed by subject matter experts throughout the tech community in Indiana. This series takes complex tech topics and explains them in easy-to-understand ways without the dense jargon so every reader can learn a little bit more about our industry.

When we set out to build our first startup company, I had no idea how time consuming and confusing it would be to raise capital. I didn’t appreciate that it wasn’t just one of my jobs as the leader, it is the primary job as a leader of a startup company. 

Everything else flows from success in raising capital. It allows you to hire the people and partners you need to build the company and keep them aboard, which is the secret to any successful business. 

3 Questions:

What types of capital sources are available to startups?
What is the difference between the types of capital?
What are the keys to unlocking capital? 

There are primarily four types, and they align very nicely to the four stages of the development process of a new technology startup employed by venture studios everywhere like Central Indiana’s High Alpha and my own venture NEXT Studios. 

The first stage is ideation

This is where you create new ideas for startups, and “pressure test” those ideas by studying things like your target buyer and market and what problem you are solving for them. Typically, the venture capital employed at this stage is called “pre-seed funding,” which is often sourced from your friends and family. These people are investing in your company largely because of you—who you are to them and what they believe you can do with their investment when given a chance. Often, your closest friend and initial investor is yourself—this is called “bootstrapping” and is simply using your own money to start up your own company. An extremely limited number of “pre seed” organized funds also make initial investments at this stage, many of which are tied to local economic development or industry initiatives. In Indiana, you can sometimes start a company with as little as $25,000 in pre-seed capital (though $100,000 is more typical), especially if there is a physical device as part of the product idea. 

The second stage is productization

This is where you take your initial idea, which has been vetted in the ideation stage, and turn it into a “minimum viable product” or MVP. This is the first complete release of your offering, and while it may not have every feature you will ever want, it’s enough to get it in the hands of some pilot users and gather their feedback. You’ll use that feedback to improve the product and build your “go-to-market” strategy to engage and win customers, which you’ll use in the next phase. Typically, the venture capital employed at this stage is called “seed funding”, and often comes what are called “angel investors.” Angels are high-net worth individuals who deploy some of their wealth at this stage for many reasons, the most likely of which is that they are also successful entrepreneurs who want to help new startups take flight. These investments are high risk, and in some ways are like organized gambling, where they bet they are placing is on you and your idea. In Indiana, I’ve seen angel-backed seed funding rounds as small as $200,000, but more typically these are between $500,000 and $1 million, depending on how complicated the MVP is to build and test. 

The third stage is launch

This is where you take the go-to-market strategy you developed in stage two, coupled with the improvements you’ve made to your product through your pilot users, and launch a full-scale plan to attract, win and keep customers. This is where you start to grow your team substantially for the first time, largely by hiring business development representatives, inside sellers, outside sales representatives, marketers and customer success reps, depending on the talent needs of your go-to-market strategy. Typically, the venture capital employed at this stage is called your “A-round,” or the first of what may be many future rounds of venture capital, and it’s often sourced from organized venture funds. 

Venture funds are a unique type of investment vehicle. Unlike angel investors, where individuals make the decisions about what startups to invest in with their own money, venture funds are made up of “limited partners” or LPs who sign over money to the care of a group of “managing partners” who are employed by the fund to scour opportunities, make investments, and manage those investments for the LPs. They are paid management fees for this, and usually a “carry,” which is a share of the profits if any of those investments result in a successful return. Venture capital funds will have a stated focus for their investments, a range for the amount of investment they will make (called a “check size”) and some process for reviewing and scoring potential deals (called a “thesis”). These parameters are typically unwavering, as they are what was used to attract limited partners to invest in the fund, and therefore cannot be changed easily. Sometimes VCs will insist on “leading” a round, which is to say they are responsible for building and executing the deal on behalf of themselves and other investors, and in a deep review of the company’s structure, finances and team, called “due diligence.” 

In Indiana we have a unique organization called Elevate Ventures, which is funded in part by the State of Indiana to make equity investments in startup companies. They are a venture fund, but often work with angel investors and other funds to co-invest in companies at this stage to help them succeed and pull together smaller sources of funding who may not be in position to lead the round. Because of Elevate, “A-Round” investments can often be as small as $500,000 and be made up of multiple smaller investments, but typical launch-stage investments are in the $1 million to $3 million range. 

The final stage is the scale stage. 

This is when you’ve proven your go-to-market strategy works, and you’re seeking funds to scale up the company’s operations to grow its market share and continue to improve the product. This is the primary domain of most later-stage venture capital firms, who like to see success in the marketplace (called “traction”) and financial stability and sales growth that suggest that the company might be able to make a profit (called a “pathway to breakeven”). Each venture capital round at this stage will be labeled the “B-Round,” the “C-Round” and so on, and can grow in size from $2 million to $10 million or more, until the company has reached a scale where venture capital is no longer required to fuel growth initiatives. 

Venture capital in all its forms is the oxygen that makes technology businesses live. Success in raising venture capital is largely tied to clear objectives as to how the money will be used to advance the company to the next stage. It’s a necessary part of growing a company faster than normal business cycles would, because technology rapidly becomes obsolete. It’s effectively a “growth hormone” and like any medicine, it should be taken as directed by an educated patient.

Read more on the TechPoint Index.

Indiana Technology Entrepreneurs Launch Venture Studio

Seasoned Entrepreneurs Creating Robust Portfolio Focusing on Digital Transformation in Traditional Industries

INDIANAPOLIS/TERRE HAUTE, IN – Aug. 5, 2020 – Four Indiana entrepreneurs with extensive experience in technology startups have partnered to launch NEXT Studios, the Midwest’s newest venture studio, designed by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs, with entrepreneurs. 

The Indianapolis-based Studio, comprised of Joseph Cudby, Tom Kilcoyne, Shelley Klingerman and John McDonald, will help visionaries shape their ideas, craft them through a repeatable process, and move them forward with capital and talent.As a Benefits (B) Corporation, the Studio will use a portion of the proceeds from operations to reduce or eliminate Studio costs for startup companies.

At the heart of the Studio is a customizable, repeatable process which is designed to reduce risk for investors, encouraging them to participate in our innovation economy. For entrepreneurs, the process helps them avoid common problems and speed their innovations to market.  

“We are amazed at the capabilities of the founders of our initial portfolio companies, and honored they have selected us to help them craft their dreams into reality,” said Klingerman, who most recently served as executive director of Launch Terre Haute. “We are moving the needle by supporting a diverse group of founders in areas of our state that have traditionally been outside the mainstream of the technology economy.”

NEXT Studios will operate from co-working spaces across Indiana. As new innovations can come from anywhere, the Studio will enable visionaries from all parts of our State develop their ideas, and fuel them with talent and capital in their own local communities.

“The Studio helps visionaries move their ideas into products and products into companies,” said Cudby, who was most recently the chief technology officer for the State of Indiana. “Visionaries aren’t limited to startups, and neither is the Studio: we intend to help corporations bring their innovations to market, too.”

To learn more about NEXT Studios, visit the website at or contact Shelley Klingerman, managing entrepreneur, at

About NEXT Studios

Founded in 2020, NEXT Studios is a venture studio that is a partnership of experienced entrepreneurs who help visionaries share their ideas, craft them through a repeatable process, and move them forward with capital and talent.  The studio will work with entrepreneurs across the state to move their ideas into products and their products into companies.  The studio will use a proven process to reduce the risk for investors and encourage more local investors to get involved in our local innovation economy.

About Joe Cudby, managing partner, NEXT Studios 

Joe Cudby has over 20 years of experience in intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial roles. Originally from England, Cudby has spent over 25 years working in technology in Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. and moved to Indianapolis in 2016. 

With a deep technical background, Cudby has worked in and around Cloud, managed “multi-tenant” hosting, professional services, product management and federal government security. 

During his career, Cudby worked at bootstrapped startups, explosive growth venture funded startups, private equity funded scale ups, publicly traded enterprises and the public sector where he spent 15 months as CTO with the Indiana State Office Of Technology. 

Cudby is a member of the Indiana Governor’s Executive Council on Cyber Security and has been an active angel investor since 2013.

About Tom Kilcoyne, managing partner, NEXT Studios

Tom Kilcoyne has delivered successful exits on five startups over the last 20 years and raised over $100M in capital.

As former COO of ClearObject, Kilcoyne helped grow their managed services business and support the growth of the company into a leader in the Internet of Things, before helping to sell the company to two private equity firms in 2019.

Prior to his work at ClearObject, Kilcoyne was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Elevate Ventures, where he helped portfolio companies develop and execute funding strategies and create strategic business plans. He was also the co-founder and managing partner of NewRoad Partners, a boutique merger and acquisition advisory firm based in Reston, Va., where he helped companies devise capital strategies.

Additionally, Kilcoyne is a three-time CEO of technology companies, including Simplexity, a communications marketplace that was successfully sold to In Phonic, a publicly traded company; Red Creek Communications, a company he helped sell to SonicWALL; and Veritect, a security company to Red Siren, a privately held company based in Pittsburgh.

Kilcoyne was part of a select team at VeriFone, a leading Silicon Valley payment technology company, that created a new internet payment system, which was sold to Hewlett Packard for $1.3B. 

About Shelley Klingerman, managing partner, NEXT Studios

Shelley Klingerman is an executive leader with more than two decades of experience in marketing, brand awareness and project management. In addition to her work with NEXT Studios, Klingerman leads Stiletto Agency, a firm she founded that focuses on teaching everyday vigilance, team building and leadership development.

Klingerman has developed an expertise through her initiatives at the Stiletto Agency as well as the documentary she produced, “Terror in American Schools: Are Your Kids Safe?” and author of “Vigilance: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Personal Safety, Self-Protection Measures and Countermeasures.”

She frequently speaks to groups and train teams looking to increase their situational awareness and provide safety skills for organizations.  In addition, she has opened and sold a women’s boutique, Cocoa Boutique, and co-founded a non-profit for entrepreneurs. 

Klingerman was a founder and most recently served as executive director of Launch Terre Haute, a co-work space and collaborative think tank for business leaders and start-up companies. She is also a contract advisor to various startup and legacy companies.

About John McDonald, managing partner, NEXT Studios

John McDonald is founder and chief evangelist at ClearObject, Indiana’s leading Internet of Things company. McDonald has over 20 years of experience as both an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur.

He is a founder and board member of the Indiana Technology & Innovation Association; chairman of the Technology & Innovation Committee of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce; and a board member of TechPoint, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana India Business Council. 

Furthermore, McDonald is a member of the IBM PartnerWorld Global Business Partner Advisory Council, the Social Enterprise Alliance, the advisory council for Hamilton Southeastern Schools, the Workforce Alignment council of Ivy Tech Community College, and the Dean’s Council for the Purdue Polytechnic and President’s Club at Purdue University.

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Media Contact: Jennifer Chan, Porch Light PR; 317.490.3770