Ep. 277 - Melissa Vincent, ED of Pipeline Entrepreneurial Fellowship on Helping Midwest Startups Grow & Thrive

Melissa Vincent, Executive Director of Pipeline Entrepreneurial Fellowship and Brian Ardinger, Co Founder of Inside Outside Innovation sit down and talk about the people, the resources, and the companies making the Midwest a great place for startups to grow and prosper. This recording was part of our IO Live series. For more innovation resources, check out insideoutside.io.

On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Melissa Vincent, Executive Director of Pipeline Entrepreneurial Fellowship. This recording was part of our IO Live series and Melissa and I sit down and talk about the people, the resources, and the companies making the Midwest a great place for startups to grow and prosper. Let's get started.

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Interview Transcript with Melissa Vincent, Executive Director of Pipeline Entrepreneurial Fellowship

Brian Ardinger: Welcome to Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest with us today. This is part of our IO Live series, which is our virtual conversation series to talk innovation and entrepreneurship. Part of our Inside Outside platform, where we have our podcast and newsletter and ongoing events like this. So I'm super excited to host Melissa today. Melissa is a good friend. She's the Executive Director of Pipeline. So welcome to the show, Melissa. 

Melissa Vincent: Brian, thank you so much. I love it when I get to chat with you. 

Brian Ardinger: I'm excited about this conversation. Before we get too far. I always like to thank our sponsors. Today our sponsor is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. They are a private nonpartisan foundation based in the Kansas City, Missouri. They seek to build inclusive prosperity through entrepreneur focused economic development. They've been a huge help to a lot of things going on, including Pipeline. I believe they're a sponsor for. If people are interested in finding out more about Kauffman, go to kauffman.org or check them out @KauffmanFDN on Facebook and Twitter.

And so huge shout out to our sponsors for making things like this happen. And having conversations that make Midwest Entrepreneurs even better. I was gonna say, you're new to Pipeline, but you were new from the standpoint of you started working at Pipeline right before the pandemic. It seems like that's a short time ago, but it seems now we're what, almost two years into this thing. So it's exactly, exactly the pandemic years. 

But I wanted to have you on, because I think Pipeline has been one of those proven things in the ecosystem that has helped entrepreneurs across the Midwest here. And I wanted to get you on to talk about, you know, what have you seen? What's different and, and more importantly, what's going to happen moving forward. So maybe let's start the conversation with, tell us a little bit about what Pipeline is. For those who may not know that and where we're at right now. 

Melissa Vincent: I would love to. Yes. So I have been there for, as you mentioned, it'll be two years next month. So it's kind of crazy because it feels sometimes like six months and other times it feels like 10 years because of the pandemic. So you never know. So Pipeline is a fellowship for high- growth entrepreneurs in the Midwest. We are industry agnostic. So we do everything from Bio to Ag. You name it, everything in between. And do not take equity in the organizations that we work with. 

And so we're different in that way as well. And we focus on serial entrepreneurs because they have the greatest economic impact on the region, when you focus on someone who's going to get right back up, if they have a failure. And if they succeed, they're going to get back up, start another company and invest in the community. 

Brian Ardinger: Pipeline's been around for a number of years. It was actually started even prior to me starting Nmotion and that. I think you have over 140 or a 150 entrepreneurs that have gone through the program. Had had an economic benefit. 2,700 employees I think are, are based in Kansas and Missouri and Nebraska because of the founders that have been part of Pipeline. 

Your founders have raised over $600 million in capital since joining Pipeline. And it's a flywheel approach. So, you know what started 10 or 15 years ago. Now we're seeing some of the fruits of that payoff. So tell us a little bit about how you got involved in Pipeline. 

Melissa Vincent: Pipeline was started 14 years ago. It was started by Joni Cobb and a number of key people kind of in the Midwest. She was the CEO. And the idea was that there was such, as you mentioned, like 14 years ago, we were in such a different place.

There weren't all the entrepreneur support organizations that we have now. And so, you know, when she started the organization, it was around this idea that if you came and you brought resources from the coast to the Midwest. And you focus specifically on serial entrepreneurs to have a massive impact on the region because of what we talked about earlier, they're going to reinvest, they're going to get back up, start another company. And that was really true. 

So over the last 14 years, our members are not just creating jobs. They're creating really high paying jobs. So average salary for an employee of one of our members is $52,000. So they're creating great jobs. They're creating a lot of them. And they're raising capital and they are staying here in the Midwest.

And so really over 14 years, that whole concept that we were seeing, if it could be proved or not, if you bring in these resources, what impact would that have if you focused on serial entrepreneurs is proven. So it's like, okay, successful, we've done that. That's really amazing. But then it becomes the question of 14 years later, how things changed. Like to your point, we've had, with the pandemic and we've had social injustice that's been ongoing that really came to a head last year.

So we have all these different things that happened over the past few years. And so I think for us as an organization, we've really looked at well, how do we respond to that? And I think there's a lot of other entrepreneurial support organizations that are doing the same. How do we step in. How do we be a part of that progress and change that really needs to happen? 

That's where Pipeline is headed. But we couldn't have gotten there without the legacy that was started 14 years ago, by bringing in all these resources and creating some amazing fellowship programs. 

Brian Ardinger: It's been a very important piece of the puzzle. When I started Nmotion, I think it was 10 years ago, ish. It was the first accelerator in Nebraska at the time that's a equity based accelerator. But we quickly wanted to tie ourselves with Pipeline and get our founders an opportunity to move through the Pipeline. And you find those early stage founders. You get them a little bit of capital. You surround them with mentors and investment capital.

We help build that. And then you also then connect them into a wider network. I think that was one of the most important things about like an Nmotion is, you know, we started in Lincoln, Nebraska. But we realized quickly that you can't build a startup ecosystem by yourself. In just the four walls of your own county or city.

And so how do we create opportunities for those founders to make network connections that can help them grow their business wherever they end up. And, you know, we've had some great founders that went through Pipeline. Brett Byman who started with Nobl. And now he's with another company, BasicBlock.

You mentioned that serial net nature of entrepreneurs. Vishal Singh with Quantified Ag. Liz Whitaker with Pawlytics and that. And now with Brooke Mullen who's with Sapahn and she came through the GBeta Program with Gener8tor that we're now working with. So those are just some of the things, but maybe let's talk about some of the success stories of some of the Pipeline Entrepreneurs that have had success based on having access to your program.

Melissa Vincent: Yeah. You know, one of the things that, you know, we're really looking for when we're investing is we're looking at high growth. So they're already at a decent place. And then we're really trying to help them get to that next phase of growth to hopefully, like we said, either exit or re invest in their community.

And so some of those are ones that everyone kind of in the Midwest, you know, your Toby Rush with EyeVerify. So everyone kind of always thinks of Pipeline. They're like, oh, that was, you know, Toby went through that. But the thing that I love is that we have so many other organizations. So a couple that people know of that may not have realized that their founders went through Pipeline is ShotTracker Davion Roth.

So that's a company that is still ongoing. Doing massive things. In the news. Part of Pipeline program back in the early days. Another one, let's go to Nebraska here. We have Blake Lawrence with Opendorse. Oh my goodness. Since the NIL law changes, like, I mean, he already was killing it. But now it's like, those are just like set him in a whole other trajectory because he can capitalize on college sports now and college athletes.

So there've been these really successful founders. And I think that there's a lot of different pieces that in the ecosystem, like what you're doing and what Pipeline's doing. It takes more than just one organization to be able to provide the support. You really need layers to that. So you need some groups that are a little bit earlier stage. And then you have Pipeline which fits in this very unique role of serial entrepreneurs who are high growth, who are looking to exit and give back.

It's a very unique spot that we fill. And so really trying to figure out how do we support each other. And I think that's kind of in the Midwest, what everyone's looking at right now. So it's like, we have organizations like yours that have been around for 10 years. Pipeline is fourteen. Like these established organizations that are now looking and saying, okay, we've done this. How do we work better together? Because if we work well together, we can do even more. 

So I think that's kind of the shift that's starting to happen. And I don't know if it's the pandemic that was part of like, kind of being the catalyst to that. Realizing that we all needed each other. And we needed, our entrepreneurs need more support than one organization could give solo. But when you combine forces, we can do so much more.

Brian Ardinger: So let's talk about the program itself. So obviously there are specific things about the program. You go through things over the course of your year, and that. I think most people think of Pipeline and think of the value that's created from the network that's been established and the access to that network. But talk a little bit about the program itself. 

Melissa Vincent: When you're a Fellow In the program. You go through four modules a year. And those are really intense three day workshops, basically. And they are focused on helping you really scale your company. So the first module that they go through is understanding who your target customer is. Which these are all going to sound very like early stage.

They're not. I mean, they're digging in super deep to analyze this information. So finding your target customer. The second one is all about your business model. And making sure that you have the right business model now that you know who your target customer should be. And the third is telling your story through your financials.

Which, in all honesty is probably the one that everyone fears the most. Because one understanding your financials is one thing. Telling your story through your financials. Nobody wants to do that. And then when they get through that module, they are just able to easily tell the story through their financials.

And then the fourth we just wrapped in St. Louis. Was about telling your story and what's your why? So taking all of the things that you learn throughout the year. Putting that into basically a pitch for an investor or a potential client. And being able to tell the entire story of your company in one single pitch. 

Brian Ardinger: One of the interesting things, because I've been a mentor in Pipeline for a long time, and I've seen the evolution of how these companies kinda go through that. And you mentioned things like just that customer discovery piece, for example, your business model. I think a lot of times we forget that that's not necessarily something that all entrepreneurs understand or know or use.

And oftentimes just having that forced function of let's re evaluate, let's make sure that we are in the right business. And we have the right metrics. The right things that are going on can do such a powerful thing to an entrepreneur because it kind of levels the system, especially when you're surrounded with other entrepreneurs and other business models and that. It gets them thinking and doing things differently.

Melissa Vincent: And we certainly saw that in the pandemic where I think as entrepreneurs we're hit across the board, just like everyone else, but realizing when you're the one who is out there as an entrepreneur, It comes to you. It's so, it is lonely at the top. It's especially lonely when you're a serial entrepreneur, because we do think a little bit differently.

It's that whole like, ah, knock me down. I'll get right back up and start something else. And if I succeed, I'm gonna put myself through this all over again. But I think that in the pandemic, what we really saw was the value of that network and that connection. And really being able to lean on other people who were struggling.

But because this isn't a program where you go through, and yes, you've gone through that program, but that's it, you become a member. And you're part of this pipeline family. They were really able to lean in and support each other in a very unique way. And obviously Pipeline provided resources, and we did a lot of stuff around mental health and wellness.

However, that support of that network was so powerful. And you could really see it during the pandemic. Cause there was a safe space to be able to talk about things that you were struggling with, that had they not had that network maybe wouldn't have come up or they wouldn't have felt comfortable talking about. 

Brian Ardinger: Well, I think everybody was in that boat. Reevaluating what they're doing for who they were doing it for, et cetera, et cetera. We've got a number of people in the audience. If anybody has a question from the audience, feel free to type it in the chat, or there's a great feature in this Run the World called Grab the Mic.

So you can also click the little microphone button and come on stage with us and ask your question directly. Happy to do that. So, yes, we're excited to make this a little bit more interactive. So we talked a little bit about ecosystems. So talk about the different ecosystems that you support. You know, you're in Kansas, you're in Missouri, you're in Nebraska. And obviously the cities are involved. Talk a little bit about the differences in the ecosystems and where you draw your entrepreneurs from. 

Melissa Vincent: You nailed it. Thank you for you have exactly right. So we are Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. And I think everyone always asks the question, like, are you guys planning to expand further? Yes, we may at some point. However, right now there is so much like attention. Resources that we know we need to provide just on that three state region, that it's super important that we stay there. 

But those are the areas that we look at. We are actually, we just finished. We've just closed our apps for recruiting. Had in all honesty, the best turnout we've had in years. I mean, it's interesting because at some point you don't know, during the pandemic are people really starting companies. You know, for some, it might be a really difficult time to start a company, but that's such a great, you know, response from that. And we're super excited about that. 

We see a lot of pockets. So we have Wichita pockets. We have Lincoln Omaha pockets. We have St. Louis pockets. And then obviously Kansas city on both sides. And so we see a lot of people coming from there. I think as far as how the different regions, and the only I can really compare it to, because I feel like I've become entrenched over the last two years here in our three state region.

But when I look at like Oklahoma or some areas that aren't part of that really strong network of ESOs or Entrepreneur Support Organizations. You know, Oklahoma is further behind than let's say Kansas or Nebraska, and certainly St. Louis. I think part of that is because they have not brought in outside organizations to come in and help them establish some of the entrepreneurial groups that you need. 

You need more than just one group within a region. And again, when you've been doing it, as long as you know, we have here and in Nebraska and certainly in Missouri, I think that that's where you're able to, you've been doing it for a while. You realize where you play well, and then you find other people to compliment. 

And I think when you look at other regions who aren't there yet, they're just trying to figure out who do we even want to bring in? They're not to a place yet where they could even say, oh, here's the part that we do really well. Let's find other organizations to supplement that. 

So I think that the Midwest, when we're talking about Nebraska and Missouri and Kansas is unique and really amazing, and its ability to work together regionally to create really strong entrepreneur. 

Brian Ardinger: Are you seeing fundamental differences or different expertise in the different ecosystems? Like how does St. Louis compared to a Lincoln or? 

Melissa Vincent: So St. Louis has a lot of bio. Obviously there's Bio STL. So we see a lot of bio coming out of St. Louis. And then Nebraska, we see a lot more animal health resources. And obviously healthcare resources as well. And then Kansas City, this conglomeration of bio and, and also Nebraska would be sports tech. I would put that in there too, even the shot trackers here in Kansas. 

So you have this interesting mixture and I think along the whole corridor, you have a lot of animal health cause we're in that kind of quarter for animal health. And then we have some amazing entrepreneurs who are rural because that's an area that we really have tried to focus on. And so we have rural entrepreneurs who are doing really unique things, you know, in ag and everything else. 

Brian Ardinger: So talk a little bit about the mentors themselves. What type of mentors did you bring in? And how do they work. 

Melissa Vincent: We love to bring in a mixture of regional mentors, like yourself, and then national mentors. And we feel like that mix is super important. Because one regionally, you want people who actually understand the ecosystem, understand the issues of raising capital that are still here. And, you know, that we need to address and change if we want to really be able to grow the ecosystem. 

And then we want people from the coast. So we know that a lot of times what we're seeing is that on the coast, we have PE and VC that are looking to invest here in the Midwest. And so we're able to kind of capitalize on that. And because Pipeline takes our entrepreneurs through such a strong vetting process to even get into Pipeline, it's not the easiest thing to get into, but there is a pretty long process to get in. 

And then you have a year's long fellowship. And then they know they're going to get that extra support. We get a lot of interest from the coast about what our entrepreneurs are doing, because you're adding those layers of continued support and resource, which should hopefully help their success rates continue to go up. So that's kind of where we are. 

Brian Ardinger: And the type of people that you bring in, like a Chris Shipley has been on the podcast before. And spoken at our events before. People like that who have been in the industry for a long time and can navigate east, west and in between is really helpful. 

Melissa Vincent: And even international. I will tell you, I love Chris Shipley. She is so able to help you take and tell your company's pitch. And we just saw this because she leads our fourth module. And you can tell your entire company story in your five minutes. You're in. And she'll be like, so what I think you're saying is, and she'll like completely boil down your company to like a minute.

And it's like, oh yeah, that. And it's like, oh my gosh, please tell me I wrote that down. One of my other favorites that I think, it just reminds you of how unique Pipeline is in the mentors that we bring in. So Laura Kilcrease, she leads our module three on financials. If you look her up, she's literally credited with starting the tech scene in Austin.

And she's just this ridiculous, amazing leader and ecosystem builder. And now she's in Alberta running the entire Alberta, the province of Alberta, she's running their entire new innovation arm. And so she's just, it doesn't even seem real when you talk to her. I mean, she's just, she can give you stories of companies that you know, she's been on the board for, that had sold for, you know, ridiculous amounts. And she's been through so many different things. 

So it's that level of just resources and expertise. And just people who really care about entrepreneurs, who understand the entrepreneurial lifestyle. What's it's about. How hard it is. And really care about giving back and supporting our entrepreneurs.

Brian Ardinger: I want to shift to COVID. And again, you started right before a lot of this stuff happened. Talk a little bit about how COVID and the remote nature has changed Pipeline and, and change your entrepreneurs. 

Melissa Vincent: You know, so I would say there were both good and, you know, difficult pieces. So Pipeline for anyone who doesn't know is very, very much an in-person organization. The modules are in person. They're three days. The professional development was always in person. There are all of these pieces that it's like a hundred percent an in-person organization.

And then you have a new leader that starts, and then you have a pandemic that doesn't allow anyone to be in person. And so it was really interesting because the downside was. Our Fellows had one module, the very first one, and then everything else was virtual. 

And for me just research thought was okay, how does that impact, you know, who becomes a member who doesn't, or their engagement with each other. And we started with 13 Fellows, we've finished with thirteen fellows, despite the pandemic.

We were very intentional as soon as the pandemic hit to go virtual with resources. So rather than having, you know, a handful of professional development. We went weekly. Everything from, okay, how do I communicate? What is this pandemic? How do I communicate to my customers, my team? I mean like things that now it feels like, oh, that was 10 years ago, but it was just last year.

And so we were trying to really figure out and then PPP loans and all of that. So just started doing virtual resources. So in that way, I think it was positive because it allowed us to really beef up, any type of professional development. I mean, it was just weekly. We're coming at you and we're helping you feel connected.

And then after that, I would say the downside was not being able to have those in-person connections, but we just finished our last module for this year, which we had the first two, which virtual. The last two modules were in-person. And again, we've finished with thirteen, started with 13, finished with 13.

So I think really for us, it allowed us to do a whole lot more because we could do it virtually. The transition for an organization that is so heavy on live in-person events is probably some of the members who have been around for a while. And we're like, whoa. When are we going to get in the person? I heard that a lot. 

Brian Ardinger: Absolutely. But Hey Bob, I saw you Grab the Mic and I didn't have a chance to click the button. So if you want to grab the mic. There you go. Welcome Bob. 

Bob: Yeah, there's some other people from the Midwest I'm in Cleveland, Ohio, I'm at Case Western Reserve University. I run something called Launch Net. We used to be a Blackstone Launchpad, which is around the country and now we're at Launch Net, There's five of us, in different universities in the area. Besides that I'm an Entrepreneur in Residence at the economic development called Jumpstart. And also doing some business incubator. 

Question I had, St. Louis. Is I, I was working with a guy from Kent State. And Melissa, I don't know if you know this guy or not in St. Louis, Brian Stoyfield. Does that ring a bell? Okay. I was just curious. He's a troublemaker, which in a good sort of way. He was trying to put rockets into suborbital space for experiments. And because there's so much aerospace in St. Louis, he ended up moving down there and hung out a lot with, begins with a C the big area where everybody collaborates, connects. 

No people in the middle, we just have to work harder. But I think it's turned a lot. Got quite a few friends out in SF and they're leaving. Some of them, just the cost of structure. And it used to be that a VC said if I can't have lunch with you, without flying somewhere, I don't want to invest. That has changed dramatically. 

Austin's picked up, as you know, and Miami has picked up. We picked up a little bit here. Actually rental costs for homes have escalated tremendously. And inventory has dropped. Because people were working from here, but a number of people are staying. Which is good to see.

So, but yeah, I just wanted to, you know, say hello. I'm also involved with Techstars a little bit. I just had one in Techstars, Chicago. And then Techstars, Minneapolis. And so we're gaining that. And then I used to work with GSV Global Silicon Valley. GSV.com. If you want to take a look. They just did a $220 million spec and then something called GSVbootcamp.com.

We do it now twice a year. And it could be helpful for some of the people in your cohort. It's not just ed tech, it's a broader spectrum. And they kind of did it to help during COVID. And now it kind of stuck. That they said, hey, this is good. You know, while we concentrate on ed tech for our SPAC, GSV invests in other entities, plus this is a good way that people can't, you know, do something in person physical can do this.

I've also done a number of, three times now, startupschool.org, which is run by YC. Which has been really helpful. But yeah, the in-person the, the two that went to Techstars. One in Chicago, that was right in the midst of COVID. So there was no in person. The other one went to Minneapolis or Farm to Fork and he was in person. And they've got a delivery robot and it's really, really, really cool. And EcoLab. The company has helped a lot. 

Melissa Vincent: I've been taking notes as you've been talking 

Bob:  CarbonOrdinance.com. It's a grad again, getting into aerospace. So a guy who worked on the Mars rover, and some other folks, one who dropped out. That basically you can deliver food in these little carts. And you can observe or be kind of like not the driver, but kind of the driver in virtual reality.

So those people who don't own a car. Who maybe don't have the ability to drive a car can be drivers of this. And we already have 300 people signed up. Yeah, to drive these vehicles in virtual reality. And we're getting some restaurant pickup again. Ecolab has been a great partner in Minneapolis. It's not the best place to have a little cart delivery because when the snow flies.

Brian Ardinger: Yeah, next time. Spring and Summer time. 

Bob: Exactly. So, but they're, they're working hard. And the other one that was in Chicago was called undone.com. Yeah. During COVID I did a hell of a lot of stuff online. I'll give you one more. If your MPD is one of the it's called pitch-force.com. They went from being in person only in San Francisco and they were charging $75 to pitch.

And I don't like to pay to pitch, but they would then turn around and buy pizza, beer and pop. They went to online. Free. And I've attended almost every week for over a year. And they've got 10 companies and five VCs. These VCs generally were San Francisco based. And now they're all over the place, including Austin, including New York.

And there, now that it's virtual, they now have other entities pitching from Argentina, from Australia, from Israel. And it's a good way to learn how to pitch and see how things are going for people and also things, how they're going poorly for people. So it's a good way of see a real entrepreneur. It's your real business.

And so friends of mine and I, we would literally watch it and text each other, our votes. And after a while, you get pretty aligned with what the VCs would do. And the downside is you get good. And all of a sudden you see these very, you both understand, you see these very smart people going, okay, you're in love with your technology, but what's it going to do for the customer? How much are you asking for? And then you're going, this is going to burn down. And sure enough, they get a two.

Other ones you go, holy crap, did they hit it. I work with a lot of students and you know, they're just learning how to do this. And I sent them there. And they see, you know, the real people putting it all on the line to do it. Max who runs it, he runs a staffing agency and he also helps startups who don't have the finances to maybe pay someone right now, get somebody to work for equity only. 

And that's how he makes money that you have to pay him like five grand and then a certain percentage after let's say six months, once you put them on a salary and you know, maybe they're going for that Series A or something like that, but they can't get there because they don't have that chief marketing officer. Well, he knows off people who are bad exits and they can do that. 

Melissa Vincent: That's awesome. I love hearing from other regions on, well, not regions, but just other states that are kind of right next to us. What's going on there and how it's similar or different. And one of the things you brought up about the VC groups out of San Francisco being like the pandemic really did shift.

And I think, you know, when you're talking about who you would put capital, that has been, I think one of the best biggest shifts. The ability for us to bring capital in from the coasts. Because to your point, exactly. That was not something. If you could not do lunch or coffee, there was not capital happening here and you'd have to move.

And so it's really allowed us to have a lot of people moved back to the Midwest, their roots. And then allow people who would have had to leave previously, get to stay here in the Midwest. Which is just an enormous benefit, that was a by-product of the pandemic. 

Bob: Absolutely. One of the entities who didn't make it into the top five does a Reg A. He pitched at going public and he didn't make it to the top five and he did a great job. And I reached out to him and his name is Darren Marble. And he has a show that he he's working with Entrepreneur magazine. It's called Goingpublic.com. And so my friend is the board director for Gen Global. Jeff Hoffman.

We just went through Global Entrepreneurship Week. And I introduced Jeff to Darren. And now Jeff is one of the advisors and one of the producers on Going Public. But that wouldn't have happened if again, to go to Pitch Force, I would have had to been on San Francisco that week. And I'm going to like do that maybe twice a year.

Brian Ardinger: Well, Bob, thanks for coming on stage. Anybody else have any questions? Feel free to put them into the chat. And we have a couple more minutes to keep going. You've changed parts of that program. You're actually creating a new program focused on the diversity inclusion side of things. So maybe talk a little bit about that part of Pipeline and some of the new things that are happening.

Melissa Vincent: Yeah, so super excited to be able to, as I mentioned, this is a great kind of success story of what Pipeline was traditionally for the first 14 years. And without that, you know, legacy of success, you can't really add or expand. But because of that legacy of success, and because we were able to successfully say, you bring in resources from the coast to the Midwest, and you focus on these entrepreneurs who are really going to scale.

And one of the things that we realized in going through the recruitment process during the pandemic was that, in order to get into Pipeline traditionally, you have to working on your company full time. And so during the application process, what we saw were a lot of really great ideas for high growth companies that the person just wasn't able to yet work on their company. Full-time. 

And when you looked more closely, we realized that there were a lot of those people were from underserved communities. And for us, that is rural, female, and minority entrepreneurs. And so the only thing that's holding them back is they haven't had an even playing field to get to a place where they are actually ready to be able to get into Pipeline.

And so we wanted to do something to address that. And so we created a new program. It's called Pipeline Pathfinder. That is kind of like a starter program to be able to get into the Pipeline traditional fellowship. But our hope is that when you go through the program and it starts next year, we just finished recruiting for it.

That it will be something that you're either able to run your company full time at the end of it. Or you get to a place where you're ready for Pipeline traditional and a really scale to the next level. So that is our hope. Next year, will be our first year to pilot it. And then after that, we hope to expand and continue to grow.

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Brian Ardinger: It's exciting to see changes that are happening across the ecosystem. You know, we mentioned one of the benefits of being an entrepreneur in the Midwest is this comradery. And this ability to get access to people that you wouldn't normally have access to necessarily in the big tech hub. Where again, if you find the right person typically are one or two degrees separated from getting to the people that you need. 

And appreciate everything that you've done to move it forward, and then also take it in new directions. So if people want to find out more about yourself or about Pipeline, what's the best way to do that. 

Melissa Vincent: So go to pipelineentrepreneurs.com or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Or you can always email me at melissa@pipelineentrepreneurs.com. Could we have any longer of an email? Probably not, but. 

Brian Ardinger: Melissa, thank you again for coming on Inside Outside Innovation. Thanks for doing this live and thanks for all the audience folks that came and participated. We look forward to having future events and that. 

If you want to find out more about Inside Outside, go to InsideOutside.IO. Subscribe to our newsletter and watch the podcast every week. So appreciate you coming on Melissa. Look forward to having further conversations and thanks very much. 

Melissa Vincent: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it. Thanks everybody.

Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.

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