From Fire and Mistakes
Experienced businessman helps young Indiana businesses grow
By Dan Domsic
It is 8 a.m. and Michael Coffey is using a walking desk – a contraption that combines a standard treadmill with a flat work space.
He hasn’t slept yet, and there are still a handful of e-mails in his inbox that still need to be answered even though he has already worked through the night at a club for startup companies in Broad Ripple called the Speak Easy. He is, however, better off than when he started the night before. At that point, there were 1,000 e-mails to go through.
Coffey, a Fishers resident, is a partner at DeveloperTown, a business that works on design aspects and product development with startup companies as well as seasoned businesses.
Business brought him to central Indiana from Napa Valley, Calif., and earlier this month, took him to Washington, D.C., representing Startup Indiana, a region of Startup America – a national network that aims to help young companies grow.
Leaving Napa Valley
In pursuit of education, Coffey went to Cedarville University in Ohio, and met his future wife, an Anderson native.
“I told her I’d give her a year of my life here and she’d give me the rest of hers in California,” he said.
Retreating to the West coast, Coffey worked in the wine industry before joining the ranks of those working in tech space.
From there, he raised $2.5 million in the span of two months to buy a client’s account from the company he then worked for, eventually taking his own company, Sequoia Technologies IMS, from three to 25 employees, with locations in Indianapolis and San Francisco.
“I learned through fire and mistakes,” he said.
A prolonged trip back to Indianapolis to help the ailing operations side of the business in 2011 led Coffey to decide to stay in Indiana and to eventually get bought out by Sequoia.
“About 45 days into our stint, I was blown away by the people,” he said. “I was blown away by how the local and state government took care of small businesses and where this tech space in Indianapolis that nobody knew of was growing.”
After running the numbers, Coffey calculated a four-to-one difference in running the business out of California, and now Coffey resides in Fishers. The Coffey family spent a little bit of time in a Geist condo, relocating to another corner of Fishers central to schools and other living needs. Much of their possessions are still in storage.
His next gig landed him at DeveloperTown, and one of the new relationships he formed would lead to a place with Startup America.
Rolling out the welcome mat
Scott Case, the original chief technology officer at Priceline, is the CEO of Startup America Partnership and was the person that brought Coffey into the fold, inviting him to address the network’s board of directors on the business landscape of Indiana – a board that includes Magic Johnson, Kevin Plank from Under Armour, Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn, Reed Hastings from Netflix and more.
Next up, Coffey was one of five people to represent the Startup Indiana region of Startup America in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, presenting at the White House and working with entrepreneurs at a D.C. business incubator.
Now the regional group works toward defining a structure for the group, as well as a few key goals, including bringing entrepreneurs that are in the startup phase back to Indiana, planning a marquee event for the Midwest and even partnering with CNN to make a media center that gives companies a chance to push content.
Coffey said that Indiana was ahead of many markets and that Indiana was given high praise over other regions.
“I would say one of the things that we all need to improve upon, I think the city as a whole does a pretty crappy job of beating our chest and saying we’re good,” Coffey said.
John Wechsler, Launch Fishers founder and one of Startup Indiana’s Region Champions, agrees with Coffey’s and other outsider’s positive assessments of Indiana’s prowess.
“I think when you look at, historically, all the attributes that are built into us as citizens that we just grow up to be good, industrious, honest and creative entrepreneurs,” Wechsler said.
Coffey agrees, and with zero sleep, a few e-mails still to read and a full day ahead of him at DeveloperTown, he sets out for another day of business in the Hoosier state.
Meet Michael Coffey
Age – 32
Family – Laura Coffey, wife; one son, one daughter
Favorite TV show – “Modern Family” and “The Newsroom”
Favorite sports team – Indianapolis Colts
How long he’s lived in Fishers – Two years