Indiana companies attracting more VC this year, report says

The volume of venture capital flowing into Indiana-based companies has picked up this year, a report says, with the state attracting seven times more investment in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the same period of 2010.

The $68.6 million invested in Indiana companies through the first quarter comes close to approaching the $79.3 million total that venture capital firms invested in the state in all of 2010, according to the most recent PricewaterhouseCoopers/ National Venture Capital Association report.

There also have been some significant investments since that period ended, including the $30 million landed last month by Indianapolis-based e-mail marketing firm ExactTarget Inc.

Some local investors say the rising total indicates a shift in Indiana’s investment landscape. Others say single big-dollar deals, such as the $53 million infusion into Indianapolis-based consumer ratings service Angie’s List Inc., skew the picture.

But they agree the growth in investment — in many cases from coastal firms — has a snowball effect in terms of luring more outside dollars to the state.

“At some point, these VCs start comparing notes, and folks say, ‘What’s going on in Indiana?’” said Kristian Andersen, an entrepreneur and partner in Indianapolis-based Gravity Ventures Inc.

State firms were faring well in attracting venture capital before the recession. Indiana companies raised roughly $232 million in 2009, ranking the state 20th in per-capita VC funding, at $24.43.

Last year, the state ranked 31st in per-capita funding, at $4.39, well below the national median of $10.59, according to data from the Ohio-based State Science & Technology Institute.

This quarter’s funding upswing in Indiana was accompanied by a 13-percent national uptick in venture dollars compared with the same period in 2010. At the same time, the number of deals nationally decreased about 6 percent, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers/NCVA data.

Deals in Indiana increased to eight in the first quarter from three in the same period last year.

That’s still a relatively small number of deals. Venture-capital hotbed California, for instance, had 270 deals in the first quarter.

Don Aquilano, a managing partner at Indianapolis-based venture capital firm Allos Ventures LLC, said the small deal volume makes it hard to discern a trend in the funding.

“I think we happen to have a stable of very compelling companies here that have been built up over the last 10 years or so that are commanding these significant fundraising rounds from both local and coastal investors,” Aquilano said.

While that’s a good sign, he adds that more local venture capital dollars are needed to get additional companies to a point where they can attract coastal investment.

The Angie’s List infusion from Massachusetts-based Battery Ventures and Indianapolis-based Cardinal Equity Partners was by far the largest in the first quarter.

Among the other investments were $10.5 million invested in Carmel-based Dealer Services Corp., which provides products, financing and services to automotive dealers, and $2.1 million to Carmel-based tech firm ChaCha Search Inc.

Helping companies such as Angie’s List and ExactTarget lure such large investments is the fact that they’re profitable. And they could continue to attract sizable sums, Andersen said, as long as they hold out on having an initial public offering.

Such investment overall has a positive impact on what it takes to get more venture capital to the state.

“All of this money that’s fueling the growth of these companies has direct implications on our ability to attract and retain talent,” Andersen said. “The more of that talent that moves here in response, the more that cycle perpetuates.”