INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures has launched a pitch competition program targeting entrepreneurs and higher education institutions throughout the state. The organization says the goal of Elevate Nexus is to "nurture Indiana companies and jobs of tomorrow." Led by Jacob Schpok, entrepreneur-in-residence and executive director of university initiatives, Elevate Nexus will organize pitch competitions and guide colleges and universities with best practices as they work to develop programs to encourage entrepreneurship.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Businses, Schpok said higher education institutions are a critical component in cultivating entrepreneurs and innovative ideas.

"We see Elevate Nexus as being a way to help those that are either currently supporting entrepreneurs in their community and in their higher education institutions or those that are interested in supporting entrepreneurs (with) the tools that may already exist as well as best practices for them to establish new ways of supporting, to build on existing operational strategies," said Schpok. "What we're trying to do is raise up the existing entrepreneurship support vehicles as well as invest in these startups at an earlier level so that they have the opportunity to further grow and cultivate new investors as they de-risk their venture."

Schpok says the first step of the program will be to connect with higher education institution that are interested in participating in the program. The organization will then launch a boot camp to help entrepreneurs at the earliest stages develop their business models and, in October, the program will host its first pre-seed and seed pitch contest.

"There's data that shows that over the last two decades, the majority of job creation has been done so by startup companies that have existed for less than 10 years. We see that, for Indiana to keep its competitive edge and to continue to grow the economy, it's our responsibility to further support entrepreneurs and help cultivate new ones."

Elevate Nexus is being funded by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which is overseen by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and managed by Elevate Ventures.

"By partnering with Indiana’s world-class university system, the state is helping foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem that fuels innovative ideas and technologies," IEDC President Elaine Bedel said in a news release. "With the launch of Elevate Nexus, Indiana will build on regional efforts throughout the state to increase support and resources for entrepreneurs and high-growth startups, providing another outlet for communities to engage innovators and universities while driving economic growth."

Elevate Ventures says any higher education institution in Indiana is eligible to participate in Elevate Nexus.