BY SUSAN M. BRACKNEY
It’s no Silicon Valley, but Bloomington does have an unusually large number of tech companies for a city of its size. “There are a lot of tech companies hidden away. Some have 20 people here, 10 people there, five people there. Envisage is one of the largest,” Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton says.
Envisage Technologies employs 76 people in its downtown offices. Founded in 2001, the firm develops training software for federal, state, and local first responders, including law enforcement, corrections officers, and customs and immigration agencies.
Just what attracts tech companies to Bloomington? “We have some very powerful assets with Indiana University, especially the School of Informatics, and the quality of life that we have overall,” Hamilton says.
In the case of Envisage, Chief Operating Officer Michelle Cole says, “Our CEO actually came here for the music school.” And, as it turns out, Envisage employs many technologists with backgrounds in music, because the logic and pattern-recognition skills needed for software development and creating music are similar. “This work appeals to the same kind of brain,” Cole says.
Much of the demand for the company’s software stems from the need to limit legal liability. For instance, the recent spate of highly publicized police shootings has increased interest in de-escalation techniques. “A big topic of conversation in policing right now is about how you might position your body, position your language, position your facial expressions, your words, to de-escalate the situation,” Cole says. “It’s a huge part of the training that’s going on.”
Developing such software is serious business, so staying relaxed is key. “We actually do walking meetings. When we’re thinking about something in a one-on-one situation, we go and walk outside. Bloomington has a very nice feel,” Cole says. “In terms of reducing people’s stress and trying to make their creative juices flow, we happen to have a lot of amenities right downtown.”
There is a trade-off for access to the B-Line Trail, downtown shops, and restaurants, however. “We have jammed our people into our physical space as much as we can,” Cole says. Envisage operates out of a warren of retrofitted offices in Fountain Square Mall — about 11,000 square feet in all — and the company is now seeking to double that.