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Inside Indiana Business: Lawmakers should embrace and support Hoosier entrepreneurs

March 13, 2023 10:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Indiana lawmakers about House Bill 1345, legislation that would make it easier for innovators and entrepreneurs like me to get their business underway and to bring great jobs to Hoosiers.

It was great to see the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee approve the bill on a 9-4 vote, and I was encouraged to see our lawmakers taking such positive action. Two of my colleagues, Dronedek’s Chief Strategy Officer Neerav Shah, and our Sales Director, Jake Mills, later testified in support of HB 1344, another bill that supports entrepreneurs.

Both pieces of legislation would help startups – something Indiana needs to do because the state currently ranks 44th in the nation for how well it fosters entrepreneurship, per Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship. Each of the bills were heard in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee. HB 1345 passed the committee by a 9-4 vote. HB 1344 did not receive a vote. Unfortunately, that means they won’t progress further this year.

The funny thing about us making time to go down to the Indiana Statehouse to talk with legislators about these bills is that our company won’t benefit from them. We’ve been fortunate to move beyond five years in operation and we are proud to have been hitting all of our strategic milestones, but it wasn’t easy. We believe Indiana must do a better job of supporting entrepreneurs who have great ideas and just might have the next globally significant company coming out of Indiana.

I’m not generally someone who gets involved in creating new laws, and Dronedek as a company hasn’t been active in calling on the General Assembly to act. I believe we’re all usually better off if the government stays out of our daily lives. But my team and I took time from working to perfect our smart mailbox, raising money to fund our  15+ workforce and production needs and dealing with the various issues of the day, because the support these bills would provide is sorely needed.

Authored by Representative Jake Teshka, HB 1345 would have waived requirements for new businesses and establish a “regulatory sandbox” program that would make it easier for small businesses to thrive. Representative Teshka also authored HB 1344, which focused on Indiana businesses that have been in operation for fewer than five years and would have, among other things, encouraged the state to allocate 5 percent of workforce and economic development funding to them, along with eliminating first year business fees.

Anyone who’s tried to start a business knows how easy it is to get tangled up in red tape and fees. We’re making the next-generation mailbox and are one of the first companies to hold patents on a smart mailbox, which is part of the emerging autonomous delivery sector. You can’t imagine the regulatory hurdles and issues we’ve faced. 

Small businesses like Dronedek represent 99.4% of all businesses in Indiana, and we employ 44 percent of the Hoosiers who work. It seems to me that our lawmakers should do all they can to help us grow. 

Indiana has done some great work in attracting, retaining and growing existing and large corporations, but it hasn’t focused enough on doing the same for new business creation and entrepreneurship.

House Bill 1345 would have reduced barriers to entry for new companies to bring innovative services, products, and business models to market. That would help companies and consumers in emerging fields like drone delivery, the Internet of Things, financial technology and more. The program it creates would allow us to innovate and test products and offerings without the burden of costly and cumbersome regulations and licensing. At least 11 states have established regulatory sandbox programs, including states like Arizona and North Carolina that are leaders in growing and attracting tech and innovation jobs.

Bills like HB 1344 and 1355  are how we encourage and support Indiana entrepreneurs and how we develop the next great technology right here in Indiana.

Folks, we’re living in a Digital Age not far off from a pop culture inflection point with autonomous deliveries being as expected and commonplace as when smartphones became the social norm. It’s high time we widen entrepreneurs’ pathway to production and progress. 

Helping Hoosier businesses get to markets sooner means more fuel for Indiana’s economy, better jobs for its people and better lives for everyone.

We were proud to join with the Indiana Technology Innovation Association to support this legislation, and we’ll be back supporting it next year. That’s more government interaction than I’ll have had in the past decade, but it’s an investment worth making. If you’re an innovator or small business person in Indiana, I invite you to join me. 

Dan O’Toole is the founder and CEO of Dronedek, a patent holder and serial entrepreneur. Dronedek, headquartered in Lawrence, is one of the first companies in the world to focus on package security for traditional and autonomous delivery methods.

Indiana technology speaks for itself.

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