Research Foundation News

November 11, 2017

Purdue@WestGate supports southern Indiana business development, 11 startups join Firestarter program

ODON, Ind. and CRANE, Ind. – Purdue@WestGate, aimed at boosting regional development for southern Indiana, launched its first Firestarter program with 11 high-potential startups at the WestGate Academy.

Firestarter is a cohort-based program that connects entrepreneurs with the resources they need to move their innovations to commercialization. The six-week program covers a wide variety of entrepreneurial topics including business plan development, value proposition, ideation, validation and market discovery.

In West Lafayette, the Purdue Foundry Firestarter program has a proven track record with 165 startups having gone through or been assisted by the program from 2013 to 2017. One hundred of these startups are based on Purdue University patented innovations and the other 65 originate from community-based intellectual property.

“The response to the program exceeded what we anticipated and is a tremendous first stride toward growing WestGate as a regional innovation hub,” said Jason Salstrom, director of Purdue@WestGate. “This kind of a response indicates considerable entrepreneurial potential.”

Firestarter participants include current and former NSWC Crane engineers as well as incubator tenants at WestGate Academy. Some startups in the cohorts are affiliated with higher education institutions such as Indiana University and University of Southern Indiana.

Brooke Pyne is the technology transfer director at NSWC Crane. 

“Technology transfer (T2) is about the transition of Crane-developed technologies into the commercial sector," Pyne said. "The Firestarter program is a great way to assist entrepreneurs with commercialization efforts and the progression to the marketplace."

Mike Sandefur is senior project manager of 3rd Millennium Project, a startup in the first Firestarter session.

“The resources, education, and confidence provided by this program and programs like it, will promote innovations that will advance the human spirit,” Sandefur said. “I am blessed to take part in Firestarter alongside other like-minded entrepreneurs.”

Samantha Nelson, program facilitator at Purdue@WestGate, said Firestarter is a Purdue Foundry program, a startup accelerator at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

“The next set of cohorts will launch in early 2018,” Nelson said. “We anticipate that the program will grow even more and draw entrepreneurs from areas such as Vincennes, Jasper and Terre Haute in addition to our current areas.”

Purdue@WestGate offers a range of resources to accelerate business growth, including experienced entrepreneurs-in-residence to provide mentorship, Purdue Polytechnic CareerMaker™ to help businesses develop workforce talent and monthly Spirited Entrepreneur networking events to provide a forum to share ideas and connect with other entrepreneurs.

For more information about Purdue@WestGate, contact Salstrom at 812-483-0935,

About Purdue@WestGate

Purdue@WestGate is an economic development accelerator formed by the partnership between WestGate Authority, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation. The Indiana-based collaboration combines strengths to advance educational, research and development and technology commercialization across Indiana and elsewhere. Purdue@WestGate offers tools for startups, entrepreneurial experts, programs, educational opportunities and workforce development to help southern Indiana businesses grow and thrive. For more information about the resources available to businesses, visit Purdue@WestGate.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at

Writer: Sarah K. Miller, 812-863-2756,

Source: Samantha Nelson, 812-863-4080,

Jason Salstrom, 812-483-0935,

Mike Sandefur,, 812-449-5695

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