Chicago startup lands $3.8M in incentives to move to Indiana
Chicago resident Marc Ward, founder and CEO of Socian Technologies Inc., knew nothing about Indiana’s technology industry until last year, when he came to Indianapolis to participate in Gener8tor’s 5G Technology startup accelerator.
“When I got to Indianapolis, the first thing I was treated to was [an] autonomous car project—and I was just blown away by that,” Ward said. “Indiana is amazing with the amount of technology that’s there.”
The experience persuaded him to move his drone-technology company to Indiana, and as a result, Socian has landed an offer of $3.8 million in tax credits from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., based on the company’s expectation of adding 155 jobs here over the next few years.
Ward said he is working with a site selector now to identify possible locations and hopes to settle on a site and move his company here by June 1. Ward said his first choice would be an Indianapolis location, but he’s also considering sites elsewhere in central Indiana. He wants to be in this part of the state because of its access to tech talent and its location in relation to the state’s universities.
Currently, Socian has seven employees—Ward and six others. The company closed on a $2 million round of seed funding last month.
By the end of this year, Ward said he expects to have more than 50 full-time employees. According to the deal between Socian and the IEDC, the company can earn the full amount of allocated state tax credits if it creates 155 new Indiana jobs by the end of 2026.
Socian is developing an artificial-intelligence-powered system of autonomous drones that work with emergency dispatch systems to gather on-site intelligence before first responders arrive on the scene. If a 911 dispatcher, for instance, receives a call about a shooting, the Socian drone can receive information from that call, perhaps including a description of the shooter. The drone can then fly to the scene and potentially spot the location of the suspect so that police have that information by the time they arrive, Ward said.
Ward said he was inspired to create Socian after the death of George Floyd in 2020. Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck during an arrest.
Ward is Black, and he also has friends who work in law enforcement. So he came up with the idea of aerial surveillance as a tool for giving police vital information about incident scenes, ultimately de-escalating police encounters and protecting both police and civilians, particularly people of color.
A self-described “lifelong nerd,” Ward earned a college degree in political science from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He started law school but grew disenchanted and dropped out. He then returned to his childhood interest in robotics, furthering his robotics knowledge through a combination of free online instruction and hands-on tinkering.
Ward launched Socian in 2021 and was selected for the 2022 cohort of Wisconsin-based Gener8tor’s 5G Technology accelerator, which is based in Indianapolis. Socian also participated in the TechStars Detroit Powered by J.P. Morgan accelerator last year.
While in Indianapolis, Ward was introduced to everything from the Indiana IoT Lab in Fishers to the Indy Autonomous Challenge and its autonomous race cars.
He said he was also impressed by the warmth and spirit of helpfulness he found in the people he met here. “Everyone, from every creed and circle, is willing to grow with you and willing to help you,” Ward said. “Everywhere I went, I felt absolutely welcomed.”
The idea of moving away from the bustle of Chicago was also appealing to Ward. “Indiana feels calm to me, and I do my best thinking when it’s calm.”
Socian is one of three startups that has relocated to Indiana after participating in a Gener8tor accelerator program, said Chelsea Linder, an Indianapolis-based partner at Gener8tor.
Kupros and Untowed both went through Gener8tor’s Bloomington/Columbus accelerator in 2021. Paxafe went through Gener8tor’s accelerator in Milwaukee in 2018.
Linder said two other accelerator alums are planning to relocate to Indiana, but she declined to identify those companies because they have not publicly announced those plans.