Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: South Bend, IN

South Bend, IN

Initially settled as a fur trading hub, South Bend has been making strides to establish itself as an economic and entrepreneurial powerhouse. It’s considered to have the 2nd lowest cost of living in the U.S.

South Bend, IN, named for its location at the southern bend of the St. Joseph River, is the fourth-largest city in Indiana. Initially settled as a fur trading hub, South Bend has been making strides to establish itself as an economic and entrepreneurial powerhouse.

The city already has some advantages: according to Niche.com, it had the second-lowest cost of living in the United States in 2018. Additionally, in 2016, SmartAsset.com ranked the city as one of the top 10 in the country for creatives. The state of Indiana as a whole ranks favorably for entrepreneurship as well: The Kauffman Index has it 11th among the 25 larger states in established small business and entrepreneurial activity, while a 2018 poll performed by Chief Executive had it as the fifth-best state to do business.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up South Bend’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Hack Michiana is a group of people in the Michiana region looking to find solutions to area problems through entrepreneurship, innovation, education and more.

Based in South Bend, Local Variables is a networking group supporting software developers from around Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

South Bend is home to one branch of 1 Million Cups, a group that hosts weekly events allowing entrepreneurs to come together and share ideas.

IDEA Week is an annual festival held in the South Bend-Elkhart area celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation through competitions, speakers and other events.

The South Bend Regional Chamber hosts a variety of events supporting and celebrating the local business and entrepreneurial scene.

Startup South Bend-Elkhart, a website and organization dedicated to supporting entrepreneurship in the area, has a collection of all the area startup events.


Startup Competitions:

The Innovate WithIN competition is open to middle and high school students from around the state of Indiana, offering cash prizes and mentorship to the winning teams.

Formerly limited to students at the University of Notre Dame, the McCloskey New Venture Competition’s prizes worth over $400,000 are now available to anyone in the community.


Co-working Spaces:

Located just down the road in Mishawaka, 101Co3 is a co-working space that emphasizes collaboration, with a membership that includes access to a number of spaces across the state.

Headquarters at Ignition Park is a co-working space that offers a variety of membership plans, most of which include 24/7 access, and a number of amenities.

Housed in a 33,000-square foot former warehouse, Langlab includes event space, an art gallery and office space for small businesses.

Regus is a company that offers office in a number of cities across the country, including one on the south border of the Notre Dame campus in South Bend.


Maker spaces:

The Innovation Lab at Notre Dame’s IDEA Center is a place where entrepreneurial and creative students can turn their ideas into actual products.

MAKE SOUTH BEND is a community space that provides its members with the space, tools, equipment, education and opportunity to become the makers that they want to be.

Though it is primarily focused on the creation of digital media, St. Joseph County Public Library’s Studio 304 also includes some more traditional maker space items, including 3D printers.

Startup Due Diligence: 5 Reasons it is Critical to the Angel and VC Investor



A 55,000 square foot technology park at the University of Notre Dame, Innovation Park provides working space, support and other resources to entrepreneurs and innovators.

INVANTI calls itself a startup generator rather than an incubator, with the goal of finding and developing entrepreneurs and business plans to help the innovation economy thrive.

Housed at IU South Bend, the North Central Indiana Small Business Development Center hosts a variety of workshops and events to support small business in the area.



The University of Notre Dame’s IDEA Center runs the Commercialization Engine, an accelerator program for startups and entrepreneurs in the South Bend-Elkhart region.

Hosted by St. Mary’s College, the SPARK Business Accelerator is a program that works with women entrepreneurs to help them found and grow businesses.



Indiana University South Bend’s Judd Leighton School of Business and Economics offers an undergraduate major in small business and entrepreneurship to its students.

Saint Mary’s College, a four-year women’s college in the area, has the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, a program designed to support entrepreneurship among students.

The University of Notre Dame organizes a wide array of resources for entrepreneurs in the area as well as undergraduate and graduate programs in entrepreneurship.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Graham Allen Partners works with promising startups by helping with strategic growth, raising capital, recruiting and retaining talent and finding more ways to grow.

Based in South Bend, Heartland Ventures is a venture capital firm that co-invests in promising startups from around the Midwest United States.

Since 2012, the IrishAngels angel group has been making seed-stage and Series A investments in promising startups with significant ties to the University of Notre Dame.

Magnet Investors is a group of angel investors working to support startups in the Michiana area by providing early-stage capital.

In addition to being a communications company, Shurz Communications invests in companies both in their established industry and some outside of their wheelhouse.

A Glimpse Into Thinking Like an Angel Investor

Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

Inside INdiana Business, a publication that covers business news from around the state, offers a variety of newsletters with different focuses and topics.

Northwest Indian Business Magazine, which covers business news in the South Bend region and beyond, offers e-mail news updates to subscribers.

Those interested can subscribe to a monthly e-newsletter detailing economic advancement and development from around the South Bend region.

The South Bend Regional Chamber offers both a magazine and e-mail updates on events, activities and other important information on the area’s business community.


Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in South Bend not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Detroit, MIChicago, IL, Indianapolis, IN,

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.