Happy (belated) one-year-plus anniversary to Dimension Mill, the coworking space and business incubator located in downtown Bloomington’s Trades District!
The renovated 19,000-square-foot building, now 105 years old, opened in November 2018. Pat East, CEO of Hanapin Marketing and an angel investor, is executive director of Dimension Mill. East kindly answered several questions about Dimension Mill, including its year one successes, what those successes mean for Bloomington and Monroe County, and what may be in store for year two.
Crimson Catalyst: What are Dimension Mill’s mission and vision?
Pat East: The mission is to launch and accelerate high-potential companies. The vision is to become the center of coworking and entrepreneurship in Indiana.
CC: What goals and metrics were established for Dimension Mill’s first year? How did the goals compare to actual activity?
PE: Prior to launch, the main metric was to ensure our private offices were occupied as quickly as possible. We had a lot of demand and filled our 10 private offices on day one.
We quickly shifted focus to building our membership. For our budget, we planned to attract one to four new members per month. That would put us on similar growth curves of other coworking spaces in Indiana. We’ve consistently attracted one to four new members a week, which is far above our expectations.
CC: How has Dimension Mill established its footprint in Bloomington and beyond?
PE: I think there are a few things.
The first is that we purchased a coworking space called Cowork Btown LLC and transferred its membership to the Mill. It had a great culture of bootstrapping and design, and we’re grateful that all their members moved over. We’re adding one to four new members per month in addition to that purchase.
The second is our board and sponsors. They’re a who’s-who of technology and innovation in Bloomington. From the president of Cook to representatives from Indiana University and Ivy Tech, from Mayor Hamilton to established companies like Envisage and Cornerstone, we sent an early signal that the Mill is an important project and initiative and that others should be involved in it.
The third is the physical location and the building itself. It’s a 105-year-old furniture factory that was completely renovated from top to bottom. The only things we preserved were the original wood floor and the exposed red-brick walls. Everything else in the building is 100 percent new. It’s also located downtown and with the iconic sawtooth roof, it creates a lot of awareness among the general public.
CC: What success stories among the Mill’s clients can you share?
PE: The Mill currently has 250 members and 25 companies, so there’s a lot to choose from:
- Civic Champs raised $250,000 in one round of funding, raised another $250,000 in a second round and competed in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield.
- Cloudseal participated in the gBETA startup accelerator and received an SBIR Phase I grant from the National Science Foundation.
- FormAssembly raised $10 million in a round of funding.
- Graspable received an SBIR Phase I grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
- The Bee Corp., our first graduate, raised $250,000 in funding and received an SBIR Phase II grant from the National Science Foundation.
- Wave Therapeutics raised $500,000 in funding.
- Ziptility raised $750,000 in a round of funding, including a $250,000 investment from IU Ventures’ Philanthropic Venture Fund.
For the Mill itself, we held our first statewide pitch competition, agreed to a $2.5 million partnership with Elevate Ventures and Columbus Chamber of Commerce, and were named a finalist in the TechPoint Mira Awards in the “Rising Tech City” category.
CC: What do the successes mean in the immediate term for Dimension Mill and the innovation and entrepreneurial culture of Bloomington and Monroe County?
PE: These year-one success stories send an important signal that we’re realizing our potential. Bloomington has more smart people per capita than other cities of its size. In fact, Bloomberg just ranked Bloomington first in Indiana and 31st in the nation.
Bloomington also has resources that are the envy of other cities: a multibillion-dollar medical device company, the nation’s largest community college, the world’s third-largest naval warfare base and a world-class research institute known over the globe that migrates in 16,000 people every year.
Bloomington has made a sharp turn into the new economy. Before the Great Recession, payroll employment grew moderately in the Bloomington metro area. Since, and including, the Great Recession, we’ve lost 880 jobs. To put that into perspective, some cities — like Portland, Oregon; Nashville, Tennessee; and Austin, Texas — attract 50 to 100 people a day. Each of those cities will nearly make up our decade-long deficit in a week.
The growth of our companies is imperative to ensuring not only that the city stays competitive with similar-sized cities but that our citizens have the opportunities they want and deserve.
CC: What are you looking forward to in year two of Dimension Mill?
PE: There are three main things.
First, we’re building the startup stack for entrepreneurs. Those are the services, support and resources for companies to grow. We want startups to move in, grow quickly and move out. That makes room for another company to repeat the process. Specifically, we want to improve the startup stack for capital, training and talent.
Second, we’re inching closer to sustainability. We became “ramen profitable” — an expression for an individual or company that is making just enough money to cover basic living expenses — earlier this year and are 18 to 24 months away from sustainability, i.e., bringing in more revenue than expenses and being able to add more staff and pay rent.
Finally, I’m personally excited to show everyone across the state and the nation how many cool, smart people are doing interesting things in our city and the impact they can have on our world.