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Indiana, The New Mini Tech Capital of America

In the past, CEO Steve Hershberger hired from big universities near Silicon Valley. Now, he needs coders to work on the connection between beer kegs to his iKeg app, and he is choosing interns from Kenzie because of the quality he sees in the candidates.

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Masters candidate Diego Garcia said when he thinks of high tech, he thinks of
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INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA —

Kavitha Kamalbabu needed a break. She had raised her two children and the youngest was now in kindergarten. It was time to turn attention to her career. The 36-year-old wanted to code. The mecca of high tech — Silicon Valley — wasn’t an option because she needed to stay close to home and family in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“I chose Kenzie Academy because of its life project-based learning,” she said.

Kamalbabu is now at the top of her class, getting a two-year degree as a software developer. Kenzie, based in Indianapolis, was established to keep talent in Middle America and to create a mini tech capital.

“Our point is to bring people from Indianapolis to stay in Indianapolis,” said founder Courtney Spence. To do that, they place students in local companies as quickly as possible after their enrollment.

For one class, Kamalbabu, originally from India, found herself asking questions about measuring beer and learning how data increases profit. The class was taking a tour of Steady Serve — a local beer management system that invented a device to measure the content of kegs to reduce waste and fraud.

“It’s on the cusp of what we are seeing as being a tech boom,” Spence said.
Students tour Steady Serve, VOA

In the past, CEO Steve Hershberger hired from big universities near Silicon Valley. Now, he needs coders to work on the connection between beer kegs to his iKeg app, and he is choosing interns from Kenzie because of the quality he sees in the candidates.

“It’s like they folded the country and brought San Jose [the heart of Silicon Valley] into Indianapolis.”

By the numbers

Indianapolis is Middle America. Located in the Corn Belt, Indiana is known for its farms — the state’s model is “The Crossroads of America.” City leaders said that perception is changing. Indianapolis deputy mayor of economic development Angela Smith Jones calls Indianapolis “Western Silicon Valley” with a “great startup culture.”

Last year, technology companies in Indianapolis contributed $7.7 billion into the city’s economy and employed 75,000 people.

Job postings for emerging tech are up 40 percent over last year, and the city’s unemployment rate is currently 3 percent, which is lower than the national average.

The average tech industry wage in Indiana is $76,860.

“It’s on the cusp of what we are seeing as being a tech boom,” Spence said.

Masters candidate Diego Garcia said when he thinks of high tech, he thinks of "California or New York, not Indianapolis."
Kenzie Student, VOA

Not so fast

But students majoring in tech at Stanford University — a research school located in the heart of Silicon Valley — were unimpressed. Freshman Max Comolli said he wouldn’t be enticed to leave California for Indianapolis because of the opportunities and “such a great tech scene already established.”

Masters candidate Diego Garcia said when he thinks of high tech, he thinks of “California or New York, not Indianapolis.” But freshman Alexa White from Detroit, Michigan, thinks a tech capital in the Midwest would “benefit the field” and create diversity.

The gender diversity hasn’t reached Kenzie, although school officials said they actively recruit females. The next class of 18 students starting later this year will have three women. Of the current class, only Kamalbabu and an African American are female.

Also Read: Lenovo Launches V-Series Laptop in India 

Statistically, women — and especially women of color — make up a small percentage of the tech field. But 24-year-old Mya Williams called it a “pleasant surprise” when she saw Kamalbabu on the first day of class because she thought she would be the only female. Williams said young girls aren’t encouraged to concentrate in math and science. “They get looked over when it comes to software,” she said.

To Asia and beyond

Kenzie officials plan to duplicate the academy model, starting in Malaysia. Spence goes a step further. “We have a commitment to replicate it around the world,” she said. (VOA)

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Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Fund Invested $1 Billion In An American Electric Car Manufacturer

Saudi Arabia's 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has talked about using the PIF to help diversify the economy of the kingdom.

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Derek Jenkins, VP of Design at Lucid Motors, introduces the alpha prototype of the Lucid Air at the 2017 New York International Auto Show in New York City. VOA

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund invested $1 billion Monday in an American electric car manufacturer just weeks after Tesla CEO Elon Musk earlier claimed the kingdom would help his own firm go private.

Tesla stock dropped Monday on reaction to the news, the same day that the Saudi fund announced it had taken its first loan, an $11 billion borrowing from global banks as it tries to expand its investments.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund said it would invest the $1 billion in Newark, California-based Lucid Motors.

Lucid Motors
Lucid Motors. Flickr

The investment “will provide the necessary funding to commercially launch Lucid’s first electric vehicle, the Lucid Air, in 2020,” the sovereign wealth fund said in a statement. “The company plans to use the funding to complete engineering development and testing of the Lucid Air, construct its factory in Arizona, enter production for the Lucid Air to begin the global rollout of the company’s retail strategy starting in North America.”

Lucid issued a statement quoting Peter Rawlinson, its chief technology officer, welcoming the investment.

“At Lucid, we will demonstrate the full potential of the electric-connected vehicle in order to push the industry forward,” he said.

The decision comes after Musk on Aug. 7 tweeted that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private. Investors pushed Tesla’s shares up 11 percent in a day, boosting its valuation by $6 billion.

Lucid Motors
Electric Car

There are multiple reports that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the disclosure, including asking board members what they knew about Musk’s plans. Experts say regulators likely are investigating if Musk was truthful in the tweet about having the financing set for the deal. Musk later said the Saudi Public Investment Fund would be investing in the firm, something Saudi officials never comment on.

Meanwhile Monday, the sovereign wealth fund known by the acronym PIF said it had taken its first loan, an $11 billion borrowing. It did not say how it would use the money, only describing it as going toward “general corporate purposes.”

Also Read: Electric Cars: The Newest Trend in India

The Las Vegas-based Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute estimates the Saudi fund has holdings of $250 billion. Those include a $3.5 billion stake in the ride-sharing app Uber.

Saudi Arabia’s 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has talked about using the PIF to help diversify the economy of the kingdom, which relies almost entirely on money made from its oil sales. (VOA)