By Eric Christopher, co-founder and CEO, Zylo
Indiana University Kelley School of Business, B.S. ’01, Marketing and Finance
Some have told me with a surprised tone that, in spite of not being based in the Bay Area, we are well on our way to building a great software company. It’s true, we are building a great software company, but I don’t believe it should be a surprise that we’re doing it in Indianapolis.
Being based in Indy is in part why we just closed on a $9.3 million Series A round that was led by Bessemer Venture Partners with participation from Salesforce Ventures and the Slack Fund. We have a dream team of investors who are helping us become the market leader as we pioneer a new category of software.
The tech ecosystem is growing in Indy, and we’re excited to be a part of fueling the growth in jobs and bringing investment dollars into the city and state. The reality of it is that being in the Midwest has both advantages and challenges that are different than the startups on the East and West coasts. I’ve been a part of Midwest companies for my entire career and have seen how success can be achieved with the right team, right product and right market timing, regardless of the company’s headquarters.
The advantages are starting to outweigh the challenges
Talent and capital are the lifeblood of a thriving tech ecosystem and keys to the success of any startup. While both are harder to come by in the Midwest, they are not impossible to secure, and we certainly have had great fortune with both at Zylo. Our founding team members each have 10 to 15 years of tech experience, and with the exception of a few new college graduates, who are doing amazing work and learning quickly, all of our employees have years of tech experience as well.
The hype about the advantages of growing a company in the Midwest are true. Indianapolis is an emerging tech hub and has an affordable cost of living, attractive real estate rates and the top-ranked airport for easy travel. TechPoint, an organization dedicated to promoting and accelerating the growth of Indy’s tech community, created an infographic summarizing all of the benefits of starting a company in Indianapolis. It highlights stats like this: An employee making $100,000 a year in Indianapolis would have to have their salary increase to $301,549 to have the same standard of living in San Francisco, and the cost per square foot of office space rent is $18 in Indianapolis compared to $60 in San Francisco.
In addition to the favorable economics of building a business in the Midwest, the fact that over 25 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are in the Midwest certainly has a positive impact for Zylo. We are the leading Software as a Service, or SaaS, optimization platform for the enterprise, and being close to our largest, most strategic customers is imperative to our success. We certainly have customers and strategic partnerships on the coasts as well, but we don’t have to hop on a flight to California or New York to meet with large enterprises. The “Visualize the Fortune 500 map” shows how the largest enterprises are spread out across the United States.
Capital is harder to get, but it’s easier to maximize the value
One of the points that isn’t highlighted in the news as often is that Midwest companies have to perform better than the average company in San Francisco to get the capital they are asking for from venture firms. But, bringing back the advantages of the Midwest, is that once we are able to get capital, we not only can make it go further and grow much more efficiently than many East and West coast companies, but we can be competitive on any measure.
Given the past 20 years of tech success in Indianapolis, it is getting easier and easier to find the talent to grow our businesses in our own backyards. And we’re seeing a trend of Hoosiers with incredible tech experience who may have left Indiana earlier in their careers but want to come back to be closer to family and increase the quality of their lives. We’re also seeing top engineering talent come from leading colleges and universities in the state like Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Purdue University.
We take full advantage of what places like Indy have to offer with talent and lower costs. But the real difference is how we use these strengths to outperform peers in other markets. When faced with a challenge, the best of the best rise to the top, and we’re doing exactly that at Zylo.
Eric Christopher is co-founder and CEO of Zylo, the leading Software as a Service, or SaaS, optimization platform that transforms how companies manage and optimize the vast and accelerating number of cloud-based applications that organizations rely on today. Christopher launched the company in 2016 with 16 years of sales and management experience in the SaaS space, including his recent position as senior vice president of sales at Sprout Social in Chicago. He graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and finance.