The NIIC was founded as a nonprofit organization in December 1999. Temporary offices were established at the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce in October 2000. In August of 2001, The NIIC’s first campus at the Raytheon Building on Production Road became fully operational.
The NIIC was formed through a collaboration of the City of Fort Wayne, Allen County, the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, and Indiana-Purdue University of Fort Wayne (IPFW).
In the early 1990s, The NIIC’s founding Board Chair, Dr. Mike Mirro, commissioned several task forces to examine community-based economic development strategies for Northeast Indiana and the Greater Ft. Wayne Area.
After many years of examining what other successful communities across the U.S. were doing to diversify their economic base, leverage their local assets and retain their talented and creative class, two significant economic development recommendations were made.
The first recommendation was the formation of the Ft. Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance to serve as the community’s front door for retention and expansion activities. The legal entity was formed in August 1999.
The second recommendation was the formation of a business incubator to foster an entrepreneurial culture and spirit in the region. The legal entity of the non-profit organization was formed in December 1999 and was named the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC).
The initial founding members of The NIIC were: City of Ft. Wayne, Allen County, Greater Ft. Wayne Chamber of Commerce, and IPFW. In October 2000, the hard work and the dedication of the task force was realized by the recruitment and hiring of the first professional staff member of The NIIC. From October 2000 to August 2001, The NIIC was housed in the Greater Ft. Wayne Chamber of Commerce until a temporary incubator was established and opened in August 2001 on Production Road in Ft. Wayne due to the generosity and leadership of Raytheon Corporation.
From August 2001 to September 2005, there were five space expansions to accommodate the growth, development, and maturation of the business incubation program. Due to the leadership of Senator Bob Meeks and the Northeast Indiana delegation, The NIIC constructed the first of two facilities on its 55-acre certified technology park campus.
The first facility, a 40,403 square feet business incubator opened in September 2005, and in November 2009, a second 33,000 square feet emerging growth center opened for second stage and graduate ventures.
Today, nearly 200 knowledge workers and over 45 companies call The NIIC their home and headquarters along the educational and high tech corridor of Northeast Indiana.
Unlike nearly one-third of all innovation centers across the country that are wholly-owned and operated by a university or community college, The NIIC is an independent, community-based, non-profit entrepreneurial resource center.
Purdue Ft. Wayne was one of the initial founding organizations of the NIIC when it was established and formalized in December 1999. The NIIC enjoys a special relationship with Purdue Ft. Wayne in our governance, location proximity, and in the ownership and ground leasing of our 55 acre campus. Moreover, Purdue Ft. Wayne is one of many educational institutions, regionally and globally, The NIIC collaborates with on entrepreneurial education and programming.
Four things make The NIIC unique and a special place.
The NIIC (up to 2 hours per year) and WEOC (up to 5 hours per year but must meet eligibility requirements) of FREE coaching and advisory services is provided to every new venture in our service area including a complimentary free initial consultation and business readiness assessment regarding you and your team and your business concept or venture.
After your complimentary services are used, you will be invited to become a paying client of the NIIC. We have a wide variety of programs available depending on your level of commitment, your budget and your venture’s stage of development. Our programs are very reasonably priced and affordable. Fees vary by program but typically start at a minimum of $300 a month.
The NIIC works with companies and organizations of all sizes from the pre-company (I have an idea!), to the pre-revenue (I am working my business full-time) to the very largest organizations in our community (both non-profit and for profit) who are looking to leverage innovation and entrepreneurship to create new products, enter new markets or to get their employees to think differently and more innovatively.
You are never too early to talk to a NIIC business coach about where you are in your entrepreneurial journey. The NIIC and WEOC team can coach and advise you in any industry, technology and in any stage of business. The NIIC equips and connects business builders with the 4 success pillars (https://niic.net/start/startup-resources/) needed to build a successful business – capital, talent, workspaces and networks.
Over 5,500 guest and visitors take advantage of our Campus conference center and entrepreneurship services each year. Tours (can be accomplished in 30 to 60 minutes) are arranged when it is convenient for your schedule. Please call one of our business concierge’s at 260-407-6442 and, depending on your interests, schedule an informational meeting with a business coach, conduct a needs assessment and/or take a tour. These initial discussions are always complimentary.
There is nothing special you need to do in preparation for your first visit. It would be helpful for us to learn about you and your business concept, and what you have done to move your idea forward. You are never too early to talk to us and you don’t have to have all the answers before talking to us. We will work with you side by side on your entrepreneurial journey.
Please plan on sharing the following types of information in the initial meeting:
Just because you have a patent, it doesn’t mean you have something of value. In fact, over 97% of all patents never earn a dime.
The NIIC is not a business broker and does not assist individuals or inventors in selling or brokering their intellectual property. The NIIC is focused on providing smart “business building support resources” to create and grow high-quality jobs and “homegrown” companies in our community. If you are interested in starting or growing a company, The NIIC is here to support you in your entrepreneurial journey.
Not necessarily. The NIIC believes one of the only times a start-up venture needs a business plan is if you are raising external early stage investment, or if your venture is looking to obtain financing from a financial institution or from the U.S. SBA. The business plan is a roadmap of how you plan to execute on your market opportunities, and how your venture will achieve its goals.
The NIIC does believe every start-up venture needs to think through the 9 building blocks of a business model/lean canvas. The business model/lean canvas is a framework for how your venture will create and capture value in the marketplace.
We suggest you do the following:
1.) Create a free account here:
2.) use the 20 min video and stop and pause and complete each of the building blocks of the lean canvas (Be sure to complete a canvas for each unique customer segment).
Read or review the following articles to stimulate your thinking around your business model:
3.) Complete your first canvas and schedule a visit with a NIIC/WEOC business coach to get feedback and guidance on your next steps.
Most ventures need mentorship and active business coaching to be successful. The NIIC facilitates and offers both types of support resources to its clients. However, it is important to distinguish between the role each plays in a venture’s success.
A mentor is a trusted advisor who brings expertise and acumen to the business relationship. The mentor may also guide and support less experienced founders/owners through the business building process. Typically, this role starts out as voluntary and unpaid; however, sometimes a mentor can transition to become a paid company advisor, an employee of the venture or might become an angel investor in the venture. A business coach, on the other hand, is someone who encourages the person being coached to own his or her outcomes. Additionally, the business coach does not do the work of the person being coached but encourages and pushes him/her to lean into problems and opportunities (accountability partner) to improve his/her performance and the venture’s success.
The NIIC is not in the business of stealing your idea. Likewise, The NIIC has never litigated a non-disclosure agreement since it became a legal entity. Effective September 1, 2018, The NIIC no longer signs NDA’s as part of a client’s initial consultation with our business coaches.
Please read the following article https://www.wework.com/creator/personal-profiles/will-i-really-steal-your-idea-nda/ for additional insights into why an NDA is unnecessary and potentially counterproductive to receiving good advice.
The NIIC also suggests keeping in mind the following:
The NIIC offers an experientially-based Student Venture Lab program and Discovering Entrepreneurship Workshop to inspire young adults in learning entrepreneurial mindsets and soft skill development.
These include, but are not limited to:
Of course. The NIIC will work with existing businesses that have recognized the need for the development of entrepreneurial endeavors, growth imperatives, and innovation initiatives within their organizations.
We also work to enhance the creative and innovative potential of individuals, companies and their environments through entrepreneurial/business development/corporate innovation for faster-growing companies.
Residential clients have controlled access 24x7x365 to the buildings and their suite by key fob and key. As part of our commitment to environmental sustainability, our building are heated and cooled during normal business hours. Guests are not permitted in the buildings, unless escorted by NIIC staff or the residential client they are visiting, after hours. The NIIC is a secure facility protecting our clients and their business assets. We utilize internal and external security cameras, an access control system, and our campus is regularly patrolled by the Purdue Ft. Wayne Police Department.
The NIIC has an array of conference rooms available for both its residential clients to use and for guests who might want to host a meeting, workshop, strategic retreat or employee meeting. Our Conference Center Manager is Tammy Sipe (email@example.com), and she can walk you through all the ways you and your team can benefit from using our conference center. Our conference center receives consistently high marks from guest surveys for its friendliness, convenience and personalized service delivered to our guests while on our Campus.
We offer a variety of creative spaces with highly functional and ergonomic furnishings, integrated audio visual and internet options, onsite catering and food service along with free surface parking. To see our various venue options, please click here: https://niic.net/about/conference-center/. Our resident clients can conveniently book public conference rooms via an internal online scheduling system.
You are among the smart and confident entrepreneurs who know how to capitalize on every opportunity. Being part of The NIIC is being a part of an entrepreneurial community who is interested and supportive of your ups and downs.
Common traits of our clients include, but aren’t limited to:
Our residents shared the following benefits of their experience with us:
To learn more about the benefits of The NIIC, check out the four pillars of entrepreneurial success here.
The NIIC works with interested and motivated business builders, founders and their teams from various profit and nonprofit sectors. It’s only The NIIC’s business incubation program that has admission criteria. Within our certified tech park, The NIIC works with companies in the twelve areas of high tech activities defined by Indiana State Statute.
These areas of innovation include, but are not limited to:
If your idea doesn’t pertain to the sectors listed, The NIIC offers other entrepreneurial programs and services to address business support and commercialization assistance.
Our affiliate programs make entrepreneurial and business venture training, coaching and education available to a wide range of industries on a non-resident basis. The NIIC has a broad network of other business development and support resources to which aspiring companies can be referred.
Our knowledge of and close working relationships with business resources and other developmental organizations, as well as our close ties to the region’s educational community, make The NIIC a one stop shop for new venture resources, capital access, and business best practices, whatever your industry, interests, or stage of development.
Additional business case support:
Typically, The NIIC allows 15% of its total gross square footage to synergistic activities. These include strategic partnerships and alliances with educational institutions and service providers who provide services directly beneficial to our client mix (legal, financial, marketing, banking etc.). In addition, The NIIC offers professional office space and amenities at its Innovation Village @ College Park.
Heavy manufacturing and loud noise businesses are not permitted. The NIIC suggests separating research and development and head office when it’s clear that the production activities leading from R&D efforts involve more than pre-production units.
An entrepreneur is a business builder who:
Business builders can be found in start-up companies, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, governmental entities and more established and mature companies and organizations. If the above description fits who you are or what you aspire to be, please reach out to us to schedule an appointment with a business coach to discuss your idea or company and also to take a tour.
The NIIC does not take a percentage of revenue, royalty fee, own your Intellectual Property (IP), or take an equity position in exchange for the services (space, coaching, commercialization services) it offers and provides as part of its client program fee.
If The NIIC becomes a financial investor in your company, it will negotiate a term sheet or deal structure that might include a revenue share, a priced equity agreement or a debt instrument (potentially with collateral or asset assignments) as part of its cash infusion in the company in a similar fashion to an angel or early stage investor.
Unlike most university and for-profit business incubation and acceleration programs, The NIIC does not take equity or any ownership interest in your patents. If The NIIC invests in your company through its LEAP Fund, The NIIC does enter into priced equity, convertible debenture and revenue participation agreements in exchange for a cash investment.
The NIIC has flexible space to meet the demands of one-person businesses and 80-person businesses. Clients can scale from a single-person office of 120 sq. ft. up to over 10,000 of contiguous square footage in our Emerging Growth Center.
Additionally, The NIIC has a 55- acre campus and can custom build to suit appropriate state-of-the-art workplaces for innovative and knowledge-based companies.
Because The NIIC lease arrangements are “packages,” including many shared services, programs and amenities beyond simple office space, The NIIC does not define leases in terms of square footage rates.
The Emerging Growth Center charges market rates for square footage based on lease term, build-outs/leasehold improvements and other tenant-specific requirements for the space.
All other facility space charges an all-inclusive program fee based on size of office and term of use.
Yes, The NIIC lease covers utilities — water, electricity, gas, and sewage disposal — so long as clients don’t misuse their privilege.
If a client has demonstrable, independent need of additional utility services beyond those provided by The NIIC, arrangements will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis, with installation and service charges being the responsibility of the client in most cases.
Typically, clients stay in the business incubation program for an average of four-to-five years. However, if the client is in a highly regulatory, capital intensive or require substantial third party investments, clients in good standing may stay until they achieve a sustainable cash flow and meet the requirement of being financially viable and freestanding where the risk of returning to the business incubation program is remote.
Clients engaged in other NIIC campus entrepreneurial programs- Emerging Growth Center, affiliate coaching, accelerator, coworking flex spaces, and build to suit offices engage in more traditional building leases. These clients do not have to be resident clients of the business incubation program to apply for these other entrepreneurial programs.
The NIIC program service fee agreements are non-terminable leases. Longer lease terms provide lower fee options. Clients should select carefully based on their circumstances, and The NIIC offers a variety of options to fit every entrepreneur and their budget.
Clients may provide their own furniture or use furniture supplied by The NIIC. If an office is furnished, the cost of reconfiguration, additional furniture or office layout changes will be charged to the client. The office suites are furnished as is, and there are no lease rate reductions for lack of office furniture in a suite.
Utilities (gas, electric, water and trash disposal) are included in your general program services fee agreements in the Innovation Center and Emerging Growth Center buildings. If you are a heavier than normal consumer of gas, electric, water, you may be surcharged or separately metered. If applicable, this additional charge will be disclosed prior to execution of an agreement.
Basic telephone (including one phone per authorized person in your program services agreement) and basic internet services are included in your general program services fee agreements in the NIIC building. Enhanced telephone and higher internet bandwidth and speeds are available for an additional cost. Wireless internet is offered in common areas and subject to our Acceptable Use Policy.
Telephone equipment and related services and internet services are not included in Emerging Growth Center Leases and must be procured separately. The NIIC can offer some suggestions on potential vendors/providers.
Almost all of the offices and labs in the main Innovation Center building are furnished and sized for 1-7 people. With expandable interior doors, you can easily add on space to expand your office footprint to 14 or 20 people without ever changing your business address. One of the unique NIIC advantages is because we offer a turnkey solution, we are your telephone company, internet company, business services provider (copy center, mailroom, onsite wellness center, shipping & receiving etc.) and furniture company along with being your trusted advisor to start and grow your company, we can have you up and running in less than 4 hours from the time you execute a signed program services agreement. The main Innovation Center building and our programs are designed to lower your start-up costs, mitigate early risks in the successful launch of your company and support growing your company faster and stronger than you might accomplish on your own.
In our larger Emerging Growth Center, some offices are furnished and others are not. Office suites in this building resemble more of a traditional leasing solution but offer access to important amenities of a campus environment that support attraction and retention of your most important asset – your people.
The NIIC offers a variety of flexible options to make growth easy and possible. The NIIC offers service agreements as fast as 3 months in its Affiliate Coaching Program, and coworking members have the flexibility of a six or twelve month membership agreement. Typically, startup companies in our business incubation and acceleration program execute a one or two year agreement, and more established companies occupying space in the Emerging Growth Center will execute a 3 to 10 year traditional lease agreement depending on their needs and leasehold improvements. Some agreements allow lease breakage for moving into additional space on the campus.
The NIIC is designed to meet the need, for higher-level, complex needs, including product development, marketing, gap financing, research and entrepreneurial strategy, through the vehicles of entrepreneurship education, experiential learning/growth and consulting.
While many business incubators are direct programs of specific colleges and universities, The NIIC has affiliations and cooperative relationships with almost every educational facility in Northeast Indiana, including:
The NIIC and other regional entrepreneurial resource partners refer clients to one another based on each organization’s core competencies and capabilities. It’s the intent of major entrepreneurial support providers to serve and meet the entrepreneur where we find him or her.
The NIIC is rocket fuel for great ideas, people and companies.
We are a catalyst for:
The NIIC’s primary client-focused metrics are: Total Park Employment, Average Park Wage Rate, Total Park Payroll, Total Investment Capital Raised, # of Patents Applied for or Issued and # of Products Launched.
Check out our fact sheet and impact/annual reports for The NIIC’s performance dashboard at: https://niic.net/newsroom/downloads/
The NIIC, as a highly effective non-profit organization, has three major quality objectives that are traceable through our quality system and measured by our commitment to excellence by achieving or exceeding the following priority goals:
The NIIC is the only ISO9001:2008 registered business incubation and acceleration program in the United States. We have a documented quality system and recently successfully transitioned to ISO9001:2015 registration (we take metrics seriously, and we have a documented and comprehensive risk-based monitoring system governing our activities). The NIIC has been ISO registered for over 13 years. The NIIC adheres to strong processes and solid business practices through our evidenced-based entrepreneurial management system.
Why is The NIIC committed to inclusive and diverse entrepreneurship?
NIIC is one of approximately 112 federally designated Women Business Center’s in the United States and is chartered to serve 16 Indiana Counties. The NIIC is the host organization for an SBA Women’s Business Center focused specifically on the needs of women, immigrants (we have highest Burmese concentration in the US) and other underserved groups (Ft Wayne is 16% African-American) as they pursue business ventures.
The NIIC has obtained the highest level of transparency seal – Platinum – from GuideStar.org. In Indiana, only 104 non-profit organizations carry this highest level of designation.
To learn more about what the Platinum Seal of Transparency means, please click here: https://learn.guidestar.org/platinum
To see a full and comprehensive profile of the NIIC on GuideStar to learn about our programs, services, governance, progress and metrics, please click here: https://www.guidestar.org/profile/35-2097779
The NIIC has a board-appointed audit committee and also publishes three years of historical tax returns, audited financial statements, and impact statements on its website (www.niic.net).